Musings from the Moonroom

Thoughts on Art, Inspiration, Creativity and Spirit


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Fire Spirit Messenger

Earlier this year members of the Bolton Artisans Guild were challenged to create a piece of art based on a particular theme.  The theme of “Fire” was chosen for our first challenge. 

My Fire Spirit Messenger represents one of the five elements; fire.  Fire represents the planet Mars, the south, summer and it governs heat.  Fire also represents creativity and passion.  Its color is red.  Its motion is upward, hence the flames dancing upward on her body.

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She is approximately 10″ tall.  Red dagger beads adorn her head.  The branches are dried Liatris stems.  Fresh water pearls secure her wrap.


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Talking Stick Art Doll Round Robin: Part 2

Karen, Judy and I met last week for the second exchange in our Talking Stick Art Doll Round Robin.  In our first exchange we swapped art doll heads and were challenged to create bodies for the heads. 

Here is the art doll head I received in the first swap: Judy’s doll head

In this second swap we revealed the bodies we created for the heads and then swapped the dolls in preparation for the final part of the round robin.  Below is the body I created for the head I received in the first exchange.

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The bird head on the back represents an eagle.  On Native American talking sticks there is usually an eagle feather which represents courage and truth for the speaker.  I originally wanted to have the head rotate on a center dowel of wood but the head was too heavy so I added a neck to the original head and the curly-q top knot.  The “cloth” covering the body reminds me of Native American blankets.  The blue stones indicate to the speaker that the Great Spirit hears the message of her heart and the words she speaks.  The letter beads “T” and “S” stand for “talking stick.”

And here is the Talking Stick art doll I received in this second exchange.

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In the final step of this round robin, we are tasked with finishing the doll.  This could include adding arms, feet, a base, or anything else we can think of that will complete the doll.  I think this will be the most challenging part of the round robin. 


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Friday Folly

Michael Palin (Monty Python) was recently in town to promote his new book Diaries 1969-1979: The Python Years.  In honor of Palin and Monty Python, I chose the picture below for today’s Friday Folly.

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Off the Emerald Mile
Edinburgh, Scotland (2004)

Would you happen to have any Venezuelan Beaver Cheese?

For the complete “Cheese Shop” dialogue, click here.


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Willow Art

199327_1b.jpgJohn McQueen trained as a sculptor and as a contemporary fiber artist he uses willow branches and string to create stunning basket sculptures that are both humorous and subtle in their commentary.  McQueen “weaves willow twigs into flat open work panels, that are tied together with wax string and built into sculptural constructions. Some works are cage-like while others resemble familiar objects — a book, a desk calendar, a painting.”

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McQueen’s work, along with Margo Mensing’s, is on display this month at the Mobilia Gallery in Cambridge.  McQueen’s work will also be featured in the exhibit “Shy Boy, She Devil, and Isis: The Art of Conceptual Craft” at the MFA.

For more images, click here.


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What Does An Artist Look Like?

A friend commented to me today that I had “dressed like an artist.”  I took it as a compliment (afterall, I’m supposed to be an artist aren’t I?) and thanked her.  Then she asked where I was going.

I explained that I had been cleaning out my closet, trying on clothes that I hadn’t worn since I left my previous lives as a speech-language pathologist and then a technical writer.  We have a “rule” in our house that if you haven’t worn something for two or more years it is time to think about donating it.  It is a good rule of thumb. 

Her comment reminded me about the first time I delivered art work to a local consignment gallery and the gallery owner’s assistant told me she wouldn’t have guessed I was an artist.  Both comments made me think about how we perceive people by their dress and/or how we think they should dress. 

So what does an artist look like?  Blue spikey hair, dark frame glasses and dressed in all black.

I admit that I’m not a fashionista.  I like comfortable clothes and I like to dress up now and then.  Individualism, as far as dress was concerned, was not stressed in my years at Catholic school.  In college, style was whatever you made it.  Punk and new wave were in fashion.  I had my bright colors (red pants, yellow pants, and red deck shoes) and my share of skinny ties, horn rimmed glasses (sans lenses), black boots and the black leather belt with rivets.

Then came graduate school and the professional life.  In the rehabilitation field at that time, there was a running joke that if you put an Occupational Therapist, a Physical Therapist and a Speech-Language Pathologist next to each other, you could always tell the Speech Path from the rest of the rehab staff by what she wore:  heels, a dress or a skirt, and sometimes pearls.  Yet there were times when the PT or OT wore a dress or skirt and blouse.  And the Speech Path would wear khaki pants.

So what does an artist look like?  Straight hair, crisp white shirt, capris and a nose ring.

In the world of high tech the only person wearing a suit and tie was the CEO…and even that might only have been when there was a customer meeting.  T-shirts and blue jeans have typically been the norm.  But sometimes they wear chinos and a Polo shirt.

So what does an artist look like?  Salt and pepper hair, skirt, t-shirt, and a tattoo on her ankle.

So what does an artist look like?  Probably like you or me.  Maybe with some individual style; maybe not.  Most artists I know started in other careers and have kept some of that style of dress with them.  Some are rediscovering themselves and buying new wardrobes.  Some mix and match.

What does an artist look like?  In a nutshell, I really don’t know.  But I am reminded of the words spoken by Wednesday Addams in the Addams Family movie when asked what she was dressed as for Halloween: “A psychopathic maniac” she replied “we look like everyone else.”

Yep; artists can look like everyone else.


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Why Keep Art Curriculums in School?

As the kids head back to school this week, I found it timely that the Boston Globe featured an interesting article in the Sunday Ideas section titled “Art for Our Sake.”  The authors studied five visual-art classrooms over the period of one academic year.  The classroom teachers are practicing artists themselves.  What the authors found is that art programs teach a specific set of thinking skills rarely addressed in curriculums and that art programs should become more important in this age of standardized testing which tends to influence what schools teach.  Here are some of the points made in the article:

  • As schools increasingly shape their curriculum to produce high test scores, many life skills not measured by tests just don’t get taught.
  • Students in art classes learn not only techniques specific to art, they are also taught an array of mental habits not emphasized elsewhere in school.
  • These skills include visual-spatial abilities, reflection, self-criticism,  and willingness to experiment and learn from mistakes.
  • Several “studio habits of mind” were identified through videotaped classes, observation of teacher-student interaction, student interviews and analysis of samples of student work.
  • Habit 1: Persistence.  Students worked on projects over a sustained period of time, were expected to find meaningful problems and to persevere through frustration.
  • Habit 2: Expression.  Students were urged to move beyond technical skill to create works rich in emotion, atmosphere, and their own individual voice or vision.
  • Habit 3: Connections; clearly connect schoolwork to the outside world.  Students were taught to see their projects as part of the larger art world, past and present.  Students were taught to see parallels between their art and professional work.
  • Habit 4: Observing.  Students were trained to look beyond stereotypes and to see accurately and directly; to see what they might not have seen before.
  • Habit 5: Envisioning.  Students were taught to form mental images internally and then to use them to guide actions and solve problems.
  • Habit 6: Innovation.  Students were encouraged to innovate through exploration; to experiment, take risks, and to just “muck around” and see what can be learned.
  • Habit 7: Reflection.  Students were encouraged to engage in reflective self-evaluation; to step back, judge, analyze and sometimes reconceive their entire project through class critiques.

Throughout the article, the authors offered real life examples of where these skills are needed in a variety of professions.  They also suggest that teachers of academic subjects might benefit from making their classes more like arts classes.

Finally, the authors stress that “we don’t need arts in our schools to raise mathematical and verbal skills-we already target these in math and language arts.  We need the arts because in addition to introducing students to aesthetic appreciation, they teach other modes of thinking we value.  Those who have learned the lessons of art, however – how to see new patterns, how to learn from mistakes, and how to envision solutions – are the ones likely to come up with the novel answers needed most for the future.”

What do you think? 

How many of the “studio habits of the mind” do you apply to your own work?