Tuesday, August 21, 2012

My Mother's Hands

 From My Mother's Sketchbook, Pencil on paper.     Florence "Flossie" McRae

It's been a long time since I've posted. Caring for my Mom as she declined and then dealing with her death absorbed every bit of me for quite a while. She died peacefully. I was with her and I will always be grateful to have had that precious time with her. She was an artist, a watercolor painter of big splashy flowers, birds, and sky reflecting in the sea that she lived beside. 

 My Mothers Hands, Watercolor on paper, 2012.      Peggy Sue McRae

Before she died I photographed her hands. Her long fingers shaped by age, a brilliant manicure and sparkling diamond wedding ring spoke to me of her life, the many tasks those hands engaged in with brilliance and flair. I painted this watercolor from the photographs. 

Monday, February 6, 2012

Postcards from Maui

If you lug your paints with you all the way to Maui you really do have to take them out at some point between the bobbing around in warm ocean water, watching whales, and scaling volcanoes to put brush to paper.

 Maui Palms and Surf - Watercolor on Paper - Maui 2012

Having gone from the snowy Pacific Northwest to the artsy, surfer town of Paia on Maui this winter was a real treat if not an outright miracle. The local beach was a highlight of my trip and the visual elements that struck me the most were the tall graceful vertical trunks of the Palm Trees standing against the rolling horizontal waves of the surf.

 Maui Valley with Palms and Surf - Watercolor on Paper - Maui 2012

Another dramatic visual was the plunging symmetrical triangle shape of certain mountains and valleys. In this painting I played with bringing those shapes into my palm/surf juxtaposition. 

 Painting Palm Trees on the Kitchen Table at Poni Place

I always like working at a kitchen table best and the nice thing about this kitchen table is that it had a big circulating fan right above it. Watercolor is great for travel. All you need is an old tuna can for water and as I discovered rummaging through my friend's recyclables, an inside out milk carton makes a fine watercolor palette.

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Kapa and the Hawaiian Renaissance

Kapa Loincloth, Photo: Oliver Koning
Vol. 14, no.2 April/May 2011

For centuries, from the day of they they were born until they were wrapped in their shrouds, native Hawaiians wrapped themselves in kapa, a cloth made from pounding the white inner bark of the wauke (mulberry) plant in a labor intensive felting process. Not a native plant of the Hawaiian islands wauke is thought to be a "canoe plant" brought to the islands sometime between 300 and 600 A.D. when the islands were first settled. Having no nutritional or medicinal value it seems clear that the value of the wauke plant lay in its use as a fiber source used in everything from clothing and bedding to ritual adornment.

 I'e kuku ho'oki - flat-sided hardwood beaters, Photo: Dana Edmunds
Vol. 14, no.6 Dec 2011/Jan 2012

Over time the art of making and decorating kapa in Hawaii became a highly refined art and yet, as culturally significant as kapa was it very nearly was lost forever. Hawaiian historian Samuel Kamakau proclaimed in 1870, "All are dead who knew how to make coverings and loincloths and skirts and adornments and all that made the wearers look dignified and proud and distinguished." When the era of sailing ships turned Hawaii into a global trade center almost overnight Hawaiians were introduced to cotton from Europe and America and silk from China and Japan. Missionaries exerted their influence and taught Hawaiian women how to sew in the western style. Making kapa is incredibly laborious, that fact plus the pressure to assimilate put the fate of Hawaiian kapa into extreme peril.

It was not until the 1960s and 70s that Hawaiians finally were able to begin reclaiming some nearly lost parts of their rich cultural heritage. Pioneers in the Hawaiian cultural renaissance like Malia Solomon were able to retrace the original development of the art of kapa by learning from women in Fiji, Tonga, and Samoa where the traditions were still being passed down mother to daughter. Then they took their microscopes to Hawaii's Bishop Museum to examine historic Hawaiian kapa pieces until they were finally able to reconstruct the processes used by their ancestors. Using uniquely Hawaiian methods of soaking and fermenting wauke fibers, Hawaii's kapa makers achieved finer textures and more sophisticated patterning than their South Pacific predecessors.

Kapa Hawaii: The Art of Native Hawaiian Kapa
Hana Hou: The Magazine of Hawaiian Airlines

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Protest Posters: Art with a Message

This poster created by the Art Department 
of Adbusters Magazine was published as a pull-out poster 
in the September/October issue. It was on newsstands in July.
It set the date for the occupation of Wall Street.

The question, "What is our one demand?" rests above a graceful ballerina alight the raging bull of Wall Street. Behind them cops in riot gear approach through the haze, a foreshadowing of tear gas?  It's an effective poster. Not all political posters work so well. Check out the Occupy Wall Street: Poster smackdown on Salon.com, a slide show and review of some of the posters newly fostered by the burgeoning Occupy Wall Street movement. 

Just a few posters from the Occupy Wall Street: Poster smackdown on Salon.com

The two posters below rely on giving familiar imagery a new twist. As Londoners occupy St. Paul's, the familiar, recently re-popularized, "Keep Calm and Carry On" poster that admonished the Brits to keep a stiff upper lip during the dark days of World War II has been adapted to the current crisis with "Keep Calm and Occupy London". The Occupy Wall Street poster by Lalo Alcaraz topples a statue of the tycoon from the popular American game of Monopoly in a scene strikingly reminiscent of the toppling of that statue of Saddam Hussein when U.S. troops entered Baghdad.