Until I sorted all the art supplies last week, I had forgotten that I made a whole lot of painted papers ten years ago. Different textures and colors, using watercolors on tracing paper: a trove of treasure for someone on a collage kick.

untitled abstract, 6″ x 6″

The room is pretty much finished, the art supplies are sorted though still awaiting their shelves, and I sat down to make something from those boxes of “collage materials,” a.k.a. “interesting bits of paper that we don’t want to throw away, so let’s call them art supplies.” It’s not a lie, but it’s just this side of hoarding. Unless, of course, you actually make collages out of them.

I’m grateful to my colleague Barbara for posting her beautiful collages and connecting me to a collage artists’ group online, and to my friend Jess, who also posts her collages frequently. They all inspire me.

“Sometimes I find it hard to relax on my day off,” 6″x9″

It’s so hard to wrap our minds around the deaths of 200,000 people, or any large number. They fade into unreality. We might reflect on how much grief is caused by the death of even one person close to us. Then we try to multiply that by 200,000 . . . and again, the sheer number makes them slide away out of our imagining.

This is where comparisons, however odd, can help. Some will leave us just as unable to grasp the reality of this disaster, but if just one works for you, good.

When the news reported this week that 200,000 US Americans have died of COVID,* a friend of mine from Vermont said, “It would be like losing one-third of the people of my state.” Suddenly we’re in a horror movie: a mysterious force has struck down one in three Vermonters. Dead bodies are found in barns, cafes, on small-town sidewalks . . . the two-thirds who are spared weep and stare at the devastation.

I live in San Francisco, so I can make that “One quarter of the people in my city.”

Three and a half Vietnam Wars would have killed as many US Americans as COVID-19.

Very roughly, we adults breathe 20,000 times a day. So if with every breath, day and night, for ten days, a person died before your eyes, that would be the death toll.

Picture a big outdoor arena, such as AT&T Stadium, home of the Dallas Cowboys. If every single person who went to a sold-out game there were killed as they left the stadium, that wouldn’t be as many as our countrypeople who have died of COVID-19. Everyone at the next game would be killed too. And then, the game after that, only half the people would be killed. That’s 200,000 people.

If you’re making your 10,000 steps, then it takes about three weeks to take 200,000 steps. With every step, a death, for three weeks.

Is it real yet?

*In reality, going by excess deaths calculations rather than reported deaths attributed to COVID, we reached this grim milestone in mid-August.

In progress: painting of a window in Alcatraz prison. Acrylic on canvas, 9×12″

Acrylic on canvas, 9×12″ (c) 2020

Earlier in this third week of devastation throughout the state, a member of UUCPA emailed us the news that a fire was burning near Yosemite, just a few miles east of Bass Lake. Bass Lake is the site of Skylake Yosemite camp, where the congregation holds a “getaway weekend” each summer. This year’s was cancelled due to COVID-19. Now the camp itself, not to mention Yosemite and its nearby communities, are approached by a wildfire that has grown very quickly.

The man who sent the email included a photo from Caltopo, to which I guess he must subscribe. I hope they won’t object to my showing it here:

I shared it on Facebook, with a few words about all the loss and sorrow we are holding. Then, a while later, I checked my Facebook page, saw this image in tiny, thumbnail format, and had three thoughts in quick succession: “What is that?” / “It’s beautiful” / “Ohhh. The Creek Fire map.”

I knew right then that I needed to draw it, to spend time with, if not make sense of, the swirl of feelings it evoked. The above are three very small drawings, each 2 x 1.5 or 2 x 1.75 inches, in colored pencil, done earlier today.

Day 49 of #100days of making art

Both sides are decorated. And the tongue does indeed say “Can we not do the running thing?” in Gallifreyan, thanks to my talented and generous daughter, who wrote it out for me to copy.

As with Klingon, devoted fans took scraps of an on-screen language and developed them. With Doctor Who, someone created a cipher Gallifreyan alphabet; i.e., it corresponds letter to letter with ours.

I’m taking suggestions about what the other tongue might say. Maybe just “Allons-y”, to balance out the spirit of first one?

Day 19, #100days of art.

Zentangle-style side

I needed to take a break from knitting, which I’ve been doing so incessantly that it’s causing a repetitive-motion injury,* so I brought these out to work on yesterday for our weekly Craft-and-Check-In time. It’s about time I finished them so I can wear them. Not that I go out an awful lot nowadays, but if hand-decorated maroon high-tops can’t inspire me to get out of the house, what could? I’ll feel like the Doctor. Maybe I’ll put a little Gallifreyan on the tongues as tribute. It’s another beautiful art form. I bet my daughter would be happy to write an appropriate sentiment for me, such as “Can we not do the running thing?” (Update: she has agreed!)

As it is, it has turned out that I’m doing Zentangle kinds of patterns on the inside surface and alebrijes kinds of patterns on the outside surface, privileging Oaxaca by giving it more visibility.

Alebrijes-style side

Day 15 of #100days of making art.

*Also, I’m waiting on a yarn delivery.

I’ve been working on this piece for a few days, since it is small (13×17 cm) but at 10-20 minutes a day, this is what I can do. The final version is in ink marker.

I rather like it just in pencil (below) but I didn’t think the pencil on kraft paper had enough contrast. Funny how the color is completely gone from the photo I took of the pencil version.

My friend J. gave me the beautiful little sketchbook I’m currently using, so I often think of her as I draw in it, and that was the case all during this drawing, which I began on her birthday.

I’ve been doing these off and on for a couple of years, knowing that the spaces at the intersections were important, but not examining why. (“Why” can take me rapidly into left-brained thinking, and part of art for me is getting out of it.) So I think I will explore the why not by thinking, but by drawing. On the next one of these nets, the lines will go right through the intersections, and I’ll see what difference that makes.

Day 6 of #100days of making art

Since reading excerpts from Mary Trump’s book, Too Much and Never Enough, I have been calling the current occupant of the White House Uncle Vernon. Every time I do, someone wants to know why. So, first, this background from Mary Trump:

“One year, Donald and his first wife, Ivana Trump, gave the young Mary a single gold lamé shoe, its heel filled with hard candy.

“Where had this thing come from?” Mary writes. “Had it been a door prize or a party favour from a luncheon?

“Donald came through the pantry from the kitchen. As he passed me, he asked, ‘What’s that?’

“It’s a present from you.”

Mary Trump also says that in 1977, when she was 12, her Christmas present from Donald and Ivana was a $12 pack of underwear. Her brother got a leather-bound journal, two years out of date. Later, Mary received a Cellophaned gift basket, “an obvious regift” containing olives and a salami but not one evidently removed item, which a cousin said was “probably caviar.”

The Guardian, 7/7/20

Uncle Vernon and Aunt Petunia are Harry Potter’s unwilling and abusive adoptive parents. They never mark Harry’s birthday, and at Christmas they give him “presents” such as a tissue, a toothpick, a 50-pence piece or an old pair of Uncle Vernon’s socks.

Of all the different embodiments of evil in the Harry Potter series, Vernon is the most clownish–always unwittingly so. He is conformist, conventional, habitually cruel, and boring (literally: he’s in the drill business). He has no imagination and disapproves of anyone who does, and he knows no way to deal with opposition except brute force. All of that plus cheapskate Christmas gifts, and we have a tailor-made nickname for the buffoon in the White House.

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