Apifera Farm - where art, story, animals & woman merge. Home to artist Katherine Dunn

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©Katherine Dunn.

Sunday, June 28, 2015

Women in shade growing wings

Above: words from one of the attendees scratched on the back of her painting


Amazing the impact five women have coming together in 100 degree heat, surrounded by Misfits who love, lady llamas who kiss, and one red horse who shares of himself to prove my lesson plan. It all happened here, Saturday, and the day was genuinely inspirational, for teacher and attendees.

The morning started with me happy to see overcast skies. The temperature would soar to 100 that day, and that fact had some Oregonians back out of the workshop. I understand, of course. But my remaining attendees were all coming from out of state-Omaha, Indiana, Georgia and Connecticut. I vowed to myself that I would not let the heat brings us down-and you know how I hate heat. I had a back-up plan too, an air conditioned studio. And the fact that the once eight students would be four made my studio space a perfect fit if needed.

We started the day with the donkeys, communing, to settle everyone in. We visited the sleeping but as usual very grumpy pig, Rosie. Then we headed to the new barn to do the first official workshop under her roof since we finished her this spring. I had Boone ready to partake, and some of The Misfits would be nearby for breaks.

The purpose of the class was not necessarily to finish a painting, or learn to paint better, or draw realistically–it was to explore something I have been learning and doing for twenty years as a professional, to explore and learn our individual inner languages. That inner language is abstract, and can not be learned overnight, or even in a lifetime it is so vast. It can not be expressed in words, but it is there. That language is like metaphor, and it is the gatekeeper to our stories. Stories we can write, paint or create tangibly and bring back to the outer world to share. Sharing story is a universal gift we all have, a universal gift we all need.

I had Boone handy for two reasons. One, he's a horse and he smells great and is majestic and beautiful and having him sticking his big old head into our workshop would make everyone happy. Just a given. Two, horses are capable of awakening intuition in us, mirroring our authentic feelings that we people are taught to hide - and it dawned on me of late that that is what painting does for me. By teaching people to open up to their inner worlds where an alphabet is not present, they can begin to recognize repetitive shapes, colors and textures that are our own internal guides-metaphors, really, to our feelings, fears, joys,...and our souls. It's love really. To share that in art is a gift.

Let me try to express what it was like working with these four people. The artist and mother from Nebraska, who had lost her mother recently, was beginning her journey back to life and joy and her painting reflected that. She shared many wisdoms from many shamanic and spiritual quests she had been on in the past year.  Another woman, a photographer,  had expressed her joy in my work and lives with some goats; she wanted to expand into mixed media but wasn't sure how–her painting showed this dreamy, blurry landscape, perhaps waiting for some definition but was beautiful and vibrant on its own, just like her enthusiasm [and wonderful skirt]. The woman from Connecticut was quiet, but when she spoke there were short bouts of wisdom for us. Her painting was so naively expressive [she had just begun to paint and I think was in her sixties] reminding me of Emil Nolde and it really moved me. She painted very deliberately, then stopped for long moments to look-her strokes were tender, but her colors bold. The psychologist from Indiana and once painted and had lived on a farm as a child and would love a farm again. She now works with war vets for the VA and her knowledge of psychology was so fitting for this workshop. I almost should pay her it was so valuable! I had no idea that she was a psychologist, but when she saw the lesson plan as she walked in the barn, she said she internally knew she was in the right place. Her painting was expressive, bold colors and shapes like a sky of odd shaped stars we might see if we ventured to other realms.

We worked past lunch in the barn, the skies still overcast [thankfully] and were comfortable. Boone shared thoughts from time to time, when he realized we were focused on our boards and paint, not him. We had a great lunch in the air conditioned studio with fresh fruit and cold water. The conversation was just wonderful. Everyone had insights that were helpful, inspirational, and encouraging. I too was lifted out of some "stuck" thoughts I had been having. I was encouraged to begin that new book idea I had.

We talked about how the serendipity of the hot weather actually made it a different workshop than it would have been if everyone had showed up in cooler weather. This is NOT to make those who chose not to come feel unwanted-but the dynamic of a group can be shifted so easily, so who knows how different the day would have been with 8 versus 4 [it would have been great, but different].

One huge epiphany I had: when I announced I would no longer do a Pino Pie Day, I said it would open doors for other things, but I didn't know what. What I walked away from after this workshop can be summed up in one word–intimacy. This workshop was intimate, for the attendees, and me. I want to keep it that way. I want meaning as much as those I share it with, and I got it. I was really pleased with my lesson too and had prepared well. After working with animals and paintings for so long, I could get it into words that made sense. The subconscious is not easy to talk about, but it is such a beautiful and rewarding place to venture and return from with a golden gem to share with the village. Joseph Campbell would have been a great addition to this class [oh, would that be a dream come to life for me].

At four, we broke for the final hour to visit The Misfits.  We had painted since two. The sun returned and it was very hot, but we had done our work well. I was really proud everyone worked -and chatted and enjoyed-but they didn't slough of and treat this like a picnic. We were on a mission.

The star of the day in the Misfit Village was lady Birdie the Llama. I think she is a llama version of the resident kitty slut, Peaches [the latter who also shared unselfish attention on guests].

So, thank you,  my Secret Sister Four, as I call them, for coming so far to get to the Workshop. I'm very excited for the future. You re-inspired me in so many ways. I hope I've expressed that.

There will be more workshops coming up. Stay tuned.