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

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©Katherine Dunn.

Wednesday, May 31, 2006

Moments strung together

One's perspective can be refreshed by the simplest of moves. Such was the case last night when instead of sitting on one couch in our living room to look out and up to the upper pastures where the cows graze, I chose to sit on the other side of the room on another couch - I rarely if ever sit there, mainly because it is the 'dog free' couch - off white and smothered in quilts as the cat is allowed there - and I like to sit with the dogs, and Martyn squeezes in on the right. But this couch sits in a spot that allows me to look out one of the front windows. And as I looked out last nite, there was that old barn, so proud and still standing after over 100 years. It was as if our eyes met, and we were both simultaneously acknowledging our appreciation of each other. It was a short, simple moment, interrupted by dogs wanting me, cats at the front door, a tv story worth listening too. But it was a moment of being, that when strung together with other small moments makes for a peaceful and meaningful life - for me that is.

The other joy - except for the fact it makes my head feel like cotton stuffing - is that the scotch broom is in full bloom all over the county. Driving any of the country roads one is surrounded by yellow blurs - like a painting.

My overly tender heart has been suffering a bit due to the many baby bird deaths in the last two weeks. I've had too get somewhat practical and shorten my usual eulogies, and maybe are sent to rest where they will be found and eaten, not wasted. I did bury one starling that had died some kind of horrific trauma - I won't go into details - but I felt he deserved a place in the cemetery. And as I was feeding in the barn the other nite, I turned around and a small baby barn swallow had fallen and died on my corn bin. By the time I turned around to take it to bury it, a cat had eaten it whole. This was as it should be - although the crunching sound was rather graphic. While I hate the cats killing birds, I accept they are part of a chain of events here, and fallen birds must not be wasted.

The other big event of the week was Huck went into Wilco, our country feed store, for the first time. They allow you to bring your dog in, and I've been taking him every where I can to practice his new training and manner control. We were greeted by my regular sales guy yelling - "There's that pup that grew into a man!". I was beaming love. We listened to Neil's new "Living with War" CD the whole way home - singing out loud, LOUDLY, Huck's head out the window, lips flapping, my favorite view of him. Both of us full of hope, despite war, dead birds and no art sales in 4 days. When one has enough of the moments of being mentioned at the beginning of this passage, one has something rich and juicy to feed them through anything.

Wednesday, May 24, 2006

Get happy - no purchase necessary

I see a lot of blogs giving enormous amounts of advice. I am not sure why I, or anyone, should take advice from total strangers about anything from how to be creative, how to paint better, how to be a better mate, how to cook, how to write lists and have fun, how to live a simpler life - the latter often written by people who seem to complicate a fairly simple thing by writing a long book on it, often about cleaning your closet for ease in dressing in the morning. Since all these other total strangers can give advice to their total stranger blog readers, I think it is perhaps time for me to to give advice, even though none of you have asked me for it. So I have chosen the subject of happiness which so many seek often in very expensive ways. This guide to happiness is free.

"Apifera Farm's Guide to Get Happy"
Get a sock, preferably one you have found lying around in someone's shoe or closet that has been worn, preferably worn a lot, perhaps in wet Wellies while mucking stalls so that there is a fair amount of manure smell soaking into the somewhat damp sock. The sock preparation of this is very important. For one's senses, especially taste and smell, are key factors in obtaining certain free forms of happiness. As the picture here shows, first, lie around awhile with the sock firmly in your mouth. Chew it, suck it, toss it up and catch it, chew,suck again, as many times as you feel like. Whatever you do, DO NOT LET ANYONE TAKE THE SOCK AT THIS POINT - you must get the sock to maintain an overall slime quality. Once you have achieved this state of wet slime all over the sock, run up to the nearest person you can find, and shove the wet sock into their clothes or hands. Taunt them. They want that sock badly, but you have it. Now, wag your butt around and feel your backbone move, and move back and forth. Feel it. Move it. DO NOT STAND STILL! Now, when you have done this for some time, give your beloved sock to that other person who you originally were taunting it with. Let them see you are a lover, a giver, not a warrior. You would give up your most beloved of all possessions - your wet slimy sock. For while chewing and sucking and throwing a sock in the air make you happy, it is the sharing of that sock without being asked that brings you true happiness.

I have learned this from many beings in my life, and I am fortunate to have Huck to show me this simple lesson on a daily basis.

Now, in my next entry, as soon as I can get the demo pictures taken, I will show you all how to rake a ram.

Friday, May 19, 2006

Energy Steps

I'm pleased that these images were accepted into the 25th annual American Illustration show. They are some of the 350 picked out of 6500 entries to be included in their online award winners. I quit entering shows about 4 or five years ago, but my motives for putting this group in was two fold. I did it for myself, to say to myself - "Katherine, if you don't win, you know now at this stage of being an artist that it truly doesn't matter what American Illustration thinks, because you yourself are positive in your mind and heart these are beautiful and emotive pieces."

And second, I believe the stories I am compiling on my blog, Animals of Apifera, are ones I want to share, and I'd like to generate interest in them. I'd really like to finally get some of my writings published, and I thought this might be one small step. The chances of some editor or art director at Chronicle seeing the images on American Illustration's site are slim [some people win and are put into the beautifully reproduced book they publish each year], but it's an energy building thing. One small step grows into a long journey and a final destination. All from the energy that one person took in that first step - I have seen it happen in my own life and in others. For all the pieces I entered in my earlier years to American Illustration and didn't get in, I must admit, when I got notice these pieces were accepted to the website, I was quietly pleased, and just sort of laughed at myself. While the posting fee they charge hurts, it's just one small step to something. I almost didn't eneter, as I knew it didn't mean that much at this stage, but if it helps build up some notices in the stories, why not put them out there.

So to celebrate and nurture this new energy growing within, I will be posting a story, today I hope, in honor of Ethel the fawn who was born nearby and I believe, is protected by Apifera Farm.

Friday, May 12, 2006

Older skin happier heart

My friend Heinz sent me this quote from Walt Whitman. Something to aspire to, no matter how difficult. The thing about living is you just get to get up each morning and start all over again. This one will get cut out and put on the wall, it is an inspiration to live as this suggests. I will fail horribly at it daily, but also just by aspiring to its ideas, will make this small corner of the world a slightly better place for myself and all beings around me.

Walt Whitman's - advice for poets and Americans..."This is what you shall do: Love the earth and sun and the animals, despise riches, give alms to everyone that asks, stand up for the stupid and crazy, devote your income and labor to others, hate tyrants, argue not concerning God, have patience and indulgence towards the people, take off your hat to nothing known or unknown or to any man or number of men, go freely with powerful and uneducated persons and with the young and with the mothers of families, read these leaves in the open air every season of every year of your life, re-examine all you have been told at school or church or in any book, dismiss whatever insults your own soul; and your very flesh shall be a great poem, and have the richest fluency not only in its words but in the silent lines of its lips and face and between the lashes of your eyes and in every motion and joint in your body."

And in the meantime, I am reveling in wearing pigtails, inspired by the crooked braids of my horse Sky. I am not young on the outside any more, the Scandinavian skin protected from sun for most of my years is aging and I see it as I look at pictures of myself. An uncomfortble feeling, but one of resignation really. But when I am not looking at a picture of myself, I feel what makes me uniquely me, and I will always feel that, no matter how old I get. I wouldn't trade this knowledge for one moment as a 20 year old or a 30 year old 40 year old. Nor would I trade my life now where I aspire more to recreate land and help animals and paint more for myself than another which means I live hand to mouth - but I prefer it to the driven frenzy and unbalanced life of the 30's and early 40's where I was always trying to achieve something that was supposed to make me a better illustrator, or a more well known illustrator or an award winning illustrator or an accepted illustrator. Making 70 paintings in 2 weeks once...I prefer my perculating pace I have now. When the muse hits, I go. But sometimes the muse is the garden or the land or the sheep. Slowing down.

Friday, May 05, 2006

Living in a painting

I am celebrating the magnificence of our walnut tree today. I declared it Walnut Tree Day at Apifera Farm, this May 5th, and if you know a walnut tree please go stand under it and absorb it's beauty. I gathered as many animals as I could to sit under the tree with me today as it was one of those things one wants to share with a fellow being. Like travel, it is often more wonderful to be alone in your own thoughts and be able to go off on your own when you want, but sometimes you wish someone were standing by you to see what you just saw, as you know you will never find words to describe it properly. So, Little Orange, Pumpkin Head and Mr. Plum joined me under the tree where we stood for 30 minutes examining leaves and bark and internal spaces of her crown against the blue sky. So the four of us now share an experience that can't be put into words.

Last nite, Martyn and I sat on the front deck in one of our first really warm nites. As we looked up towards the back of our property, where the 10 acres or so of hay fields stand, we saw all the cows grazing, the calves too. Their was a frame of Savannah Oaks around the field, the sky was still blue, and the greens of the fields and trees were so varied. The blackness of the cows as they grazed, next to the green was inspiring. And Martyn said, so sincerely, "Every time I see that view, I just can't help but feel I am in one of your paintings". It tore me up. It was such a peaceful comment, said so sincerely, and it meant so much.

Tuesday, May 02, 2006

Painterly Developments

"...nature is not limited to the objects we see-but that everything in nature offers the possibility of creative transformation, depending of course on the sensibility of the artist." [Hans Hoffman]

The opening at Dalton Cowan Gallerié this coming Friday includes this painting. The top image is the final of the 48" canvas, with the painting process starting at the bottom image. When I'm working on bigger pieces, I sometimes take a quick shot of it, just to see it in a different format. I originally really felt I was done with it on the first image at the bottom. It felt really strong and the line in the middle just pleased me somehow, or made me feel bolted to something unknown. I waited an hour and ended up with the final version on top. Horribly photographed, it pleased me internally when it was done. I never wavered once it was done, but I did on the first step to work over that bottom image. No regrets. I didn't have the guts to leave it. And this is something I want to explore - leaving things. Then again, if the outcome, once found, was so real for me internally, and 'known' , why even wonder.

I still don't have one of my large abstracts in my house. I'm always selling them. I want one. But I can't afford one.

I spent the morning on a 2 mile walk up a steep gravel road with Huck, followed by shepherd duties and horse grooming and a slight encounter with Joe Pye Weed. Then breakfast, all by 9 am with late morning coffee outside under the cherry tree in full bloom, but losing it's petals in the strong wind. It was raining petals, and the sheep carried lovely pink spots at times.

More painting followed, while listening to the new Kris Kristoferson cd. The man still makes me say out loud when I see that
worn and rugged face, "My, my, my...".