Gesture Drawing with Clay

"The Vast Chasm Of Indifference Melted Before He Could Change His Mind" Ceramic Sculpture by Trudy Skari

“The Vast Chasm Of Indifference Melted Before He Could Change His Mind” Ceramic Sculpture by Trudy Skari

I want to introduce a friend of mine, a sister artist and one of the artists represented by my contemporary fine art gallery, 1+1=1 Gallery.

Trudy Skari is seriously cool

Trudy works intuitively, quickly, and with her whole body, heart and spirit. Her ceramic sculptures seem to come from some other-world, a dream world, a world of childhood memories or a place in nature that lives inside her. Having studied psychology, philosophy, then depth psychology and world religions, Trudy is greatly influenced by mythology and Creation stories from around the world. Her other influences are Joseph Campbell, Carl Jung and the open prairies of Montana.

"What a Flower Knows" by Trudy Skari

“What a Flower Knows” by Trudy Skari

Like someone who does gestural life-drawings from a model moving through quick poses, Trudy uses scraps and bits of clay to sculpt an implication of a flower … or the essence of a rabbit, bear, fox or dog.

"Serena Finally Gets It" by Trudy Skari

“Serena Finally Gets It” by Trudy Skari

She constantly learns new ceramic techniques and experiments to push herself and her art beyond the obvious. I love her work! I love having it in our gallery and looking at it — deeply — every day.

Each time I look at Trudy’s sculpture of the goddess, “Pele´ Eats a Fish,” I see some other aspect of the feminine, some other level of meaning. Trudy told me she was thinking of titling the piece “On Her Day Off Pele´ Eats Sushi.” This makes me think of how we all have different aspects of ourselves co-existing inside of us: masculine and feminine; adult and child; light and dark; serious and funny; out-there and in-here …

Detail of "Pele´Eats A Fish" by Trudy Skari

Detail: “Pele´Eats a Fish” by Trudy Skari

Wouldn’t a god or goddess also have co-existing personality aspects? Wouldn’t Pele´– goddess of volcanoes and all things explosive, also have a softer side when she’s taking the day off? And wouldn’t a softness also have a bit of harsh-reality tossed in for balance? So … on her day off, maybe Pele´ wears curlers in her hair, cooks (the spatula) and dives deep into her ocean world to catch and eats fish.  She even looks fish-like. And so beautiful in an earthy, watery way.

"Pele´Eats A Fish" by Trudy Skari

“Pele´Eats A Fish” by Trudy Skari

 

Detail, Polar Bear by Trudy Skari

Detail, Polar Bear by Trudy Skari

Polar Bear by Trudy Skari

Polar Bear by Trudy Skari

Trudy Skari, Artist Statement:

I find that the objects I make are sometimes part of an unspoken narrative. Rather, they reside under or beside the formulated word or thought. At times the piece goes dallying around in some poetic realm and finishes sentences I was not aware I had uttered. The realm of image is forged in a different light than the realm of word. Like the visible spectrum the imaginal realm has a range that is just outside of the awareness to human senses but wide open to human insight, consciousness and our desire for making meaning.

Animals so are present in our understanding of how we navigate the environment, they protect us from our rigidity and ground us in our mammalian firmament. They are however always other, even if we anthropomorphize them to aid in our understanding. My attempt is to create an animal-ness that functions on a level of knowing and not knowing at the same time. It all works best when a balance is found between the gesture and the intent.

Trudy is represented in Helena, Montana by 1+1=1 Gallery. Her ceramic sculptures will be available for viewing during regular business hours at the gallery located at 434 N. Last Chance Gulch. Please call 406.431.9931 for more information about Trudy’s work.

More of Trudy’s artwork available at 1+!=1 Gallery. If you are interested in any of her pieces, call or email maureenshaughnessy@gmail.com

Ecology of the Unconscious

In The Tongass Forest, the Trees are Made of Salmon

Detail of “In The Tongass Forest, the Trees are Made of Salmon” by Maureen Shaughnessy

Introduction:

According to Haida cosmology, Raven called the ancient rain forest into being. The Haida and other indigenous peoples who depended on the resources of the forest and ocean, knew that without the forests, the plentiful salmon would not exist. They understood, because of their close relationship with Nature, the co-dependence of salmon and forest.

Mixed Media on Cradled Wood Panel

“Stream Keeper” by Maureen Shaughnessy

The Story of the Salmon Forest:

We know that forests keep the rivers and salmon populations healthy by cooling the waters and preventing siltation of the gravel beds where salmon spawn. But what about the other way around? Do the forests need the salmon? About 20 years ago, a team of scientists from UBC in Vancouver set about to check this hypothesis.

Studying the Ecology of the Salmon and The Forests:

The team of scientists studied the Tongass Forest in Alaska. With core samples of some of the oldest trees, the team correlated trees’ growth rates over hundreds of years with salmon run. Wide rings matched years the salmon were more plentiful. They also discovered the trees’ tissue contained Nitrogen-15, the rarer of two nitrogen isotopes. All of life has Nitrogen-14 in it. Nitrogen-15 however, comes from the oceans and is rare on land.

"School of Nitrogen-15"

“School of Nitrogen-15″ by Maureen Shaughnessy

Nitrogen 15 is normally found in the Oceans:

How did N15 get into the trees so far from the ocean? The salmon brought it! How cool is that? The roots of the forest extend far into the Pacific Ocean.

Salmon are born inland, where they grow to fingerling size then migrate downstream to the ocean. They live most of their lives in the ocean, accumulating body mass (and N15) the whole time. Then, they head back up the original river/stream they came from, to spawn and die. The cycle begins again.

Guess Who Helps Spread N-15 Around?

The plentiful salmon are a rich food source for many animals, especially the bears and eagles. Bears in particular, like to take their huge salmon catch uphill where they can eat it without having to fend off other bears. They eat the guts and heads of the salmon, leaving most of the carcass on the ground. The carcasses are consumed by scavengers, insects, worms, bacteria and fungi. So, a kind of magic is happening here:  the salmon carcasses become part of the forest, of the trees and animals, understory plants. The Trees are Made of Salmon!

mixed media painting on wood panel

“Can’t See the Forest for the Fish” by Maureen Shaughnessy

I originally heard the salmon-forest story from my sister, an artist in Vancouver BC. I couldn’t get it out of my head. Salmon began appearing in my dreams. I started this body of work inspired by the story, and by the ways my unconscious transformed it into something meaningful in my own life.

What does the Salmon Forest have to do with the exhibit title, “Ecology of the Unconscious?”

Hmmm …

What is the Unconscious?

Our unconscious is the aspects of ourselves hidden to our conscious. Once we become aware of those aspects, we bring them into everyday life through our behavior, our responses to things around us … and they are no longer hidden.

And Ecology?

Ecology can be simply defined as the relationships between organisms and their environment.  I set out with some pretty big questions, hoping to find answers. I am pretty sure I found more questions and not many answers. That’s okay with me though. Mystery is good. Wonder is a good thing.

So, how do Ecology and Unconscious Fit Together?

  • What is our relationship with the aspects of ourselves that are normally unconscious? How do we become aware of those parts of ourselves … and how do we manifest the hidden gems in our everyday lives? How are our inner aspects reflected in our relationships with Nature and with everything around us?
  • In Jungian psychology, water signifies the unconscious. So, rivers, rain, fog, the ocean … these are all different aspects of my unconscious self. Fish fly through the water. Birds swim through the air. These are messengers for me. Water links life and land together in an ecosystem. Water/Fish/Birds link my dream life to my waking life and help me understand both.

Humor Helps Us Understand and Go Deeper:

You will find my sense of humor in many of the pieces of this exhibit. I believe that if we approach our unconscious (our dreams) with a healthy sense of humor, it easier to understand. Visual puns are one of my favorite ways to convey an idea. And there are always more levels of meaning in any of my pieces, than what you see at first look.

mixed media on wood panel

“Lucky Chinese Fortune Teller Fish” by Maureen Shaughnessy

mixed media painting on wood panel

“King Salmon” by Maureen Shaughnessy

mixed media on wood panel

“Night School” by Maureen Shaughnessy

mixed media on wood panel

“We Can’t ALL Jump Ship”

mixed media on wood panel

“What Do You Need?” by Maureen Shaughnessy

Mixed Media on Wood Panel

“Body Ecology” by Maureen Shaughnessy

Here are some details of the pieces in the exhibit plus a few more I didn’t feature above. In all, the exhibit included 21 pieces in this body of work. Thanks for looking! I would love to hear what you think. Comments are much appreciated! <3

Pain, Patience and the Patient/Physician Relationship

hands in lap

On Labor Day, 2014 I began a new documentary-style photo essay in collaboration with Dr. Mark Ibsen who owns Urgent Care Plus in Helena, Montana. We are telling a story with photos of his patients, of Mark and of his staff. We aren’t sure what the story will be yet — that will come when we see what the photos are telling us. For now, I am going to be spending time at the clinic and with permission from the patients themselves, documenting their time with this passionate, compassionate healer.

Watch my blog and my Brown Bird Studio Facebook page for progress on the photo essay, and for announcements of an exhibit which we hope to have sometime in the next few months.

Hands can tell so many stories just by themselves. Like eyes, hands are expressions of our history, our struggles and triumphs, our pain, sorrow and celebrations. Hands instruct. They argue. They heal, comfort and can hurt. Here are a few images from this week, from the first batch of photos that really pulled at my heart. I am curious what you think and feel when you see these images.

Hands 3 Hands 2 Hands 1 Hands 5 Hands 4

Thank you for looking and appreciating. I look forward to some dialogue about this project as we continue.

~ Maureen

1+1=1 Gallery is Moving – and having a Big Sale

NightFiresAboveMantelFireplace

Maureen’s photo, “Night Fires” hanging above fireplace. This is about the size of most of the framed prints we have on sale for the month of September.

Thank you to everyone who has become a collector of our art, who has come in to 1+1=1 Gallery to look, appreciate, help, buy, and just visit, get/give hugs. We couldn’t have done 11 months without you!

Now we are asking for your help and support again. This time we need cash flow to remodel our new gallery down the street.

Imagine one of my framed prints on a wall in your house … above the fireplace, in your dining room, or on a wall in your bedroom. Somewhere you can see it often, experience the symbolism and the personal meaning that only you get from living with a piece of art. Can you visualize it? Are you interested?

  • Now you can purchase one of my prints — for the month of September only — at a big discount. All of the framed numbered prints we have at our gallery (see thumbnails or Flickr album link below) are on sale — 20% off just through September 30, 2014.
  • The black stained all-wood frames are made by Tim Carney and professionally assembled by a local framer with glass, hanging hardware and archival mats.
  • We are moving at the end of September to a bigger, better space at 434 North Last Chance Gulch. After we move, prices have to go up because our rent and all of our expenses are increasing.
  • We take credit cards through Square and are willing to ship.
  • Link to the album of available prints, with poetic descriptions, print and frame sizes. 
  • Come see the prints in person, at 1+1=1 Gallery, 335 North Last Chance Gulch.

Below are the available prints. We only have one of each on hand, so hurry! Please visit the above link to see more details.

Here are some pre-remodeling views of our new space:

434NLastChance

View inside our new gallery space (pre-remodeling) How about that red and black carpet?

434NLastChance

This is where 1+1=1 Gallery is relocating — what used to be the old Chinese Healing Arts, then became a bookstore. It’s new incarnation will be a fabulous art gallery!

1+1=1 will be open our usual hours until September 19th. After the 19th, we’ll have odd hours because I’ll be working with Tim (and whoever shows up to help) to remodel the new space. I can be reached by phone (431-9931) if you want to come shop at the gallery at 335 North Last Chance Gulch. I’d love to see you at either place. Or email me if you want to buy one of the prints. Thanks again for all of your support!

Love, Maureen

Collaborative Art Piece Benefits Teen Moms

Girl Power by Maureen Shaughnessy

Girl Power by Maureen Shaughnessy … life-size torso cast, paint, collage, calligraphy and other mixed media. 24 inches x 36 inches in a custom built, plexiglass case

The winning bidder of Girl Power generously donated the piece back to the Florence Crittenton Home and it is on loan to 1+1=1 Gallery to exhibit for the month of September. 1+1=1 will host an open house and artist talk on Sunday evening, September 7th. The gallery is located at 335 North Last Chance Gulch. I would love to see you all there — come down and enjoy some delicious food, beverages and great company.

Whew! Last week I finished Girl Power just in time for the benefit auction for Florence Crittenton. This year was the fourth annual Support Our Girls event in which businesses in Helena contribute whimsical and sometimes fancy “bras” to be auctioned off.

When Florence Crittenton began this event four years ago, I was still working there as the life-skills counselor for teen mothers. Together with the girls who were there at the time, I designed and made a bra for that first auction. It was absolutely beautiful and all of the girls who worked on it were proud of their ideas and contributions. Below are some photos of that very first art-bra, titled Sassy Girls, Marvelous Moms.

Deer Family Detail on Girl Power by Maureen Shaughnessy

Anyway … this year, the benefit organizers invited four artists (in addition to local businesses) to create pieces for the auction. I was one of the featured artists. I created a piece based on the idea of empowering our daughters to be independent, strong, healthy individuals, thus the title Girl Power. It’s really about more than girl-power (read the artist statement below for explanation)

Girl Power

When Carrie asked me to make a piece for the Support Our Girls benefit auction, I immediately thought that instead of making a “bra,” I would like to make an art piece using a torso of a breastfeeding mother. In my mind I named it “Girl Power,” and although that name is whimsical, it is also serious.

Florence Crittenton holds young teen moms in supporting hands while they make critical life choices …. choices for themselves and for their babies. One of these choices is whether to breastfeed their babies or not. When it works out, it is one of the best gifts a mother can give to her newborn. 

Yet, there are many other ways these young mothers rise above their often traumatic beginnings to become capable loving mothers. The Florence Crittenton staff delight in the girls, and hold high standards for them … expecting them to learn, explore, and be successful. Yes, these moms are still girls. They are still children. They are still learning as they raise their own children. It is an awesome miracle and so amazing to watch them as they mature, fall down, pick themselves back up again and hold their babies with love. 

As I thought about all of this I wondered about Girl Power and what we, as parents and caring adults, can teach our daughters — teach all girls — to help them embody their own power. So they can live successful, happy, healthy lives and have strong loving relationships. I realized that no matter what we teach our daughters, we also have to teach our sons to be whole, happy human beings. It doesn’t work to lift up one gender and not the other. 

So I asked my community of friends to contribute to this piece by telling me what they wanted to teach our children … our daughters and our sons. The response was amazing. I received over a hundred comments, many of them from former clients of Florence Crittenton. Reading through them brought tears to my eyes. I could not include every single thought I received in the piece, but I hand wrote as many as I could even inside the torso where you just have to imagine what I wrote.  I hope you also feel the power. Girl Power. Boy Power. The Power of Love. And the Power of Connection. 

The images and personal symbols in this piece come from my own experiences growing up in the 50s and 60s … of learning about and connecting with nature, and of finding my way in life. I believe that it is through a deep connection with all life, that human beings become fully human and truly powerful. I was privileged to work for almost five years as the life skills counselor at Flo Crit, and I hope that in my way I was able to teach the girls something of that connection. 

~ Maureen Shaughnessy

Here are a few more photos showing details of Girl Power

Everyone who comes to the open house on the 7th will have a chance to sign the back of the piece, and add your own thoughts to the text if you want to, and if your contribution didn’t make it onto the front of the piece (I tried to include as many as I could, but there were SO many comments from the community I couldn’t write them all on the front.)

See you on the 7th! (email me with questions: maureenshaughnessy@gmail.com)

Noodles the Healthy Way

vietnamese noodle bowlThin, clear rice noodles … a bed of mixed greens, lots of fresh raw vegetables, tofu, maybe some sliced meat, peanuts, fresh herbs and a very light oil-free dressing. Ahhh … a meal from Vietnam-heaven made for warm summer nights!

We have nothing like Vietnamese cuisine in Helena — unless we prepare it at home. I wish wish wish we had a place to grab a bowl of pho or one of these scrumptious noodle bowls. The first time I had pho was in Portland when I was visiting our son, Gabe. Subsequent visits to Portland then had to include either a noodle bowl or pho. Recently I visited some friends in Missoula who like preparing Vietnamese meals and they inspired me to try some at home.

I bought a bunch of amazing herbs, veggies and other greens from our friends’ garden and from the River Farmer’s Market Hmong farmers. All I had was a vague idea of what goes into the sauce for a noodle bowl, so I looked around for recipes, found a few that I tweaked and combined to suit what I had on hand, and came up with one of the most delicious dinners I’ve ever had. Totally worth trying. Totally easy. The most time consuming part is cutting up the veggies.

Vietnamese Noodle Bowl with Chicken and Tofu

Here’s the recipe I came up with:

Vietnamese Noodle Bowl with Chicken and Tofu

INGREDIENTS

  • lots and lots of mixed greens (mustard greens, different lettuces, arugula, spinach, beet greens, mizuna)
  • rice noodles, softened with boiling water (as per directions on package)
  • 1 cup extra firm tofu, cut into small cubes
  • 2 T. peanut or canola oil
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 T soy sauce
  • 1/2 chicken breast
  • 1 T green curry paste
  • 1/2 white or yellow onion
  • 2 green onions
  • 1 inch ginger root, sliced
  • 1 sprig each: fresh mint, basil and cilantro (for the broth)
  • 1 carrot, sliced thinly or julienned
  • 1/2 cup green beans, very lightly cooked (al denté)
  • 1 cup mung bean sprouts
  • 1/4 cup each red and yellow bell peppers, julienned
  • 1/2 cup crunchy cucumber, sliced
  • roasted unsalted peanuts
  • lots more fresh mint, basil and cilantro (for the top of the noodle bowls)

Sauce Ingredients:

  • 1/2 cup broth from cooking the chicken
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 1T. fish sauce
  • 1T soy sauce
  • 2 T sugar
  • juice of 1 or 2 limes (cut two wedges for garnishing the noodle bowls and use the rest for the sauce)
  • 1T rice vinegar
  • sweet chili sauce to taste

PREPARATION

Prepare the meat: simmer chicken breast covered with water and seasonings (fish sauce, soy sauce, green curry paste, ginger root, a sprig each of the fresh mint, basil and cilantro, white or yellow onion, 2 whole green onions.) About 20 minutes. Remove the meat when it is tender and cooked through. Strain the broth and discard all the herbs and onion. Reserve the broth.

Prepare the rice noodles: bring water to boiling, remove from stove and add rice noodles. Cover and let sit until barely tender (do not oversoak or the noodles will be slimy and limp.) Strain and rinse noodles with cold water. Strain again and set aside.

Prepare the tofu: after cutting the tofu into small cubes, sauté in hot peanut oil with garlic until browned and crispy on the outside.

Prepare the sauces: mix all sauce ingredients in a food processor or blender until the sugar is dissolved.

Prepare the veggies: do all veggies in separate small bowls, so you can make the noodle bowls beautiful when you put them together. Marinate the carrots, cucumbers and whole green beans in the light vinegar sauce while the meat is cooking.  Slice the remaining green onions really thin. Get your bowl of mixed greens rinsed, spun out and chopped. Slice the bell peppers. Put those in a bowl. Put your mung sprouts in a bowl.

Assemble the noodle bowls: I used large Asian bowls since the noodle bowl was our entire meal and we like lots of fresh greens for dinner. First put in a very large amount of chopped fresh greens. I seasoned the greens with a little of the sauce. Then put in a big handful of cold rice noodles, pouring a little more sauce over the noodles. Next comes the fun part.

Arrange all the different veggies, tofu and meat over the greens and noodles. (You can let people put their own veggies, etc, on according to their tastes) Pour the remaining sauce over all. Then garnish with roasted peanuts, cilantro, basil, mint, slivered green onions, and a wedge of lime. Serve with chopstick and/or a fork. Enjoy.

Yummo!

NOTES:

  •  Thanks to these three sites for the recipe inspiration: Flourishing Foodie; Omnivorous; and Low Fat Vegan Chef.
  • You can make this with meat or without. If you are vegetarian poached eggs are delicious protein with the noodle bowl. If you are vegan, skip the fish sauce too.
  • I loved using a mixture of lots of different greens, but if you want just spinach or lettuce, that’s delicious too.

Summer Garden Painted Tiles

Painted Tile by Maureen ShaughnessyAhhhh…. summer is truly here in Montana. As usually happens, we’re having a cool rainy June. I’m looking forward to July, when our tomato and basil starts finally take off and put on some real growth! Last night we had a caprese salad with pinchings (prunings) from the baby basil plants. I can hardly wait for the tomatoes! yummo

In the meantime, I’m satisfying my desire for colorful garden beds and borders, by doing some wild and crazy teeny tiny paintings. These glazed tiles are so much fun to paint. Plus it’s been kinda cool to have people come into our little gallery and ask to buy them. Below is what the tile looks like framed:

mini painting on tile

So … I decided to offer these for sale. At incredibly affordable prices ($15 or $25) for these mini-artworks. If you are interested in these, go to the Brown Bird Studio Facebook page (below) and take a look at the gallery. I’m trying to keep the album updated as I paint more tiles, noting the sizes prices and whether they have sold or are still available.

Enjoy the colors! I hope these make you smile.

mini painting on tile
Mini Painting by Maureen Shaughnessy

Art Camp for Two

Last week, my young friend, Grace and I invented our own “art camp.” She stayed with me for four nights and we had 3 full days of creative fun. I sure hope we get to do this a couple more times this summer. Hanging out with young people fills my cup, especially when they are as enthusiastic about life and learning and creativity as Grace is. It was super cool that we got to do so many projects and have some adventures just the two of us. Actually, it was three of us — Charlie came along too.

I promised Grace I would teach her how to make a blog post, so I am going to leave the DIY tutorials until she comes back for our next art camp. In the meantime, here are some photos of some of the things we did and made:

Butterfly Heart Swarm by Grace

Painted Tiles

Girl swinging Grace and Charlie

Documenting our Discovery of Ladyslipper Orchids

painted tiles