Karen Arp-Sandel, Melanie Mowinski and Gabrielle Senza in the house. Artist Residencies at the Laundry Line.

Melanie Mowinski Print 7355
This summer several of my friends are taking their artwork to new levels of expression. Today we will visit with my collaborator, Karen Arp-Sandel and our mutual friends Melanie Mowinski and Gabrielle Senza. I wanted to visit with these particular artist friends to give you a view into their exciting versions of an artist’s residency. Gabrielle, Melanie and Karen are singular women with families and friends; they live in community and create from their unique visions. Each of these women are passionate activists for our planet, each of them teach, each of them collaborate with other artists with amazing generosity. It is a daily inspiration to witness how they each choose to participate in the world every single day. I urge you to follow the links I include here to read more about the work they do.

I collaborate with Karen Arp-Sandel with FeMail. Our first exhibit was hosted by Gabrielle Senza at the Berkshire Art Kitchen in March 2010. Our FeMail art spent 2 months on display there in the dining room of BAK and the best part for us was being in collaboration with Gabrielle who is the Muse personified. Gabrielle listens to your ideas, your proposals, and your wanderings with a capacity to weave in to reality something you only wondered about. All of the sudden, she sees your ideas in real form with lots of options to encompass your personality. Karen and I found Gabrielle and BAK a perfect starting spot for FeMail.Our Heroine Gabrielle with Karen at BAK!
Since that time, Gabrielle has modified Berkshire Art Kitchen from a community spot to a more focused platform for her own art and activism. Finances and the reality of raising her sweet son Matteo caused her to make changes in location and programming. This summer, she is having an ‘at home residency’. Gabrielle has several very specific projects running and she has given herself timelines and dates to work around, she has set goals and posts her progress on her Face book page. She says the greatest help to her home residency is to ‘limit her social engagements’ because her time and focus are key to getting work done.

Sound familiar?

The most public of Gabrielle’s projects this summer is her Tempor Temporalis installation at the Everhart Museum in Scranton, PA. I am including a video here.

Gabrielle’s paintings are luminously beautiful. I have sat in the room with one of her large pieces as if in the company of a pride of lions, each blinking in the setting sun, their coats gleaming with life on the Kalahari Desert. Stop in to see her work on her website. Send her a note of encouragement on Face book. Or donate to support her work at her Kickstarter page.
Melanie Mowinski at PRESS
Then there is Melanie Mowinski. I met Melanie through Karen at IS183 and the collage classes Karen runs on Friday mornings. Melanie is on the faculty of Massachusetts Collage of the Liberal Arts and the founder of the PRESS: Letterpress as Public Art project. You can find this page on Face book or read the blog at http://letterpressasapublicartproject.wordpress.com/. Here is a collage of photos from Karen’s visit to PRESS.
Melanie has installed a Vandercook Universal III letterpress in a gallery in North Adams as part of Downstreet Art. I have not yet made the trek up there, but I have plans to spend time with Melanie learning about the press and how to print with it. Melanie, like many artists, believes that the more we know about artistic process, the more we will appreciate it, the more we will see the importance of art in our culture and the more we will value the lives and contributions of artists, thinkers and creators of all kinds. Melanie will be printing with Tara O’Brien, Director of Preservation and Conservation Services and the Historical Society of Philadelphia this coming weekend. I cannot wait to head up to North Adams. The PRESS website is beautifully designed for your viewing pleasure.
Karen Arp-Sandel, my FeMail collaborator has the mantra of “Art is not separate”. All of these artists espouse this belief with every aspect of their lives. Art is political, social, and transformative. To engage in ideas with a creative attitude expands our ability to think of solutions. We receive and manifest in our daily life from our own life source. Whether you attribute inspiration as coming from your Muse, from the Divine, or from some other named source, to embody those flames and make marks, impressions or decisions from that place is the way of the artist.

Karen is a Firework. In the winter, she stirred ideas about how to be in places she loved and make art at the same time. This year she created her June 2011 Creative Residency hosted by Bascom Lodge. For the month of June, Karen was up on the top of Mount Greylock and in the surrounding forest in North Adams, MA. This special mountain, full of history and sumptuous views of Massachusetts, New York, Vermont and New Hampshire invited Karen to collaborate with nature where she hosted the Bascom Lodge Sketch Club one evening a week. She hiked the trails from the top of the mountain and became enamored with certain geologic features like the Hopper. Her sketches, paintings, collages and notes are full of the wild life and vistas she absorbed while in residence at Mount Greylock.

In Karen’s words:

Being fed and housed frees the artist to merge with her subject, which in my case included the Appalacian Trail, the historic lodge, Memorial Tower & Peace Zone in addition to the summit and the Hopper vista. In loosing myself to the natural world, I discovered new friends in the swallowtail butterflies, Balsam pines and the song birds. With the opportunity to witness sunrise and sunset, my heart expanded into my artwork. Being on the Summit at Solstice marked the merging of my mind and soul with the mountain metaphor.


Karen sent me this poem by Mary Oliver that captures Karen’s vanishing in to Mount Greylock.

Mary Oliver – Sleeping In The Forest

I thought the earth remembered me,
she took me back so tenderly,
arranging her dark skirts, her pockets
full of lichens and seeds.
I slept as never before, a stone on the river bed,
nothing between me and the white fire of the stars
but my thoughts, and they floated light as moths
among the branches of the perfect trees.
All night I heard the small kingdoms
breathing around me, the insects,
and the birds who do their work in the darkness.
All night I rose and fell, as if in water,
grappling with a luminous doom. By morning
I had vanished at least a dozen times
into something better.

I spent the Summer Solstice evening with Karen and her Sketch Club up on Mount Greylock. Sitting at the summit of this mountain, we were at the southern-most limit of the Taiga Boreal biome. The landscape, the wildlife and the air enrapture. Karen’s FeMail was inspired by her mountaintop experience during the Solstice. Here is what she sent me.
Isn't this exquisite? FeMail to SBB from KAS. www.femailart.com
These are some pages from her sketchbooks.
From Karen's Night Sketching Book. June 2011
From Karen's Artist Book, entry made during her residency at Bascom Lodge on Mount Greylock, MA
I make art at home, in my studio sometimes, in my kitchen others. My designated space for art and writing is here in my studio on the second floor of our home. This room has a turret, so right now I am in this passion-fruit colored round space with my writing table and stacks of books, knitting and other personal paraphernalia. Photos clutter my desk; address book and stacks of journals are here. Oh, there is an old Playmobile motor from Ben’s days of those cool plastic toys, there is a tiny bundle of seeds from a recent ritual with Moon Circle, shells, poems propped up, business cards to tend to, lists and piles of paper- ideas in different forms. This is where I work on my book; write letters, journal and blog. This room, our home is the site of my daily residency.
What I see if I pause here

What about you?
Where do you work?
Would you consider some part of this summer your ‘at home residency’ as Gabrielle is doing?
Or would you love to make a special trek, like Karen, to a special location that feeds your soul and work from there?
Or is there some process, like the Vandercook Universal III that is collaborating with Melanie this summer, some process that inspires and excites your creativity?

What ever it is, in whatever way you can make a mark, I urge you to do it.
The act of taking from your senses a vision or idea, a thought or phrase and expressing it through another medium will open up new vistas of energy for you.
Perhaps when you create your next meal or write your next letter, you could allow your unique imprint to elevate the experience. Arrange the roadside weeds you collected in to an arrangement in a vase on your dinner table. Or doodle on the envelope of your letter to Aunt Mary. Take your paints and paper to the beach.
Art, is not separate, my dears. The medium is your life. Your whole beautiful singular life.

Let yourself out in to art this summer.
Who knows what you will discover?


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Showing 6 comments
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    Wonderful post, Suzi!
    Your writing, thoughts and energy are electrifying and inspiring. Thank you!!! xoxo – GS

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