Author Archives: Melanie

What I am working on now…collaboration with Holly Wren Spaulding

This is a reblog of Holly Wren’s post. Read the original here.

More and more I want to move poetry off the page and into public space, especially if it can interrupt the visual environment for a moment of reflection, beauty, or reaction. I’ve been studying examples of what I’ve come to call “visual poems” as I think about how I can merge my poetry with a lifelong interest in visual art and the environment. Lately, I’m working on a project with a new friend that we hope to complete and install in July or August 2015.

‘Here Stands’ is a text-based installation for a public place with trees; a collaboration between printmaker and letterpress artist Melanie Mowinskiand myself, acting as poet and creative director.

About the project:

stand is a contiguous area that contains a number of trees. ‘Here Stands’ is an outdoor poem and a poetic declaration: trees that stand for something.

Poem fragment by Lorine Niedecker

In this large scale public work, my brief, haiku inspired texts will bring attention to the many functions of trees (emotional, spiritual, aesthetic,utilitarian), while Melanie’s handmade paper letters, assembled into chains of words, will encircle the tree trunks creating a ephemeral poemin situ.

Inspiration for this project includes the forest monks of Southeast Asia who “ordain” trees by wrapping them in orange monk’s robes and pronouncing them sacred as they endeavor to save their forests from industrial logging.

Buddhist monks ordaining trees in Thailand to awaken moral conscience of loggers

In her essay “The Ordination of a Tree: The Buddhist Ecology Movement in Thailand,” Susan M. Darlington writes  “A major aim of Buddhism is to relieve suffering, the root causes of which are greed, ignorance, and hatred. The monks see the destruction of the forests, pollution of the air and water, and other environmental problems as ultimately caused by people acting through these evils, motivated by economic gain and the material benefits of development, industrialization, and consumerism. As monks, they believe it is their duty to take action against these evils.‚”

We’re also inspired by the poetic‚”billboards‚” of Scottish artist Robert Montgomery which indict consumer capitalism and inspire new perspectives on urban space.

Robert Montgomery, from the Recycled Sunlight series.

As artists, we use our skills and materials to invite conversation and comment on some of the challenges faced by our society and our environment, including our growing disassociation from the natural world, lack of sympathy for the role Nature plays in sustaining our quality of life, even as we lose it, and of course the increasing impacts of resource extraction on the health of the whole ecosystem.

By presenting this work, we hope to encourage reflection and conversation about the presence of trees in our landscape, as well as a greater appreciation for how they clean our air, filter our water, hold our soil in place and provide respite from the impervious surfaces and ugliness of urbanization.

Art by Melanie Mowinski

Paper words in Knoxville by Melanie Mowinski

We’re seeking funding to support this project. Join us forE.A.T.:Crowdfunding for Creatives on May 14th at Flywheel Arts Collective in Easthampton as we pitch the project to a live audience of potential funders. There will be food by award winning Galaxy Restaurant, beverages from Fort Hill Brewery, and the fine company of some of the most creative people currently working in the Pioneer Valley. Get in touch if you would like more information: hollywren (at) gmail (dot) com.

You may also send donations of any size to us at:

Holly Wren Spaulding

P.O. Box 187

Williamsburg, MA 01096

Memo: “Here Stands”

We are so grateful for your support!

Excerpt from a poem by Holly Wren Spaulding, from the collection 'Pilgrim,' (Alice Greene & Co., 2014).

Paper words in Tazmania, by Melanie Mowinski.

 

K is for Kathleen

I print at PRESS, not as much as I would like, and when I do I am immediately reminded of how healing setting type is for me. 

Apparently my mom has been wanting some personalized stationary, in honor of Mother’s Day, I created these cards on local Crane Paper. (Scroll to end of post to see lock up or click here.)photo (1)

My mom, while she thinks she struggles with being patient, is really one of the most patient people ever. She patiently waits as I make big and little decisions, however agonizing it is for everyone involved. At least she does this now, after years of practice. She calls me when I get “lost” while shopping and then patiently waits for me to return. As hard as it is for her, she is patient with my decisions, finding her way to acceptance…even if that means we don’t have a real conversation or connection until that acceptance is finally absorbed into the body. Sometimes that’s on my end, sometimes on her end. I still need her. I know that she can’t do the magical thinking thing and 100% make everything better, but just knowing she is there often helps at least some kind of relief come.

Thanks Mom, enjoy the cards, I love you. Happy Mother’s Day.photo

Book Arts Bazaar–Portland, ME

photo

I am looking forward to sharing some of my artist books and paper words at Book Arts Bazaar in Portland, ME, Sunday, April 12.

Wishcamper Center: USM Portland Campus, 34 Bedford Street.

It’s free and open to the public, just come between 10 am and 3 pm.

My friends Valerie Carrigan, Erin Sweeney and Carolyn Shattuck will be there too! If you are in the Portland area on April 12th, come say hi!

Paper words in Knoxville

 

Isaac Wood and Denis Sinclair help me press the water out of the paper pulp.

Isaac Wood and Denis Sinclair help me press the water out of the paper pulp.

Prints in Peculiar Places was a series of special “printstallations” that took place during the 2015 “Sphere” Southern Graphics Council International conference. Working with the City of Knoxville, the KCDC Public Building Authority, the L&N STEM Academy and various private business owners, the “Sphere” organizing committee have identified a series of locations where printworks were installed during the week of the conference.

My paper words project was chosen to be part of this special installation project and as part of it, I made eight new words with the help of three of my students from MCLA. Here are some pictures of the installation. I will be hanging the words again in two weeks as part of Art Along the River, a project of the Hoosic River Watershed Association in Williamstown, the weekend of April 18-19.

PaperwordsKnoxville1 PaperwordsKnoxville2 PaperwordsKnoxville3 PaperwordsKnoxville4 PaperwordsKnoxville5 PaperwordsKnoxville6 PaperwordsKnoxville7

 

Getting ready for SGCI in Knoxville

SGCI: Southern Graphics Council International’s annual conference will be meeting beginning tomorrow, March 18th in Knoxville, Tennessee. I’m thrilled to be participating as one of the Prints in Peculiar Places artists, as well as in two of the Inkubator conversations. I challenge you to take a look at the Inkubator conversations and the first person to correctly choose and name in the comments the two conversations in which I am participating will get a “word” of their choice. (See below for the words.)

For my Prints in Peculiar Places installation I have made some new paper words and will be installing them in a copse of trees at the L&N STEM Academy in Knoxville. I’ll be hanging them between 2-5 pm on Wednesday, tomorrow, provided my flights are on time! If you are in Knoxville, please stop by and say hello. Here are the words ready to go. DSC_0107

Some of you might remember when I first did this installation in Rittenhouse Square in 2005. At that point I only had five words. I made nine new words, eight that were chosen by the L&N students: hope, joy, wish, laugh, live, share, smile, hope and the ninth, heal, that I chose. Many of the words were made by MCLA students’ Isaac Wood, Denis Sinclair and Angela Digennaro. Big collaboration and help!

I am extremely grateful for the MCLA students and only wish they could also attend the conference. I look forward to posting pictures from the install. Stay tuned!

 

10 Ounces–a new artist book

Mowinski01bTen Ounces is a collaboration between artist Melanie Mowinski and poet Zack Finch.  It began as a conversation about the vessels that lead to and from the heart. It evolved into a poem and an artist book that explores the tension between the importance and impossibility of letting go: especially when faced with a unexpected medical diagnosis or other life challenge. After Finch viewed the painted pages, he edited his poem to 42-lines, the same number of lines in the book.Mowinski01a

To get to the book, the viewer must lift off the top section of the shrine-like box, DSC_0076revealing first one wrapped vessel, which once removed reveals two more wrapped vessels. The two remaining vessels are the 210 inch book and a stone heart. The book is meant to be read while contemplating the heart.DSC_0078

Mowinski used the mysterious and atmospheric quality of photocopy transfer to create the text. The words and letters are very linear, and wind through the more organic and fluid imagery on the pages. This contrast is the heart.DSC_0090

 

Artist Note: This is my submission for the Guild of Book Workers 2015-2017 Traveling Exhibition Show. The deadline is midnight, March 1, which I made by an hour or so. I will follow-up this entry with another one that discusses how I made the box, and what I learned through that process.

 

Viewpoints on a Green World

I’m excited to be part of this panel discussion in conjunction with the exhibit WinterGreen at Gallery 51on Thursday, February 26 from 5-7 p.m. I get to share the panel with three other really amazing women.

VIEWPOINTS  final PosterJoan Edwards, Washington Gladden 1859 Professor of Biology at Williams College; Shannon Toye, Certified Traditional Herbalist; and Sharon Wyrrick, Farmer, Many Forks Farm. We each will be talking about how plants factor into the work that we do as artist, biologist, herbalist and farmer. Should be fascinating to hear the different intersections between our viewpoints.

Hope to see you there!

Hello, owl?

This morning as I was waking up and performing my morning ablutions, I noticed an unusual mass in the birch tree outside the back of our house. It was still pretty dark, barely dawn. The shape hunkered on the branch, this was no graceful perch. Yet there was a delicacy that indicated it was either a hawk or owl or some other bird of prey. I went to get the binoculars, hoping it would not move. My reward–to see that indeed it was an owl, most likely a barred owl.

These kinds of sightings always feel like omens to me. Owls are linked to witches, deception, darkness and trickery, but also wisdom, truth and change. The owl’s eyes as seen through the binoculars looked kindly at me. What came to mind was the quiet love of an animal friend, coupled with the strength of a bird of prey.

Why owl, why? Four-color reduction linoleum print.

Why owl, why? Four-color reduction linoleum print.

I made a print about two encounters with an owl a couple of years ago–a memory that still stays with me. You can read about it more here and here.  Coincidentally this image is going to be appearing on a billboard in Berkshire County any day now as part of Pittsfield’s annual 10×10 festival’s 10 Spot exhibit. It will also be on view at the Lichtenstein Center for the Arts in Pittsfield, MA, beginning February 6th, with an official opening on February 12th. I do hope you get to see it.

20 years ago I became a Peace Corps Volunteer

On January 3, 1995, I embarked upon “the toughest job I would ever love,” as I left the United States to become a Peace Corps Volunteer. We joked about it really being the “beach corps,” but truly, those three years of my life marked me in many ways. I highly recommend the Peace Corps to anyone of any age. It’s never too late or too early to dive into it. I’m sure it’s very different now that email and internet connect us so quickly–yet whenever one jumps into living in a different culture, change of perspective happens, even if on a tiny scale. PeaceCorps

 

What I didn’t know then, is that I was also beginning a practice that I continue today, my daily documentation in my Visual Diary. You can see me working on the second year of that practice in the above top right picture.

The bottom left I am pictured with Bridges, the St. Kitts Peace Corps director on July 4, 1996 discussing something very serious. The other pics are me with some of my students, including when we made a float for carnival one year, bottom left.

photo 2I celebrated this monumental beginning this week by meeting up with one of my dear friends from that time. There’s something about being on a 65-square mile rock in the middle of the Caribbean that keeps you together even years after the occasion. That, for sure, is one of the best parts of being a volunteer–the friends and the relationships that you develop during your experience.

Sometimes you need a pep talk

And the person who needs to give it to you is yourself. It could be for a number of reasons. Enter middle-age and you might be juggling a couple of things, some big, some small.

I needed such a pep talk today. So I made myself list the things that I have come to believe, and this list is so good it goes to eleven. In no particular order:

1. The past prepares us for the future. We can draw on our past in many ways. Try not to reinvent the wheel. If you are going through something, chances are good there is something in your past that has helped prepare you to handle this next challenge. Use what you learned the first time around.

2. Trust, or make your own luck. Future success and opportunities don’t just happen. You have to do your part through hard work, perseverance, and determination. And then you just have to trust that it’s going to go as it should. (Which may not be what you want.)

3. Be willing to revise/change. Rarely is the writing, the art, the whatever perfect at the first go. You must be willing to revise. Sometimes the suggestions for revision were not solicited, but you must still consider them. This can suck, and be quite annoying. But if you can sit with the discomfort, the work or whatever is usually much better.

4. The kingdom of God is within you. You decide every single day: do you live in heaven or hell? They are both here on earth in your choices and your attitude. You decide.

5. This too shall pass. You can endure. In the big scheme of your life, this is just a moment in time.

6. Avoid useless anxiety. Avoid it, it’s useless. Do whatever you must to snap out of it.

7. Forgive (yourself). You make decisions as best you can, and sometimes they could have been better. You hurt others, you hurt yourself. You must forgive, always.

8. Never underestimate the power of the breath. You have this power at every single moment of every single day. Use it. Take yourself to that mat, that cushion, that place of calm and quiet, even if you are on a subway. All you have to do is focus on the breath.

9. Exercise, and if that fails, go for a walk. 

10. Sleep. You know this is your best medicine, maybe even better than exercise.

11. Be your own best friend. Treat yourself, even if it’s two extra minutes in the hot shower before work, but better if you can have a spa day every now and then. Eat delicious healthy food. Indulge in a chocolate. Know what buoy’s you up in a healthy and positive way.

Bonus: Never, ever, ever, forget that you are loved, by many, many people, and also animals. You have a good posse of people in your corner who are your fans and cheerleaders. Focusing on your love and gratitude for them will help you get through many things.

I leave you with an image of my new year card, ready to post this week. May you be safe, may you be happy, may you be healthy, may you live in peace. Happy New Year!