Saturday, April 2, 2016

small art-big ideas

I went to Taos, New Mexico a few weeks back and attended a 1 week art retreat titled "A Case of Curiosities.".  The workshop was taught jointly by Roxanne Evans Stout and Seth Apter.  I have known Roxanne for years and was thrilled to take a class from her.  Meeting and working with Seth was frosting on this very sweet cake!  Here are their sites: rivergardenstudio
           The Altered Page

Above is the courtyard of the beautiful adobe studio at the Mabel Dodge Luhan House..  My room was off to the left and I could go back and forth easily, working late most nights in my pjs.  
The workshop focused on mixed media pieces, all of which were included in our bare and empty boxes.
We used lots of found objects such as sticks, feathers, bone-as well as paint, fabric and wire.  I tried to be open to what might come from my hands and let my work evolve over the 6 days.  The photo above is probably day 1.  
Playing with objects and letting something happen (nothing did on this meditative assemblage).

The week was an incredible stretch for me as I am most happy with a ruler, some fabric, and a pattern.  I love straight lines.  Intersecting lines are magic to me.  The geometry of clothing construction intrigues me and I found myself missing that while I painted, and sanded, glued and gessoed.  

I am the keeper of the family memories, and I chose to use some of the family photos.  This is part of my family from Bisbee, AZ. and was taken in 1917.  What to do with ephemera which brings both sadness and connection?

My art progressed as the week went on, and I came back over and over to certain pieces to add detail.  I used more and more photos, and moved away from straight lines.  As I worked, I learned that the small compartments could contain some feelings or thoughts in safety.

I would sometimes retreat to my room to meditate on these lovely straight lines on the ceiling.

These became a small collection of memory cards with messages from many of the other artists.  They stay in one of the little compartments.

I'll share more in a few days.  Ideas, shapes, and colors are percolating inside and I am working them into some clothing right now.  I want to come back to my Taos case of curiosity and play a bit more with some of the elements.  Afterwards, I'll be able to show you some more of what I made.  

As in all creative adventures, it takes effort to construct a narrative.  


  1. What an inspiring and touching post! Thank you. I'm looking forward to the next appearance of your Taos case of curiosity.

  2. The creative process IS such an organic one, glad you had a chance to embrace that aspect. Who needs those straight lines anyway! ;-)

  3. This sounds equal parts inspiring and daunting (to me, anyway). I too love those straight lines. I look forward to seeing your new directions.

  4. I love that while you're staying with your first love of sewing, you're venturing out and trying new ideas to inspire you. Even better that your art work and contemplative time will carry forward into the new garments. Fun post, fun pictures. Exciting to contemplate the time to grow creatively!
    And I love Taos! Very good, calm, and rejuvenating energy there. Can't wait to see the new garments.

  5. so fabulous, Mary...this kind of art can bring such knowledge of inner secrets. Brava for stepping out of your comfort zone. I'm in awe...

  6. You will continue to evolve from this process. A week like this is life changing. As time goes by, you'll look back and see so many connections. What a great week!

  7. Mary, thanks for sharing your stretching and relaxing. Creativity can blossom seemingly overnight; or it can lay seemingly fallow only to send up tender shoots in a new season. This was strengthening for you. Congrats for taking it on.

  8. Sounds like a very neat retreat.

  9. This sounds like a great and growing experience. It's true that many experiences contribute to who we are and what we create and I look forward to seeing how you integrate some of your new ideas into your work.

  10. This sounds like a great and growing experience. It's true that many experiences contribute to who we are and what we create and I look forward to seeing how you integrate some of your new ideas into your work.

  11. love it...will watch with fascination since I too am the family keeper.

  12. So much fun to look back at the retreat through your eyes Mary. Thanks a million for being a part of such an affirming and creative experience.

  13. I just found your blog, through a circuitous route from Instagram, sarahlizsewstyle and here! I was struck by this post, first because you were in Taos, at the Mabel Lujan house and then because of your family history at Bisbee! A few years ago, I took a driving tour of some old friends in Co. Springs, then down through a few days at Taos, and on to Bisbee, Patagonia and Tucson, where I finally got to tour the amazing "White Dove of the Desert", San Xavier del Bac mission church with its fabulous naive decorations and construction. Bisbee was my favorite stay, though, up on one of the "Sky Islands" or desert mountains, where the weather was quite bearable in August, unlike the roasting at Tucson! In Taos, I enjoyed a multi-use pass to the great art museums and historic sites, and saw the Lujan house from outside, but since it was private, didn't tour it. I did see her grave, if I remember correctly, in the cemetery and have read a lot about her role as an arts patron. You are so lucky, to have your heritage from Bisbee, and to enjoy the art retreat! In the books you list on your reading list, the memoir of the AZ pioneer sounds right up my alley! Many thanks for such an interesting blog.


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