Forests Are for Dancing

November 26th, 2015

Beadwoven Art to be worn by Patricia C Vener, "Autumn Goddess"

“Autumn Goddess”
©Patricia C Vener

“Autumn Goddess” flitted through the woods easing green foliage to the warm colors of her namesake season. After her passing, the changed leaves fluttered to the forest floor, a carpet of randomly scattered browns, reds, oranges, and yellows. She whistled to the forest birds reminding the migrators of their long trips to warmer climes; reminding those that stay behind to start getting their winter nests in shape. For now, the days were still warm, but the nights were crisp and quickly becoming cold. It would not be very long before the days would also become cool.

Winter demanded entry even as Summer refused to let up her hold.

They came to a compromise leaving Autumn rushing about a much curtailed region.

I love trees and have done for as long as I can remember. Their structure, especially, fascinates me. They reach up so high in the sky and spread out so wide – at least they do when you are a small child. The word, “forest” for me evokes images of lush foliage especially that of a temperate forest, but I have a friend for whom “forest” and “tree” means conifer. Having seen only photos of these, I can’t fault him. Their leaves are needle-like but their height and structure are nothing if not majestic. And they wear their Winter cloaks of snow with breathtaking grandeur.

According to the University of California Museum of Paleontology there are three main classes of forest defined by global latitude: tropical, temperate, taiga. Tropical forests are further divided into subtypes based on rainfall (UCM of P):

  • evergreen rainforest: no dry season.
  • seasonal rainforest: short dry period in a very wet tropical region (the forest exhibits definite seasonal changes as trees undergo developmental changes simultaneously, but the general character of vegetation remains the same as in evergreen rainforests).
  • semievergreen forest: longer dry season (the upper tree story consists of deciduous trees, while the lower story is still evergreen).
  • moist/dry deciduous forest (monsoon): the length of the dry season increases further as rainfall decreases (all trees are deciduous).

Sadly, over half our planet’s tropical forests no longer exist (UCM of P).

Temperate forests exist in Earth’s temperate zones (both northern an southern hemispheres have these). These are regions with both Winter and Summer, (and the transitional seasons of Sprjng and Autumn) and between four and six months of no frost which encourages a lengthy growing season. The climate is generally considered mild. These forests, too, are further subdivided by rainfall characteristics (UCM of P):

  • moist conifer and evergreen broad-leaved forests: wet winters and dry summers (rainfall is concentrated in the winter months and winters are relatively mild).
  • dry conifer forests: dominate higher elevation zones; low precipitation.
  • mediterranean forests: precipitation is concentrated in winter, less than 100 cm per year.
  • temperate coniferous: mild winters, high annual precipitation (greater than 200 cm).
  • temperate broad-leaved rainforests: mild, frost-free winters, high precipitation (more than 150 cm) evenly distributed throughout the year.

These are rare with only scattered remnants of these once extensive forests left on Earth.

The last class, Taiga or Boreal forests actually represents the largest biome. These forests have the shortest growing period as they are all located at much colder latitudes of the northern hemisphere (50º to 60º). There are no further subdivisions. These forests, as well, are disappearing, mostly due to logging.

So that’s 10 different kinds of forests and all are in danger of disappearing. Not a good thing for life on Earth.

The Forest Biome, University of California Museum of Paleontology,
The Taiga or Boreal Rainforest, Marietta College,

The Balance of Chaos and Harmony

October 24th, 2015

Bead Weaving fine art necklace, The Balance of Chaos and Harmony

The Balance of Chaos and Harmony, ©Patricia C Vener
$627.00 USD

Chaos is associated with an emotional sense of frenzy while harmony seems to evoke tranquility and quietude. People often ascribe the former with negative and the latter with positive connotations. I don’t know why. Chaos is bees, hummingbirds, flowers, and the shape of a coastline close up. Harmony is a close relationship of musical notes, a well planned garden. (Maxwell Smart’s Control is a lot more chaotic than his nemesis group’s Chaos.)

Chaos is also oten confused with random, but these are not synonymous. Chaos Theory explains how a seemingly random result may arise from distant miniscule causes that may not be readily seen to be connected to the observed result. The theory is only about 30 years old but it has had great impact on many fields of study both in and out of physics. In art it can be seen expressed through fractals – one of those intersections where art and math collide and collude!

Sadly, there does not appear to be a Harmony Theory in mathematics or physics. I suppose the closest would be the fundamental Laws of Thermodynamics. (Ask me about these, please.) Or the topic of harmonics in wave theory – except harmonics is an observable behavior rather than a set of principles. Harmony in art, now, that’s a value judgement and completely subject to the observer and probably influenced by the observer’s cultural experiences.

The necklace, The Balance of Chaos and Harmony, earned its name while I was working on it. It was created in response to a competition challenge. The participants were supplied with a focal bead (in my case, the beautiful flower made by lampworker Brea Moser) and a set of translucent white and silverlined seed beads, larger black shaped beads, a strange silver ring and told to create. We were allowed to add our own beads and other components.

My mantra for this project was “push through that envelope.” So where is the chaos and the harmony? The center part of the piece is free form netting. (As far as I know I’m the only artist who does this). Free form is chaos. The two vintage shoe clips are different but share the same basic fan shape – harmony and chaos. The narrow “straps” mirror each other – harmony.

Greyed Out, Contrast without Color

September 25th, 2015

Intergalactic Fugue, copyright, Patricia C Vener

Intergalactic Fugue, copyright, Patricia C Vener

What if you couldn’t see color? Would your world be boring? Without color there would be only the many varied nuances of every possible shade of gray from black to white. Only? Indeed not, as any aficianado of film noire or Ansel Adams photography would likely insist.

Some fine art painters today, like their 1500s and 1600s counterparts use some kind of monochromatic underpainting to work out illumination and shading before applying final layers of more colorful paint. This technique acts like a template to help define a consistant lighting effect without the artist being lead astray by paint hue. As an example, we tend to interpret yellow as being lighter and brighter than other colors even when this is not so.

In photography, black and white images seek to derive interest from composition and tonal contrast instead of color contrast. Ansel Adams, for example, made great use of darkroom techniques to enhance the effects of light and dark areas in his film photography before making his final prints.

In film, working in black and white encouaged such cinematographers as Orson Wells and, earlier in 1920, the German creators (apparently several had a hand in the design) of Robert Wiene’s The Cabinet of Dr Caligari to experiment with light, shadow, and angles in ways that working in color does not inspire. In fact, it is my opinion that working in color has detracted from artistic cinematography with the contemporary prediliction for straight on views, panoramas and flat juxtapositions of color. Although there is the notable exception of now standard time travel effects simulating forced perspective (see for example the childrens television program, Dinosaur Train).

Vermeer’s Painting Technique: Drawing

The Modernism Lab at Yale University

Mystery of the Missing Dark Skies

August 27th, 2015

Art necklace, bead woven in black, rose, and aurora. Timeless as the dark night skies.

© Patricia C Vener
$400.00 USD

How bright the night,
(Give me a night that’s dark.
A night that’s clear.
A sky that is full of glittering stars.
A sky looking back in time.
Give me a sky that’s clean.
A sky of the darkest hue.
A night full of happy dreams.
A night looking back in time.)

The farthest light we detect is the farthest time in the past that we can see. Human eyes are limited and any light added to the atmosphere limits the dimness of the stars we can see.

When did we lose the dark night skies? I’m sure the first man-made fires made a difference, but not much. Certainly less than the full moon – which totally ruins any good meteor shower. Nowadays we are plagued by night skies that are anything but truly dark. Part of the problem is our atmosphere. We have one and it scatters light everywhere. The moon has essentially no atmosphere and so has a daytime of dark skies.

Well, we need our atmosphere because we breathe. But if we had a clean atmosphere with no light pollution, we would have dark skies and a clearer vision of the past. Almost everyone understands how unhealthy smog is even if many don’t know that smog hides the stars. Sadly, most people don’t understand the how light pollution also curtails our enjoyment of the dark night skies.

Light pollution is the bane of astronomers everywhere. I’m not sure even Antarctica is safe! Astronomers are not the only people directly affected, though. Consider people in the arts or who care about the arts. Everything changes when the night sky becomes dull and murky. What poet will compare anything to the number of stars in the sky when there are only about six anyone can make out! Imagine it:
Poet: “My love is endless as the number of stars in the sky”
Reader: “Wow, that sucks. Someone’s hedging their bets”

And what about the well known metaphor of “shining like diamonds in the sky?” Imagine “Starry Night” painted nowadays.

Is there a remedy? Of course there is. Turn off the lights if we don’t need them and if we do, make sure the light is directed only toward where it needs to be.


Look Past the Shoreline

July 25th, 2015
On the Beach, © 2009, Patricia C Vener, $1,000 USD

On the Beach, © 2009, Patricia C Vener, $1,000 USD

Humans like water. I looked it up: almost 40 percent of the population of the USA lives near a coastline. Many other people live near the shoreline of a large lake (Lake Superior, for example). As for me, I can’t recall a time I did not live near any large body of water, but I have friends who did grow up landlocked and at least one friend that I know has lived most of her adult life landlocked. I sometimes take for granted the easy ability to see the undiminished horizon of water meeting air. I was born near Lake Onterio and, except for one year near Lake Michigan, have since lived where the Atlantic Ocean influences my weather.

Water is a basic necessity if life. It is – or should be – a basic human right to have clean potable water readily accessible. In fact, all life on Earth depends on water. Perhaps it’s instinctual, but it seems to me that all humans share an almost universal agreement that bodies of clean water, moving or still, are beautiful to view and uplifting to the soul. We are, after all, mostly water.

It’s the beach that comes first to mind when someone talks about living by the water. “On the Beach” is my impression of a beach that starts with grass encroached upon by sand, maybe rocks, shells, seaweed – anything natural washed up and left behind by high tides. It finishes with clean blue water that honestly, is nowadays rare to find. My necklace represents a healthy beach. One where sea turtles come to lay their eggs. One where garbage is nowhere to be found. One where the water is unpolluted.

“On the Beach” is Abstraction art. Or perhaps Symbolic. The large carved slice of mother-of-pearl shell stands for all shells we might gather from a sandy shore. The blue beads are a healthy body of water, while the green beads are grasses. The fresh water pearls represent a healthy ecosystem undecorated by the detritus of human made trash. The necklace, a wearable work of art, is a symbol of hope for a future when clean water healthy environments are the norm and all people can enjoy them.

My Mother Turns 90 into Fun

June 25th, 2015

Wear Red when you hit 90 years!

Wear Red when you hit 90 years!

On 17 June my mother turned 90. She has advanced Alzheimers Disease but has managed to remain loving and has kept her sense of humor. And, she still enjoys a good party. So, back in March, I decided to give her a birthday party.

When I was small, my mama and I would have tea parties. I was Mrs. Smith and she was Mrs. Jones. (When my sister came along, she became Mrs. Johnson.) My mother collected china tea cups and saucers and we used these. We had real tea and cookies or crackers with jam. In 2006 she could no longer live alone and I came to live with her. I found a tea shop nearby that served a true English tea and I reinstituted going out for tea. She loved these!

Obviously, a tea party would be the perfect birthday celebration! There was a lot of planning and testing. Lots of things to do to get it all together, but I enjoyed it. I especially enjoyed putting together our outfits, and creating a new parure of earrings and a necklace to finish her look.

Wearing our red!
The start of June was not encouraging. Rainy and unseasonably cold, my heat went on in the early mornings. Even as late as the 15th it seemed more like April than June. Oy veh. The 20th of June, I woke to a wonderfully sunny but not very hot day. Everything was set up and ready before the guests started to arrive. I scurried around playing hostess, keeping the trays filled and the hot tea, hot. The sun stayed out for the first two hours before drizzle set in followed by rain. But indoors or out, my mother had a blast! She loved the attention, the food, the company. I’m pretty sure she loved the music, too.

She is living in the moment and I have few illusions that she remembers any of it, now. But she had a few hours of joy and celebration, and that is enough to wish for.

Red Sky Warning

May 27th, 2015

The pair of earrings shown here are called “Red Sky.” Sometimes, I also call them “Sailors Delight.” Do you know that rhyme? There are several variations. The one I know goes:

Red sky at night,
Sailors delight
Red sky at dawn,
Sailors be warn’d.

I imagine in the distant past, when our coastal ancestors were more in tune with nature, a village wise woman rises early in the morning. She dresses in the dark then shuffles through night cooled sand to the top of the beach. An ethereal light kisses the sky before the sunrise. She peers out to sea. If the sky is red she will warn that a storm is coming up. The catch won’t be good and maybe, if the fishermen are at all careless, lives might be lost. It’s a warning only the foolish will ignore, though everyone who can will still venture out. Every day matters for this seasonal catch.

She returns to the beach in the dim dusk, hoping for a better day on the morrow. The village was fortunate that no one was lost, but the catch, as expected, was not good. Perhaps most of the fish were wise enough to stay in the far depths where the day’s storm couldn’t reach. This day is done and a new one is on its way. She looks out across the water and sees, to her relief, a brilliand red sky. The storm will not plague the village tomorrow.

This is the red sky my earrings depict. They herald a better day. My work does not celebrate the drama of catastrophe but rather the dawn of a planet that is healthy in all possible ways.

I have seen and been delighted by red skies in both morning and evening skies. I love how these colors shift and dance moment by moment. Sometimes reflected in the water, sometimes reflected from cloud to cloud.

How about you? Which red sky, dawn or dusk, have you seen at the beach? Or do you see something else? For my landlocked friends, what do you associate with a red sky? Please leave your comments below.

Remembering Mothers Day

May 4th, 2015
My Mother Staying Warm

My Mother Staying Warm

Mothers Day is the 10th of May. It’s coming up fast!

The best gift is one that required consideration, one that will make her smile. The best gift is exceptional.

We almost always gave my Mother jewelry and handmade cards. I recall one year with astonishing clarity. That year, my mother received matching bracelet and earrings. Twisted loops of silver spaced with small white pearls. I never recalled her getting matching pieces before or since though my father often gave her jewelry after that. Perhaps it was because I was so young and my father let me help pick out the bracelet and let us kids say it was from us. We were very young.

My mother loved this gift. Her smile was pure joy.

What memory do the words “Mothers Day” evoke for you? Is it one you recall as a child? One you recall as a parent? Is breakfast in bed involved? Please share your memory with me, in the comments area below.

If something unique, beautiful, and made for longevity is the kind of gift you are looking for, please visit my my Mothers Day webpage.

Tale of an Autumn Goddess

March 26th, 2015
Autumn Goddess ©2006, Patricia C Vener

Autumn Goddess ©2006, Patricia C Vener

I know it’s Spring, but today I want to tell you the story of “Autumn Goddess.” You see her work every Autumn; the affect of her dance through the woods changing green foliage to golds, oranges, reds and deep burnished purples. After her passing, the changed leaves flutter down to carpet the ground in rich hues obrowns, reds, oranges, and yellows. She whistles to the forest birds reminding the migrators of their long trips to warmer climes; reminding those that stay behind to start getting their winter nests in shape. At the start, the days are still warm, even as the nights are crisp.

Winter demands early entry even as Summer refuses to let up her hold. These two came to a compromise leaving Autumn rushing about a much curtailed region.

The whole world is changing. Summer hotter and drier and more widespread. Winter contained but more furious than ever. Plants and animals react, but not always successfully. What will the future bring? Who will survive it?

Are you asking how pale orange, pale green, and rich purple equate to Autumn? The answer goes back to my experiences doing conservation and restoration of works of art on paper. I’ve repaired and restored works by such artists as Jules Cheret, Henri Toulouse-Lautrec, Theophile Steinlein and many others. One of the most well known of these, Alphonse Maria Mucha, made the greatest impression on me with his use of ornament and curvature apparent in every one of his posters and non-religious prints. His use of color could be quite subtle even if when least one color was much richer than the rest.

That’s the effect I explore with this necklace with a choice of colors reminiscent of the late 1800s or early 1900s (the Art Nouveau period). Like Mucha I include subtle colors countered by a splash of something richer.

Out of the Dark

March 17th, 2015

Sunny corner, work in progress

Do small spaces make you feel confined or do you find them to be cozy?

As a ballerina I need space to move! I need spaciousness to be comfortable. I need to be able to sprawl. Small rooms make me antsy.

As a fine artist I need space to create large pieces and because my art form is bead weaving, I need space not only to spread out but to move my arms. I use very long lengths of thread on my needles and pulling them through the stitches is a lot like dancing.

Nonetheless, I started out with the idea that my studio could be anywhere I felt like working. Not a good idea. I had to clean up even if the work wasn’t finished. (Family likes to eat at the dining room table.)

There is a room off the kitchen that I had been using as a mini living room where I could comfortably ensconce my mother so she could watch tv or nap and still be in sight. (She has Alzheimers Disease and I am caring for her at home.) But it’s not a warm room in winter and she had become very sensitive to lower temperatures.

Clearly the universe was telling me that it was time for a dedicated studio. One that is roomy and bright. And this is the brightest room in the house! Even in Winter, sunlight sweeps in. Perfect!

Having a dedicated studio has allowed me to work in sunlight, to have supplies and equipment close at hand. I love being in my studio, even with the almost last vestige of livingroom-ness – my brother-in-law’s reclining chair – taking up a large bit of space. Which actually makes reading and researching in there very inviting.

Having the right place to work makes everything flow. There are shelves for books and display. There’s a bay window for my plants (and more display). There’s an air conditioner behind my materials storage cases (in the Summer the storage cases will go across the room in front of the baseboard heater). The kitchen is right over there! I have it made!

Let’s get to work!