Monday, December 29, 2008

I've just returned from Strafford Vermont where I've been for over a week- no access to high speed internet, no cell phone service, little electricity (we're off the grid), limited heat (wood stove only). Its been a reminder of the challenges that many Vermonters face, some by choice, some not.
I've been stuck in a snowdrift and rescued by helpful neighbors, visited the store, the library, the post office- to be greeted by name everywhere. This has been a different reminder- of the sense of tight community and support, of being known, that isn't as true here in Cambridge.
This project has made me think differently about life in Vermont.

Friday, December 19, 2008

I've been reading other people's blogs and finally I'm beginning to feel that we're all getting a handle on what we want to focus on. My interest is in the working landscape, and I'm beginning to develop painting ideas, using the mix of bird and plant details that I have typically in my paintings. I've been searching out the lists of endangered and native species from the available sources at VINS and VLT (as mentioned earlier). I am working on a series of landscapes, all idealized but with hints of trouble if you look carefully. Its exciting to feel as though this way of approaching a painting project-deliberately constructing the rationale for all the elements- can dovetail with what I do anyway.

The other thing that I've become aware of as I think about this project is the quality of my life in Strafford. I don't live there year-round, but I come up at all times of year. Our house if off the grid and on a small dead end dirt road, so after the drive up from Boston on the interstate the silence and peace is striking. I planted 20 apple trees then we built our house and now they all bear fruit; gradually I've enlarged the vegetable garden. My neighbors are all farmers on a small scale. But my husband and I are both painters and our primary purpose there is to paint when we aren't teaching (summers, in other words). I see this project as a wonderful way to connect to my community there- this project gives my work as a painter a visibility and purpose that lots of people understand.

I'm also continuing my search through art history for inspiration- here is one of my favorites-"Good Government" by Lorenzetti (Sienese 15th cent.).

Saturday, December 13, 2008

My most recent thoughts have been about the idea of the future- how can we anticipate what technologies will be developed for energy generation? For transportation? These developments will have a profound effect on the landscape, and over time there will be many different solutions.
I enjoyed reading the article in the New York Times (Dec. 3,2008)about the Vermont town of Starksboro and the efforts of the Middlebury College students to engage the residents. It is described as a place that is not remarkably picturesque, but that was the case for Strafford (where I am) 150 years was a mining town with a bedstead factory, a sawmill, a tannery, several stores, a creamery and many tenaments. Today it is very pretty, but without any vital industries, like the dairy farms in Starksboro. There used to be many farms- I remember them fondly from my childhood- but there are only two left. These pictures are mine(except for the buggy carrying the milk cans- they come from the Strafford Historical Society). I love seeing the cows grazing, but its a hard way to make a living. There have to be new incentives for farming.

Thursday, December 11, 2008


The subject that I've chosen to focus on is "the working
landscape". The history of the landscape shapes the way that it looks now, so I've been thinking about the way that it got to be the way it is today and how its changed even in my lifetime. I've been looking at old photographs, and I read the excellent history of Vermont by Dr. Jan Albers on the Vermont Land Trust. Also, the speech by Darby Bradley has been helpful in defining the challenges that Vermont faces.
I am organizing my reference images into groups:

1. I've looked at many images of farming from the past.

2. I've also been thinking about the ways that imagery can be used to draw attention to conditions or to celebrate beauty. I've looked at paintings of rural life by Corot, Millet and Gainsborough (of course there are many other examples).

"Twilight" by Camille Corot

3. I'm also assembling images of plants and animals native to or invasive to this state. I have visited the
Montshire Museum in Norwich and VINS in Woodstock .

Future postings will relate to these catagories and maybe some new ones.