I fit one artist stereotype quite well — I was never a math star. Far from it. I stumbled through pre-calculus and closed the door and assumed I would always bellyflop when it came to mathematics. When I took my place in the world of practical numbers -one fleshed out in spreadsheets, budgets, and investment data - I realized I liked looking for patterns within the numbers and that…Read More
We rely on maps to navigate earthly and celestial terrain, and I feel grounded, in control somehow, when I am pulled into a fabulous map. Oh here I am! There I will go! And then there are maps for our internal landscapes and methods we call on to steer through spiritual terrain. Mine help preserve sanity and joy—and trek through heartbreak and confusion. But they were falling short of guiding me through my own brand of American angst.Read More
My sister Heather was, among many things, a disciplined thinker and a writer. She was a poet, and a good one, which is no mean feat. Painters can take a few shortcuts every now and then and get away with it. Not so with poets-- there is no smudging involved with a good poem. We always planned to collaborate on a book, or joint show, and fuse our work together to celebrate each other’s artistic medium. She died before we could get there. Shortly after her death I started to paint with this collaboration in mind, and I swiftly realized that I was still in deep mourning and could not pull inspiration from her words, just longing and grief. It was just too soon.
When this show opportunity at The Art Base surfaced a year later, I found I couldn’t get back to my original intent. This often happens when I lay ideas aside -- they often pick up and scuttle off like crabs. So I turned to my own writing and reading, and some of what I uncovered became part of this show and what you see on these walls. When Spring pulled up, I poured myself into my gardens. When my husband bought me a macro camera lens for my birthday, I discovered a new paradise. All of the garden inhabitants got blown up, abstracted, wild and unfamiliar. I was as thrilled as my eleven year old self when I saw a slice of pond water under a microscope for the first time. I sketched and photographed and wrote some more. I tried to learn Latin names without much success and read outdated botany guides. My kids were patient when I would pull the car abruptly over to the side of the highway to inspect a plant in bloom. I finally realized that I was stumbling around like a clumsy leviathan without really seeing so much around me. I hated to leave my garden and the hills around my house. My family would find me on the ground, wedged in between plants --peering. My awe for my backyard grew tenfold.
Heather was big on reverence -- either she was glued to the stance of a perching bird or the way the wind on her beloved Texas Hill Country ranch would move the grass, or she would explore byzantine and snarled ideas and resurface to deliver them with clarity to the rest of us. I cannot wade into theology or philosophy as easily as she could, but we both shared a love of gardens and the natural world. So I realized that this is a collaboration after all. One of her poems is on these walls, and her influence -- her exhortation to stand at attention --flows through my work. This show reinforced what I know in theory, but often forget in practice when I am distracted and lazy: that the best antidote for sorrow, disappointment and pettiness is creative inquiry or taking inventory. And it will inevitably pull you time and time again into the garden of delights.
***Update*** Want an audible "glimpse" into my upcoming show at The Art Base? Tune in December 7th at 3:30pm MST for my interview with Aspen Public Radio's Carolyne Heldmann, on her Cross Currents show. Listen here: http://bit.ly/IsaCattoAspPubRadio
This show is dedicated to you dear heart -- Heather Catto Kohout
“They are all beasts of burden in a sense, ' Thoreau once remarked of animals, 'made to carry some portion of our thoughts.' Animals are the old language of the imagination; one of the ten thousand tragedies of their disappearance would be a silencing of this speech.” Rebecca Solnit
I have decided to join the drawing/painting/collage a day challenge for many reasons, not the least of which is to force my hand. And it gave me an excuse to buy a honking big sketch book that just went on sale at our local art supply vendor. I decided to commit to a year’s time and be flexible with venue. Maybe the drawing/painting/collage will be in my tanker size journal, maybe it will be in my planner, or on a cocktail napkin. But I wanted to have a theme to get me out of the gate and keep me on course.
Last month I attended a lecture on climate change given by the renowned scientist Tom Lovejoy. Among his many, many accolades, he has been crowned the godfather of biodiversity. Currently he is a Senior Fellow at the United Nations Foundation and University Professor in the Environmental Science and Policy Department at George Mason University. He also works on the ground in Brazil. He was also a good friend of my mother’s, an avid conservationist, who turned me into one. Since he stayed with us, I had the opportunity to get to know him outside the context of their friendship. Tom is wry, gentle and humble, despite the fact that he occupies a very big stage in the environmental arena and wages a constant battle against ignorance and greed in his quest to save the Amazon, and with it, our earth. His visit and lecture inspired me to to research extinctions -- particularly in the last century --most of which were precipitated, or at least, enhanced by mankind’s reckless behavior. I decided to memorialize some of these fauna and flora to begin my personal challenge. I started with the Pyrenean Ibex. Celia, the last of her subspecies, died in the Iberian Peninsula in 2000. There was a brief attempt at cloning her, but this failed. You can learn more about this wild goat by clicking HERE
or pick up Elizabeth Kolbert's excellent book, The Sixth Extinction, at your bookstore.