GRANDAUGHTER / GRANDAD
[2018, each 31″ x 24″]

GRANDAUGHTER -- GRANDAD

My dad is a potter. So is my daughter. These pieces—which can be displayed separately but are really meant to hang together—are continuations of my “Handwork Project” and they focus on hands directly linked to my own. I can see the genetic links just looking at the hands; my hands look like they obviously belong to my father’s daughter; my daughter’s hands look like mine but also incorporate my husband’s longer fingers. And in these pieces, my dad, who is experienced with clay and whose pot is near completion, works with his hands almost floating as they perfect a sharp, clear edge with the lightest of touches. My daughter’s journey with pots is just beginning, so she has to push with both hands, still learning to convince the clay that she knows what she’s doing. Looking at them together, our inheritance as makers is clear, running from him through me to her. We are lucky enough that she’s been able to learn it directly from him as well, and that’s why the pieces are titled for their relationships to each other, rather than their relationships to me.

The importance of working with your hands—along with the curiosity, willingness to ask questions, and striving for creative accomplishments that go along with this work—is one of the most important things my dad has given to me. It’s what I consider one of the most important things I can pass to my daughters. It’s the most consistent part of my life, running along its own path through every decade, and it’s the clearest lens through which I see other people. The afternoon recorded in these knitted pieces, when I was watching my dad teach my daughter to throw a pot, was like a shining, crystalline moment of clarity about who we are and what we offer to the world.

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HOW MUCH HIGHER? (2018) 77″ x 24″

HIGHER 1

HOW MUCH HIGHER? shows a father and child confronting a wall that grows ever higher–indeed, the upper portion of the wall has been added only recently, and had to be made as a separate piece. Still there is no end in sight, as even the top of this second piece is not finished off with a thin black frame like the rest of it. There is room, sadly, for the entire barrier to grow even taller.

Of course, at least the father and his child are still together.

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How will YOU take a stand? (Unexpected 3D #1) (2018) 24″ x 43″

How will YOU take a stand? asks what groups YOU most identify with. Be careful, though–your chosen group may have a “darker” side. (Or even a “yellower” side.)

Or maybe you find yourself in the middle…but you aren’t sure anymore exactly what that even means.

When you’re really scratching your head, here’s one more thing to look at. This piece is actually a three-dimensional image–not just in that there are obviously figures standing in front of other figures, but as a startling, deep 3D stage in which the rows of figures are visibly separated in space. To see it, try staring at the center of the image, then unfocusing your eyes, then slowly directing your eyes toward the second figure from the left in the bottom row. Gradually search for focus on that figure while keeping the middle and back rows unfocused. Not everyone can see this effect–certain eye problems will make it more difficult–but if you do “get” it, the effort will be worth it! (Note: it’s easiest to see the effect in person or on a larger screen.)

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FORT GAY HIGH SCHOOL, circa 1940 (2018) 47″ x 24″

FORT GAY 1

FORT GAY HIGH SCHOOL, circa 1940 was made for a fund-raising raffle to be held in 2018-2019 by the Fort Gay (West Virginia) High School Alumni Association. The proceeds will support scholarships for students of the town’s current high school.

 

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WE WILL GROW STRONGER AT THE TORN PLACES (RESIST) (2018) 47″ x 24″

WE WILL GROW STRONGER AT THE TORN PLACES (RESIST) is more than just an image of a torn, tattered, strangely remade flag, and more than just a twisted Hemingway quote—it also contains a hidden message of solidarity with those fighting the fight. The message (the single word RESIST) is an autostereogram, a shadow image seen by refocusing your eyes in front of the actual image. A “secret” message like this one can be problematic, though. It speaks to those who share my views, but excludes those who simply can’t see it. Will they believe there even is a message? Will they think it’s just a “dog whistle”? Will they fear it’s being whispered behind their backs? Will they ever understand me? Will they even try?

*  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *

Here’s a hint for those having trouble seeing the autostereogram:

RESIST text Cella 225 x 350

 

 

 

 

For more help, see http://www.hidden-3d.com/how_to_view_stereogram.php.

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NO WAY TO STOP A WOLF (2018) 24″ x 36″

WOLF 1 2000px wide

NO WAY TO STOP A WOLF (2018) 24″ x 36″

NO WAY TO STOP A WOLF demonstrates that even the bucolic countryside has a darker side. The meadow is not nearly as peaceful as it seems. Wolves lurk everywhere—don’t they? We need to be protected from them—don’t we? And yet, who would think it could possibly be a good idea to arm…a sheep?

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THE START OF IT ALL (2018) 24″ x 33″

START 1

THE START OF IT ALL (2018) 24″ x 33″

Knitting starts with yarn, and a needle. Soon you’ll need another needle, of course, but you have to start by getting the yarn onto one of them. Knitters will recognize this as the “long-tail cast-on,” which looks like sleight-of-hand when you first make it work. It made me believe that with knitting, anything is possible.

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st = px (2018) 24″ x 29″

The fundamental principle behind my manipulation of images, and their presentation in knitted yarn, is that one stitch = one pixel. A knitted stitch (st) is much larger than a printed pixel (px), so a knitted image will contain far fewer stitches than the pixels in a printed image of the same size. In the presentation of digital images, pixels are the carriers of information; my knitted images are essentially digital images (a topic for a whole different other conversation), so I want as many pixels (stitches) as I can get in order to communicate as much information as possible.

If you followed all that, then you will see that my images are by definition low-resolution (not many pixels for the size of the image) and necessarily quite large in order to give me even a bare minimum number of pixels to work with. I spend a lot of time experimenting with ways to cram as much information as possible into every pixel, trying to make every single one count.

In this piece, though, I playfully turn this fundamental principle on its head, because here every “stitch” gets one pixel…except where it does not, in the very large “stitches” on the right side…although even there, every pixel of the image still gets just one stitch.

I imagine knitters will get this joke more readily than others. It may require a certain “twisted” sense of humor.

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YOU KNOW YOU WANT TO (2018) 24″ x 41″

YOU KNOW YOU WANT TO (2018) 41″ x 24″

Generally the title of a piece offers my only opportunity to connect words to it permanently, words that I can be sure anyone who looks at the piece will read. The picture itself, of course, is supposed to be worth a thousand words, but I always make sure to put as much helpful information in my titles as I can (I was a word person before I was a visual person, so this feels natural to me.) In this case, the title refers to more layers of assumptions than may be obvious at first glance. If the piece (or its title) makes you uncomfortable, that’s okay–it makes me uncomfortable too. That’s why I made it.

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BLUE RIDGE (2018) 24″ x 44″

BLUE RIDGE 1

BLUE RIDGE (2018) 24″ x 44″

This piece was inspired by a photograph taken by my dad, John F. Plymale, at Pipestem State Park in West Virginia. If you ever find yourself at latitude 37.523400, longitude -80.994, look around and see if you recognize the view! I was born in West Virginia, and though I haven’t lived in the state for decades, this landscape still feels familiar.

I used palest blue and charcoal gray yarns to “paint” the soft edges of this smoky-hazy vista.

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MINIMAL ME (2017) 24″ x 33″

This work in black and white is an updated version of one of my earliest portraits, and tests my ability to portray a whole person with limited materials:
— in yarn, a rather blunt instrument,
— in black and white only, without even the assistance of shades of gray, and
— with as few actual “marks” as possible.

How much can I take away, and still have…me?

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WINTER NIGHT, STARLIGHT BRIGHT (2017) 24″ x 34″

WINTER NIGHT, STARLIGHT BRIGHT (2017) 24″ x 34″

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ROBBIE (2017) 24″ x 34″

ROBBIE 1 1500px

ROBBIE (2017) 24″ x 34″

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JENNY (2017) 24″ x 34″

JENNY 1 1500px

JENNY (2017) 25″ x 34″

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MACK AND KATE (2017) 25″ X 40″

MACK AND KATE 1500 pixels

MACK AND KATE (2017) 25″ x 40″

 

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BERLIN (A GLIMPSE OF THE FUTURE, IN HALFTONE (2017) 24″ X 24″

BERLIN (A GLIMPSE OF THE FUTURE, IN HALFTONE) (2017) 24″ X 24″

I visited Berlin for the first time in the fall of 2014, just before the 25th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall. The weather was cold, windy and grey, extending no welcome. We walked for miles regardless, and everywhere we went were scars and symbols of the city’s past—unrepaired damage to buildings, monuments sometimes so mournful I could hardly look at them, and unexpected displays of soldier mannequins, complete with military gear, throughout an otherwise hyper-modern shopping mall. It was depressing. Oppressive. Exhausting. I only wanted to escape, and looked forward to our flight out the next day.

Then I glanced down an alley off a main street as we passed. Cube-shaped paving stones, presumably granite, were piled high in the narrow space. They were obviously new, cleanly cut and not yet weathered or worn, and quite beautiful in their random, yet tidy, mound. I looked around and realized that the same sort of square-cut pavers were everywhere, and that they were completely different from the paving bricks you occasionally find in the United States. I had not noticed them as they passed by the thousands under my feet, but clearly someone was paying attention to them, and was planning ahead for the time when the ones on which I stood would need to be replaced.

In these stones I saw the future of Berlin. Their shape and material echo the city’s long past, yet they are new, and will someday make an old street strong again. They reminded me that Berlin, in spite of its self-imposed melancholy, can be clean and freshly rebuilt when it chooses. The pile of paving stones in that alley will make a little bit of the city new again, someday. They will be part of the city’s future, even as they fit smoothly in with its past.

Materials in the world around us are often full of contradictory but simultaneous connections. They link us with both future and past, both happiness and sadness, danger and safety. The very stones in the street beneath us are both hard, as they withstand millions of footsteps, and, if not quite soft, at least welcoming and helpful, as they provide a regular surface for safe walking or a smooth car ride.

In this knitted image, the paving stones are softened and abstracted to heighten their connection to a clean, optimistic future. I then step back, blurring their link to reality by layering a simulation of halftone printing—as if on paper, itself an ephemeral rather than lasting material—that also adds visual interest. Depicting stones with yarn is the last step in juxtaposing their inherent hardness with their smooth functionality.

Everything around us, if you look closely enough, is both contradiction and connection.

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IN THE MIRROR (ALL I SEE IS ME) (2017) 24″ X 45″

IN THE MIRROR (ALL I SEE IS ME) (2017) 24″ X 45″

Knitters sometimes hide behind their yarn. They focus on their knitting to avoid confrontations with people, and to protect their privacy; when you’re looking down at your hands, no one can see what’s revealed on your face.

Yarn is my medium. To make pictures with yarn is a private, not a public, act; I disappear into my basement studio and work with skeins and swatches until I’ve got the result I want.

With this piece, I am hiding behind my yarn, and also behind a little wooden mannequin. I’m using him (her?) to talk about the incomprehensibly vast range of possibilities open to people today, and especially to those still in the process of growing up. With these possibilities comes pressure to make choices that will lead to a future they cannot possibly predict.

I did not grow up with these possibilities, and I am still trying to understand them. I’m pretty sure about one truth, though, and that’s what I’m trying to say with this piece: it is that we are all just human beings, and this may be the first time in history that we have the real possibility of simply being ourselves. We can be defined by what’s inside, not by the external trappings that the world sees.

To speak about these issues, to make art about these issues, I am not ready—at least not yet–to confront an actual nude model, transgender or otherwise. I won’t be painting before-and-after-transition nude life portraits, or making drawings of genitalia–ambiguous, surgically modified, natural or otherwise. But I can comment on all these things nonetheless, with my little wooden model, by “painting” her (him?) with yarn.

And if you look at me even now, yes, I’ll probably be looking down at my hands. But I’ll also be smiling.

[Shortlink for this page: https://tinyurl.com/imageknits-mirror]

 

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LAST MEMORY OF BELA (2017) 25″ x 37″

LAST MEMORY OF BELA (2017) 25″ x 37″

This piece captures the last connection between BELA, age 23, and a member of his beloved human family. They exemplify for me the complex, life-long connection possible between animals and the people who fully embrace and engage with them. I was honored to be allowed to memorialize this moment.

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Eclipse (feat. Bats!) (2017) 24″ x 37″

Eclipse (feat. Bats!) (2017) 24″ x 37″

We traveled to Kentucky with an old friend to see the total solar eclipse this year. We had been warned that we might encounter traffic jams (possibly starting an entire state away from our destination), hours-long lines at restaurants, shortages of bottled water, or parking lots and fields full of shoulder-to-shoulder mobs all wearing eclipse glasses.

The only traffic jams we experienced were due to construction projects on, apparently, every single bridge crossing the Ohio river. We checked in at our state park lodge, where there were plenty of parking spaces, and had dinner in a dining room that was not memorable, but also not in the least crowded.

The next morning we reconnoitered to figure out the best viewing spot. The lodge parking lot, grounds and pool area were getting crowded. There was a beach in the park a couple of miles away, and they were planning to close the parking lot there a couple of hours before the eclipse. We decided to take a hike through the woods from the lodge to the beach to avoid the parking mess. Apparently no one else thought this was a good idea (it was about 95 degrees out, so I had moments of doubt myself), and there was not another soul on the hiking trail.

We found the beach, and it was crowded—not packed yet, but there were quite a lot of people. But on the way there, we had passed a picnic pavilion that looked interesting, so we backtracked to check it out.

It was amazing.

It was in a grassy field, maybe an acre in size, right off the hiking trail. There was a parking lot, but the entrance to it must have been closed as there were no cars or people anywhere near. There was a picnic shelter, which provided benches, tables and SHADE! And RESTROOMS! Also the shelter was on a hill that just happened to be angled so that we could lie on the hill and face the sun, meaning we could watch the eclipse without craning our necks. We kept looking around for hordes of people to descend on our perfect, private spot, but it never happened.

So we lay on the hill and watched. The sun slowly disappeared, we put our glasses on and we ooh’ed and aah’ed. We took shelter in the shade occasionally, sipped water, then went back and stared at the sun some more.

Totality happened, and we gasped and shouted and clapped. It really was unlike anything else you’ve ever seen. It was some sort of primal drama taking place over our heads, breathtaking and frightening. It was crazy.

I had determined I was not going to obsess over taking pictures but would just try to experience the eclipse in the moment. Once we’d looked for a few seconds and passed binoculars back and forth, of course, I thought, well, maybe just a couple of pictures…knowing they wouldn’t be great because all I had was an iPhone and I knew it wouldn’t be able to focus well on the sun. So I took a couple, fumbling around and trying to keep my eyes on the sun, not getting a good focus, stabbing the exposure controls randomly, accidentally turning my phone to the video setting while my arms were waving…you know how it goes. But it was okay, because I SAW it. That was enough. The pictures would just make me laugh later.

But you know what? Somehow my phone, in that arm-flailing few seconds of video, managed to both somehow focus on the sun AND capture the little swarm of bats that burst over our heads (coming out of the picnic shelter, no doubt) as soon as full darkness hit.

So when I got home, I got to work on extracting single frames from that little snip of video, and my work became this knitted piece. It captures (after much adjusting of gradients and testing of many shades of blue yarn) what the glowing darkness of totality really looked like. It was like night, but with a blue glow just above the horizon. The bats flew over our heads very quickly, just little dark blurs spinning wildly into the woods. The sun was burning blackness, a hole with white fire around it.

If you saw the total eclipse yourself, I hope this image reminds you of what you witnessed. If you didn’t, I hope it gives you a little bit of the gooseflesh-inducing experience we had. For me, I’m pretty sure it will always help me remember lying on that hillside, just three of us, looking up, and gasping.

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SILVER IS ONLY BLACK AND WHITE (2017) 25″ x 35″

SILVER IS ONLY BLACK AND WHITE (2017) 25″ X 35″

With my artworks I seek to demonstrate that few things in the real world are quite as they appear. I use layers of surprising contradictions and juxtapositions to fill my works with possibilities…

  • A stainless steel pitcher is silver and shiny, its apparent color ever-changing as it reflects the objects around it, but I can “paint” it with strands of yarn in only black and white.
  • These black and white strands are solid objects, but they bend and twist and flow, behaving almost as a fluid would.
  • The strands are soft, even fuzzy, to the touch, but can convincingly render the hard, smooth surface of the steel.
  • Only the milk inside the pitcher is fully white and actually fluid, but its knitted image is as solid–and also as soft and fuzzy–as that of the steel around it.
  • The pitcher sits on a black backdrop, but that black is painted with the same strands, both black and white, as the silver.
  • The real pitcher looks different from different angles, as it shows you different reflections; the knitted pitcher looks like a photograph when seen from across the room, but like randomly patterned knitwear–a sweater, even–when seen up very close.

You can touch both the real pitcher and my knitted image of it. Which is more “real”? Which better illustrates the illusory nature of appearances?

Which leads you to ask the most interesting questions?

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LINE DANCE AT METAPHASE (2017) 24″ x 32.5″

LINE DANCE AT METAPHASE (2017) 24″ x 32.5″

METAPHASE is the moment in cell division when a cell has doubled but not yet split into two. Here a photomicrograph of rabbit chromosomes, lined up for one last dance with their duplicates before being dragged apart into separate cells, is transformed into an abstraction of their graceful promenade.

This work is based, with permission, on a photograph taken by Calvin Simerly and Gerald Schatten of the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine, in collaboration with E.L. Fishman and Tomer Avidor-Reiss at the University of Toledo Department of Biological Sciences.

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CYMBELLA TRIPTYCH (2017) 24″ x 93″

CYMBELLA TRIPTYCH (2017) 24″ x 93″

Cymbella Triptych is a microbiological portrait, a dramatic presentation of a tiny living organism called a diatom. It is knitted from cotton yarn in dark brown and deep yellow colors, and its three parts measure 24” x 93” in total. The colors were chosen to reflect the fact that diatoms, though they are plants and contain chlorophyll, also have pigments that render them gold or brown in color rather than green.

Diatoms come in thousands of varieties and are abundant all over the world, but most people will never get a detailed look at one. This diatom is of the species Cymbella neogena* and is about 100 microns (1/10 of a millimeter) in length. Diatoms are microscopic algae that form their cell walls–which look like shells but are called frustules–out of silicon, which means they are essentially made from glass.  Marine diatoms are responsible for a huge portion of the carbon dioxide removed from the atmosphere and deposited on the ocean floor, thus reducing the effects of global warming. Diatoms are widely used in the study of the ecological history and health of bodies of water, or of places where there has been water in the past.

I am intensely interested in diatoms and microscopy, and this work has allowed me to begin connecting those interests with my artwork for the first time. The piece is the final result of a long series of technical and artistic processes:

  • I began by collecting a sample of water from the Florida Everglades at coordinates 25.760703, -80.561372 (see map below).

cymbella triptych collection location map

  • I then used techniques developed by limnologists and paleoecologists to clean and isolate the diatoms in this sample.
  • The specimens were mounted on slides with a special high-refractive index adhesive, necessary in order to see the “glass” diatoms against the glass slide and cover slip they are mounted between.
  • I next studied the slides using a microscope with an oil immersion lens to find and photograph this specimen.
  • I used open-source software to stack, merge and stitch a dozen photos to make one large, detailed image.
  • I edited this image in Photoshop to produce a sort of diatom “glamour shot” that would show off the beauty of this tiny, miraculous object, and adapted it to the special requirements of knitted images so that it would look like a 3-dimensional object when viewed at a very large scale.
  • I used Photoshop to produce a digital pattern that my vintage knitting machine can read.
  • I knitted the three separate pieces (24” x 31” each) that comprise the artwork, and finally…
  • I mounted them on separate custom-made internal frames with wraparound, attached knitted edgings.

I believe this work to be unique in its particular embodiment of what knitters would call a “sheep-to-shawl” process—that is, the performing of all the steps in removing wool from a sheep and turning it into a shawl. In this case the process extends from collecting the sample in nature to completing a large knitted artwork featuring one tiny organism found in the sample. It may also be the largest physical image of a diatom ever produced, at more than 23,000 times the length of the actual specimen.

*Many thanks to the Yahoo Groups Diatom Forum for help with definitive identification of Cymbella neogena.

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HOLLY (2017) 24″ x 39″

HOLLY (2017) 24″ x 39″

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GUINNESS (2017) 24″ x 39″

GUINNESS (2017) 24″ x 39″

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BROTHERS (2016) 25″ x 50″

BROTHERS (2016) 25″ x 50″

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LUCKY (2014) 25″ x 32″

LUCKY (2014) 25″ x 32″

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FAITH (2017) 24″ x 27″

FAITH (2017) 24″ x 27″

Faith’s portrait was created as a donation to the Spring 2017 fundraising auction for Handsome Dan’s Rescue, a pitbull rescue group.

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KENNEDY (2017) 25″ x 29″

KENNEDY (2017) 25″ x 29″

This work was based on a photo used with kind permission of Michelle Jones at MichelleJonesPhotography.com.
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K’S BABIES (2016) 21″ x 31″

K’S BABIES (2016) 21″ x 31″

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HAZEL (2015) 21″ x 29″

HAZEL (2015) 21″ x 29″

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NOT SHOWN ON FRONT PORTFOLIO PAGE

MINIMAL ME (2015) 25″ x 35″

MINIMAL ME (2015) 25″ x 35″

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BARRY BLOGS (2015) 25″ x 33″

BARRY BLOGS (2015) 25″ x 33″

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SAMMY (2017) 25″ x 33″

SAMMY (2017) 25″ x 33″

SAMMY is Everycat. He loves us, but thinks we’re slightly ridiculous. He needs us, but tries not to let on. He thinks deep thoughts while staring at the wall. His paws are soft, and chasing mice is beneath him. And I am so glad that he deigns to snuggle up and purr under my chin every night.

 

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CHARLOTTE (2017) 25″ x 43″

CHARLOTTE (2017) 25″ x 43″

CHARLOTTE was the Forever Dog I waited 35 years for. Her sweet Lassie-like face always drew attention, and she turned all who met her not into “dog people,” but into “Charlotte people.” She could become what each person needed in turn, then trot back to sit at my feet. I miss her every day.

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AROMA (2017) 25″ x 50″

AROMA (2017) 25″ x 50″

This work seeks to evoke the warm, buttery-bitter scent of freshly roasted coffee beans for the viewer. Perfectly browned, shiny with aromatic oil, they should make you want a cup, right now! The piece’s large size will make a whole room feel like a coffeehouse all day long.

This work was adapted from a photo taken by Jeff Turner, and is used under a Creative Commons 2.0 Attribution license, the terms of which may be found in detail here: https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/legalcode and in summary here: https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/ The original photo may be found at https://flic.kr/p/dCvhxy

 

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SEE (2018) 24″ x 35″

SEE 2018 1

This is where artwork begins—not on a canvas, not on a sketchpad, not even on a computer. It starts with what I SEE, with what only I see, with what only my eye can see.

Of course, even if you’re not as fascinated by eyes as I am, this piece is useful for keeping small children out of a room. It’s even been known to frighten adults. Are YOU brave enough to look at it—and let it look at you—every day?

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CURLICUBE (2016) 25″ x 38″

CURLICUBE (2016) 25″ x 38″

There’s a hidden autostereogram image in this piece! View it on a phone, tablet or computer screen and unfocus your eyes, and see if you can find it. Here’s a hint:

cube 200x300

Background tile purchased from rfclipart.com, item ID 20160222044738306, on 2/22/16. Depth map was adapted from a photo taken by Dominic Alves, and is used under a Creative Commons 2.0 Attribution license, the terms of which may be found in detail here: https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/legalcode and in summary here: https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/   The original photo may be found at https://www.flickr.com/photos/dominicspics/5394470202

 

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FUNKY CHICKEN (2016) 25″ x 37″

FUNKY CHICKEN (2016) 25″ x 37″

This work was adapted from a photo taken by Ian Carroll, and is used under a Creative Commons 2.0 Attribution license, the terms of which may be found in detail here: https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/legalcode and in summary here: https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/ The original photo may be found at: https://www.flickr.com/photos/iancarroll/4418060552

 

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BEYOND THE RED (2015) 25″ x 41″

BEYOND THE RED (2015) 25″ x 31″

Based on an image found online at:  http://www.freedivecanada.com/comp/disciplines.html  Permission for use requested but original photographer could not be located. Photo was significantly manipulated before use.

 

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