Saturday, July 24, 2010

The Death of the Trees

My shows take me to many counties in Colorado and I was astonished to see the bare earth and denuded sites in so many parts of the state.  What is happening?

The pine beetle has been munching over the huge forest in Colorado and killing so many trees it makes me sad as if I was in mourning just to look at the landscape.  The devastation is immense.  Cities like Frisco, Keystone, Breckenridge or Winter Park, to cite just a few, are losing their pine trees so fast or already have lost so many that my heart contracts. Marvelous old creatures that used to grace the mountains and slopes are now dead and all brown under the sun leaving the earth bare. Imagine the wildlife loss of habitat and the unimaginable effect on our climate.  Southern Wyoming is also affected as the beetle is eating its way up the land.

There are over one and a half million trees lost to the beetle.  It prefers the Lodgepole pine trees that are now a part of so many of our forests and loves to feed on the hundred year old growth that had stood so many years.

It is estimated that by the year two thousand twelve, the beetle will have eaten its way through all of the Lodgepole pine trees in the state.  It is frightening.  One of the great beauties of our land is its green cover of pine trees and aspen and people come from all over the world to see them.

Apparently, the culprit is global warming that created a drought in the late nineties and early two thousand and made our summers become warmer along with our winters.  The beetle was able to climb to higher elevation so that we have these dead tree islands of brown battling the green in our forest and creating a huge fire danger.

When we travel, my husband does most of the driving while I stare fascinated by the land and its curves, its huge mountains and over all the glorious pine trees that cover a good part of our state.
Now, I stare at the desolation, the grand old trees now all dry and dead. But their remains, still reaching out to the sun, reminds me of their live presence years ago.

The spectacle is so overwhelming, it gets under my skin and invades my dreams at night.

I recently read that now the twig beetle is adding to our forest misery by also feeding on our trees.
I guess it is at times like this when I wish I had a magic wand and could eradicate those pests with a simple movement of my hands.  But I have only two empty hands feeling useless and desolate at the sight of the old trees now dead.

                                                   Healthy pine trees in Colorado

I mourn your passing, old giants of the forest, and keep in my memories your glorious beauty, the shelter you gave to so many animals and the way you have swayed gently in the wind to delight us.

For more information, see the link below:

Copyright 2010 Micheline Brierre, Editing and photo by Barry Kaplan

Thursday, July 15, 2010

The Magic Mermaid

The maid used to wait until nighttime to tell me stories of a beautiful creature with long hair bewitching the ones who found her under the light of the moon as she lay down languorously in her long tail down on the shore.  Her hair was infinite and she combed it carefully with a magical comb and sang amazing songs full of longing but capable of attracting to her the erring man who knew a girl was lost, helpless on the beach.

She talked about a mermaid, of course, and after listening to her tales I started to believe that I was also part of the deep ocean and part of the air.  A mermaid capable of living in both worlds at will.
This belief in the marvelous and the amazing, fueled my imagination and enchanted my childhood.
I believed in fairies, and often with my french girl friend Sylvie, we would tell Joel our little friend to watch out; we could turn her in a frog.  And we believed it.  We dressed in long gowns that belonged to Sylvie's aunt and she even made us up and, regal, we walked as Melusine or other faerie. The belief in the marvelous was anchored in our brain and never left me. 

After all, I lived in two worlds, the world of my imagination and the world that surrounded me everyday.  It is still true for me even after all these years.

It is easy for me to visualize anything and easy to imagine. After all, I have been a mermaid and life was the stuff of fairies.  They creep up on my drawings and my watercolors and in my living room where I have an Indonesian mermaid hanging from the ceiling and holding her comb, her magical tool.  Her presence was felt in many parts of the world.  After all, Ulysses barely escaped their chant.

I have another mermaid and she has a luscious and robust derriere.  I bought her in a flea market in Santa Fe.  When I met the artist who created her, he told me she had to have big muscles on her butt so she could swim all the way to the ocean from Santa Fe.  Indeed quite an endeavor!
I understood, completely, what could she be doing in the mountains if not seeking the ocean?

I understand that a big community of people believe in mermaids.  They buy my work and delight in the mermaids I paint.  Sometimes they order mermaid necklaces ... I recently sold one to a lady whose friend was getting married.

I see mermaids now as the ability to live in two different worlds.  When I go to work in my studio, I enter the world of the magical where most things are possible.  I can create, I forget the world of wars, of ruins, of terrible corruption and chaos, of deadly bombs killing so many innocent people.

I know that the world of everyday life is also a part of me and part of my life and present in all things. The task of living with grace and if we can muster it, some peace.
But I can dream...I can imagine... it saves me from oil spill and floods and news of the hardships of the world.

So if you hear a song on a beach in the middle of the night when the moon casts a warm glow on the planet, beware, a mermaid is seeking with her magic comb and you may just fall for her her song.
After all, the world of the magical is there for all of us.

Copyright 2010 Micheline Brierre

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

The Difficulties of Doing Art Shows

There is a part of doing art shows that every artist who does them puts up with.  The hardship and difficulties of being in an outdoor show. There are many obstacles to cross and they are as big sometimes as the rewards you get. 

Some art shows are beautifully juried.  Lots of very good artists and it is a joy to walk among them and see all the huge diversity of the art and the creativity and fun of so many good creations.  It fills me with joy when I have time to escape my spot and see the other artist's work.  I can rejoice in the fact that so many people from so many walks of life have been busy in their studio and expressing themselves through their art. You may like it or not, but you have to admire the art.

Some shows are rather poorly juried or not juried but in name only.  They let in a lot of what we call "vendors."  A lot of people who buy a certain merchandise and resell it at these shows as if it was their own.  In the trade we call them "buy and sell" people and they rob the art shows of their quality and the pleasure of seeing something unusual and great. Most of the times, these people have poor displays and low prices.  They compete with you who have worked hard to create pieces that are filled with your integrity as well as with your talent. But often they send a great picture of some work to the jury and misrepresent the nature of what they sell.  They get a free ride and make us real artists look like nuts with our prices that reflect our efforts and our hard work.  What hurts us is the fact that the show organizers say plainly in the contract  "do not send images of thing that you did not make yourself!!!"  but there it is in the show.  An artist's constant frustration.

And there is also the weather.  It seems to get more violent with global warming.  You have to put weight on your canopy for outdoor shows and in my canopy there is eighty six pound at each corner plus forty pound sand bags on the openings of the canopy.  It makes you feel quite secure until the wind starts to push or sway the canopy like a paper toy in the wind.

I did a show this last weekend and when my husband and I walked in in the morning it looked like a bomb went off during the night. More then ten canopies were wrecked on the ground with what they sold scattered or broken across the lawn. There had been up to seventy mile per hour winds and a huge storm overnight.  So sad, plus so much work for all those affected.  Some of the artists salvaged their work but stood all day in the sun trying to sell what they saved. Our canopy still stood and nothing seem to be affected.  We were lucky, and prepared, from having been through once what they were suffering.

Many years ago as we were almost ready to pack the whole thing up at the end of the show and I went to get the van and while I was away, a sudden microburst of wind blew our canopy that my husband was in the process of taking down and took it across the park with weights attached like a huge octopus and dump it across the lawn breaking some of its legs.  Fortunately, it hurt no one since the crowds were gone and only a few artist were left and helped us pack the sad remnants of what was our canopy. We had to buy a new one. Sometimes the wind is a constant, wrecking your nerves and swaying the canopy all day as if you were boating on rough seas.

But there is something wonderful about the damages of the weather.  The incredible empathy and willingness to help of the artist community.  It is a sort of fellowship that has no name but that we all share because we, at one time, have been there having been the victim of the winds or storm.  We know what the damage of rain and wind or worse, tornadoes, can do to our creations.  We help each other. This is a silent knowing that helps us sleep better at night.

So doing outdoor shows can be a charm but also can be a trying experience.  I guess we do it to escape the galleries huge charge on our work, the appeal of the crowds and the buyers, the knowing that some thousands of people are exposed to your work and it becomes known in many parts of the country. And with a few exposures, you develop a following.  People look for you every year and buy your creations, compliment you on your work and encourage you.

Most artists lead a lonely life in their studio and face the material their tools and themselves, their intuition and ideas all day.  In my case, I love what I do and it makes me forget the ills of the world, its problems and its wars and corruption.

It makes me feels great to know I contribute to so many women's joy in wearing my work and for them and for the income it provides; I hit the road!

Copyright 2010 Micheline Brierre