This month has been so non-stop that I have most of a sketchbook finished and almost no scans done until today. I put snapshots on site up on my social media and sometimes here, but the scans show the sketches so much more clearly. Here are a batch from the beginning of the month when I got to stay in this lovely artist cottage at WAMA. I take down my traveling teapot and electric tea kettle and have breakfast (and lunch and sometimes dinner) on the little balcony. It's a beautiful, peaceful place to stay.
Driving down that trip my art delivery day was February 28. The day before Mardi Gras. So I got to pick up an actual king cake on my way in to town. They are SO much better down on the coast. The Memphis versions I've tried have been very pale imitations, even though we're a good food town overall. So here's my king cake along with my travel teapot. All the essentials.
I admire the artists who do full on collage. I've always felt that mine look more like 4th grade projects. But with this sketchbook, I've been making small movements in a multi-media direction, pasting in bits of ephemera that evoke the moment. The king cake label was one, and this lovely card from a kind friend is another. I got called up to the front of the museum while I was there, and a longtime friend had seen me down there delivering art on fb and actually sent me flowers to celebrate that moment. It meant so much. They sat with me on my little balcony and nodded gently in the back of my hatchback as I drove back home to Memphis.
I always try to draw flowers when I'm lucky enough to get them. They are a gorgeous but ephemeral gift, and having them in my sketchbook helps me remember the moment and the beauty long after the original flowers have faded.
I could not be more happy this week. I just got home from five days in Ocean Springs. My family came and stayed Wednesday to Sunday/Monday, thirty-three freaking friends showed up from out of town for the reception (most of them 6 hours away and some more than that). Several other friends saw the show the same weekend or came to one of the artist talks. I’m stunned and touched that so very many people showed up.
Very beautifully, three of Walter Anderson’s children came to the opening as well, sought me out, talked to me about my work, and told me that the movement and pattern and nature focus in my work was a great fit in this space and with their father’s work. Their father is one of my premiere art heroes, and that kindness from them meant more than I can put in words. Sarah Dutton from WAMA captured me talking to Mary with John in the background, and I was delighted that she caught the warmth and radiance of Mary’s kindness to me. John has been gracious over several meetings and always takes time to come talk to the children in the museum. The first time I saw my show on the walls two weeks ago, he was there talking to the kids, and I got to spend some time with him after talking art and hearing stories about his dad.
Melissa Bridgman took this photo of me and Leif, the other daughter, a dancer and dog lover and gently glowing person. I was delighted to meet her and her daughter as well.
I’ve mostly forgotten how to dress up and go out in public, but Kaleigh Donnelly took this photo of me in my favorite dress that made me feel exactly how I wanted to for this occasion, and I’m grateful.
Here are a few more shots by Sarah Dutton that I loved from the opening. The Old Ways from Oxford, Mississippi, played wonderful music that was just right for both St. Patrick’s Day and this traditional music loving woman. The whole night exceeded all my dreams, and I could not feel more lucky. It’s rare you get to say that. I finally went home, sat under the stars for a while, and wrote in my journal to help me remember in times to come.
Darel Snodgrass of WKNO fm kindly hosted me again to talk about my show at WAMA, sketching (always), the new catalog for that show, and my graphic essay about Mr. Darcy. With all that, he also kindly let me go on longer than usual. I'm so grateful for this daily show about the arts in Memphis. It gives musicians, theaters, dancers, artists, and other creatives a way to get the word out about the things we're doing, and I always learn a ton when I listen.
Celebratory tea set
I went to Shearwater Pottery yesterday because I always do when I’m in Ocean Springs. It’s in its third generation of family potters. I was mostly looking for a cream pitcher, since I’d broken one of my favorites recently. But I fell in love with this set. They don’t have a full set very often, and it’s lovely, and I figured I would really enjoy having an “I had a show at WAMA” tea set going forward. Happy memories every time I use it. And it’s lovely. It’s earning its keep this morning by posing while providing tea.
It’s been beautiful to have a couple of slow mornings here. I’m usually walking the crazy puppy at least a couple of blocks before I bring in the paper and make tea. And it’s been a long, intense lead up to delivering this show. So I’m grateful for space where all I have to do is exhale and sketch for pleasure. Or read my
book for pleasure. Or have Second Tea. I’ll be back at work soon, but it’s a beautiful short break. Even though I helped hang Daffodil Season yesterday, I had a slow morning and evening to bracket the day. Deeply good.
My deadline for the last two years happened yesterday when I dropped off art at WAMA. I was delighted to see this sign waiting by the gallery slated for my show. It was huge just to unload the car and see the work here.
I celebrated by going down to the water, wading and sketching on the beach, and having a little actual gulf coast king cake. I always try the Memphis versions and am always disappointed. Driving down here this time of year is a big treat. Here are a few images from yesterday.
I’m having a slow morning today and will go to the museum later to help lay out the graphic essay for the small secondary show.
Side by side exhibitions
Y’all. I got this email from WAMA, and seeing my work side by side with Anderson’s made me tear up. I finished putting hardware on the very last framed piece today, and it’s all feeling very real and a little bit overwhelming in the best possible way.
Running the press
I ran the press yesterday to print cards for WAMA, and I decided to do a short video to introduce myself to their folks who haven’t followed my work before. It’s always fun to show off the press. It’s such a superstar. And beautifully, the set up yesterday (getting a solidly good print across the whole frame) was easier than usual, so printing was a lot of fun. I was tired last night (I ended up doing almost 700 cards, since I’ll need a lot for a six month show run), but it went really well.
WAMA web page
Y'all, WAMA has made a gorgeous website for my exhibition! I couldn't be more pleased. Above is a screenshot of the top of it, but to navigate the images and read all the text about the show and see photos of me working, click here. They are doing a beautiful job on every aspect of this show, and I can't wait to see it hanging in their space. I deliver art on Feb. 28th, and I have 20 of 21 prints framed.
I'm partway through mounting all the pieces (20 watercolors plus text bits) for the separate graphic essay about Mr. Darcy that will hang in a separate space. It's their first time hanging just mounted art instead of framed, their first graphic essay, and their first time hanging in a salon style (a more informal, collage style grouping). I'm so grateful they're trusting me to do this new thing for them. Mattie Codling, the curator, had asked me if I wanted to write a bit of story about Mr. Darcy to go with his print in the show, knowing what a large part of my art making he had been to me. I told her I would love to and that I also had this graphic essay about his last couple of months called Daffodil Season. It doesn't go with the formal print exhibition, but she found a separate space for it in the museum and is diving into this new thing. I have so appreciated her enthusiasm and support in the two years preparing for this show. It will be special to honor Mr. Darcy in this way, and I think anyone who loves and loses a beloved companion will resonate with it. Anderson had a number of animals he spent time with and painted and called familiars, so it's appropriate for his museum to honor these muses.
I’ve been working to get my catalog for the WAMA show in to the printer, and yesterday I picked up the hard copy proof. The reproductions look great, so I’m really excited. I’ve got a few small things to fix over the weekend — it’s always easier for me to see mistakes on paper than on multiple pages on a screen, but I’m really pleased and so glad I decided to put the time in to do this. It’s 32 pages, so the length of a children’s picture book. It won’t be a hefty art book, but it’s a nice size at 10” square, and the plates of the art printed beautifully. It will mean a lot to have a book to remember this show.
My summer project for fun was to do several prints of my art heroes, kind of a household gods series. One of them, of course, was Walter Anderson. The tricky bit, though, was that I was away from my home library, so I googled images of him instead of looking in my books the way I would have done at home. He looked, at least when they were young, strongly like his brother Mac, and Google lied to me and told me a photo of Mac was actually Walter. I did the print on the left, using images from his community center murals to surround the figure, and I was really pleased with the print. Sadly, later the very kind curator at WAMA told me regretfully that I had used the wrong photo from that day. Walter was wearing a pullover instead of a cardigan, and his hair was a little different. Since the family will see the show at the museum, I needed to be more historically accurate. So I carved away the buttons and managed to add some ribbing at the bottom of the sweater in places where the shadows were reaching up. The thing about printmaking is that you can keep taking things away all day. You cut away for the white in the print, and you leave the dark bits. Once you’ve cut away the dark bits, though, you really can’t put them back. I would have handled the throat and neckline differently if I had been starting from scratch. It’s a smallish issue, and likely no one but me will really look at it, but I’m left with a print that is less satisfying to me than the original.
So I’ve done two editions. Once you make noticeable changes to a block you can re-edition it and call it a new print. I printed what turned out to bee 44 good ones of the one on the left with the buttons and wavier hair before I cut more away. The pelican eyes fill up with ink easily (I try to clear them out between each printing), so I threw a few out (which happens with most prints). I’ve set an edition of 100 of the newer one, because it will be for sale in the museum store, and I’ve printed a first good batch of them. But I still think of the first one as Walter too, and if I have one out at home, that’s the one I’ll choose for myself.
I’ve been trimming, signing, and numbering the final prints for the show. I have a first batch of everything even if I haven’t printed the whole number of ones allowed. And I’m starting the long framing process. I’ve never done 21 for a show before, and I’m having to be way more organized than if I’m only doing a few. It would be easy to get confused and cut too many of one board size and not enough of another. So I’ve made myself a checklist. The categories are having the finished print signed and ready (almost all there), having the mat board cut (today’s project, and mostly there), the prints mounted on the mat board, having the Foam core backing cut, having the glass and frame assembled together (held together with a glued in spacer), and having the final framing finished for each piece. It’s going to be a marathon, and my intention is to chip away at it methodically while still holding some time for me to do creative work as well. I don’t turn the show in till late February, so hopefully that will go well. Next I have to clean out some storage racks to hold safely the pieces I’ve framed, because I have an occasionally hyper golden retriever teenager in the house, so my usual method of lining them all up leaning against cabinets in my butler’s pantry is out.
Martha Kelly is an artist and illustrator who lives and works in Memphis, Tennessee.
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