Dragonfly wings are fascinating to cultures around the world, with people attributing both positive and negative connotations to their appearance. Me, I’m just fascinated by the structure of the wings, and the iridescent colors that they create. Thanks to the internet, I was able to go down a rabbit hole about dragonfly wings. Here is what I learned.
Dragonflies are ancient
Large ancestors of dragonflies existed 325 million years ago, making them older than dinosaurs. These precursors of our much smaller modern-day insects had up to a 27-inch wingspan, wider than my current desktop screen. Today, dragonflies live on every continent except Antarctica and in many different climates. Dragonflies are considered harbingers of stress in ecosystems.
As we approach the winter solstice in the northern hemisphere, we naturally do things to celebrate color and lightness. Interplay is a just such a celebration, inspired in part by twentieth-century artist Sonia Delaunay. I’ve been inspired recently by a book (simply titled Sonia Delaunay — edited by Anne Montfort) that accompanied a large exhibition of her work at the Tate Modern.
What if you have artwork with the brightness of stained-glass on an interior wall? And what if it could be made with lightweight paper instead of heavy glass? My monoprint collage Cosmos has the look of a modern stained-glass window, with blues and oranges that make me think of Marc Chagall.
To create Cosmos, I modified a huge 36 x 24 inch monoprint plate I had used for other collages. I took away half of the lines, allowing large pieces of my collage elements to be viewed. I limited myself to three tones of blue, plus some white and a hint of orange. The pattern is a global projection that is usually viewed horizontally, but I decided to place it vertically, as with most stained-glass windows.
Color can make an entire space. Warmer, brighter colors can create an atmosphere of energy and positivity. Here’s what my friend Mary said about how my reduction linocut has transformed her eat-in kitchen.
I loved Ambrosia from the moment I saw it in Elizabeth’s studio. From near and far, the intricate organic patterns are arresting, and imagining them emerging from drawing to block to inked print is deeply satisfying to me. Elizabeth conspired with my husband to surprise me with my heart’s desire on my birthday. Rain or shine, it’s a bright citrusy splash of sunshine in my kitchen, and while I don’t believe art has to match your decor, I did choose my paint color to set it off.
How can art help create an office? Like many people, my daughter has found herself working out of a room that was never intended to be an office. I recently asked her to describe the effect some new artwork had on her workspace. Here is what she wrote:
“I hung this piece earlier this summer after I had been working from home for several months. While I am so thankful to be gainfully employed during a global pandemic, transitioning to working full time at home and converting my small DC bedroom into my office was incredibly hard on my mental health. I missed my morning office routine, greeting my colleagues, and feeling productive and centered as I set down my coffee and sat down to work. To make matters worse, I didn’t know when it will be safe for me to travel to see my parents again, making the feelings of isolation even more noticeable…
Resilience. One of those watchwords for the year 2020. Staying at home for me meant creating cyanotypes, often with whatever was around. So I had to coax my inspirations out of my nemesis — the ground cover weed Creeping Charlie. In the Midwest, this European transplant is definitely resilient.
Travel can be limited these days. Thankfully, art awakens memories. My latest monoprint collage series considers reflecting memories. I use a matrix that evokes the shape of skyscraper buildings with numerous windows to create artwork that encourages memory of other places and times.
Can’t travel this summer? Art can have a transformative effect on your surroundings and therefore your mental health. Remembering past travels or dreaming about future trips can lift your mood and brighten your day. My latest suite of monoprint collages considers the beautiful destinations of our world and captures them along with patterns in nature, thanks to images I’ve taken on past travels.
2020 has been dark, so whenever we have bright sunshine, my heart lifts. When a clear day is forecast, I burst into action to capture art from the sun. I quickly sensitize paper in a windowless bathroom with only a 40 watt incandescent bulb to see by. Images are most brilliant when you make your exposures within 24 hours of sensitizing the paper, so planning is critical.
“This is my song, Oh God of all the nations, A song of peace for lands afar and mine. This is my home, the country where my heart is; Here are my hopes, my dreams, my sacred shrine. But other hearts in other lands are beating, With hopes and dreams as true and high as mine.
My country’s skies are bluer than the ocean, And sunlight beams on cloverleaf and pine. But other lands have sunlight too and clover, And skies are everywhere as blue as mine. Oh hear my song, oh God of all the nations, A song of peace for their land and for mine.”
This is My Song Lyrics by Lloyd Stone (with a third stanza by Georgia Harkness) Sung to the tune Finlandia from a tone poem by Jean Sibelius