It's a beautiful day on the mountainside. I hear three western tanagers from my catbird seat, sounding like call and response. Several projects are moving forward, growing with the spring foliage and maturing, one can hope, with the fall's ripeness. 15 May 2012
Now only one western tanager sings from its high perch. Ever-changing, its song entrances me - it is so like speech. One small project is complete and in the mail. Two medium-sized projects are past the halfway point. A third medium-large project is on the table. 19 May 2012
I planned the Memorial project much earlier in 2001, to commemorate a friend's early passing 20 years prior. In the end, that project became more poignant. I remember taking the train to Penn Station and walking downtown at random, trying to remember where I'd be able to see the towers, unsure until I came around the corner onto Broadway and at once I could see they were gone.
The two medium-sized projects are now near completion and the third project is about to spring into life. Soon I'll post pictures. Soon. 19 June 2012
And then a job came by, too good to pass up. I counted 37 Chinook salmon one day, brought in by sport fishermen from around the Puget Sound. Every day I learn more about fish and today I even learned something about worms. So you'll have to wait a little longer for pictures. Good things come to those who wait, especially if they're waiting in the right place at the right time. 24 August 2012
Those sport fishermen have been bringing me their joy for almost six weeks now. Thursday will be my last day of reaping their data for the benefit of all. In the meantime, the western tanagers successfully raised at least one fledgling through the growth of its first feathers. Two sculptural projects are ready to be photographed when I find time to set up the studio for a photography project. The third project still awaits the time when I can be completely absorbed by it for a long enough stretch of time to actually make progress. 28 August 2012
Here you are, the current evolution of one project: Her head is still coalescing and she's still filling out, but she stands firm and can be moved.
14 Sept 2012 ---- Made from one piece of wire and hundreds of feet of ribbon, the lioness stands 45 cm high.
Next visit to the Burke Museum, I'll spend some time studying the mounted lioness head upstairs from the Ornithology Lab.
I think every sculpture of mine comes with a history in the sense that each one embodies the history of its making. In making sculpture of wire, I'm drawing in space and learning how to edit the drawing. These works hide the weight of their history as they evolve in space over time leaving no trace of the previous stages. Adding multiple colors, as in the kingfisher (www.marthadunham.com/kingfisher.htm), greatly magnifies the challenge. 20 Sep 2012
The wire sculptures are an attempt to lay bare the essence of life. They speak to the emptiness of apparently solid matter. Ribbon, when present, covers and softens and may or may not hide the underlying structure. The wire itself is hardened only by work, not by heat. Steadiness comes from balance. Narrative is a line that meanders through space and binds together the parts into a declarative whole. 27 Sep 2012
I've been making a bird from ribbon-wire every day for the last week, except Monday when I skinned and stuffed three real birds. I think it would be a blast to do some stop-motion with these ribbon-wire birds. I get my thrills making them stand on their own two feet. It's an intuitive process, the making -- an intuition based on those skinned birds (## 115, 116 and 117) and all those other birds I've seen, handled, read about and talked about. 17 Oct 2012
I had planned to head to New York on the 30th of Oct, but the lowest barometric pressure ever recorded north of Cape Hatteras intervened. I've taken the time to focus on the next big project. I estimate it will be months before it can be shown here. I continue to prepare birds for the Burke Museum on Mondays and take those lessons home to inform the sculpture. 23 Nov 2012
Back from a fruitful trip to Manhattan. I failed to get to Brooklyn this time, though I did spend time with Brooklyn-born Stephanie Skura. Thoroughly enjoyed a day in the American Museum of Natural History, where I held the skin of a bird that lived 190 years ago. And the "next big project" is almost fully sketched in. 23 Dec 2012
Once I got started making these birds, things got a little out of hand. They're everywhere now. I took one to the Burke Museum today, about 3" high and free standing. That next big project needs to be framed suitably and prepared for installation -- but where? 23 Jan 2013
Made a couple of larger birds -- penguins. Went to the Burke Museum to see how penguins' feet look in reality (IRW). My process is getting looser and more certain. I'm drawing structure or in other words, I'm creating structurally sound drawings. 23 Feb 2013
A few weeks of consolidation before I made this little free-standing item:
06 Mar 2013
My work is an exploration of the place science has in art and the place art has in science. The wire forms are descriptive of how I view life: There is a unity and purpose in the apparent randomness of nature. The wire draws a path through space that appears random, yet it brings form into being. 25 Mar 2013
I am Dunham. Done that. Look -- I have pursued my interest in animals and how they interact with nature and nurture to the ultimate degree (not nth, you know, piled high and deep). And then I started carving wood, soon winning honorable mention at the Florida State Fair and top honors at the Heritage Museum. And now I have two monumental bronzes, one which I created from pattern through the molding, casting and patina processes. That one was best of show in Bellingham at the Big Rock Garden Park. Next I made a commissioned work for my friend Vanessa Bond -- a picture of that work got a "wow" from a professor based in New York City. 11 April 2013
OK, enough of the bragging. I visited the James and Janie Washington Foundation yesterday, just to get a feel for the lay of the land. And how to get there without going over cobblestones. My head has been buzzing ever since, processing. One thing I learned immediately is how much room I have made for art in my life. I really have let it take priority since those early days when I was carving wood but still completed a paper which was peer-reviewed and published. 17 April 2013
Time passes and I find space within to write again. I made a lot of progress during the residency at the JJW Foundation last month. I tried to make use of the opportunity to cover a lot of ground. I find I can still balance more than one thing, but it's no surprise I prefer a simpler life. Next week I start up working with WA Dept. of Fish & Wildlife again. 7 July 2013
WDFW has been a different experience this year than last, with a whole new cast of characters alongside the relatively few regulars. Fewer fish are being caught; perhaps fishing pressure elsewhere is affecting catch rate here. No rain in the mountains means low stream depths, so the fish may be waiting up north where the water is cold and suits them better. 5 August 2013
Busy couple of months. I prepped a couple museum specimens at the American Museum of Natural History, got the toucans framed (yes, the toucans have been framed) and sewed up the material for an anteater. A lucky find at Goodwill gave me the idea. Any more information would require a spoiler alert. 6 December 2013
Thanks to Steven Vroom's help, I now have a digital inventory of my oeuvre of sculptures -- 311 of them (including the anteater). I just want to say one thing, take it how you will -- I am one mother of a Dunham. 4 August 2014
The last two months I found new appreciation for the area I live in. A bobcat sauntered past my front door as I stood watching just hours before my visit to the San Francisco Zoo brought me close to other big cats. And I accepted an invitation to the Seattle Mayor's Award Ceremony, though I don't live in Seattle.
Yet despite my appreciation for this area, I consider myself a global artist already. I've showed in Seattle, but I've sold in the Middle East and that doesn't make me a Middle Eastern artist, right? Furthermore, the bridge shown at http://www.ForgeABridgeForPeace.com has been visible from Canada since April, which is the most international kind of show I know about. Perhaps someone will set me straight and tell me of an art event situated where sculpture can be physically viewed from three countries or more. If so, I'd like to be part of that, even if as a viewer. 29 September 2014
Brought the bridge back from the border with Canada yesterday. From renting the truck in the morning to returning it and bringing the bridge in from the garage to the house was 12 hours. Slept like the dead. 15 October 2014
I just came across a packet of cowrie shells that reminded me of the booth my sisters and I sold hand-made items out of in 1976 at a bicentennial celebration. I remember some music played by a band that came up the river in a boat -- some of the folk music of the time, possibly Creedence Clearwater Revival, though officially they'd broken up by then. And I remember taking the proceeds from my sale and spending it on an egg that had a Chinese scene painted on it. The egg fell from its perch and broke and is gone. My sister Margaret had made mice from cowrie shells, but the work was too fine for me and I never used the leftovers. A small magnet from the 5 & 10 glued into the groove in the shell, tiny scallop shells dyed pink for ears and I think a hand-painted face, maybe glued-on whiskers to make a mouse. My sale was of six stacked clear amber-colored marbles with googly eyes. It had to be assembled in stages -- first make clumps of three and then glue them perpendicular to each other with the vertical clump resting in the space between the horizontal clump's three marbles. Then the eyes, easier to place properly once the perpendicular clumps were in place. 9 December 2014
I grew up not far from Albany, NY, so an early sculptural influence was George Rickey. I even went on a tour of his studio and dared to ask him a question. Calder and Henry Moore are other male influences. Then there are the works that reach to the heart of things, like one bronze Louise Bourgeouis or Lee Bontecou's work. For intellectual art, it's easy to look up to Richard Tuttle and James Turrell. There are so many more influences -- Kazumi Tanaka and Daniel's "From the Ground Up" and Bill Vaegemast and Frank Junk, Sage Miller, Zoe and so on. 8 January 2015
I've been making a lot of butterflies lately. Some stand alone, others are paired in the natural way of butterflies. They feel peaceful and tender, though sometimes the bare bones of the steel show beneath the stretched fabric. And then I've been reading Kerouac's journals as published in "Windblown World" and I came across this:
"It's not the design, but the picture; not the curve, but the form."
19 February 2015
"This is what is still going on in America. They've unhitched the horses from the wagons -- from their souls -- and gone off like whores for a little gold." - Kerouac
"The more society is 'goaded,' ... the more it will exist. Ignore, ignore -- all is in the soul. Everything comes from inside. Forget it. Have joy." - Kerouac
"I do believe in what they mean by 'progress' but also believe that it may only be effected by work (no talk) + by each of us generally minding his own business, etc." - Kerouac
Things were brewing and time has passed. Today is 19 August 2015. On the 13th, Dendroica Gallery opened.
Please check it out. I'll wait.
So you see I'm sharing space with other artists and sowing hope in others' hearts. It's hard to know what to say when people ask me what all the artists in the gallery have in common. I didn't use a theme or genre to pick them. I didn't pick artists who are similar to me or who make art for the same reasons I make art. I picked artists whose work I trusted -- in that sense they are artists I can believe in. I believe honesty speaks in the work and is the key to its lasting value.
October 10, 2015
The current installation at Dendroica Gallery is Lisaann Cohn's first solo show. Lisaann Cohn's firmly delicate line draws the gaze close, tracking into the depths of each drawing. The images on screen are flat in comparison, though they are able to convey the sense of narrative at play. On display through November 8 at Dendroica Gallery, also at https://www.flickr.com/photos/lisaanncohn/albums/72157659352567605