give us land, lots of land

When Elizabeth Bunsen and I were hanging her latest work we wondered what it would be like to project different images onto her eco-dyed scarves.  I couldn’t wait to work on this idea and began making collages with her textiles and my photographs in Adobe Illustrator.

Our “prairie stories” collaboration is starting to take shape as Elizabeth and I continue to discuss memories, identity and the geography that has most shaped who we are as adults.  It’s no wonder we have a short hand about our childhoods.  Elizabeth grew up in Lodgepole, Nebraska (population 319 as of 2013) and I grew up in Burke, South Dakota (population 601 as of 2013). Also both of our grandfathers were bankers.  We both have twenty year old sons. And our art and process can provide deep sorry and remarkable joy at the same time.

We’re artists and our storytelling is in the visual realm.  Our conversations have been wonderfully insightful, however, if we were only sharing our ideas in a written form, I believe it would feel like we’re only telling you half of the story…or perhaps even less than half.

To me these layered memories feel like I’m looking through the curtains of one of the many farmhouses of relatives and friends I visited as a kid.  These memories are readily accessible but also a little hazy like the yellow tint of an old faded Polaroid photo.

elizabeth bunsen and lisa lillibridge abandoned farmhouse

lillibridge bunsen prairie stories layered images curtains

The words will come as our ideas evolve, right now the images are coming first.  We’d love to hear your ideas about how the interior geography of your youth has shaped who you are today, your choices and what direction you would like move into.

Elizabeth and I are gaining some understanding of how big of a role it’s played in our own identities…give us land lots of land.

sunflowers elizabeth bunsen and lisa lillibridge    lisa lillibridge and elizabeth bunsen cornfield behind the curtain  elizabeth bunsen lisa lillibridge behind the curtain field

elizabeth bunsen and lisa lillibridge rodeo in south dakota

elizabeth bunsen and lisa lillibridge memories of childhood

 

unwrapping some ancient memories

On a recent chilly Vermont afternoon I had the pleasure of visiting Elizabeth Bunsen’s studio to unwrap some “bundles”.  I was honored that she saved them for me.  I truly understand how much creative restraint it requires to not open them up right away.

They are so mysterious…every single time.  I can’t really explain what they feel like—an ancient scroll, a map, a message from ancestors, a signal from nature, a calling, a memory, a longing…they’re so peaceful and yet a little haunting as well.  I told you that you that it’s nearly impossible to describe what it feels like to unwrap these bundles.

I’m much better at showing you than telling you.

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I’m seeing the prairie everywhere.

hyperfocus

noun

  1. An intense form of mental concentration or visualization that focuses the consciousness on a narrow subject.

south dakota two lane and graffiti lillibridge sandwich mass boardwalk meeting hwy eighteen south dakota lillibridge brick wall south dakota two lane lillibridge

I love getting hyperfocused creatively.  This lets me rule out all of the other possibilities I get so distracted by all day every day.  So right now—February of the year 2016 my focus is on the prairie.  My ideas have a place to land and someone to explore them with.  This collaborative project is in the conceptual stage, but there’s a guiding principle and that makes all the difference.

I highly recommend, if you haven’t already, to make some choices about where you want to spend your energy.  I did an inventory and I realized that a few things on my list just had to go.  There isn’t time for everything that interests me.  I had to prioritize.  It wasn’t easy, but taking a hard look at my list was pretty eye-opening.

The prairie is pulling me now.

I’m working on a collaborative project with Nebraska native native artist Elizabeth Bunsen who also lives in Vermont.  I’m reading South Dakota history, looking at old photographs and accessing the recesses of my memory for the stories, objects and images that trigger my creativity.

I have to tell you that this South Dakota girl who is turning 50 years old in October is longing for the prairie.  It isn’t a big mystery to me why this is happening.  I’m just exploring what’s organically coming up and seeing where the pull leads me. I’m pretty sure Elizabeth’s inner Nebraska is tugging at her too.

Elizabeth Bunsen FACEBOOK

Here’s a couple of quick sketches that I played with in Illustrator this morning.  I painted with coffee which is greatly influenced by Elizabeth’s work and layered with my photographs.

P.S. Hey, when the ground thaws if anyone would consider sending me some South Dakota dirt I would greatly appreciate it.  Not much, just a small container or quart sized bag would do just fine.  Thanks.  I’ll send you a print or something in kind.

Lisa

south dakota road sketch lisa lillibridge

layered coffee road sketch lillibridge

 

The complexity of memory.

Today I’m sketching ideas for a project with another artist who grew up on the prairie.  Elizabeth Bunsen grew up in an even smaller town than I did in Nebraska.  We met last fall and realized that we had a lot of interesting things in common.  I’ve been trying to get very focused on my prairie stories and I’ve realized how complex my memory is these days.  Things come and go from the forefront to the back burner in a flash.  It’s an interesting process and I’m curious to see where this creative endeavor takes us.  I guess closing in on 50 is the perfect time to take a look back.

lillibridge complexity of memory burke south dakota

Rust, memories and the wisdom of Willa Cather.

Willa Cather quote Lillibridge rust print lillibridge rust print

I did a three day workshop with Elizabeth Bunsen last week.  This is one of the prints I made with indigo and rust.  I wanted to take my print and add the prairie influences that are speaking to me right now.  I used my photographs and one of my leather pendants in one of the circular spaces on the print.  I’m not sure which image I like best.  They seem like very different art forms now.

part 3. RUST & MEMORIES. The mediums of Elizabeth Bunsen.

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“I live in a northern paradise with short sultry summers and achingly bitter and beautiful winters, spring we call “mud season” and fall is a glorious crimson and golden falling into winter. This seasonal cycle functions as my muse and guides my work… In the winter I simmer tea and eucalyptus, spring blooms in my rust garden where I slosh tea and make marks with my ever growing collection of rustie, summer brings warm days and cool indigo blues and in the gold of autumn there is much gathering – calling out the curves of oak, the caramel scent of maple, the saffron arch of ginkgo, as the leaves sing their last songs.  Wherever I am, I am in a continuous dialogue with my environment; I wander, gather, arrange and collaborate with natural processes. I explore and experiment as a “domestic scientist”. Meditative play is how I attempt to stay grounded and balanced. This is how I live my art.”  —Elizabeth Bunsen

Elizabeth’s studio is like visiting a museum with a docent who is warm, full of knowledge and passionate about the objects.  The metal grate was given to her by a friend.  The coral is from Australia where she traveled and taught.  The wool is from her sister.  The rust graveyard keeps growing and is always revealing something knew.  Rust and Memories.

Starting tomorrow for the next three days I get to participate in a workshop with Elizabeth and see what kind of “rusty voodoo” she practices.  I can’t wait to explore and see what happens. I have a dress that is way too bright and in dire need of some “mucking up”. I will post some pictures of process. Rust and Memories.

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rust
rəst/
verb
gerund or present participle: rusting
  1. be affected with rust. (I’m pretty sure I’m going to be affected with rust.)
    “the blades had rusted away
    2. deteriorate through neglect or lack of use.

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part 2. TEXTILES—The work of Elizabeth Bunsen.

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“I have been dyeing wool and silk with eucalyptus for a few years – the scent that results is enough to keep me going especially during our long winters. I have quite the stash of beautiful samples and experiments… some I stitch (I love using the stitch as a design element) and some have resulted in teaching aprons, hats, pants and even sweaters. For me – a sleeve or a portion of a garment can become an art object all by itself.” —Elizabeth Bunsen

http://thetextileblog.blogspot.com/2014/09/the-inspirational-magazine-from-textile.html

When Elizabeth refers to these pieces she uses “rusted” as a verb not an adjective.  I love that.  She was showing me different textiles and then let me know how they were “rusted”.

We really connected about making art that is usable and environmentally friendly.  Her technique is easy on the earth and she uses fabric she already has or was given.  That’s how I prefer to work too.

Her work has such a unique quality that at one point when she was showing me a sweater from her mother (top photo) I felt like I should be in a back room at The Shelburne Museum with white gloves on.  I really adore the archeological quality of her work and process…again an ancient pull.

http://shelburnemuseum.org/

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part 1. PAPER—The work of Elizabeth Bunsen.

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“I love paper. I especially love making marks on paper while collaborating with natural processes… I use tea, rust, botanical pigments, indigo and other domestic solutions. Doodling on these papers – around a ring of rust for instance functions as a meditative technique. Over the years my stash of marked papers has grown and I often mix them up in little sample books. I also hang lengths of marked paper on hand-twined silk strings along with eucalyptus dyed fabric. My “to do” lists often end up dipped into the indigo vat or dyed and become little books of collected dailiness. These processes often succeed in helping me create the illusion of slowing the passage of time.”      —Elizabeth Bunsen

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   “Moon Over Nebraska” This license plate is from her Grandfather’s truck.

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I sent Elizabeth my photos and asked her to respond to the images…because I had to have a better description for you, the readers.

For me to write about Elizabeth’s work is equivalent to trying to describe the way I feel when I jump into the ocean or feel rain on my face.  It’s a sensation.  It’s ancient and internal and highly personal and not easy to put into words.  However, I’ll try.

My first pull to her work was threefold:

ONE: The palette (rust and blues make me swoon)

TWO: The license plate from a Nebraska truck.  I’m from South Dakota.

THREE: A very unique quality that is feminine, industrial, dreamlike and yet tangible and familiar at the same time…again, ancient really best describes her work for me.  Do you ever have those people, places or things in your life that keep surfacing even though you don’t have a known connection?  For me it’s 1930s Berlin Cabaret—another post— another time.

Elizabeth’s work feels like I’ve been waiting to see it and that our paths were suppose to cross at this point in my life.

I hope you enjoy her work and please share and check out her blogs and FACEBOOK page.

FACEBOOK: https://www.facebook.com/elizabeth.bunsen.3

BLOG: http://elizabethbunsen.typepad.com/

PINTEREST: https://www.pinterest.com/moonoverwater/

When I pay attention.

A few weeks ago, my friend Maggie Pace shared the Elle Luna book “The Crossroads of SHOULD and MUST” book with me.  It changed everything for me to think about my “MUSTS”.  I’m not making a living off of my art AND I’m not discouraged that I’m not making money from my work right now.  I’m learning.  My work is gaining depth. I’m increasingly more comfortable getting “out there” in the world and not just being alone in my studio (which I adore).  If I’m so driven to make things there has to be some real value in what I do—it simply hasn’t quite revealed itself in it’s entirety…yet.  I believe it just might one day and when I say VALUE I mean all kinds—quality, authenticity, relationships of all types (including self), originality and perhaps even monetary.

I wanted to explain how I ended up in Elizabeth Bunsen’s studio on Lake Champlain in Charlotte, Vermont last week.  Tomorrow I’ll begin a three part blog series and you’ll get to see her work.

1. PAPER

2. TEXTILES

3. RUST & MEMORIES

the cycle of listening