Abstraction and Yankee Parsimony

To loosen up my usually pretty tight work, I’m just starting to make some little alla prima sketches on oil paper, kind of on the “painting-a-day” idea.  I already like it.

Benson’s Path #1

As for the Yankee parsimony: lately I’ve been jumping around finishing up not-quite-done paintings, which generates leftovers on the palette which can’t go to waste – too expensive! Using up the paint on some abstract works in progress is fun.  No mental pressure to make anything for show – just painting and scraping, scratching and blobbing and whatever.  This one has gone through many incarnations already. 

The Green Grate

A couple of weeks of travel coming up – my first trip to the Mouse House (I’m the last American adult to visit Disney) and then on to the Sonoran Desert once again.  I think this’ll be my first October there – can’t wait to see what’s in bloom! ~~~

Summer travels

It’s been busy, and it isn’t over.  First a visit to Carolina Beach, then to Hawaii in early July and to Tucson two weeks later.  The annual family Lake Week at pristine Silver Lake begins Saturday.

Carolina Beach

Everyone should take a plunge and live at least one big dream; Rob and Denise left everything to go live at the beach, and so far they love it. I brought a couple of pieces of art with me to share: A seascape based on a photo by Rob, and a piece from the Art/Word exhibit “Bedtime Stories” at Lasell College. It’s a shadow box puppet show, based on the book “The Little Rabbit Who Wanted Red Wings” by Caroline Sherwin Bailey. Rob and I shared a room when we were very little, and I used to make shadow puppet stories on the wall for him.

Carolina Sunset, 2018

Bedtime Stories, 2017


Hawai’i has captivated me since visiting a few years back. This spring my morning ritual of sipping coffee over Kīlauea webcam images took a dramatic turn. The lava lake at the summit overfilled, then abruptly drained. Pu’u O’o cone, erupting continuously for 35 years, suddenly emptied. Steaming cracks opened in a residential neighborhood while hundreds of earthquakes rattled the area, including one m6.9 quake. The cracks began to ooze and fountain lava on May 3rd, and as of today are still erupting. The flow has destroyed more than 700 homes, covered 13 square miles and added 800 acres of new land to the island to date.

Watching this unfold from 6000 miles away was mesmerizing and horrifying. When we realized that we’d accumulated enough air miles for tickets, we dropped everything and hopped a plane to the Big Island. I fumble for words to express the impact of seeing the flow…awe-inspiring, magnificent, terrifying, heartbreaking. I hope the artwork that results will capture and convey the sense of it.

Fissure 8



Ah, Tucson in July! I’ve never experienced 116°F before. Too hot to touch a steering wheel or wear shorts in the driver’s seat. I think 110° is my brain’s functional limit, based on a few days at 113°. Rooftop Yoga at Yoga Oasis was fun, and somehow less sweaty than at the indoor studio. Big misting fans and sunset timing helped. I got my heels on the floor in downward dog for the first time in a while.

Version 2
Rooftop View of the Catalina Foothills

The Arizona Biennial at the Tucson Museum of Art was a good stop. This oil painting by Papay Solomon called “K.O.S (Knowledge of Self), Self-Portrait 2018” won a best of show award. It’s a masterfully photorealistic portrait wearing a headdress both flattened and unfinished yet glowing and modeled. A sliced pattern in the canvas, backed by a mirror, draws in the viewer. A self-portrait is me, but you are there too, seeing yourself seeing me see myself. I’m partial to art that invites the viewer to engage actively. I haven’t made work like that since moving from sculpture/installation to painting, so this piece has me thinking.

Papay Solomon, K.O.S. (Knowledge of Self), Self-Portrait, 2018

June’s Place

For one magical afternoon, five veterans of Pangaea Dance and Drum gathered at a big hidden pond. The water was clean enough to share with salamanders, turtles and loons. The feel and smell of swimming in fresh, clean water is one of life’s greatest joys. I managed to hold a couple of yoga poses on my first SUP venture. I’m impressed that twenty years later, we dancers are all active and fit and ready for our next class together!


Crossing off the list…

This week I’ve crossed three items off my ancient To Do list:  choosing plants for the scraggly front yard, putting the last touches on a years-old decoupaged box, and refinishing my dad’s old computer table.  Apparently I work best in fits of activity.

When we bought our condo we were told that landscaping was included in the monthly fee, but that wasn’t exactly true.  The previous owners left us pretty perennials and dying shrubs, so I’ve pruned, dug, weeded and chosen new flowers to fill in the gaps.  So far the resident chipmunk approves (I think that’s what “squeak” meant, since he kept reappearing from under the front stoop).  Now we’ll have deep violet salvia, orangey-yellow Stella D’Oro lilies, black-eyed susans (I’m guessing, they’re still closed tight) and tall lavender irises, along with wicked-pruned-back pink rhodies and white spirea.  Moving here we gave away all the gardening stuff, but fortunately resourcefulness is a well-worn tool in every teacher’s toolbox.

Version 2

Grad school in the early 2000s was full of revelations that I scrambled to write down as they flooded in.  Once it was over I was stuck with boxes of notes, sketches, plans, and general ephemera that I didn’t want to keep lugging around, but couldn’t quite throw out.  A practical solution occurred to me: cover a plain wooden box with the juiciest bits torn from all of those pages.  That box stared at me from the unfinished project pile for just too long…and now it’s done!  I’ve forgotten some of the references – it’s been over fourteen years, for cryin’ out loud!  But I have a nice table for my couch-and-coffee time.


The last time I refinished a piece of furniture was in my teens.  I hauled Grammie’s dresser out to the driveway and did a pretty half-baked job of it. The most memorable part was resting my stripper-saturated paintbrush on the hood of my dad’s Cutlass – took it right down to bare metal!   And so it was with great confidence that I tackled the table.  Grammie used the plain little old desk as a painting table when I was a kid; later Dad used it for his computer.  He was a tech early-adopter – I still remember his amazing hand-held TI calculator with a spool of adding machine paper built right in!  We all learned to play Castle Wolfenstein on his Apple II-e at that very table.   Last week I took off the familiar layer of brown vinyl contact paper…and found seven layers of oilcloth tacked underneath.  I wish I knew the whole history of the piece.  It’s not fancy – after I stripped off multiple layers of paint under the cloth, I found that the top is soft pine, the legs are oak, and the rest is unknown.  It has taken an English Chestnut stain beautifully, though.  There are scars and dings, and squeaky legs and broken bits, but even so it looks great, and I spent a wonderful week remembering Grammie and Dad.


Oh yeah, one other item’s off the old To Do list:  making a website.  I fussed over doing it “right” forever, but all it took was being in Get ‘Er Done mode.  So hello and welcome!