hump day nuggets: what is art?

hump day nuggets: little bits of the season in photos and words about the last week

I spent yesterday in the gallery installing my art. On the drive to the gallery I was...I kept trying to name my feeling. Anxious? Excited? Nervous? Happy? Terrified is where I landed.

I saw this lily on my way out the door. Dude burst up practically overnight. I decided he was a sign of good things.

My work is tricky in that it largely relies on space, shadows, structure. It's all in my brain and in piles around our home until it's installed. I left my house Tuesday morning with cartons of eggs, boxes of photos and dryer lint and an unruly stitched paper tree. In my terror I asked Andy what he thought of my work. He is always my best, most honest, most productive critic (plus, he is an amazing artist). He said, "I think it will be great babe." I asked why the non-specific encouragement? and he explained that he really had no idea what to expect but he knew I'd pull it off. Terror. Pull it off.

We talked more about my approach to making. See, my creativity is fueled by urgency. I wish it wasn't, but it is. My whole life I have apologized and made excuses for my proclivity to pull an all nighter to write a 20 page paper, to sew 27 skirts the night before they ship out, to get a grant application in the mail on the due date. It isn't that I don't care, it is simply when I do my best work. I think thoroughly about stuff and when I actually set out to do it? It all happens in a quake of adrenaline, focus and inspiration. I don't make excuses for it anymore. It is 100 percent me.

Andy confessed he found this behavior charming when we were young lovebirds and he now merely rolls with it, knowing me to the core, wishing it wasn't so with two wee children swimming underfoot. He smiled when he said it, like he had been thinking it for a while and could now say it with a sweet smirk because we are on the other side of that mountain and I am piling my piles out of our studio.

two wee children who swim underfoot

My mom always says long story short and my whole family knows this really means long story longer. So, long story short, I was terrified yesterday morning, pitting out with my heart all splayed across the trunk of my Subaru.

I called Paige and left a message. She texted back just what I needed to hear, as best friends are able to do: Nerves are good. It means your heart is in it.

And, by last night, I felt calm and proud and energized. After a day of putting the ideas in my brain on the walls of the beautiful Brink Gallery, I let myself feel a little confidence with my nerves. All nighters? Pshaw.

I feel good. We still have some installation to do but that can totally wait until Friday afternoon...just kidding. I am not that much of a deadline dork. I will be working in windows, with and without kids, in the next few days (and posting riveting updates here if you are interested). And then, on Friday, happy exhale.


:: The snow in our yard is totally melted and the soil is finally ready to hold seeds. The girls and I raked the leaves off our garden to reveal joyful evidence of last fall's garlic planting.


Well, I raked while Margot and Ruby hunted for worms, put dirt in in a bucket and planted "seeds" (rocks).


We planted arugula and lettuce and I was in bare feet! And then the sky opened up and hailed so we raced inside. Spring.


:: I miss my mom.

She still cuts my sandwiches in quarters

:: My dad couldn't come on this trip and goodness I am thankful for Skype.


:: Ruby thinks walking is the most amusing thing she can imagine. And I think she is the most amusing thing I can imagine.


:: Margot and Andy had a ski date.

She rode the chairlift for the first time!

:: Margot has been saying the same thing to any person or chicken we happen by. "Wanna see my thumb? It's definitely swollen."


:: I love my zoom lens on my Dreamboat. I love it for many reasons one of which is because I like to take photos that capture a moment that doesn't see the camera, I don't often choose the eye-contact photo. And my zoom allows me to be like the paparazzi with my family. Like, here, I caught Andy spinning Margot as fast as he could in the swing (I always tell her no because I think she'll be miserable and puke. And I always tell Andy to slow it down. Turns out, daddy does it all the time and she doesn't puke.)


:: Rubes continues to be an early riser. While the moment my tired feet hit the cold wood floor is less than desirable, I do so enjoy having her all to myself while the neighborhood sleeps and the sun peeks over Mount Sentinel.

She also continues to sleep through the night! Anyone having difficulty with this: I highly recommend Good Night, Sleep Tight. The author, Kim West, generously gave me a phone consultation and her knowledge and approach is gentle and effective.

:: Sisters.


:: Dig sponsor, Feeleez, is an empathy game for kids (and adults!). We use these cards all the time to facilitate conversation and explain feelings. I find them particularly helpful when feelings are sharp or elevated. We grab the cards, often at Margot's request, and everyone picks the illustrations that best explain their feelings. It's a starting place, it's compassion. I think Feeleez is brilliant.


Right now Feeleez founders, Natalie, Kris and Nathan, are generously donating a number of games and posters with small scratches and dents. In their words:
These blemishes in no way prevent complete enjoyment of the product, yet we can't sell these as "new" in good conscience. And because we believe so strongly in the power of empathy and the effectiveness of Feeleez in opening up the minds and hearts of children to the world of empathy, this spring we are DONATING every last game or poster that shows the slightest sign of damage.

Team up with us. If you, our donation partner, pay the cost of shipping, we will send a game or poster to any school, or child-centered organization, anywhere in the world.
Awesome. Email natalie@feeleez.com if you are interested. Thank you, Feeleez!

:: We always warm our tortillas over whatever we have cooking and I recently discovered the *best* way to steam those puppies! On top of the pressure cooker. The steady stream of steam results in the perfectly warmed tortilla.

black bean and yam burritos

:: Ruby practices walking while Andy mends the fence.


:: Oh it feels like summer is nearing. We hang in the evening and daylight pours through the windows!


And shared meals are happening with more regularity.


And my kids can wander our yard without obstacles like ice and over-wintered dog poo.


To make a long story short...

When I was in college my art crit teacher had us write a paper answering the question, what is art? It is hard to define. I wrote that I didn't think it has much to do with the finished piece or learned skill. It has everything to do with intention and process. An elephant with a paintbrush doesn't make art. But then I also think that art is in the eye of the beholder. So if you think the elephant painting is art, then perhaps it is...see, it's hard.


It has been a wonderful experience raising kids around art. Margot often points to something and asks if it is a sculpture. Or asks, "Can I touch it mama or is it art?" My kids are by my side and on Andy's lap while we make art. It is cool to witness what Ruby wants to touch. It is fabulous to hear Margot's uncensored opinions. She loves the beeswax eggs, says they are beautiful, her favorites are the ones that are most broken. She studies them. When she saw one of my sculptures she said, "Mama, what the hell is going on here?" Indeed I was wondering the same thing at that moment.

Through my daughter's eyes I realize art is everywhere and in everyone. It doesn't need a tidy definition or boundaries. Art is a peacemaker, a conversation, a reveal. Art needs a willingness to understand, honesty and desire to seek beauty. It's boundless.

Happy hump day out there.


:: :: ::

all photos taken with a Canon Digital SLR from Vanns.com


JoanLindsay said...

I am so sad I won't be able to come to your opening and introduce myself. I will thinking of you and sending you good thoughts. P.S. I am a last minute girl myself - most of the time it works pretty well. :)

Mary A-J :) said...

I love the pictures this week. I can't even pick a favorite! :)

Also, I am just so excited for you about your art exhibit. I completely relate to your rush of inspiration at the last minute as I have the same tendencies. I am anxiously awaiting pictures of the exhibit since I won't be able to see it in person. Also, can't wait to see that awesome dress all finished and on you. :)

6512 and growing said...

Wishing I could come gush over your art. And inspiration is an amazing thing, whether it comes in tiny, measured doses throughout a month, or all in one torrent overnight.

I read this great quote where a girl asked her father what he did at work. He replied: I teach people how to make art." And she said "you mean they forget?"

XO to you Nici,

TRB Holt said...

To make a long story short: terrified is not a bad thing...after all it contains the word TERRI, and indeed my heart is with you!

xoxo, Mom

Karisa said...

I too do my very best work under pressure. And since I'm about to turn 33 in just two more days, I suppose that I should embrace it. But, it does make life a bit more complicated with two little chicks underfoot. Especially when said chicks acquire a horrific stomach flu lasting 7 straight days when mama is supposed to be finishing a quilt for the preschool auction (also on birthday). Anyway. Thanks for giving me some inspiration - it WILL get done. Back to quilting.

Britta said...

Beautiful Nuggets this week! You can tell you're in a good place emotionally even if you're terrified - the photos this week seem more vibrant, full of life than they have the past few weeks.

I'm looking forward to you sharing the show when you can. You are going to rock it and I'm envious of those who can go and see and feel the energy.

Anyone here in the comments use Good Night for a toddler (my non-sleeping, all night breast-sucking babe is almost 2)? I borrowed Pentley's book, but I haven't gotten to read it yet. Should I pick this one up, too?

dig this chick said...

Rachel, I love that quote! Thanks for sharing it.

Kate said...

Great nuggets!
and I just love your friend's text reply...so true!
My mom always says "I work better under pressure" as her reasoning for putting everything off until the last minute.

Tina said...

Love the picture of the girls at the table with Alice hiding out underneath waiting for something to be dropped. Could you send Alice to my place? I run a home daycare and a dog would be so much more useful than a broom these days! ;)

Best of luck at your exhibit. If I lived within a few hours driving distance I would most definitely come to see it, but with me living in Ontario that's not exactly possible. I can't wait to see the pictures and read all about how much you rock it.

Baby By The Sea said...

I'm so proud of you, and wish we could hop in the car and make it to your show. Just a few mountain passes and obligations stand in our way. I love how your narrative came full circle, ending with the impact your creative spirit has on your little ones.

Love rubes in piggies. It's almost too much.

So much love from my sea to your mountains...

Jo @ Jo in the Kitchen said...

Did you get a good grade on your paper? ;)
I was asked to define dance, the same way you were asked to define art. It seems straightforward until you try to articulate it. That's passion though, it's different for every person!

Marti said...

Nuggets were great this week, I love all the pictures this week. Too bad the exhibit isn't in GA or I would come. And DAMN Andy's paintings are amazing! Have fun and good luck.

Your un-patriotic friend,

Adriana Iris said...

lovely post sounds like my emotions on my post... the energy of creating is electric

Amie said...

I wish you TONS of luck with your show. They are going to love you-I know I do!

Oh, and by the way, two things: 1) I am SO jealous of your dirt! Still living under snow and ice here in Michigan. 2) Love when you talk about "pitting out". Makes me feel a little better everytime I hear you say it :)

Have a FABULOUS time! Can't wait to see the dress!

Minnesotagal said...

Yay for nuggets! Sending good vibes and positive energy your way to help calm those nerves - but sometimes the nerves feel great too in their own crazy way, eh?

Such an abundance of goodness this week - spring and sprouts and dirt and family and food and pigtais and sisterly love! Joy!

Wish I could come see your exhibit in person but alas will make do with updates and pictures. Good luck!

@Britta - yes, yes it's a great book for toddlers too. Helps with virtually all nap/night scenarios. I also loved the gentle aproach - worked really well for us. I go back to it again and again as we go through diffrent sleep stages. My son is now 14 mo and sleeps like a champ - definitely did not start out that way.

Brittany said...

You totally inspire me.

Abby said...

Oh I'm so sad I'm going to miss this. We are actually driving thru on I-90 late friday night. We wont be thru until like 1:00am bummer. If it happens to be earlier I will try to stop in. Good luck and Blessings over your exibit!

Ariel @ Dreams To Do said...


Katie said...

as a "virgin harvestor" can I really plant argula and lettuce in my garden now?
I live in Missoula and thought I needed to wait to plant until Memorial Day?

Abilew-who said...

It'sgonnabegreat. Seriously. I for one think it's important to scare the crap out of yourself every once in a while. If you didn't challange yourself, it'd be a walk to the mailbox, or a nap on the couch. It'd be lovely enough, but it wouldn't give you that first-date, first-day-of-school, award-winning, risk-taking flutter in your gut. Way to go brave lady!

Colleen said...

I am so excited for you. You are going to rock this exhibit... because that is just how you roll.

Molly said...

I am really in love with this post this week - the identification of myself in your procrastination that yields adrenaline inspired magic, the art found in unlikely places, the advent of spring - just loving each word. thanks.

Melinda said...

Clarity comes to me in the final stretch...papers written the night before, housecleaning as people walk up the sidewalk, and gift giving/making the day of...it's all perfect in it's time. I enjoy the calm that comes from planning but my best work is done when time nips at my heels. Congrats on all of the time and effort you've put forth; it won't go unappreciated!

Beth B. said...

The photos of your mama with your girls are breathtaking... so are the 'sisters' shots. Dreamboat is SO... well, dreamy! Best to you with your showing!

Puget Sound Mama said...


Best of Luck on Friday!!

xoxo Jill & Jason Leczo

Jean said...

Great post. I'll be up to see your work before it closes. I can tell this is a good experience for you.

I'll be thinking of you Friday night. We'll toast you. :)

All my love, dear one.

KWQR said...

Beautiful nuggets... will be thinking of you Friday & know that it will be amazing. Love what your friend Paige texted you... what a gift to have wise friends to help keep things in perspective. Can't wait to see pix of the show.
Happy Spring!

jenny of all trades said...

This is so awesome! I'm so excited for you! And I'm sure you will pull it off. Eeek!
Love the pictures of your spring girls - just want to eat them up!
Great luck on Friday. Can't wait to hear and see more.

Lola said...
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Dana said...

amazing! I wish I could hop on I90 and see your art live.

seeing your subaru make me miss my green ru so much...

thisfriendlyvillage said...

Oh shoot...I will miss seeing your exhibit 'live' by one week as I will be in Missoula the following weekend. I am so intrigued by the cloud...it's colors and shadow are beautiful. I am hoping that you will posts more pics of the entire exhibit! Best of luck to you. I have enjoyed hearing about your process while putting this exhibit together.

Melissa said...

Oh, I love this. So excited for you!

There was a great piece on NPR yesterday about artists in Iraq, and a quote by an artist who makes sculptures both beautiful and horrible . . .of course I can't remember what he said but it's something about how the process of making art is so much more important than the finished product . . .you know what i mean!

Break a leg Friday! (I know it's not a performance but that is what I am used to saying so it feels appropriate)

Kelle said...

Well, you probably aren't reading comments tonight but rather preparing for tomorrow. I wish I could be there but kind of feel like I already am. This whole posts breathes art. In photos and passion and color and words. It will be a good weekend. xoxo

Joanna said...

I just wanna say F*&ck yeah to that post!!!! So full of life. Thanks!

clove's corner said...

This post just oozes energy and excitement! I am so excited/terrified for you. Wish I could drive on up to Zoo town to see it myself. Hmmm maybe I will. How long will your show be up?

To the commenter Britta: I read Good Night and used the techniques, except tweeking them to fit a co-sleeping situation. (We're planning to move her to a crib, just not yet.) We HAD a 17-month old who had to nurse-down then nursed ALL NIGHT. Now, we have a babe who falls asleep on her own (well, while we sing Hush Little Baby) and sleeps ALL NIGHT without nursing. But, haven't tackled naps yet.

Lola said...
This post has been removed by the author.
dig this chick said...

Thanks so much for your encouragement!

Katie, I will post more about planting on the Virgin Harvest flickr page....but real quick: several crops need low soil temps for seed germination. Peas, lettuce, greens, spinach. radish...if you look on your seeds packs they will say 'plant as soon as soil can be worked' and for us that is in March!

Mememom said...

Enjoy tonight--you deserve this!

Happiness is... said...

Holy Smokes!

Your Yam and Bean Burritos saved my Friday night. It was the first time that I prepared them. Simple ingredients on hand - check. Easy prep - Check. 2 Adults grumbling with satisfaction with each bite - check. Even Alex ate it without wandering away of making a fuss. A-maz-ing. Thank you for the recipe.

I've been thinking about you all day and hope that you had a marvelous opening tonight. I'm sure it was spectacular. Congratulations.

-Jennifer from Annapolis

P.S. Ben said that if we served it with the cabbage as you noted, he would shoot himself straight into the next zip code. LOL.

Earth Mama said...

Congrats! Congrats! I so wish I could fly out there and come to your show! I am sure it will be AMAZING!


Janna Renee said...

I must tell you that I love your blog!! I'm just starting my own and yours is fast becoming an inspiration to me!! I mostly love your photography and your voice! The way you say things is so entertaining and fun!

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