Thursday, October 29, 2009

What They Made with Their Hands

{Open Studios from Last Weekend}

Some shots from the HWY 62 Art Tours last weekend. My, how humbled I am every time I visit the the studios of these talented friends.

We drove way out into the open desert to make a pilgrimage to Tina Bluefield's studio. Tina just had a sell-out show in New York. She has a contagious, girlish energy that one can't help but fall in love with when you meet her, and P. and I both have a Georgia O'Keeffe-kinda admiration for her. Her work exudes tremendous energy and freedom while maintaining a certain level of intellectualism. I've never seen her make the same painting twice. Pretty amazing to be in your 60's, live out in the Mojave Desert, and sell out a high profile Chelsea show. She is a *great* inspiration.

This is one of my favorite pieces. I've had dreams about this painting. It's called "Davis Wire" and measures 36 x 60 inches. It's oil on canvas, with a long strip of roofing material and some wood siding she found on her morning hike through the desert. She incorporates found objects into some of her paintings and it really works. The blue is the most heavenly light cobalt- not too green, not too yellow.

One of Tina's minimalist landscapes. This one really haunted me. I didn't write down the details, but it's maybe about 30 x 36 inches or so.


One of Tina's geometric abstracts. "Mediterranean" oil on canvas, 60 x 36 in.

Then off to Ruth and Steve Rieman's place. Steve is a pretty well-known sculptor in Southern California, and Ruth runs the business. Steve is tall, wiry, and wizardly, and he builds these enormous kinetic metal sculptures without a studio assistant. He's rigged up a system of pulleys so that he can move the tons of steel around his studio by himself. Ruth and Steve were low-impact, green-building, homesteading pioneers before I was even born. They moved out here from Costa Mesa 35 years ago, built a cabin on the edge of Pipe's Canyon, then a bigger house, studio, and metal shop. They are amazing people, and as you can see Steve is an incredible sculptor and engineer.




Finally, off to my dear friend Karine Swenson's show. Karine and Nora (whose talents span ceramics, sculpture, painting, and growing those amazing roses) collaborated with two other woman for a group show. Because I was giddy and eating and talking and running around Karine's gorgeous house the entire time I didn't take many pictures, but here are some of Karine's marvelous monotypes (which are for sale on her Etsy shop). They are both 8 x 10 inches. Karine also has a wonderful blog about painting, printmaking, and desert life.

(bottom two pics by karine swenson)

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Anticipation Begets Wistfulness

{Open Studio Approaching, and Thinking of New York}

The house is *almost* ready for the strangers that will come here this weekend to look at my paintings.

The temperature plummeted more than twenty degrees last night; my tomatoes wilted and the bougainvillea simply sighed and relinquished their flowers to the 30 mph wind. But the cold weather is especially bad news for those last little touches I put on some paintings. They're barely just dry enough to hang.

Tsk-tsk, Lily. You've had months to prepare.  To prepare. To paint. To begin a life in the desert with a new husband. To learn how to be a wife. These things are all wrapped together, you see. So perhaps I should cut myself some slack.

I live in my house but I work in my studio. At this stage in my newly-married life I like to keep them separate. A girl needs her own space where she can make a mess and listen to Donna the Buffalo.  In my house I'm a loquacious, joyful person. When I'm in the studio I'm a private, studious person. The dogs get very serious in the studio, too. Dolly takes her place under the table, where she can be close to me without getting in in the way. Rescues can be like that. Needing to be near their person. Mac lies by the door to protect us all. Corgis can be like that. Watching their flock. They keep me good company while I work. So do my art books when I get stumped.

Before we were married I lived in New York City. I get secret pangs of missing it on autumn days like today, which doesn't take away from my devotion to the desert and my life out here, but still. I am thinking about New York today.

But this is no time to be wistful- there are paintings to be hung and baseboard to be dusted and prices to be decided upon. I wish you could come. It will be quite a joyous weekend. The weather will be warmer, and the paintings dry, and even the naked bougainvillea will be looking spry in the glorious desert sun. And I will be grateful to be able to be a painter, living in the desert, with the man I love and two very, very good dogs.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Autumn Roses

{A Surprise Visit}

My friend Nora grows roses in the desert. I struggle to keep basil alive in the extreme temperatures and merciless wind here, and yet roses of every imaginable hybrid and scent bloom all around her house, under the eucalyptus trees, in between the rocks on her hill, bowing and tossing their heavy petticoats in the autumn wind. She has roses and a big pomegranate tree, and a grape arbor. And figs. And pots of herbs everywhere. She brought plumeria cuttings with her when she moved to Joshua Tree from Hawaii years ago. They were little naked stalks the size of your thumb. She built a greenhouse for them, coaxed them back to life, and now those cuttings are plumeria trees, nearly ten feet tall, dotted with the most intoxicating flowers. Oh, you should see Nora's garden. It's as close to a desert Eden as I've ever seen. She has a true gift.

The other night she and her husband brought over cookies and these roses. Just because. They fill the whole house with their fragrance, like honey and lemons and clean laundry.

Their ragged outer petals only add to their loveliness. They are triumphant roses, don't you think? They thrived despite unfavorable odds, and look how marvelous they are.
I know some people like that.

Off to the studio. Hope you have a wonderful day.

Monday, October 26, 2009

Bistro Escondido

{Cioppino under the Stars}

Welcome back from the weekend,  pumpkinettes. This past weekend marked the beginning of the open studios in the high desert, so I spent most of Saturday tearing around unpaved roads and marveling at the talents of the local art community. And finishing up some paintings in my own studio in preparation for next weekend (eek!). Pictures of my favorite art from the weekend to come. But first, a little desert magic...

On Friday night P. and I fell in love with the desert all over again. (This happens about once a week.) A new friend of ours has a fabulous, funky shop and gallery called the Mt. Fuji General Store downtown that I've written about before. As a lady of many talents she also has a side catering project, appropriately called Bistro Escondido - the hidden bistro.

It's a brilliant idea: she emails a big group of friends, locals, and anyone who has recently signed up on her gallery mailing list, telling them that Bistro Escondido will be serving X victuals on Y date in Z location. On Friday, it was cioppino stew at sundown in Joshua Tree National Park. The email said to bring twenty dollars, and BYOB (bring your own bowls); she'd take care of everything else. We came armed with giant ceramic bowls, big round spoons, blankets and a flask of whiskey.

The night air was still and marvelous. No wind = ideal conditions for soup-eating.

There was a giant cauldron of stew. Over the fire. As promised. The cauldron was borrowed from the bbq pit at Pappy & Harriet's, where it's used to make bourbon bbq beans over a mesquite fire. I would consider that a well-seasoned pot.

In the pot: fresh fish, scallops, squid, mussels, clams and crab from the coast, cooked in the most delicious broth with tons of garlic, tomats, taters and herbs. Cioppino (pronounced chi-PEEN-o) is a seafood stew that's especially popular in San Fransisco. I'd never had it before. I must tell you, it was MARVELOUS. (If you want to try your hand at cioppino, this recipe from Gourmet looks to die for.)

Fresh seafood in the desert. Oh my, how happy we two New Englanders were. Red Trolley Ale and fresh sourdough boules from Teacakes Bakery (with a little cornmeal on the bottom, just how I like it).

Hot stew, crusty bread, warm bellies, laughter. (Our group from a knoll above.)

I trotted around taking pictures with my nifty new love-object, my Canon T1i digital SLR, and captured some long exposures of the activity in our campground with the help of my new tripod (below).

Now, off to the studio to paint, paint, paint. If you'd like a postcard invitation to my open studio next weekend, email me your address! I'd be happy to send you one. If you live in LA or SD and want an excuse to visit Joshua Tree, COME! I'll feed you and send you home with one of these. xo

Friday, October 23, 2009

Bonbon Oiseau

{The Best Candy Comes from Brooklyn}

Our mailbox, which has KRJULY lettered across the side in faded black paint, is one of a dozen rusty, dented, ancient mailboxes at the end of our dirt road. I don't know who K.R. July or the Krjuly family is/was, but it's been a very long time since they lived here. These mailboxes all lean hard to the south from decades of Mojave wind, and most of them (ours included) don't really close all the way. They are more relics of the desert than they are practical receptacles for mail. But so many tourists take pictures of this little desert vignette on their way into Joshua Tree National Park that we just left our tin can of a mailbox as-is, KRJULY and all. So it's always a pleasant surprise when we actually get mail, and so far neither P. nor I have gotten tetanus yet.

So it was with utter delight that I found a petite package addressed to me in the mailbox this morning on my way to the studio. Inside was the most darling box containing a necklace from a giveaway at Your Destiny is Stone Golden, which is the creative playground of Brooklyn-based jewelry designer Deb of Bonbon Oiseau (which translates to Sweet Bird or Candy Bird). I urge you to check out her adventures on her blog and her wares on her website. I wish I'd known about her before I got married- her vintage hair combs and pins are marvelous. Now I call her Darling Deb. You'll see why:

She wrapped it up with such care, and look what was inside!

Just LOOK at this marvelous necklace! Deb collects most of her bonbons in Paris (pictures from her most recent trip here), and this one is made from antique glass and celluloid sequins (!) on sterling silver.

Hey Deb? I love your style and I wanna give you a great big hug. THANK YOU.

What a lucky oiseau I am to have one her dainty necklaces to wear around my neck! I know it will bring me luck as I finish up my paintings in preparation for my Open Studio next weekend. Have a wonderful, creative weekend my friends! xo

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Salt of the Earth

{Chocolate + Salt}

There are several instances of magnificent and unusual pairings that really do it for me. The collaboration between Led Zeppelin's screaming banshee Robert Plant and bluegrass songbird Alison Krauss is one of them. Bittersweet dark chocolate accompanied by a hint of salt is another. If you're a fan of the hedonistic Vosges chocolate bar with bacon, you understand what I mean. I know, I know- yesterday I wrote that only vegetarian items should be pickled, and now I'm championing a chocolate bar with bacon in it.  Take the bacon bar or leave it, but what I'm saying is that a little sprinkling of gourmet sel de mer can turn a rather pedestrian chocolate chip cookie into a gustatory marvel.

If you live in a place with a gourmet market or a Whole Foods I urge you to take a gander down the spice aisle and note the plethora of exotic salts there. My mother recently discovered a pink river salt that comes from the Murray River of Australia. The marvelous pink crystals are flat and delicate, with a ticklish, brackish taste. I wish I had some pink salt in my kitchen, but the common Mediterranean sea salt I got from the grocery store still did the trick for these chocolate chip cookies. Give it a shot; I guarantee you'll be pleasantly gobsmacked.


Preheat the oven to 375. Grease or line 2 cookie sheets.

Whisk together:
1 cup plus 3 Tbs all-purpose flour
1/2 tsp baking soda

Beat in a large bowl until well-blended:
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, softened
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup packed light brown sugar

Add and beat until well combined:
1 large organic egg
1/4 tsp fine salt + 1/4 tsp course fancy sea salt
1 1/2 tsp vanilla

Stir in the flour mixture until well-blended and smooth. Stir in 1 cup chocolate chips.

Drop the dough by heaping teaspoonfuls about 2 inches apart on the cookie sheets and sprinkle a few course salt crystals on top. Bake, 1 sheet at a time, until the cookies are just slightly golden on top and the edges are brown, about 8 - 10 minutes. Let stand briefly, then remove to a rack to cool.

Bon appetite!


Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Important Homesteading Skills, Part I

{Great Aunt Betty's Bread & Butter Pickles}

I've never tried my hand at pickling, but it's one of those Important Homesteading Skillz I've always wanted to learn, like milking a goat (done it, not good at it) or shoeing a horse (haven't had time to squeeze in farrier school). So it was with sheer delight that I received a box containing a mason jar of homemade pickles from my best cowgirl from Austin, Miss Ash. Ash is one part Annie Oakley to two parts Sissy Hankshaw (minus the big thumbs), baked, frosted, and served with a shot of whiskey.  When it comes to canning, she's a hardcore, no-frills Texan, and if she says anyone can make damn good pickles, then by god, anyone can make damn good pickles.  Here's her fail-proof recipe:



**Read directions thoroughly and then set up a pickling station - you don't have to do everything at lightening speed, but this works best when you can jar whilst everything's hot, so try to get an assembly line set up together so you don't waste time.

4 quarts cucumbers, sliced (leave the skin on, wash off any wax if they aren't farm fresh)
3 white onions, sliced
1/3 cup salt

Put ingredients in a bowl and cover with ice water - let stand at least 3 hrs or overnight

Drain well - DO NOT RINSE (rinsing takes off all the salt, which will keep your pickles crunchy)
Put them in a large pot

Make sure your jars and lids are clean and dry
Bake your glass jars in the oven (lowest heat) - you want these hot out of the oven when you pour your pickles in
Boil the flat lids (not the lid rims) in a small pot of water - you want to soften and heat the rubber around the edges to achieve a good seal

5 cups sugar
3 cups apple cider vinegar
1 teas. turmeric (don't use a wooden or plastic spoon that you don't mind taking on the color of turmeric...I'm trying to avoid using the word 'STAIN,' which is a terrible word)
1 1/2 teas. celery seed
2 Tabl. mustard seed

Stir brine well to mix and then pour over sliced cucumbers and onions
Bring to a good, rolling boil (remember, a rolling boil can't be broken by stirring)
Put cucumbers and onions in jars and fill with brine, leaving ~ a quarter inch of space in the jar (I like to just pull a few out of the oven at a time, to make sure they are all hot when you fill them)
Wipe any moisture away from the lip of the jar
Screw lids on as tightly as possible; they should seal within a few minutes (most of the time, you'll hear them pop)

Bread and Butta pickles don't need 3 months to cure like dills, but I like to wait a while so they've got a little more flavor. They are best chilled, so put them in the fridge before you open them.


A little disclaimer (not for the squeamish): While photographing Ash's pickles I realized that macro shots of anything that has been brined and canned in glass has the potential to look utterly unappealing. This brought back a distinct childhood memory of the monstrous jar of pickled pig's feet at Hickock's Boat Livery & General Store on Saranac Lake in upstate New York. The fact that Ole Hickock kept said jar-o-hooves in the refrigerated shelving next to the live bait only compounded the horror.  *Shutter* I decided that anything that once had a mother is NOT OK to pickle, i.e. eggs, hog hocks, pig lips, chicken feet or cow tongue. (An NPR correspondent seems to be equally fascinated with the subject of non-veg pickling.) If pickled hocks is your thing, then go for it-  I'm impressed, but I think I'll keep my pickles vegetable-based for now.  Happy pickling!

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

A Bird in Hand

{A Finished Grant, A Midnight Quail}

P. and I just shipped off our grants we've been working on for the past few months and we are *so* excited to have a life again. First orders of business:
Immediately: Celebrate with Belgian ale whilst watching the sun set over Joshua Tree tonight, instead of hunching over our confuzitrons being nerdles.
Happily: Get over to the studio and finish a few more paintings before Open Studios in *ten days*.
Specifically: Gnash my terrible teeth and see Where the Wild Things Are.  Pronto.
Begrudgingly: Address the out of control laundry situation. The clean-and-needs-to-be-folded pile has fatally merged with the dirty-and-needs-to-be-washed pile. Shameful.

On Saturday night as P. was putting the final edits on his proposal and I was deleting unnecessary adverbs to squeeze mine in the allotted space (what a wild Saturday night!), Dolly, our hound mutt, caught a female quail outside the house. This was around midnight, mind you.  I don't know what she was doing away from her covey in the middle of the night but the the quail seemed perfectly unflustered by the whole affair of being in the jaws of a hunting dog. Dolly obligingly let me take the quailette from her mouth is if she were delivering jury duty notice- here, you'd better take this. P. and I took some pictures of her quickly before releasing her outside, none the worse for wear other than a little slobber on her dusky feathers. I love her little topknot!

Friday, October 16, 2009

You're Invited!

{Open Studios in the Hi-Dez}

The pleasure of your company (and that of your dog if she is well-behaved) is requested
The Open Studio of Yours Truly
under circumstances of The HWY 62 Art Tours
Sat. Oct 31st & Sun. Nov 1
9am - 5pm
Joshua Tree, CA

There's a flurry of activity in Joshua Tree right now as artists prepare for the upcoming HWY 62 Art Tours, and you're invited. The Art Tours run for the last two weekends in October in the high desert (or the hi-dez) and it's a marvelous time of year to see some wacky architecture, peek into the lives of desert-dwellers and hopefully come home with some amazing ART.

I'm opening up our house (bigBANG studio is too small!) the second weekend (9am - 5pm, Saturday October 31st & Sunday November 1st) and will be showing a whole new body of work as well as some giant chicken paintings. If you live in Southern California and need an excuse to come see what all the fuss is about with Joshua Tree, do come! Oh, and I'm giving a 10% discount to anyone who mentions my bigBANG blog. Homemade gourmet finger-food, daytime wine-drinking, music, warm desert sun, friends and art. Come!

Whether you like near or far, if you'd like a postcard for the show email me (lily dot stockman at gmail dot com) your street address and I'll happily send one off to you. Have an awesome weekend!

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Verbum, Verba

{A Handful of Good Words. Some Old, Some New}

argent |ˈärjənt|
adjective poetic/literary & Heraldry
silver; silvery white : the argent moon.
noun Heraldry
silver as a heraldic tincture.
ORIGIN late Middle English (denoting silver coins): via Old French from Latin argentum ‘silver.’

ursine |ˈərˌsin; -ˌsēn|
of, relating to, or resembling bears.
ORIGIN mid 16th cent.: from Latin ursinus, from ursus ‘bear.’

glaucous |ˈglôkəs|
adjective, technical or poetic/literary
1 of a dull grayish-green or blue color.
2 covered with a powdery bloom like that on grapes.
ORIGIN late 17th cent.: via Latin from Greek glaukos ‘bluish-green’ + -ous .

obstreperous |əbˈstrepərəs; äb-|
noisy and difficult to control: the boy is cocky and obstreperous. See note at vociferous.
ORIGIN late 16th cent.(in the sense [clamorous, vociferous] ): from Latin obstreperus (from obstrepere, from ob- ‘against’ + strepere ‘make a noise’ ) + -ous.

crepuscular |krəˈpəskyələr|
of, resembling, or relating to twilight.
• Zoology (of an animal) appearing or active in twilight.
ORIGIN mid 17th cent.: from Latin crepusculum ‘twilight’ + -ar 1.


Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Persimmon, Persimmon

{The Beautiful Fruit of Modest Flavor}

Forgive the silence. I've been writing, but not on the blog (clearly). I'm happily spent for words after staying up until 3am the past two nights working on a grant proposal. So, armed with a noon cup of coffee I give you this two-stanza haiku, which by nature of being two stanzas precludes it from being a real haiku anymore, but alas, I wasn't clever enough to fit it all in seventeen syllabals. Un-haiku below, but first, a quick disclaimer:

I bought a clutch of persimmons from the Joshua Tree farmer's market on Saturday. They were so enchanting, all gloucous and orange, with their little felted caps and smooth skin the color of the desert gloaming. I couldn't help myself; I bought as many as I could clasp against my chest, which I did, delicately, with the sensuous delight as if they were goose eggs. I coveted them and marveled at their beauty. And then I bit into one. Oh, persimmon, how lovely you are to gaze upon, but lest I forget: your flavor's as wan as your skin is handsome. I know some of you might cry blasphemy, but as marvelous-looking as they are I'm always struck by guilty disappointment when I bite into one. Perhaps I cannot get past the sponginess. I feel as if I've been duped by a sweet, fibrous tomato, minus the zing. I hope you'll forgive me for my shortcomings. Un-haiku below.


persimmon glowing
how delicious you appear
october jewel

o beguiling fruit
une tomate in finer clothes
your secret is out