Listening - watching
taking a moment
drawing the world
finding the way to connection
again and again.

For upcoming classes and events
visit my website –

Friday, January 15, 2016

Cuba Libre

Okay, so it's the name of a drink in Cuba (rum and coke)
but it also captures something about the open heartedness of the place -
so that's my title !

I just returned from ten days in Cuba, traveling with a group organized by
George Mason University, studying the dances and culture of this island.

The trip began in Santiago de Cuba.
We moved to Guantanemo, then on to Baracoa on the eastern coast,
then returned to Santiago before flying home.

In between dance classes (Afro Cuban and Rueda - a kind of salsa square dance)
attending amazing performances by local dance troupes,
dancing in clubs and on the streets at night and generally moving around,
here is what landed in the sketchbook.

As the trip unfolded I became less and less interested in making the precise drawing
and more and more connected to the sensual movement of the pencil and brush on the page -
the rhythms of Cuba were sinking in !

I always leave the first page of the sketchbook blank until the end of the trip
and then put something there that encapsulates the whole time . . .
in this case a sensual Cuban flag !

The Basilica is Cuba's most sacred pilgrimage site.
It intertwines the worship of the Virgin Mary with the Santeria orisha Ochun,
the Yoruba goddess of love and dancing, represented by the color yellow.
The small statue of "Cachita" sits high above the altar,
with yellow and white flags on either side.

click on the image to enlarge

click to enlarge

click to enlarge

click to enlarge

In Baracoa I wandered through this sweet town one afternoon
and found my way to the La Roca Palador restaurant for a delicious lunch of teti fish . . .

click to enlarge

click to enlarge

Turning back towards Santiago . . .

Coming to the end.
Here is the snake deity who determines which orisha energy a person will work with in their life.
It is the logo of Cutumba, the dance company in Santiago who taught us
the deeply rooted Santeria movements.

I draw precisely, dropping into the coiled form -
then let the energy expand - and spin - and open out.

And here I am - fresh from dancing . . .

Monday, October 19, 2015

New Work

I recently created two pieces for an upcoming exhibit of my work
The Moving Line : Calligraphic Expression  opening next month.
(See details below.)

I wanted to make something new that explored a visual idea
and my curiosity about the naming of things.

First I created a large calligraphic map of the Hudson River Estuary -
no roads, no towns, no human made borders - just the shapes and names of the waterways
and mountain ranges that feed into and surround this big river.

Around the border I wrote the names that had been given to the Hudson River by
the Iroquois, the Lenape and the Mohegan tribes - and the French, Dutch and English explorers -
and by Henry Hudson himself.

It was surprisingly difficult to find maps that provided this information clearly. 
(The person I spoke to at the Dept. of Environmental Conservation said that they had thrown out
most of their printed topographic maps and shifted to online downloads. ) 
Thanks to Erik Kiviat at Hudsonia for the loan of an old relief map of New York State
and a map by Gary Allen "The Hudson Estuary as Bioregion" from 1986.  

I painted in watercolor, gradually building up the elements of the design over hours,
contemplating and enjoying the forms of this watershed network as I worked. 
The slowness of the process was settling. I let the need for perfection relax
and the alive imperfect line unfurl.

Water Words

This past summer I read a book by Robert MacFarlane, a British nature writer, which included
a large glossary of words, a dictionary of "place-terms" collected from across the British Isles,
words that described the land forms, the waterways, the woods, the farms, the weather,
drawing from the Welsh, Gaelic, East Anglia, Scottish dialects and more. 

This glossary inspired me to begin looking for the old words interwoven with the Hudson Valley
rooted and handed down from the Dutch, English and Indian cultures. 
Was there a language of this landscape that I could gather and re-enliven through handwriting ?

I searched in the Local History Collections of the town libraries and spoke to elders
in the community. Words began to collect in my notebooks. For this upcoming show
I gathered all the terms I had found for water forms and wrote them out in a flowing watery way
with a big blue brushstroke coursing behind it all. 

The letters moved across the page, counterbalancing, maneuvering, lifting up and dropping down
like ripples in a stream. I wrote quickly, intuitively, sensing the whole while focused on the parts. 

I hope to continue the search for words that describe this landscape - old words, new words - 
celebrating the rich fluency of language that connects humans with place. 
By bringing handwritten letters into this mix the nature-based expressive imagery 
of the alphabet can be restored ! 

For anyone in the Hudson Valley here is the information about these upcoming events 
all happening at Unison Arts Center in New Paltz, NY .
For more information contact -

with Steve Gorn, David Lopato, Harvey Sorgen & Barbara Bash
Saturday November 7, 8 pm

THE MOVING LINE : Calligraphic Expression / Barbara Bash
Opening Sunday November 8, 4 - 6 pm
Exhibit will run through December 6

BRUSH SPIRIT / Barbara Bash
Saturday, November 21, 1 - 4 pm