Artist's Talk at the majestic T.W. Wood Gallery in Montpelier VT

We were thrilled to be interviewed at a recent artists’ talk, alongside the eminent pastel and landscape oil painter, Cindy Griffith. The T.W. Wood Gallery was the perfect setting for our conversations—full of people in the midst of an art walk, wandering through room after room, floor after floor, of beautifully curated artworks, old and new.

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We enjoyed talking about our inspiration for Almanac#4, which had been awarded best in show, and how we work collaboratively and together discover the world around us through art practices.

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We are grateful to Executive Director Ginny Callan and Office Manager Kate Ruddle for their gracious reception of our art and our selves. As they stood before Almanac #4 after the artist’s talk, eagerly listening to us tell the origin story of each panel and responding with genuine curiosity and respect, they embodied the kind of creative community any artist would appreciate. They were exemplary receivers of art. Their warmth and generosity is reflected in the inviting atmosphere of the T.W. Wood Gallery, one of our favorite regional galleries.

We couldn’t have hoped for a better temporary home for Almanac #4 and Vital Things.

Best in Show

We are thrilled to announce that Almanac #4 has been awarded Best in Show in the Winter Juried Show at the T.W. Wood Art Gallery in Montpelier, Vt.

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Our Small Works Featured at the AVA art Gallery Holiday Show

We are delighted to participate in the legendary AVA Holiday Show. The works this year are wondrous to behold.

A debonair onlooker enjoys the art.

A debonair onlooker enjoys the art.

As you can see here, our originals behave far less fabulously at home.

As you can see here, our originals behave far less fabulously at home.

“Masked Birches” mugs for the camera at the exhibit.

“Masked Birches” mugs for the camera at the exhibit.

Two pairs of critics: look for the first in the double doors. We predict the second will be coming to an art gallery near you circa 2028.

Two pairs of critics: look for the first in the double doors. We predict the second will be coming to an art gallery near you circa 2028.

Another review from the debonair art critic.

Another review from the debonair art critic.

The display for our birch ornaments.

The display for our birch ornaments.

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AVA

Holiday Winter Show

It is humbling and impressive to note all the great talent all around us.

Progress on our Month of Sundays Project

Our project was simple: both of us sit in front of the same window every Sunday. One would describe in pictures; the other, poetry. The aim: to capture through shared art practice what the anecdote presents as an exaggerated condition of time. At session number thirty or so, we knew the experience had already been successful.

Here are some of the latest images (podcasts, videos, and other media on the project available throughout our blog).

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These squares represent the passage, roughly, from fall to winter, or late October to November. Each page of the sketch pad is window-eye’s view of a calendar month, four Sundays.

Above, is a draft—only a snippet of Sara’s prodigious writing output during a single Sunday session. Each session runs about two hours long, by the way, and by the end of a typical stint, Sara goes through several pages of drafting.

Nov 18 soft pastels

Nov 18 soft pastels

another poem draft from a Sunday session by Sara

another poem draft from a Sunday session by Sara

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from Sep 30 to Oct 21… A week? of Sundays

from Sep 30 to Oct 21… A week? of Sundays

the view that inspires it all. Sara’s “Through One Pane” appears as well.

the view that inspires it all. Sara’s “Through One Pane” appears as well.

This view took up the hour or two of a vivid November Sunday.

This view took up the hour or two of a vivid November Sunday.

We give thanks this holiday season for the gifts of togetherness and time, which this project both reflects and honors in our lives.

Collaging in the Studio

Although November is upon us, some leaves still hold the blush of September. This is particularly true of the young dogwood tree that sits in a place of honor in our backyard. Her red leaves remain a powerful scarlet. Yesterday, we foraged some as inspiration for our fall almanac, an homage to autumnal foliage.

First, we arranged the leaves in the shape of an E. Then, we made a photo model for Sara’s collage work.

First, we arranged the leaves in the shape of an E. Then, we made a photo model for Sara’s collage work.

The photo model served as inspiration for a felt collage.

The photo model served as inspiration for a felt collage.

A few snips of the scissors and swipes of the modge podge later, and our own leaf letter is on display.

Here’s a side by side view of the photo and the collage.

Here’s a side by side view of the photo and the collage.

Michael marked the areas for shadow on the photo model so that Sara could use collage materials to place the E in space.

Artistic materials, both natural and unnatural, meet on the art table.

Time to apply felt to canvas with modge podge and brush.

Time to apply felt to canvas with modge podge and brush.

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The E contributes to a larger whole— an almanac that can be read as a poem and experienced as a visual image, simultaneously.

A background completes the collage.

A background completes the collage.

Several photos equal nearly two hours in the studio. Of course, there are other measures of time and value at work in all of this making, and, wile some of those measures belong to the bronzed world of falling leaves, still others belong entirely with you.

Podcast with Poet Sara Biggs Chaney on her Month of Sundays Collaborations

For the Month of Sundays, we set out to measure through collaborative art the joined experience of a collection that had merely been an anecdote to us. Just exactly how long does a month of Sundays feel like? And what would it be like to work together every Sunday, for a month or thirty Sundays? For thirty Sundays, we decided to sit together in front of the picture window in our house and record our experience of the backyard.

Would we grow so tired of our repeated subject that we’d abandon the project?

Would we abandon realism or the urge to record and describe for something else?

Along the course of the project, we realized that Sara had much to say about her role in the collaboration as a poet.

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Progress on our Fallmanac

We’re hard at work on multiple almanacs. There’s about four Almanac sized works in our Month of Sundays project, compiling the collaborative art we’ve made while sitting next to each other and overlooking a single view every Sunday.

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There’s an entire Almanac we are making of flower tiles. We call it the Floramanac.

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We are also looking to make an entire piece out of birch bark. Stay tuned for that as well.

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In the meantime, we are working on a piece that reflects on our experience of this autumn. We aimed for it to imitate the verbal capacities of Almanac #3.

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As with this one, we wanted our Fallmanac to be seen as a poster from across the room, with mainly lettering being visible, but also to be viewable from a closer vantage as an intricate interweaving of words, images, and collage—neither a poem nor a painting.

an early arrangement of gridded letters in our Fallmanac

an early arrangement of gridded letters in our Fallmanac

Here’s our latest version of the Fallmanac with views of letters like leaves, falling into and out of color.

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Making Rustic Picture Frames Out of Birch Sticks

The bark of some birch trees looks like pages of a sunken book, the wreckage of some ship’s log crusted over with mushrooming coral and coppery algae.

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No matter how tempting, birch bark should never be pulled from living trees as doing so damages them.

This simple rule is not difficult for us to follow since the not-so-living birch varieties are more than just plentiful—they’re thriving in our area. And the living are no slouches either. The topmost branches of most birch trees are generous to a fault. They are eager to make many weighty donations to the vigilant crafter.

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All cautions and humor aside, Vermont trees are stunning sun bathers under blue skies who parch their pages amidst the relentless authorings of driving snow.

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Once collected, the dried and flattened bark of fallen trees can be used as a material for endless making—pages, of course, but also matting, basketry, coils or fraps. The building block of a storehouse full of useful things waits in every fiber.

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We have a favorite use for these sticks.

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It involves a miter box and a saw.

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We incorporate rustic sticks and old jeans together with some wood glue and a few nails to create framed canvases for our art works.

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This type of frame works best for subjects that suit it. It’s lovely and rugged, durable but also delicate. At the edges, paper and wood change places and dance together around a knot or along the ramp of a stiff curl before parting ways forever.

Small Original Oil Painting of Big Fun Coventry (Cleveland Heights, OH) Toy Store in Rustic Wood Frame Using Birch Bark

Small Original Oil Painting of Big Fun Coventry (Cleveland Heights, OH) Toy Store in Rustic Wood Frame Using Birch Bark

final version

final version

To purchase the above painting, click here.

Month of Sundays -- An Art and Life Project for Two

We have been working on a project lately combining art and ordinary living. These are the best kinds of art projects, after all—we especially enjoy the act of recording the world as we live in it through art.

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This project is based on a cliche you’ve heard before.

How long will it take?

If quite a long while, as the saying goes, it might take a “month of Sundays.”

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But what does the phrase mean? Sunday, considered holy and also a bit slowly (at least in comparison with busier days of the week) is a day that gathers its own time rhythms to it. Sunday has a different time to it than other days, a different temporality. That’s just one Sunday. Just think of the stretched out time for reflection, sacred contemplation, and just laying around that a whole month of them would hold.

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The premise: Interrupt our usual ways of spending uncollected time together by creating a ritual around a picture window in our living room. Every Sunday we would sit at the window together. One would sketch the view in poetry as the other did so in pencils, and together we would produce a fuller picture of the shared time spent between us.

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Our Month of Sundays project is as much an effort to “keep” our time together as it is an effort to make time. In every view and in every poem, we make together in order to draw attention to the life and time we make together.

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Sessions usually take a little over an hour. At first, we would have to squeeze in the time to sit together on the same bench inside our home (the same bench that once served as our daughter’s toy box) to watch a concrete bench outside of our home as it resolutely weathered the seasons. After a while, though, our Month of Sundays ritual became an anticipated event. You don’t need to “schedule” or “plan for” something you’re looking forward to all week.

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Whereas Michael aimed to produce a single image for every session, filling a quarter page of the sketchbook each Sunday, Sara’s drafts of poetry spill across many pages.

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A simple lesson learned—when you make a single day special through shared practices of being together while observing the extraordinary in the ordinary, you acquire a deepened sense of the significance of each passing moment.

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This specific portion of the project is nearing a point of closure, but only in the conventional sense of there being only thirty or so days in a month. Our practice has changed our thinking about time. We no longer define a day or a month in terms of their limits or endings.

We plan on continuing our works of days and months, looking and seeing together through apertures we choose.

Birch Arts and Crafts

Sara and I spend many hours working with strips of birch bark. We harvest the freshest pages, as we call them, from a few fallen birch trees around our yard.

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Vermont is home to many birch tree varieties, and our yard is no stranger to nature’s occasional offerings and donations.

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The material poses challenges for the inflexible. It is resilient and water proof, but it can break easily, too. Parts of it continue to peel worse than a fragile onion—only in the most paradoxically durable way.

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The material is fashionably lied about everywhere in popular culture for being white, charmingly mottled with deep brown or grey. Most bark paper is ruddy, reddish brown, nearly pine, with smooth random marks like Morse code or that notched paper fed into old self-playing pianos. It comes in distinct colors and textures, which is good news to those with a design mind.

With an ability to create sharp contours and contrasts, birch possesses rich potential as an expressive art form.

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To purchase our birch craft products, please click here.

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Making Flower Tiles With Polymer Clay

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We have spent luscious autumnal mornings and late summer evenings making flowers out of clay. We are doing this in preparation for another Almanac, this one to be made entirely of flowers in clay. We will call it the Floramanac.

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Through tiles of clay flowers and collaborative practice, we recognize the passing of the seasons together.

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This vertical series features our rendition of the flowers still spreading the joy of their colors in our garden: the lily, daisy, home run rose, and oversized petunia.

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The daylily, as lovely as she is hardy and resilient.

New Season, New Beginnings

What better way to celebrate the season than with a blank canvas?

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With a canvas already taped and ready for almanac production, of course!

With a canvas already taped and ready for almanac production, of course!

As summer ends and autumn approaches, we celebrate a beautiful year of collaborative art making. Each canvas has been a wondrous surprise, and we know that this one will be no different.

A birthday gift of new German detail brushes (the handles are made from birch wood... too perfect.). What new pictures will these bring to life? Stay tuned.

A birthday gift of new German detail brushes (the handles are made from birch wood... too perfect.). What new pictures will these bring to life? Stay tuned.

Latest Almanac Debut: Vital Things aka The Podmanac

We are proud to debut our latest almanac. This one has been a summer in the making. In paint, poetry, and clay, we tell the story of our adventures with the 'vital things' around us.

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As this almanac developed, it became a world, or at least, a way of looking at the world.

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The more we worked at our tiles, and as Sara worked out the poetry that graces the margins, we noticed how the whole piece works as a kind of 3-D tarot deck and even a playable game. Each panel in the middle three rows offers a fortune. Here's a sample of some of those fortunes:

Can you tell this person's fortune? Using this piece you can. First, let the person ask our Podmanac a question. Then, let them roll three dice, each corresponding to a different row of our Almanac.

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Then, interpret the trio of tiles thus rolled. If the above were the hand rolled, it would be a good fortune indeed.

From Row I, Animal: The Doe --A tile that means circumstances may arise to tax the asker's patience. Success will come, but only as a result of not acting and not right away.
From Row II, Plant: Coneflower --This card indicates that you will celebrate a wealth of medicinal influences in your life. These could be physically, spiritually, or emotionally medicinal. In this context, this could mean that your current efforts at patience will prove to be healing and prevent your future pain.
From Row III, Mineral: The Engineer (the best card you can get in the mineral row) --Means you're a master of the materials around you. Since this is the third card, one could say ultimate success (becoming the Engineer) comes for this asker once achieving the state of virtuous healing and stillness symbolized in the Coneflower.

The blooms of our garden claim pride of place in "Vital Things." Their vibrant colors command the middle row and the viewer's gaze.

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A favorite component of this Almanac is the frame. Made up of decoupage strips delicately torn from antique newspapers, some of them over two hundred years old, the frame bears witness to the ordered miscellany of the world.

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Vital Things

The world is full of them....

Sculpting Flowers Or, The Florascope

We have been working on sculpture lately. Transposing our design aesthetic of the grid onto sculpted figures has been both a challenge and a reprieve. The summer's yield of blooms has served as inspiration. Below, you'll see three images from our latest almanac-in-progress, a sculpted homage to the buds around us.

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The day lily is a plentiful inhabitant of our front gardens. Though her many green limbs can be a gardener's curse at times, we think she's worth the effort.

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Liatris, Blazing Star, Gayfeather. This towering purple bristler is one of our favorite perennials. It was a joy to sculpt.

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We know July is here when the cone flower blooms. This medicinal flower lasts well into August and is wonderful for cuttings.

When the winter months roll around again, we'll look with satisfaction on this almanac, we know.

 

 

Almanac 3 at Delaplaine Arts Center in Maryland Opens Today

What a happy Spring it has been so far. Despite its slow, snowy start, the season of rebirth has finally come around to showering us with its sunshiny bounties.

What are we happy about today?

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Here is a view of the facility. A beautiful building, worth seeing for the splendors it holds for viewers both inside and out.

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And here is a glimpse into the show, which opens tonight, along with an explanation of the event:

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We are humbled, proud, and full of springtime elation!

We are humbled, proud, and full of springtime elation!