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musings from the studio and beyond ~

dawn chandler’s reflections on art and life. . . .

 

we can only hold so much

We Can Only Hold So Much headline banner of collaged images by Dawn Chandler

 

I’d been on the verge of tears all day.
I didn’t know why, for the day before I’d felt fine.

But then, later, at the grocery store checkout, my bag of bulk lentils snagged on my shopping cart and exploded in a shower on the floor.
I lost it. Not there — no; I helped clean it up with calm if embarrassed presence.
It was when I got to my car, and climbed into the driver’s seat, my eyes welled and my throat felt sharp.

Everything just seemed so heavy.

The waste.

Disappointments.

Holiday exhaustion.

Back aches and wrist aches and eye aches.

The unimaginable, unbearable reality of more shootings, more wildfires, more environmental degradation, more trauma to our fellow beings, our fellow souls.

And then there was this:

I miss my parents.

Their absence always echoes loudest this time of year…

But maybe most piercing of all in my day-to-day:

 
 

My dog is getting old.

 

… and imagining her gone just then had me gulping sobs…

 
 

Wilson, Dawn Chandler's sweet Taos Purebred black mutt, Wilson, who is almost 12.

 

I sat there in my sorrow in my car in the parking lot and let it spill out.

We can only hold so much.

. . . . . . . . .

. . . . . .

. . .

Real despondency for me is rare.
I used to let sadness overtake me more. But changing how I nourish myself in body and soul has made despair an infrequent visitor.
Indeed, my observation is that eating poorly (lots of sugar and processed foods) can trigger emotional roller-coasters.
I also tend to believe that one’s ego is the source of most of one’s suffering.
And that screen time in many way feeds ego time. Too much of others’ chatter hypes up the chatter in one’s own head.

What I also believe is that there’s nothing like being outside and breathing deeply of fresh, clean air to clear the mind and rejuvenate the spirit.

Yet I hadn’t been outside nearly enough recently. My Sweet Pup (now 11.5 yrs) has a gimpy leg, so our daily walks have had to be shortened to just a fraction of what they used to be.

I needed a long walk in fresh air.
I needed no screens.
I needed no consumerism, no holiday thrumming.

. . .

. . . . . .

. . . . . . . . .

Two days later, I set out to seek out the presence of ancients, the embrace of old wisdom.

I went to where the December sun soaks ocher canyon walls with heat, where no sound murmurs but the trickle of river song, breezes brushing up whispers of spirits.

The ancients cliffs shadows of Bandelier National Monument, as observed by artist Dawn Chandler

 

I went there to be enriched by the lack of riches.

To climb a ladder and crawl into a cave and stare out through a sacred circle of blue sky.

 

A ladder leading to an ancient dwelling at Bandelier National Monument as photographed by artist Dawn Chandler

shadows and light as seen from within one of the ruins at Bandelier National Monument, as observed by artist Dawn Chandler

 

More shadows and light as seen from within one of the ruins at Bandelier National Monument, as observed by artist Dawn Chandler

 

I walked, carrying on my back my sustenance.a thermos filled with lentils and a basil makes for a delicious lunch.
Come midday with the sun warming my neck, I sat on a bench among tall Ponderosa pines. Giving a turn of my thermos lid, I dug deeply with a spoon into my warm vessel of now nourishing — rather than tear-inducing — lentils.

As I sat there eating in silence, I noticed a jolting movement in the grey brown woods around me.

Then another small jolt …. and another. And another.

I was surrounded by nuthatches.

Everywhere I looked there was another nuthatch — and another.

white-breasted nuthatches are abundant in December and year-round at Bandelier National Monument. Photo by Sally King.

white-breasted nuthatch ~ photo by Sally King

Suddenly my mother’s spirit was beside me, taking in the wonderment of December birds, as we gazed together into the woods with delight.

My father’s spirit was not far away — his was lingering at every placard, reading, learning, all that he could about this magical place.

Some things never change.

 

And yet all is always changing.

Petroglyphs and ancient architectural beauty found at Bandelier National Monument as photographed by artist Dawn Chandler

 

But on this day…..

On this day I received a tiny gift from a stranger.

By a chance acquaintance I was enriched with poetry and cranes.

My aches evaporated, my thoughts cleared in the warm December sunlight.

On this day I was reminded of the delights to be witnessed in stillness and awareness, under open sky in secluded canyons.

 

The beautiful delicacy of dried flowers against the ancient architectural beauty found at Bandelier National Monument as photographed by artist Dawn Chandler

 

The tall cliffs and dwellings of Bandelier National Monument, photographed by artist Dawn Chandler

 

Later I was reminded of the pleasure of old and enduring friendships.

And come evening I was greeted by an old gimpy pup, who, after a day of rest wanted nothing more than to play, like the young puppy she believes herself still to be.

We played and played and played. Joyfully. Ferociously. Gleefully.

After a day away, I had work to do — spreadsheets to tally, photos to tweak, correspondences to return.

But while my sweet pup’s snores whispered to me from her bed like the trickle of the morning stream, I put my screens away, and opened a long neglected sketchbook instead.

artist Dawn Chandler's watercolor palette and sketchbook

 

Blessed be the day of tears, for it brought me to this, this magical day.

Namaste.

 

an inviting picnic spot at Bandelier National Monument.

 

a half-moon of snow shadow photographed by artist Dawn Chandler


 

artist Dawn Chandler's shadowed silhouette against the canyon wall at Bandelier

Thank you for reading my blog and appreciating my musings

If you enjoy my posts and know others who might enjoy them too, please feel free to share this.

Blessings ~

Dawn Chandler

p.s.: You can find more of my stories, insights and art via my Inside the Studio Notes — and of course here on my website, www.taosdawn.com, as well as on Instagram and Facebook.

 


All photos & paintings throughout this blog are by Dawn Chandler unless otherwise noted.

 

baldy mountain ~ high country snow ~ new painting & print

I interrupt the steady stream of weekend crane painting posts to share the gift of snow — High Country Snow.

Limited edition prints of High Country Snow - Philmonts Baldy Mountain — by New Mexico artist Dawn ChandlerHigh Country Snow ~ by Dawn Chandler ~ limited edition prints (as well as the painting) now available.

 

I don’t know the exact calendar, but it seems snow this season first fell on the high peaks of Northern New Mexico in early November — maybe even late October. (Now that I think of of it, Yes, it snowed on Halloween…)

What astonishes me is that there has been a constant cap of snow in the high country for weeks and weeks leading into Christmas.

In my quarter-century of living in New Mexico, I have never seen the mountains covered this consistently with late autumn snow like this.

As I write this, more snow is coming.

First morning light before the snow this week in Santa Fe. Photo by artist Dawn Chandler

Sunrise from my home in Santa Fe, with snow on the way…

 

You know the old wisdom:

Red sky at morning, sailors take warning.

Out here in the land of drought and fire I propose a revision:

Red sky at dawn, rivers rush on.

Rain. Snow. We depend on them.
And so with every fresh white cloaking of the mountains, I utter a silent prayer of thanks.

And of course this time of year, when snow touches the mountains, they just seem dreamlike on account of their frosting.”

As a Northeastern girl, with gorgeous childhood memories of white Christmases, every year the romantic in me hopes upon hope for snow on December 24th.

Blanketed in snow, the childhood home in central New Jersey, of artist Dawn Chandler

My childhood home in central New Jersey.

 

But even if Christmas weren’t part of the equation, there’s something about snow in the high peaks that touches off the romantic in me. ‘Hard to look to those white slopes and not dream of cozy cabins, crackling fires, warm libations and candlelight.

Brings to mind a favorite snowy ballad…

The lamp is burnin’ low upon my table top
The snow is softly fallin’
The air is still within the silence of my room
I hear your voice softly callin’

If I could only have you near
To breathe a sigh or two
I would be happy just to hold the hands I love
Upon this winter night with you

The smoke is rising in the shadows overhead
My glass is almost empty
I read again between the lines upon the page
The words of love you sent me

If I could know within my heart
That you were lonely too
I would be happy just to hold the hands I love
Upon this winter night with you

The fire is dying now, my lamp is growing dim
The shades of night are liftin’
The mornin’ light steals across my windowpane
Where webs of snow are driftin’

If I could only have you near
To breathe a sigh or two
I would be happy just to hold the hands I love
And to be once again with with you
To be once again with with you

(That is, of course, “Song for A Winter’s Night” by Gordon Lightfoot.)

 

These are among the many thoughts drifting like snow through my mind as I consider my most recent painting, High Country Snow.

High Country Snow — Philmont's Baldy Mountain, oil painting by New Mexico artist Dawn Chandler, based on a photo by Douglas FaschingHigh Country Snow
by Dawn Chandler
oil on panel ~ 18″ x 24″

As if I even have to tell most of you that this is the 12,441 ft. Baldy Mountain in Colfax County, New Mexico — Philmont’s Baldy Mountain (as opposed to, say, Santa Fe’s Baldy Mountain, or any of the surely dozens of other “Baldy Mts. in this country!)

My friend (and ace photographer) Douglas Fasching sent me a photo of this scene years ago, and I’ve been meaning to attempt a painting of it ever Funny thing is he caught this image in April — so this is a springtime snow. But April’s snows are maybe even more valued than late autumn snows, dampening and nourishing as they do the parched springtime wind-sucked high desert earth.

Doesn’t matter.

Snow is snow and it’s always welcome here.Numbering of Dawn Chandler's latest print edition ~ High Country Snow

And so this painting High Country Snow is a tribute to that rare sight of snow-capped mountains in New Mexico. And after this year’s brutal Ute Park Fire summer fire across the heart of Philmont, this painting is, well, a sort of prayer, too.
A prayer for a whole lot more snow and rain to come to New Mexico in the new year, and bring green back to the high desert….

I’ve created a very limited edition of 12 medium (12″ x 16″) and 24 small (7.5″ x 10″) prints of High Country Snow; find them here.

And, of course, the original 18″ x 24″ oil painting is available, too — right here.

Or just go shop around at my online store at etsy.com/shop/dawnchandlerstudio

More cranes coming soon….

Meanwhile, LET IT SNOW, LET IT SNOW, LET IT SNOW!

detail of High Country Snow, Dawn Chandler's recent painting of Philmont's Baldy Mountain, shrouded in fresh snow.

 


Thanks so much for reading my blog and appreciating my art!
If you enjoy my musings here, and know others who might enjoy them too, please share this post!

Also, I invite you to discover more of my stories, insights and art via my Inside the Studio Notes — and of course here on my website, www.taosdawn.com. You can also find me on Instagram and Facebook.

Blessings ~

Dawn Chandler


All photos & paintings throughout this blog are by Dawn Chandler unless otherwise noted.

 

 

celebrating grace ~ their voices reach me and I ascend ~ crane painting, viii

Their Voices Reach Me and I Ascend, mixed media contemporary landscape painting, 7th of the Crane Series paintings by Dawn Chandler

This is a painting about joy. About uplift.

About climbing out of a chaos, and finding clarity, finding your way.

And then — and THEN! listening for your better angels, and spreading your wings.

Remember Walking Into the Storm with Arms Open Wide?

This is climbing out of that storm.

The storm of the world is a riot, a cacophony, a tangle of activity

How do we make sense of it? How do we focus? How do we find our way with so many distractions.

I don’t know the answers to those questions.
But I speak a lot about pausing, about taking a deep breath.
And when the world and responsibilities press, and all seems confused and deafening, I find those deep breaths always reveal a passageway — a ladder.

 

Detail of an abstract pink ladder, tip of a crane wing, and ghosted background text from Their Voices Reach Me and I Ascend, mixed media contemporary landscape painting, 7th of the Crane Series paintings by Dawn Chandler

 

And with each deep breath — each step on the ladder — the larger your wings grow.

And then — and THEN! at some point as you’re climbing out, you look back, and see how, despite the darkness and thunder of that messy tangle of a storm, you see how in certain light those shadows — those dark clouds — now have an iridescence, a glimmering of myriad colors.
When you were in the storm, you couldn’t see color. You only saw darkness, you only heard noise.

 

Detail of earthy background colors in Their Voices Reach Me and I Ascend, mixed media contemporary landscape painting, 7th of the Crane Series paintings by Dawn Chandler

Detail of background blue and ghosted text in Their Voices Reach Me and I Ascend, mixed media contemporary landscape painting, 7th of the Crane Series paintings by Dawn Chandler

But now can look back and see those colors, and with each deep breath those storm hues dissolve
into you as you stretch

and rise

and expand

into open sky.

There will be more storms, of course.

 

Detail of background blue and crane’s wing tip in Their Voices Reach Me and I Ascend, mixed media contemporary landscape painting, 7th of the Crane Series paintings by Dawn Chandler

 

But there will also be more ladders.

More color, more song,

More currents filled with deep-breathed wings

 

Their Voices Reach Me and I Ascend, mixed media on panel, 7th of the Crane Series paintings by Dawn Chandler

Their Voices Reach Me & I Ascend
by Dawn Chandler
mixed media on panel ~ 16″ x 12″
This painting is available here

 


Thanks so much for reading my blog and appreciating my art.
If you enjoy my musings here, and know others who might enjoy them too, please share this post!

Also, I invite you to discover more of my stories, insights and art via my Inside the Studio Notes — and of course here on my website, www.taosdawn.com. You can also find me on Instagram and Facebook.

Blessings ~

Dawn Chandler


All photos & paintings throughout this blog are by Dawn Chandler unless otherwise noted.

an evening line of cranes flying home to roost at the Bosque del Apache National Wildlife Refuge, photo by artist Dawn Chandler

 

celebrating grace ~ they lift me ~ crane painting, vii

They Lift Me - contemporary mixed media landscape painting celebrating the sandhill cranes by New Mexico artist Dawn Chandler

There are several quiet conversations going on in this painting.

Between the coral figure and the blue figure;

Between the large cranes and the small cranes;

Between the people and the cranes;

I think they’re all taking about flying.

Don’t those wings just lift you?

They do, me.
They lift my spirit.
Lift my heart.
Lift my thoughts, my mood… my dreams…

I find it impossible to look to soaring wings and not be uplifted.

…..

Something to note about figures when I include them in my paintings is that I don’t usually see them as anyone in particular. So even though the shape of that blue figure is the silhouette of my mother from an old photograph as I shared here, in this painting that figure could me anyone: You, me, him, her….  Same with the coral figure.

Really, the figures stand as an invitation to you the viewer, to imagine yourself in the form of the figure, stepping into and experiencing the painting. That blue figure — note how their feet are placed — seems literally to step into the picture plane.a detail of the painting They Lift Me - contemporary mixed media landscape painting celebrating the sandhill cranes by New Mexico artist Dawn Chandler

Something else to consider: The cranes are the same color as the central figure. Are they cut of the same cloth? Made of the same fiber, the same breath?

And the coral figure seems the same hue as the smaller birds. Are they catching the glow of the setting sun? or perhaps the rising sun? Why are they smaller — is it because they are younger, or perhaps they are just further away?

By the way, have you noticed the third figure? Look carefully at that brownish-red color, and you may notice the outline of a woman, slightly turned, as if glancing to look over her shoulder to the cranes.

And then there’s a coyote or wolf figure who seems to howl in the center of the painting. He was unplanned — I only just now noticed him…..

This painting, I think is about dreams — the kind of dreams that lift us, and invite us to stretch our wings and fly, fly….fly….

 

a crane detail of the painting They Lift Me - contemporary mixed media landscape painting celebrating the sandhill cranes by New Mexico artist Dawn Chandler

 

a detail of crane wings in the painting They Lift Me - contemporary mixed media landscape painting celebrating the sandhill cranes by New Mexico artist Dawn Chandler

 

another crane detail in the painting They Lift Me - contemporary mixed media landscape painting celebrating the sandhill cranes by New Mexico artist Dawn Chandler

 

a detail of two figures and a crane in the painting They Lift Me - contemporary mixed media landscape painting celebrating the sandhill cranes by New Mexico artist Dawn Chandler

 

one of the figures is made of text against a sky blue background in the painting They Lift Me - contemporary mixed media landscape painting celebrating the sandhill cranes by New Mexico artist Dawn Chandler

 

the full painting - They Lift Me - contemporary mixed media landscape painting celebrating the sandhill cranes by New Mexico artist Dawn Chandler

They Lift Me ~ by Dawn Chandler
mixed media on paper mounted on panel ~ 16″ x 12″
This painting is available here.

 

 

Thank you  for reading my blog. If you enjoy my musings here, please feel free to share this post!

Also, I invite you to discover more of my stories, insights and art on Instagram, Facebook and via my Inside the Studio Notes — and of course here on my website, www.taosdawn.com

Blessings ~

Dawn Chandler


All photos & paintings throughout this blog are by Dawn Chandler unless otherwise noted.

celebrating grace ~ mysterious figure revealed ~ crane painting, vi

 

Perhaps it’s time now to reveal this mysterious figure who keeps appearing in these, my crane paintings.

 

collage grid of four mixed media paintings with mysterious figures - paintings by Dawn Chandler

 

That figure is my mother.

My mother, who grew up in New England, married my father, who grew up in New Jersey. They met in college and were married in 1954, a year after they graduated. They were married for 53 years, before my mother succumbed to breast cancer in 2007.

Their first few years of marriage though, they lived in New York City while my father attended medical school — just an hour or two drive from the Appalachian Mountains of New York, New Jersey and Pennsylvania — the landscape where my father, in his youth, had become a passionate outdoorsman.

And now in those newlywed years, my father had the supreme joy of sharing his beloved mountains with his best friend.

As I look through my parents’ crumbling photo albums from their early years together, I find pages of black-and-white photos of forest trails and mountain views.

 

Photo c. 1955 looking west from the AT into Lehigh Gap taken by Stephen Chandler, father of artist Dawn Chandler

 

And always there are happy young adults — my youthful parents and a couple of friends or family members, exploring the woods and gathered round rustic campsites. Their gear is almost inconceivable today: wicker leather-strapped packs, canvas tents, metal pots covered in fire soot. Cotton dungarees, flannel shirts, hand-knit wool sweaters and scarves. Leather boots.

 

Hiking the AT c. 1955 ~ photo taken by Stephen Chandler, father of artist Dawn Chandler

 

At a shelter along the AT, c. 1955 - Hiking the AT c. 1955 ~ photo taken by Stephen Chandler, father of artist Dawn Chandler

My father, Steve, on the left, with friends.

 

An aura of contentedness rises up from these pages, and with that, a tug of yearning in my heart.
I want to transport myself into these photos and hike with them.

I know these forests, for these are the same woods in which I learned to be an outdoorswoman. Where my parents and brothers taught me how to build a fire, pitch a tent. Where I learned the deep, deep satisfaction of a warming beverage after a long day on the trail, and the equally deep comfort of campfire conversations with family and friends.

Yet while all these visions of camaraderie speak to me, there’s one photo that just makes me catch my breath.

 

Artist Dawn Chandler's mother, Marion Chandler, looking off at an expansive view along the AT c. 1955 - photo taken by Stephen Chandler

My mother, Marion.

 

What is it about this photo of my mother pausing during a winter hike and being contemplative as she takes in the view before her that moves me so?

In part it’s knowing that my father took the photo. That he looked up from whatever he was doing, and captured this tender, poetic moment of his beloved.

But also because I see myself here.

I am she and she is me.

And I think how often I have stood solitary, staring out into the distance in silent wonder, lost in my thoughts, lost in the view. Reflecting on the past, dreaming of the future… taking a deep breath of gratitude, of presence….

 

Detail of 'I am she and she is me' mixed media painting by artist Dawn Chandler

.

And now I lift her from the stillness of these faded family memories, and bring her to life again among the cranes.

Did I mention she loved birds?

I remember seeing her out in a snowstorm distributing birdseed to all of the feeders around our yard.

I don’t think she ever saw a Sandhill crane.

But you know if she had, she would have been as enraptured of them as is her daughter.

 

Detail of 'I am she and she is me' mixed media painting by artist Dawn Chandler

 

Detail of 'I am she and she is me' mixed media painting by artist Dawn Chandler

 

Detail of 'I am she and she is me' mixed media painting by artist Dawn Chandler

 

Detail of 'I am she and she is me' mixed media painting by artist Dawn Chandler

 

'I am she and she is me' mixed media painting by artist Dawn Chandler

I Am She and She Is Me ~ by Dawn Chandler
mixed media on panel ~ 6″ x 12″
Collection of the artist

 

But of course in these paintings, my mother’s figure represents each one of us… lost in thought, lost in the view. Reflecting on the past, dreaming of the future… taking a deep breath of gratitude, of presence.

 

collage grid of four mixed media paintings with mysterious figures - paintings by Dawn Chandler

 


 

Blessings to you all.

May you have much to be grateful for this Thanksgiving.

Thank you for being part of my blog tribe. It means a lot to me.

Namaste ~

~ Dawn

 

a pair of sandhill cranes winging against a winter sunset at the bosque del apache - photo by dawn chandler