"Stars on the Water - the Oil Spill: 5 of Paring Knives in the Kitchen Tarot." all views.

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Stars on the Water full view. ©Susan Shie 2010.

"Stars on the Water (the oil spill) / Five of Paring Knives in the Kitchen Tarot. ©Susan Shie 2010
86"h x 79"w. #390. Peace Cozy #34.
Began sketches 6-11-10, began painting 6-22-10. Finished art quilt 8-11-10.

Whole cloth painting on fabric. Beginning large black freehand drawing lines and colors applied with my Aztek double action airbrush, then writing with my Silkpaint.com airpen and black fabric paint. Machine crazy grid quilted. One row of hand sewing inside edge of border, using hand dyed Artfabrik.com perle cotton. One Green Temple Buddha Boy bead, one Pink Buddha Girl bead. One Peace Cozy appliqué. Nature-fil bamboo and cotton batting.  Backing fabrics include Lunn Fabrics Artisan Batiks.

This is my large piece about the Gulf Oil Spill, after making two small paintings about it and quilting one of them for my SAQA auction piece "Heal the Gulf." The small pieces became the impetus for the elaborated imagery for this large one, so they are connected in theme and visuals, as well.

I airbrushed the basic black line drawing on a 84 x 79" panel of white fabric I'd sewn together.  I'd made many sketches, to expand the composition way beyond the basic look and feel of the two small pieces. Then I set the sketches aside, with a few to sneak peeks at, while I was drawing the big image directly on the white kona cotton surface. That’s probably the most exciting and most scary part of my work, since whatever I draw right then is what it’s going to be for the whole piece. Drawing it with the airbrush and painting it in with airbrush colors only take me about three days, of the two months or so of the piece’s making. It’s the airpen writing that takes the biggest part of the work time, but that’s fine with me.

My granddaughter Eva had been with me all through the weekend before I made my airbrush drawing and painting, and we had made some ocean drawings together, which helped warm me up for this work. I LOVE Eva's drawing style at age five and a half! (Five and three quarters, sorry!  She’ll be six on October 22, 2010.) Jimmy was gone, fishing up in Grayling, MI, on his annual fly fishing adventure for 10 days, so it was just Eva and me and the start of this piece about the oil spill.

The last part of the long title for this piece is “5 of Paring Knives in the Kitchen Tarot."  Besides being about the oil spill, this is another minor card in my Kitchen Tarot series, and paring knives are MY suit of Swords.  I pull a card at random each time I’m ready to start a new Minor Arcana piece, so I don’t know what suit or what number will turn up, but this one really fits the oil spill well. The 5 of Swords traditional tarot card shows a guy clutching two swords, with one more at his feet and two farther away, near two other guys, who are fleeing. They’ve lost their swords to this guy, who looks like a scoundrel.  It’s about deception and trickery winning out up til now, but the future for these men is up in the air.  Will they come back and get their belongings back from him, or will he continue to bully them?  BP, anyone???

But I didn’t want my painting images to be about guys and swords, and anyhow, I already told you that my Swords for the Kitchen Tarot are Paring Knives: handy little kitchen tools, not weapons.

My paring knives ended up being the trunks of five big palm trees on the horizon of the scene of oil and stars both on the water. (The stars are for hope for a return of beauty and magic.)  My palms reminded me of the new wind turbines, once I’d painted them, so they show the future on the horizon, with the strength and sturdiness of the paring knives as their trunks.

A beautiful mermaid is playing a guitar and singing. She’s the main character (my daughter Gretchen.) She’s singing healing to the whole Guilf Coast, the waters, and all living things caught up in this oil spill disaster.  At her feet (ok, her tail) are Eva and me, based on the last drawing Eva made and gave to me, when she went home from our special weekend together in June. It was of her and me with a big wave-like rainbow connecting us.  I took the liberty of copying her idea and giving us musical instruments, so we could accompany Gretchen’s music-making.  My drawing of us is not nearly as good as hers, but it’s at least “after the style of” Eva Miller.

A happy Sun face in the sky is reminiscent of the suns drawn by Eva and me both, and of the suns Gretchen drew when she was little. I’m loving this stage of Eva’s joyful artmaking!

I used tropical and luminous colors, including greens, blues, yellows, red handles on the paring knives, and lavender hair on my Gretchen-mermaid. The oil is not so pretty, of course.  I took the idea for all the little puddles of oil from the 5 of Swords card in the Sakki-Sakki Tarot, though I normally don’t lift any image ideas from other people’s decks.  Not sure what Monicka Cleo Sakki had in mind when she drew those blobs on the water, but they sure resonated with me as oil slicks!

Of course the airpen stories I wrote in small cursive writing all over this piece have mostly to do with the oil spill news coming out each day.  Eventually I not only referenced the date I was writing, but also the number of days it had been since the Deepwater Horizon well blew up on April 20, 2010. Of course I reported about the 11 deaths from the rig exploding and sinking, and also about animals who got caught in the oil, like the sea turtles and pelicans.  I quoted news articles with statistics of how much oil was gushing out per day – stats which kept rising as more and more evidence came out, eventually showing that this was the worst oil disaster in world history, not just in the Gulf, not just in the USA. You can read the timeline of the drama on Wikipedia, with all kinds of shocking stories, many of which are included in my writing on “Stars on the Water.”

That name popped into my head when Eve and I were starting a very large marker drawing of the oil spill one day that weekend in June, when she was here alone with me.  I told her we should put some stars on the water, to give it hope for healing.  Then several days later, I was listening to some Jimmy Buffett music, and the song of that title came on. I looked up the lyrics, and the song, written by Rodney Crowell, is about the lights of nightlife bars reflecting on the Gulf waters! How perfect as a source for the image, though my title idea came ahead of remembering the song.

Here are some of the many things I wrote about on this piece: The Deepwater Horizon well belonging to BP, blew up on April 20, and the location was about 40 miles from the Mississippi River delta in the Guilf of Mexico, exactly at: 28.736628º N latitude and 88.365997º W longitude; June 18-21, Eva and Tazia stayed with me that June weekend (their first time together);  Rene and I went on an adventure to get her a Trac-Phone on June 25; mysterious and deadly, huge oil plumes forming under water in the Gulf;  the G-20 Summit in Toronto in late June; some weird guy on You Tube ranting about the oil spill really being a volcano, and then ranting into Bible quotes…; Jimmy gave his first Powerpoint talk about his leather work in Grayling (unless you count the one he gave here in Wooster to his Trout Unlimited group a few weeks earlier); I finished Michener’s “Alaska,” a wonderful and long book, and started Eleanor Roosevelt’s autobiography; on June 26 a judge who has stock in oil companies turned down Obama’s 6-month ban on oil drilling in the Gulf; the ictox-1 oil spill in the Gulf in 1979 had many of the same unsuccessful attempts to stop the oil gushing that they’re using now on this one; I signed a Greenpeace drill ban petition that went to Congress; Eva called to tell me she saw a rainbow over her house (like the one she’d drawn for me. This took us up through June 27.

More stories on the piece are about:  Save Christmas Run Pool group was on the evening news on TV on June 28, because we worked hard and kept our city pool open for this year and next; Senator Robert Byrd died at 92, being the longest serving Senator ever; Jimmy came home; I wrote Ohio Sen. John Boccieri’s letter about the oil spill on the mermaid’s purple hair; we went to see our friends Mary Helen and Kenny and see her solo art show; we had our 20th wedding anniversary. (that was June 30.)

I put Senator Byrd’s obituary on the piece; the crazy-huge use of chemical dispersants on the oil spill and how the EPA is trying to get BP to use less of them; on July 2 Jimmy Buffett was interviewed by Anderson Cooper re the oil spill, in a walk along Gulf Shores beach in Mississippi; ecos are trying to prevent sea turtles being burnt alive while crews burn the oil slicks; a huge tanker named A Whale comes to the Gulf to skim the oil, but eventually its tests fail and they don’t use it; the government starts a web site to explain the new Health Care law; memory of four-year-old Gretchen and me getting sprayed by bug-spray airplane early one morning on the beach of Sanibel Island, Florida in 1975; the Fourth of July was the 76th day of the oil spill, with oil just gushing away; I found out that a lot of Brits don’t sympathize with BP and are calling for UK arts institutions to stop taking money from them, re ethics; scientists begin a study of whales in the oil spill and a blimp comes to help spot the slicks better; the Dalai Lama turned 75 on July 6.

I had a Turtle Art Camp with two students, Jennifer and Wilma, from Ontario, Canada from July 7-13, so took a writing-on-the-painting  hiatus; Haiti’s terrible condition 6 months after the January 12 earthquake; a new cap will be put on the Deepwater Horizon’s broken wellhead; the Wall Street / Bank Reform bill passed the Sanate 60-39 on July 15, with Obama signing it July 22; GEM will be here for 5 days, for the Snyder Ice Cream Supper and their Ohio staycation; on July 22 the jobless benefits bill finally passed Congress, extending unemployment benefits; FDA worker Shirley Sherrod was framed and lost her job, due to a fraudulent video clip on Fox News; my news hero Daniel Schorr died July 23 at 93, working on NPR til the end; I quote some of his remarks about the oil spill; the cap on the well, which they put on on July 15, is holding – we’re all amazed, after all the attempts that failed to stop the leak; on July 25 Denny Fairchild and I did a two-hour Tarot Guild radio interview about the Kitchen Tarot, which came out as a 22-card deck of my Major Arcana pieces, in late July; I’m adding news and pix to the Facebook page called Kitchen Tarot Café, that Denny started for us; Tony Hayward will resign as BP CEO, due to his handling of the oil spill; Spain’s Contador won the Tour de France; Jimmy fixed all four mailboxes of our neighbors and us; and I’m packing 21 major pieces of my work for my UK show at the Festival of Quilts in August, which I then shipped on Aug 5. Scary to ship all those quilts in two big boxes!

Then I made a backing panel for this big painting to make it into an art quilt, and I used fabrics that reminded me of things like: the blowing up well, the water before it got oiled up; and the water with oil floating around in it. I’ve never thought about symbolism so much in making a baking fabric before. Next I spent a week or so putting the layers together and randomly machine sewing my “crazy grids,” with about 400 safety pins holding the whole thing together. On Aug 8 I was back to airpen writing:

Elena Kagan got sworn into the Supreme Court on Aug 7t; the well’s static kill (pumping mud and cement into it from the top) was Aug 3 and 4, and it’s still not leaking. We’re all still amazed;  Aug 4, Obama’s 49th birthday, was the 107th day since the oil well blew up; everyone’s speculating on how long it’ll take for the Gulf to recover from the spill, with some people now downplaying the damage it caused; GEM visited Aug 6 and 7, and I started a new Kitchen Tarot deck as drawings made with Bic pens – the start was the first card, the Colander / Fool; Eva thought the blue stripe Rita had put in my short haircut would be many blue stripes and made me a drawing of what she had pictured. It looked very Egyptian, and reminded me of the photo Gretchen had sent me of Eva in a Cleopatra outfit, dressing up at her girlfriend’s party. There is good in the world, besides all the sorrow of war and pollution and greed!

I saw an Anderson Cooper news story, in which he was back pedalling and almost apologizing for having exaggerated the depths of the oil spill crisis, one night after the leak was finally stopped, nearly 100 days after the blowout.  Many of us feel there will be a long time of healing necessary for the Gulf region to regain its balance and normal life, from the oysters and shrimp to the wetlands’ soil, to the people’s occupations.  I hope the ban on drilling continues (which it has, since Obama won in an appeal of the decision of that judge who has oil interests.)  I hope this terrible episode in world history will be the impetus to get the whole world into really pushing for clean energy, like wind power.

Look at those palm trees in my painting, with their wise and utilitarian little paring knife trunks, and focus anything you can on helping make our world a safe place for oysters, sea turtles, pelicans, dolphins, all other animals, and people. We shouldn’t have to keep having oil spills, in order to know that oil’s time is up.  Time to make the Earth healed again, and you know, we can do it. We just have to think about what’s right, not what’s profitable. Many new jobs will come from retooling for the new energies, and besides, we’ll all be a lot healthier, whether we’re employed or not! Think beyond your wallet, to the Earth, to the Future. You’ll want to be there.  Make healing, not war.

--  Susan Shie, August 12, 2010, Wooster, Ohio   

Stars on the Water detail view. ©Susan Shie 2010.


Stars on the Water detail view. ©Susan Shie 2010.


Stars on the Water detail view. ©Susan Shie 2010.


Stars on the Water detail view. ©Susan Shie 2010.
Stars on the Water detail view. ©Susan Shie 2010.

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Susan Shie

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