My New Pet: Ashlar, or Ash for Short

When my crested gecko Lex passed away this winter, I was immediately surprised by how much lonelier my house felt. It was genuinely surprising how much companionship I felt from Lex’s presence. I didn’t want to replace her, exactly, but I wanted another pet. I like a wide range of pets including cats and dogs, but I feel my current household situation is best suited for a low maintenance and quiet pet that won’t be heartbroken when I travel for artist residencies.

In the intervening years since I got Lex, I had gradually become interested in a similar species of gecko called a gargoyle gecko that’s native to the same island as crested geckos (New Calendonia). The two species are similar in a lot of ways - size, diet, temperature needs, space needs, etc. - but differ in a few key ways. Gargoyle geckos will regrow their tails if they autotomize (meaning intentionally sever their tails) whereas crested geckos won’t. The two species also have different coloration and head shape and detailing. Gargoyles are so named because they have little bumps that develop on their heads and have sharp teeth.

I decided to get a gargoyle gecko for my next pet. They are more difficult to find than crested geckos, but fortunately for me there were a few for sale from a home breeder in nearby Lawrence, KS, on Craigslist. I consulted with the seller and then arranged to pick up my new pet a few days later.

I picked up the new little one and learned that it had hatched on July 28th. You can’t determine the sex (unless you’re really skilled and have a magnification device called a loupe) until the gecko is a lot older, so I’m currently changing the pronouns back and forth at random. After I’d had him for a few days, I decided the name Ashlar was suitable - ashlar is the most finely dressed masonry, but as a name also can be shortened to Ash which also represents the tree and cinder; all three are very apropos of various color states of my new gecko. I bought Ash a new cage just in case Lex’s had a parasite or fungal infestation (though I doubt that it does, and also heavily sanitized and temperature-treated the old cage through freezing just to be totally sure) and new cage decor and plants as well.

All that being said, please meet Ash! While I know it might be hard to believe, all of the photos in the below slideshow are of just one adorable gecko who is very variable in color depending on mood, surroundings, and time of day.

My Final Lex Post

For those of you who have been frequent blog visitors or Twitter followers, you’ll know that I occasionally post about my pet crested gecko Lex. Sadly, she passed away this winter. She was only six years old, which is quite young for a crested gecko to die. The species often lives for fifteen to twenty years in captivity and sometimes even longer. In hindsight, I believe she probably got impacted, though at the time I thought she was just going through a bad shed cycle. Impaction is always a small risk when you’re keeping the animal in a planted vivarium and feeding live insects. These choices nevertheless enrich an animal’s life, too, and Lex got clear enjoyment out of the plants and insect feeders. In the end I think it was unfortunately just her time.

Lex was a great gecko and I was really sorry to lose her. Here are some photos I hadn’t yet posted that I’d like to share in celebration of her life with me.

My New Dyckia!

I get new plants fairly often, but whether it’s due to this never-ending winter we’re experiencing or the rarity of the plant, I’m especially excited about this new dyckia I recently acquired!

My first dyckia for comparison:  Dyckia marnier-lapostollei

My first dyckia for comparison: Dyckia marnier-lapostollei

First, a little background. A terrestrial bromeliad genus from South America, dyckias have very sharp teeth and are rather drought and cold tolerant though they do like frequent watering when kept in warm temperatures. Unlike many other bromeliads, they are not monocarpic (meaning flowering once and then dying). They are easily hybridized, so it can be hard to tell exactly what cultivar you’re growing if it doesn’t come with an ID. Somewhat surprisingly, they are nevertheless not commonly sold - at least in the nurseries and plant sales I’ve been to, and I’ve been to a lot in a number of different regions across the US - but they can be more easily found online.

Even when I do spot them for sale, I don’t typically scramble to get dyckias. Many of the cultivars I have seen for sale are, for my taste, not the prettiest while being too sharp, too expensive, and often too big (I have a finite amount of space so I generally prefer plants that start small and stay small). This has meant that I have had only one in my collection until recently: a small Dyckia marnier-lapostollei. I like the look of Dyckia marnier-lapostollei, particularly as it ages, and I am quite fond of my little one. (I do know I need to repot it but I’m waiting until spring actually arrives to do so.)

I was, however, extremely taken by my new dyckia when I laid eyes on it. I’ve never seen such a white, trichome-heavy dyckia available before, and its overall proportions and coloration are very striking. Even though its teeth are quite wicked, the overall size and shape of the plant make me less nervous that I’ll hurt myself on it than the threat a couple of my agaves and sansevierias present.

I’ve tried to ID this new one, but I haven’t reached a definitive conclusion. It might be Dyckia ‘White Fang’ but it also might not be - about two-thirds of the images that come up with that as the search term have no trichomes on the leaves, whereas mine is thick with them. The trichomes can be worn off by overhead watering and touching, though, so that’s not 100% indicative, and the other third of the image results do look like my new plant. (I love the thick trichomes, so I’m going to be actively trying to not knock them off.) Other ID options might be some relative to Dyckia ‘Silver Back’, Dyckia ‘Ice’, or Dyckia ‘Grey Ops’.

So without further ado, below is my new NOID dyckia!

Upcoming: Conroe Art League 4th Annual National Invitational Show

My painting Camelflage was chosen by juror Dr. Jessica Locheed for inclusion in the Conroe Art League 4th Annual National Invitational Show, which will be open from March 6 to March 30, 2019. Of the 372 pieces entered from 31 states, my work was selected as one of 72 pieces on exhibit.

The Conroe Art League and Gallery is located at 127 Simonton Street, Conroe, TX 77301. For more information about the show, please call 936-756-9572 or visit their website.

Citizens Savings & Loan Debit Card Design Scholarship

F19 debit card design.JPG

Citizens Savings & Loan has partnered with the University of Saint Mary to offer a university-branded debit card that raises money for student scholarships - and they put out a contest call a few months ago for designs. The winner was to receive a $500 scholarship and have their design printed as the inaugural card… and sophomore art major Adeline Pagan Sanchez won with the submission to the right!

Addy took the initiative to compete and worked very hard on this contest. She created and submitted a variety of designs since she wasn’t sure what aesthetic - cartoonish, sporty, refined - the selection team was looking for. Her classy, modern take on the USM spire and surrounding architecture hit the mark. Here’s a picture of us presenting her with the award, via an oversized ceremonial check!

Addy debit card c.jpg

I’m proud of her and look forward to more of her successes. For further details, check out USM’s press release, which was published in the Leavenworth Times too!

Upcoming: American Swedish Institute Arts North Exhibition

In an earlier post, I mentioned that my painting Reconnaissance won Second Place Overall in the 24th Arts in Harmony 2019 Annual International Show. Arts in Harmony 2019 has two subsequent traveling exhibitions that draw from the original show, and I was hoping that my work would be selected for either/both. Well, I learned that the traveling exhibitions are occurring simultaneously so no work can be in both of them - but I’m pleased to share that Reconnaissance was selected to be in the American Swedish Institute Arts North Exhibition from Feb 22 to Mar 17, 2019!

Here’s some information from their website:

Drawn from 680 entries from around the U.S. and five international countries,  Arts North is a popular juried competition now in its 24th year.  The 50 pieces on view at ASI, including paintings, prints, drawings, photographs, sculpture and textiles, were selected from an exhibition of 130 works shown at the Hopkins Center for the Arts.

The larger juried traveling show, modeled after the Minnesota State Fair Fine Arts competition, annually draws from approximately 700 initial entries from artists from throughout the US. who submit in various media divisions: acrylics, ceramics, glass, drawings, oils, mixed media, pastels, photography, prints, sculpture, sequential srt, textiles and watercolors.

This exhibition seeks to showcase the quality and diversity that artists bring to their work and to inspire viewers to explore ideas and learn more about options within each medium.

The American Swedish Institute is at 2600 Park Avenue South, Minneapolis, MN 55407. If you’re considering stopping by to see the Arts North Exhibition, here is the hours and admissions page from their website!

More Magazine Publications - Arkana and Fearsome Critters!

Two of my pieces, Stool Pigeon and Street Smart, were selected for publication in Fearsome Critters Volume 2. Fearsome Critters is an arts journal originally founded in association with Northwest Missouri State University but now independently run.

I also don’t think I’ve yet shared that in December my oil pastel on panel Flight was chosen for Arkana’s Issue 5. Arkana is a magazine run out of the University of Central Arkansas. I had three or four publications come out all at once and I just realized that posting about Arkana accidentally fell through the cracks - until now!

R.G. Endres Gallery Two-Person Exhibition Reception and Press

Last night was the opening reception for my two-person show at the R.G. Endres Gallery with accompanying artist Kathleen Kirch! It was an extremely cold evening - but it was nice and warm inside, with lovely Prairie Village Arts Council members and local viewers in attendance.

Here are some links to press coverage for the show:
Prairie Village Newsroom
Prairie Village Voice
ArtsKCGo

And here are a few photos! I have 35 pieces on display, so if you want to see the full show you can still visit through February 27th.

Some Houseplant Flowers!

I haven’t shared any of my houseplant flower photos in a while, so let’s rectify that! Here we have, in order from left to right and top to bottom: Ariocarpus trigonus, Epiphyllum monstrosa ‘Curly Locks’ in fruit, Sansevieria cylindrica, Sinningia cardinalis, Huernia verekeri, Mammillaria plumosa, Pleiospilos nelii ‘Royal Flush’, Mammillaria schiedeana, Dischidia platyphylla, my most loyal Saintpaulia spp. (acquired without ID from a botanical garden associates sale), an area shot of several Saintpaulia spp. and a Phalaenopsis orchid in bloom, and a Euphorbia francoisii.

Upcoming Exhibition: Two-Person Show at the R.G. Endres Gallery in Prairie Village, KS

I am excited to share that I was selected to exhibit at the R.G. Endres Gallery in the Prairie Village City Hall for the month of February in a large two-person show - I’m exhibiting 35 pieces, if that gives you a sense of the scale of the space!

(If you took a look at this post when I first published it, you’ll notice it has changed - it was initially scheduled to be a three-person show but one of the artists dropped out so I’ve edited it accordingly!)

Here’s the (revised) press release the Prairie Village Arts Council sent out:

February Exhibition at R.G. Endres Gallery

Wildlife and the beauty of the natural world will be the dominant theme of the February Exhibit at the R.G. Endres Gallery in the Prairie Village City Hall, 7700 Mission Road, Prairie Village, KS 66208. Regional artists Kathleen Kirch of Gardner and Shelby Prindaville of Leavenworth will display their works in oils, acrylics, and watercolors.

Kathleen Kirch, an avid hiker and outdoors enthusiast, relates that her paintings of wildlife are inspired by her spiritual connection to the places she has visited.  Complimenting these works, Shelby Prindaville, the Art Program Director and Assistant Professor of Art at the University of St. Mary in Leavenworth, expresses the ethereal beauty of nature in her watercolors, acrylics, and mixed media. 

The exhibit will run from February 4 through February 27 at the R.G. Endres Gallery during business hours of the City Hall.  A reception with the artists will be held on Friday, February 8; 6:00-7:00 PM.

Mistaking Animal Noises for Machinery

You should read this funny, interesting article in The Atlantic about misunderstandings that have arisen because people believe animal sounds they’re hearing must be more nefarious machinery. Here’s another story in Atlas Obscura about one town’s briefly apocalyptic experience with bullfrogs, and here’s an even more in-depth look at the cultural fallout from the New England Historical Society.

Second Place Overall in the 24th Arts in Harmony 2019 Annual International Show

I’m happy to share that my painting Reconnaissance won Second Place Overall in the 24th Arts in Harmony 2019 Annual International Show! Arts in Harmony is a broad juried international exhibition with no discipline restrictions or show theme. As you may have read in my previous post about the show, it will continue to be viewable at the Hopkins Center for the Arts, 1111 Mainstreet, Hopkins, MN 55343, through Sunday, February 17, 2019. There are two subsequent traveling shows as well, so we’ll see if my work is selected for either or both of those once the main show ends.

Winning this award was a particularly pleasing result because for a couple weeks I thought Reconnaissance might not have even made it to the gallery space and instead ended up in a pile of undeliverable mail somewhere! For the first time ever in many years of shipping, the UPS staff member who created my shipping labels accidentally voided the first label - sending it from my address to the show pickup location - from UPS’s system when they created the prepaid return label instead of adding the prepaid return to my account as a second label. This meant that even though there was a shipping label on the box, UPS itself had no tracking ability or even any documentation at all that I had shipped a box with them, and scanners wouldn’t register system information about that label either. Luckily, the workers who handled my box’s transit must have relied on the good old-fashioned paper label with addresses in order to get it to its destination, because it clearly arrived on schedule!

Publication in the Tulane Review

Two of my pieces of artwork, Balancing Act and Camelflage, were selected at the end of November for inclusion in the Fall 2018 edition of the Tulane Review. I was waiting to post about it until I could share some pictures of the actual magazine since they mentioned sending me a contributor’s copy, but it’s been a little while without seeing it in the mail and I wanted to share the news so I’ll just update if/when I receive it!

New Artwork: Catalyst

Here’s some new artwork to kick off a new year! This piece was inspired by my encounter with two octopi on my last scuba dive this summer with Silviu in Arinaga while on residency at La Pedrada de Noemí. It’s pretty unusual to see the common octopus, Octopus vulgaris, out and about during the day as they are typically nocturnal predators, but it was a very windy day with a lot of churning water and that must have drawn them out.

I have titled this piece Catalyst. It is mixed media including QuickCure Clay, aquabord panel, acrylic, and QuickCure Glaze Coating. Catalyst is capable of being displayed on a pedestal or installed on a wall. It is 13.5x14.5x6.25".

If you’re curious about the sculptural process with QCC, here are a few photos I took along the way. The first two are still in the uncured, sculpting stage and the second two are post-curing but pre-painting. I was actually quite drawn to the piece in its unpainted state, but I had to paint the panel at the very least due to its own mixed media, multicolored composition so I decided to go ahead with painting the whole piece. I might do a different version at some point that’s completely monotone, though, since I liked that quite a lot too.

Upcoming Exhibition: The 24th Arts in Harmony 2019 Annual International Show

My artwork Reconnaissance has been juried into The 24th Arts in Harmony 2019 Annual International Show! The main show will be at Hopkins Center for the Arts, 1111 Mainstreet, Hopkins, MN 55343, with show dates of Thursday, January 10 – Sunday, February 17, 2019.

There are awards and two subsequent traveling shows as well, so we’ll see if my work is selected for any of those too!

For more information, visit www.hopkinsartscenter.com

We're Getting New Public Domain Artwork

I’m a big proponent of not violating copyright - and it’s easier than ever before to catch someone who does with automated reverse image searching technology nowadays. If you use public domain works, though, then you’re in the clear! This year, we’ll be adding everything published in 1923 into the public domain!

An Interesting (and Horrifying) Cautionary Art Materials Handling Tale

This story in Toronto Life, “My Beautiful Death,” is quite interesting and appalling. Art materials are often toxic and require safe handling practices, but this tale not only deals with those practices but also with reflected fallout from our environmental mismanagement as well.