Re-entering the studio is never easy after a holiday. It always requires some time to get the flow back. This year, I decided to start back with acrylic, the most forgiving medium. I’m working on a series of pieces about the dark forest. I want it to feel like a welcoming, sheltering place rather than a forbidding one. Color is my primary vehicle to communicate this, and my reference is right out the window of my studio.

"Come In" copyright Ruth Armitage 12"x12" Acrylic on Sliver Plate

This is my piece for the Art of Communication: 100 Artist’s show at Mary Lou Zeek Gallery in February. Participating artists received a blank letter through the mail and were asked to write a thought, a story, a description or whatever they so chose and then send to their “partnered” artist. That artist then interpreted the writings that were sent to them, using the writings as their starting point for their own artwork.

My partner artist is Tory Brokenshire, who sent me a wonderful Robert Frost poem about being at the edge of the woods in the evening. This is my daily routine, and one I cherish. Our hen house sits at the edge of a woods where I go to gather the eggs each night just before dusk so that I can close them in safely for the night. The cool air and shadowy rustles are calming after a long day; and I often linger quite a while just waiting for the hens to wind their way up the little ramp to their roosts. It is always a struggle to tear myself away and come in to prepare our evening meal.

It was so flattering that Tory thinks of my art in the light of this poem. I feel that she knows my heart a little bit by viewing my art. We share this common understanding through visual communication, one that neither of us felt comfortable putting into our own words, but that Robert Frost has phrased beautifully.  This is just the feeling that I am after for my work, and it feels good to have another artist recognize it.

Come In-

As I came to the edge of the woods,
Thrush music — hark!
Now if it was dusk outside,
Inside it was dark.

Too dark in the woods for a bird
By sleight of wing
To better its perch for the night,
Though it still could sing.

The last of the light of the sun
That had died in the west
Still lived for one song more
In a thrush’s breast.

Far in the pillared dark
Thrush music went —
Almost like a call to come in
To the dark and lament.

But no, I was out for stars;
I would not come in.
I meant not even if asked;
And I hadn’t been.

-Robert Frost

This show is always full of the most creative and touching art. I always look forward to seeing what each individual comes up with, and I always want my piece to be a bit different and creative. I am so curious to see Tory’s piece! It was more difficult for me to decide what to write than it was to decide what to paint: that came quite naturally this time.

In the end, I decided to write a letter as if I were writing to a friend who knows me well, or who has visited me here, even though Tory & I have barely met. That particular week we had suffered quite a scare with our chickens. I wrote about a hawk attack that happened literally under my nose and how we averted a disaster by quick action. How would you interpret that in an art piece?

I hope you’ll join me for the Artist’s Reception: February 1 5-7 p.m. at Mary Lou Zeek’s – 335 State St., Salem, OR 97301. The show will run from February 1- March 3, 2012.


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