I am thankful for the beautiful spaces of my home and my work that flow with people and the opportunity they offer to witness as we celebrate happy things, mourn our losses, commiserate on worldly matters, or laugh out loud over the perfect madness of life on Earth
I am thankful for a community that rallies when one of us needs something we can not do alone
I am thankful when cancer fails at its job to wreck a life
I am thankful for the change agents who make loud noises about things and wake others up to the fact that the old system no longer works and it is time find a better way
I am thankful to the Universe that has coaxed and cajoled and led and dragged me towards the next and the next and the next small and large adventure in my life
I am thankful to the ever growing circle of family and friends who have arrived at my door on the road of love and for my chance to welcome them in
I am thankful for the gifts of music and art and word crafting and food creation that keep my soul skipping like a kid to their wild playgrounds
I am thankful for this new day where there is another chance for hard hearts and closed tight minds to open and stay that way
I am thankful for the rich and funny, small and large conversations I have had with friends, loved ones and strangers that brought baskets of ideas and inexplicable joy
And I am thankful for my life and the thousand things that allow me to dream something that is not there now and the ability to make them happen
A few years ago, when Betsy Ernst started talking about raising money so we could open our own Pottery Studio here at the Northport Arts Association I had one of those full body shivers. The kind that rattles your soul a bit and whispers in your ear, “Pay attention! This is gonna be good!”
The last time my hands were covered in slip and happily shaping things from clay was way back in the early 1970s out in Scottsdale, Arizona.
My good friend who had moved there from Morristown, New Jersey had gotten a brand new neighbor. When he introduced me to Sissy, she was unpacking her things after relocating from Asbury Park. Her former roommate back home was dating some musician named Springsteen. I wonder what happened to that guy. Sissy was a free bird, hippy-dippy chick like me and amongst her moving treasures were stained glass making tools and clay things.
She shared a lot of skills and we had a great time getting messy and making art. Life happened and things changed as they always do. Divorce. Moving North. Moving South. Remarriage. Kids. Work. Moving North again. Kids launching out into the world. Moving farther North. You know the drill. Somewhere along the road, things just filled in the space where clay used to live.
So here I am now, four days away from jumping into a clay class with the NAA teacher, Tina Greco and I am ridiculously excited!
When my kids asked me what I wanted for Christmas last year, I announced that I was going to take clay classes at the brand new NAA Clay Studio after the wedding season was over at Willowbrook. My son presented me with a clay tool set that has way too much stuff in it but I’m eventually going to use every single thing.
The point is that a lot of us left things that brought us joy somewhere back along the road and until the Universe drops a big sign in front of us, we sort of forget what we used to love.
Anticipating these classes is like remembering a song I loved. I can hum the tune, but I’ve forgotten the words. I’m thinking that when I get in there with Tina guiding me, the words will come back again and I’ll be singing some clay pieces to life with the same joy I had when I was 22.
It’s a great time to check out the classes at the Northport Arts Association! We’re growing more every day and the variety of classes is impressive! Renew your membership if you’ve let it lapse or get over here and join us!
Find your joy again and let’s see what’s been hiding in your artistic soul waiting to be asked to come out into the light.
There’s a quiet beauty in entering a creative person’s maker space.
A rough pencil sketch on a scrap of manilla drawing paper. Jars with carefully cleaned brushes that still hold just a whisper of Viridian oil paint near the ferrule. A box of pastel chalks; the pinks unused, while colors for shading nature rest as nubs and bits and powder. Tupperware boxes filled with used oil tubes that give away the color source of farm fields and rolling clouds out over the bay.
You can see which were the most beloved colors in the way the tubes had been rolled to get every last bit of Ultramarine Blue, Indigo, Prussian and Horizon. Just a few in the arsenal of blues that let him give the world what I now identify as a “Gene Rantz Sky”.
Last Saturday, Betsy Ernst and I went to Gene’s studio at the invitation of Bill Rantz, Gene’s son. He wanted us to pick some things for the Gene & Judy Rantz Youth Foundation Scholarship program at NAA. We gathered books, paper, brushes, paints and other things our young students can use.
We took our time looking around the studio while we chatted with Bill & Colleen Rantz and Lisa, from the estate auction house. Among the things left there, waiting … ready to get back to the making, there were books on art and books on philosophical meanderings. A small bird’s nest catching light by a window. A can of soup no doubt to remind him to stop and eat something. There were vertical stacks of sketches he’d done for practice at the Monday Night Figure Drawing Classes that Chris Woomer teaches.
There were easels and work tables; an enlarger for architectural sized copies and dozens of large and small tools for bringing to life whatever his imagination could conjure.
We saw watercolors, oils and pencil drawings in every stage of completion that sat looking back at us as if to say they were on the way, but not there yet.
My favorite things were the paint palettes. Covered in whatever dabs and smears and mixes Gene needed while he worked. Wood and hardboard and even a piece of glass held the primordial soup from which each creation emerged unique and beautiful.
And the glove. That one hit me in the heart. The cloth glove that Gene had used so many times to blend and smooth and wipe a wet canvas that the paint had stiffened it. I stood it up on the worktable so I could take a picture and that was the thing that had me step away and shed a few tears. So real and so tangible, this simple glove awaiting the hand that needed it.
And there were new supplies at the studio as well. Stacks of brand new canvases, watercolor paper, oil paint sets and lots of picture frames!
So many of us were friends of Gene and his luminescent wife, Judy, who moved in the world like a human bundle of wildflowers. Losing them both, one after the other, was a stunning reminder that life is short and we’d better get on to making our own contributions to the world sooner rather than later.
Now, it’s your turn. On May 15, 2022, Bill Rantz will be holding a sale and auction of Gene’s studio contents. For artists looking to add to their supplies, the items I’ve mentioned will be available for sale. And for those of us who want a memento of our friend there will be an auction. Artifacts of a life well-lived; small treasures and tools; sketches and art pieces, wooden art boxes and work lights amongst the offerings.
Part of the proceeds from the sale will be donated by the very generous Rantz family to the Gene & Judy Rantz Youth Art Foundation Scholarship Program at NAA. We are grateful and we want the Rantz family to know that we will continue to hold Gene in our collective hearts.
I’m pretty sure that if Gene were here he’d say, “Ok. people. That’s enough. Get back in your studios and make something.”
Inspired by this photograph by Marc Nugent, Member/Photographer of the Northport Arts Association. We are studying the works in the Starry Night (Dark Sky) show currently hanging and writing poetry that emerged from our studies. Here is mine today. Fitting as we have just learned that fellow member/artist, Gene Rantz passed today, just a few weeks after his beloved wife Judy passed. They were a helluva love story….