I am incredibly excited to announce that my first solo show, “Still Standing,” is on! As some of you may know, my show was scheduled to open in September of last year at Perspectives Gallery on Main Street in Ellicott City. However, due to the flood, the show had to be postponed. In retrospect I feel that it was a blessing because I was rushing to get work completed and really wasn’t enjoying the process of creating. With a little luck and a lot of hard work by many folks, I am excited to announce that my show is happening! “Still Standing” is presented by HorseSpirit Arts Gallery and be hosted at Pure Wine Cafe in Ellicott City. I couldn’t be more grateful for the help of Robin Holliday of HorseSpirit Arts Gallery and PJ Strain of Pure Wine Cafe for working with me to make this happen.
And its apropos that the show will be opening in March since that is my mother’s birthday month. This show is dedicated to her because it was with her encouragement that I began this journey of self expression. I’ve also decided to change my business name (again) and feel that this is a great time to make that change. So please make a note that Cunningham Studios will now be known as Lenehan Studios. New look, same great taste 😉
I hope many of you can make it to the opening. I’m so thrilled to share my personal work with you.
“The 9th annual D.C. Design House opens to the public October 1, 2016. Each year, one local home has every single room redesigned by local interior designers and architects.
Located at 2509 Foxhall Road, NW, this year’s house is a whopping 11,242 square feet, and most recently served as a temporary house for the French ambassador while his real home was under construction. The home has five floors, seven bedrooms, three kitchens, eight full bathrooms, an infinity pool, a wine cellar and sauna.
All furnishings and accessories in the house are for sale — and so is the home itself, which is listed for a cool $10.8 million, according to the Design House website.
Proceeds from this month-long event benefit Children’s National Health System. The house closes Oct. 30.” -NBC4
Barbara Brown Interiors designed the “Chic Retreat” which is on the top floor. A lady’s study/retreat/reading room has been expertly curated with chinoiserie inspired accessories, custom designed and built furniture, and features soothing colors and textures, but not without the occasional surprise. I was asked to create chinoiserie monochromatic vignettes on the walls as well as verre eglomise surfaces for both the writing desk and built in cabinet top.
Earlier this month I was honored to unveil my painting of Ellicott City donated to the Howard County Government. My dear friends from high school, Theo Schlossnagle and Lisa Marini Schlossnagle donated the funds to purchase the mural which went to the Ellicott City Partnership for their Flood Relief Fund. Fatimah Waseem wrote an excellent article detailing the event.
With the sale of the prints and the original mural, Cunningham Studios was able to raise $6500.00 toward the Flood Relief fund! Thank you!!
I wanted to update everyone about our situation in Ellicott City. My little town, where my studio is, experienced the worst flooding since hurricane Agnes in 1972. Two people lost their lives and the town in uninhabitable. Many folks lost not just businesses, but livelihoods, memories, keepsakes, and lifetimes of hard work and memories. But worst of all, two people were swept away that night. Most of the buildings will have to be condemned. The waters ripped away whole sidewalks, part of the street, cars were swept through culverts from a half mile up the road where they popped out at the other end of town. 6 inches fell within two hours. One of the reading stations on the river went from 65 CFS (cubic feet per second of water) to over 21,000 CFS!!
This video was taken by my friend Sara Arditti who owns a gallery on Main Street, Still Life Fine Arts and Custom Framing:
For a bit of background, Ellicott City was built in a quaint and picturesque valley that some remark as reminding them of a little European town. It was founded back in the early 1700’s by the Ellicott Brothers as a mill town, attracted by the Patapsco River. On a normal summer day the rivers are no bigger than creeks. Its simply in the background while folks enjoy shopping and dining, smelling honeysuckle growing over the rocks, watching live music in the courtyard or catching up with friends at the local watering hole. But when it rains, the floodplain drains into these branches which run through Main Street, under buildings and roadways, daylighting here and there, until it flows into the Patapsco. And when it pours, everyone who knows the town keeps eyes on the water. I am ever grateful for our community. We are a tight group and we look out for one another. We rally when someone is in need, we celebrate the good things, and commiserate the bad. But when things get epic, we are unstoppable.
Many people have asked how to help. There are a few ways. One is to check with the Ellicott City Partnership at ecpartnership.org. There you will currently find what is needed and where to donate.
On a personal level, my studio suffered some major flooding. I first became aware of the situation because of the commUNITY facebook page where I started seeing friends’ posts about the flash flood. I didnt think at first that my studio would be affected, but then I saw a post by a friend who is also a neighbor showing her front yard. The river that normally runs under her front yard WAS her front yard. I panicked thinking that my studio which is further upstream, and sits directly ABOVE the Tiber, may have sustained some damage. It did flood back in 2011 when Tropical Storm Isabelle came through but luckily I hadn’t moved in yet. I drove over hand had to sneak in the back way because all of the medical and emergency personnel had the road blocked. I walked up and around behind the hill then down to my shop. I noticed the black top had shifted and buckled and my neighbor across the street’s car was sitting nearly on her front porch. I said a prayer then opened my door.
The smell of paint hit me first, then I put on my phone flashlight and my heart sank. Paintings were floating, chairs were upside down, and as I walked down and in further I saw papers were all over the place, cans, bottles, equipment; all floating in a sea of brown, muddy, smelly water. I quickly began grabbing my paintings, the ones that were for my show “Still Standing” and placed them on tables, I then walked around surveying the rest of my space, I was dumbfounded. No one predicted this!! I could do nothing more than go home and try to sleep before returning in the morning to face the most awful clean up I could imagine.
At the same time as I was discovering my studio, I found out later that friends were trapped in apartments by rising waters and cars blocking entrances. Howard County Fire and Rescue had to evacuate residents and visitors stranded by the torrent. I realized quickly that I was one of the relatively lucky ones. Two people were swept away and perished in the Patapsco, only to be found miles down the river.
We have been washing out and sorting through the contents of my studio to see what I have left. My insurance does not cover flood so I will have to rebuild from my own pockets. I did start a Go Fund Me page to help with repurchasing materials and covering bills while I’m out of commission.
And to top it off, yesterday I sliced my hand open carrying a flat file out to be sprayed off. I tripped on my own feet (not an uncommon thing) and I didn’t want to drop and potentially dent the drawer so it slid off my hand and onto the ground. Thank goodness for the EMT that was driving up the road in a gator, he wrapped me up and then dad took me to All Care for 8 stitches. Thank goodness it missed the tendon, but it was still pretty deep. Almost to the bone.
I am so thankful to live in such a loving and strong town. So many friends and neighbors came by to see if I was ok. Its devastating when something like this happens but its beautiful to witness how we rally around one another.
The first responders were amazing, they came in and began helping people stuck in buildings, high in trees, and trapped in cars. Friends were rescued through second floor windows, some even having to punch through walls, others crawling out from under cars that blocked their doors. The clean up will continue for months and my hope is that people will continue to offer help and support long after the mud and debris has been cleared.
Last weekend we had such a good time at Cunningham Studios! Five students came to learn about how to create a convincing trompe l’oeil (french, to fool the eye) iron grille. We learned about light, shadow, and temperature. We also learned about various tools and techniques to improve efficiency and painting skills. Each student did amazingly well and took away something valuable that they will apply to their own work. I will be offering this class in March so stay tuned for dates!
I have been quiet here as of late but I wanted to write now because I feel that when I put my thoughts to “paper” I am able to heal as well as have others relate to me. Its always a let down for me after the holidays are over. After so much celebration I feel myself hitting the emotional bottom around this time. This past year has been so hard since my mom isn’t here anymore. I had high hopes for 2015 but a lot of personal upheaval has left me ragged. It took a lot for me to push through some days, a lot of mornings I would wake up in a panic with my heart racing. Not all of it was bad though. I was able to complete the Patapsco Epic 50 mile mountain bike course, do my first solo overnight bike camping trip, hike a bit on the Appalachian Trail with my friend Cathy, visit with family this summer and take mom’s ashes to the farm, and complete some pretty cool projects with Cunningham Studios.
Throughout this past year I have had to remind myself that the decisions I have made, although hard and ugly, are the best for me in the long run. My mother’s passing triggered a lot of introspection and honesty. I don’t like to hurt others but sometimes its unavoidable. I am lucky that I have a good group of people surrounding me that love and care about me. One of my goals for this year is to keep focused on my needs and desires and to be the best I can for others. I struggle with feelings of selfishness and guilt but I try to remind myself that if I am not taking care of me then I can’t give others my best self. My other goals are to be positive when meeting challenges, treat people with love and care, and not take things personally that I don’t have control over.
Its also been hard to feel creatively inspired these past few months. I worry that I won’t be able to complete the amount of work I need to in order to have enough for my first solo show this coming September, but as my friend Sheri Hoeger said in her blog Art To Live By:
” I also give myself permission to not be as productive as I normally would be. Some days to not be productive at all. Cry when you need to cry. Reflect when insights strike you. “
For someone like myself who has to be doing something every minute of the day; not being productive feels very uncomfortable. I have to tell myself its ok not to want to paint right now. That inspiration will come back and I need to give myself permission to slow down and not criticize myself. Death and loss make you rearrange your priorities. This article in the Huffington Post sums it up quite nicely:
“Rebuilding [from loss] can be an incredibly challenging process. The work of growth requires detaching from and releasing deep-seated goals, identities, and assumptions, while also building up new goals, schemas, and meanings. It can be grueling, excruciating, and exhausting. But it can open the door to a new life.”
So with the new year here, I vow to stay positive and patient, uncover my authentic self and hold myself and others in lovingkindness.
When I proposed this project almost two years ago I had not a clue as to who what I was getting myself into. My client, referred to me by Wendy Appleby, has lived in this house for over 20 years and hadn’t figured out what to do with the giant overmantle that loomed over the front room. She is a collector of great art and owns a few Picasso’s, Chagall’s, and Matisse’s. She also collects glass and so when I proposed that we do an abstract glass piece she was sold. “Great!” I thought, then “What the hell did I just say I would do??”
The first thing was to figure out if the glass could be cut in the way we wanted. I went to several places but the only folks who could help me out were Sherry and Len Berkowitz from Great Panes in Old Ellicott City. They had the glass water jet cut to my template. I was stoked that they were able to help me out. Its also nice to be able to use the talents of friends.
So on to the next task of figuring out how to go about executing what was in my brain. Enter my friend Annie Lemarie, an expert at gilding. I took a trip out to her house in Sharpsburg and spent the day playing in her studio. She lives directly across the street from the Antietam Battlefield, a beautiful setting for a fun filled day. We figured out the method of application of colors and metals, an oil based paint would suffice.
Back to the studio and my friend Ewan Tulis constructed this easel that would serve to allow me to study the front as I was working along. I had to work on the back, a technique called “reverse painting” or “reverse gilding.” I was essentially flying blind with the first layers of color. It looked so awful until the leaf and mica powders were applied. Then the whole thing came to life.
Finally, the last task was mounting it. Bill Knapp, yet another friend, who works in found object metal sculpting, built an armature that would allow the glass to be suspended from the wall as if it were floating. It was heavy and would be hung on a travertine tiled wall. We couldn’t really figure out where the studs were so we hoped that when the client decided she was going to replace the wood burning fireplace with a gas insert that we were going to be able to look up inside to see where we were going to tap in. Luck was not in our favor but thankfully the way Bill made the armature, our pilot holes would be covered over.
Finally! The day came for it to be installed. Ewan and his assistant Matt worked smoothly and professionally to place my work perfectly over the fireplace. It was such a treat to see it in its place after so much planning and work.
The best compliment came from my client when she said, “That’s cool as S***!” I laughed out loud. The icing on the cake was an email she sent that evening. “[My husband] walked in the door and saw the painting and his comment was “spectacular”! He sat down on the sofa, stared at the painting and said to tell Dee the painting was well done. The funniest comment he had was that it is a lot more colorful and stands out more than what we had before. I laughed and told him I sure hope so because there was nothing on the wall before. It is truly am amazing piece of art!”
Recently I was asked to paint some murals for a library renovation being funded by the Ravens Foundation for Charles Carroll Barrister Elementary in Pigtown, Downtown Baltimore. I was thrilled! I was able to paint four areas, all on canvas, and help create a warm and inviting environment for the students of CCB to read and learn. Special thanks to Nancy Pascale and Warren Wunder for having faith in me to accomplish this project in such a short amount of time. And special thanks to Mary Landavere for helping paint all those stadium seats! Oh, and I can’t forget Shelly Wilkins and Larry Stroup for their work hanging the murals.
Yeah, well…so I said I’m done with painting cabinetry. Its tedious, difficult, smelly, sweaty, and dirty. BUT after figuring out the nuances of my new system I think I’m ready to go again. I decided to try out a new sprayer and use lacquer after hosting the Faux Team’s class at my studio. You can read about that here.
I hit a few hiccups along the way. The first was getting to know my new sprayer. With a little help from a friend I was able to get up and running. Then I didn’t realize HOW MUCH paint you had to use just to get the hose primed! Then something went “fishy” with the paint on the doors. Turns out there was a certain cleaning product that was used on them and it repelled the paint. Mind you I had SCRUBBED these doors well with TSP and wiped them clean then sanded and wiped clean AGAIN but the problem persisted. The only solution was to keep layering thin coats of paint and sanding back between each coat followed by a wipe down each time with Xylol.
After the doors and drawers were completed it was time to tackle the kitchen itself. It took about two days to fully mask everything off. My intern’s back was out so I was on my own. But once that was finished the spraying was cake. Not as many issues on the boxes so thankfully this portion went much more smoothly.
Re-installation took about a half day and the results are stunning. I will never use anything else on cabinetry. The feel and durability of lacquer far outweighs the extra time and effort of setting up and spraying it, as well as the smell. It looks so professional.
So….the clients have asked me back to do some other areas of their home. Never say Never!
Its been a tough road for me the last few months. Self reflection and acceptance have been in the forefront of my mind. I had no idea how profound an impact the loss of my mom would have on me. It permeates every last crevice of my being. Just holding it together has been the only thing at which I’ve been marginally successful. And not very well. A few months ago I made a Vision Board. Several things I have read and watched many say how important they are for manifesting the life you want. In January I made some New Year’s Resolutions and this is a way to reinforce them. Here’s my list:
Love myself as I am.
Love and accept others for who they are and where they are at in their life.
Manifest positive energy into the universe.
Focus on the good in everything.
Have confidence in yourself. You are good enough and capable of achieving great things.
Compliment others when the thought arises.
Speak your mind.
Relax. There is always time for the important stuff.
Guard your time. say no when it doesn’t feel right.
Be open and aware to see the signs that the universe is showing you.
Honor mom in everything you do.
And I should add one more: Forgive myself.
How many of you have stuck with your resolutions? I will tell you the truth, its been hard. The hardest one is keeping positive and thinking that I’m worth the effort. It seems that these past months, especially winter, took all I had to keep it together. And since I’m still rebuilding my business from taking time off for my mom, work has been spotty. I know its always a feast or famine reality but I never like not being booked for a few months out.
So without further ado, here is my Vision Board. I began clipping images out that speak to me for any reason. After spending a few months collecting I’ve discovered that I have come up with five areas.
The top left is about Work. Images of art studios, galleries, and the culture that it brings to my life. I am drawn to these images because of the sense of community they show. I cherish my place at the West End and wonder where I would be without this place in my life. I’ve met several people here in Ellicott City, as well as in the Decorative Painting community, that have enriched my life.
That morphs into the area of Home below it. I have images of cozy outdoor spaces, nature, some animals, and other things that make me happy and bring me peace. Hopefully one day I will have a few goats. And maybe some chickens. 🙂
The center, ironically, is finding my “center” or finding peace, something I struggle with. I’m at constant war with myself. Am I good enough? Is my work good enough? Have I done enough? Within that space I also have images of meditation and water. Water is an obsession that I have neglected in recent years. It represents so much for me; rebirth, cleansing, reflection, peace, beauty, power, and transcendence.
The lower right is where I have Nature as well as Physical Activity. I’ve made a goal of completing the Patapsco Epic this August. Some of you may know that I used to race bikes. I quit due to the overwhelming anxiety that would overcome me before races. It consumed me and no longer was fun. However, I missed being fit. Last year took its toll on my heath and I’m working on getting back into my old form. The Epic is not a race but an event, one that completing is an accomplishment alone. Hopefully I will.
The last area in the upper right is Adventure and encompasses travel, new perspectives, discovery, etc. I long to travel to Morocco, to more areas of Europe, and who knows where else? Maybe Asia or South America. I find that getting outside of your habitat creates a certain level of perspective that would otherwise never happen. Experiencing different cultures, foods, traditions, customs…its refreshing. (Gotta start saving!)
I don’t know how this will all play out but looking at it every day brings me hope. I intentionally want to create a sense of self acceptance through this project and hope that by doing this I’ve put vibes out into the universe that will resonate back.