Thursday, July 28, 2011

My Buried Treasure: Art or Consequences?

* I came upon this re-post of two of my favorite blog posts while I was looking for copy for my new website. While I no longer work a day job, everything I said about time still applies, except that now I don't have time to make art because I'm busy with the business of trying to get my art out there - and maybe even make some money. And yes, I'm aware of how lucky I am. And of the irony. Go figure.

In choosing my re-post for Seth Apter's Buried Treasure collaboration, I looked back through my posts with an eye to 1) what seemed to resonate with my readers, and 2) what still resonated most with me.  In the end, I chose 2 posts which address questions about the importance of art from the artist's perspective; in other words, why do we do it, and is it worth it?  I hope you like them.

What is Art Good For? (9/16/10)

This isn't really a philosophical discussion, as much as just my own personal opinion and perspective.  I mean, I guess philosophy and opinions could be related, as in, "How many angels do you think can dance on the head of a pin?", but that's neither here nor there.  For some reason this has been spinning around in my head lately, so I'll just throw it out there, because- frankly- I need the room in my head for other things.

Fossil Memory

It's hard to know where to start, so I guess in the middle would be as good a place as any. When I began working as a special education teacher, I was also going to school to obtain my master's degree, as a condition of keeping my job.  The lack of time, two kids to support, and a SO (significant other) who put all my art stuff into the attic made it all but impossible for me to make art.  I rationalized it to myself this way:  "What good is art, anyway?  It doesn't bring in any money, and I'm completely broke.  It doesn't mean a thing to most people, except maybe as a way to decorate their living rooms."  I told myself, " It doesn't help anyone; no one needs art."

I was almost able to convince myself that this was the truth; after all, the idea was founded on perfectly sound logic.  I believed I didn't need it either, that I could satisfy my creative drive in other ways, such as by building a log house.  That helped, but didn't quite get to the heart of the matter, and as time went on I felt as if my heart had a hole in it- an empty place where art-making used to be.

How had I so quickly forgotten the lessons of the past?   Looking back on it now, I can remember many times when art literally saved my life, or at least my sanity  (yes, I still had some at one time!).  When I was teaching art in an elementary school -without an art room, I had to carry my supplies from room to room- and my kids were still quite young, I would come home totally exhausted.  So, instead of working on any large, planned piece, I would relax at night by painting these completely spontaneous, quick little watercolors.

Gently swishing the paint around with the soft brush helped me to relax and unwind.  It functioned as a form of meditation...

 ...allowing some of the day's stress to melt away, and reassuring me that I could still make art, even if it was only a little.

And, when my first marriage was failing, and I felt I would surely lose my mind if I didn't find a job...

Against the Tide

Waiting for the Storm

... painting these pieces allowed me to channel my emotions in a constructive way, helped me to work through some of the scary twists and turns my life was taking...

The Speed of Darkness

... and basically kept me from freaking out completely or jumping off a bridge.

So, for me, this is one of the things art is good for.

Here's How It Is  (2/7/11)

Well, here's how it is:  I am a bad blogger.  At least, that's how I feel sometimes- not guilty, really- just kind of disappointed that I've been unable to keep all the balls in the air.

 "Jugglers at the Cirque Fernando" by Renoir

I can't post every day, or even every other day.  Right now, I'm lucky if I can post once a week.  I feel bad when I don't have enough time to leave witty and insightful comments on all of my friends' posts, if I even get a chance to look at them.  Admittedly, I feel at times like I'm seeing them the way one sees the gorgeously tantalizing flowers in the neighbor's garden from the window of a speeding car. 

I feel inadequate, but all I can say in my own defense is that even the best juggler (which I certainly am not) can get caught up in trying to juggle more balls than he/she can handle without the addition of some extra appendages.  (Yes, I realize I'm mixing my metaphors again; it's like a big ol' metaphor soup up in here.)

"The Egyptian Juggler" by Sir Lawrence Alma Tadema

So, I've been wracking  my brain about how I could resolve this problem.  It came to me like a bolt of lightening out of the sky (no, that's a simile!)- there really is no way to solve this conundrum short of somehow bending time.

This may be possible in theory, but not even Einstein had the slightest inkling how to apply it to our every day lives.  

But then I was reading a post on Rice Freeman-Zachery's wonderful blog, Notes from the Voodoo Cafe, that made me feel a bit better about the whole thing.   She says this about working artists:
"You try to get in touch with them, and they don't respond, and you think, scornfully, "Diva!" But that's most often not it (sometimes that's it, but not very often). Usually it's because they have a certain day of the week in which they respond to email because the other days are a flurry of all the various things they have to do to try to stay afloat in an economy that bites and a culture that doesn't value working artists." 

She goes on to say that most of us have to decide what we're going to give up in order to make art a priority, such as TV and the internet (except for blogging, of course).  I have to agree; it's all about prioritizing.  I rarely watch TV, except for the news and a couple of other shows.  I don't have a social life, and my house probably isn't the cleanest, if you know what I mean. My husband graciously does most of the cooking. I try to answer emails, but sometimes it takes me a while.  Sometimes I forget to respond to comments on my blog posts, but that's due to the age of my brain, and is not at all  intentional.

I used to try to accept the fact that I didn't have the time to make art, but I failed in that effort, because I was miserable.  I came to realize that I would have to make that time by deciding not to spend it on other things, like watching TV, or going out for drinks.  If I have to cook, I'm probably not going to make something that takes three hours to prepare, and I made a deal with the dust bunnies that if they don't look at me, I won't look at them.  If I have to work a full time job, then shouldn't part of the reward for that be that I get to spend my off-time doing something I love? 

The Traveler's Tale: Balance

It's a balancing act, without a doubt- full time job, making art, marketing the art, etc.- but it's something I have to keep trying to work out as best I can. We may not be able to adjust time, but we can adjust our thinking.  It really is, ultimately, all in how we look at it.

I added this to the end, because I think it expresses these ideas in a very creative and unique way.  I saw this somewhere a long time ago, then recently again on C. Wright's Art Gallery blog.

Music Video for Tanya Davis's Song Art, by Andrea Dorfman

 Back to Seth's blog for more Buried treasure!

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Stay Tuned Tomorrow for Buried Treasure!

 Seth Apter, collaborative maestro extraordinaire, is doing his Buried Treasure feature again this year, and I'm going to play.  All the participating artists will re-post their favorite posts from the past year, and Seth will post the links at his blog, The Altered Page.  Follow the link above or below for more information, and be sure to visit his blog tomorrow to find all the Buried Treasure!


Sunday, July 24, 2011

Falls of the Ohio

After dropping off my piece at the Kentucky Museum of Art and Craft in Louisville, we took a side trip to see the fossil beds at the Falls of Ohio State Park in Clarksville, Indiana, almost directly across the Ohio River.  I'd been itching to go there for some time; after all, what could be more exciting (to me, at least!) than a 386-million-year-old Devonian fossil bed.  When the river is at its lowest, 200 acres (!) of this former coral reef are exposed, making it among the largest naturally exposed Devonian fossil beds in the world.

Looking upriver, you can see Louisville in the background.

You may be wondering, as I did, where's the falls?  One would think the name "Falls of the Ohio" implies an actual waterfall- right?

 Like me, you would be wrong.  The "Falls of the Ohio" was a series of rapids which made navigation almost impossible, so to circumvent these, the Portland canal with locks was completed in 1830. Later the lock and dam system on the Ohio changed this area even further.

Apparently, fishing is good near the dam...

 As I began walking across the fossil beds, I was very excited to see a horn coral 18 inches long, and stopped to take a photo. 

 As I continued, I realized I was walking on hundreds of fossils literally with every step I took...

 This 'beehive coral' had a diameter of about three feet!

There are several levels to the fossil beds; here I'm looking across the upper level toward the bridge.

As you can see, it's huge, and I only had time to explore a tiny fraction of it...

...which means that, of course...

 ... I'll be going back!

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

At last!

I finished it several days ago, but didn't have time to photograph until yesterday, and the mica is very difficult to photograph, so I had to do it again today. 

Here it is, parts to whole- sort of:

right  side

left side

detail of the spine (not too great; I'm going to have to fix this so the mica lays more flat against the paper)

the whole enchilada (no, that's not the title; any ideas?)

ingredients: vintage book cover (and other parts), vintage children's writing paper, vintage sewing pattern fragment, monotype, image transfers, mica, embroidery floss, tissue paper, ink jet prints, Caran D'ache crayons, watercolor pencils

techniques/methods: printed, cut, glued, drawn, stitched

Friday, July 15, 2011

Upcoming Exhibitions and Anne Percoco

On July 29, I'll be exhibiting my work at Art After Hours, along with several other local artists.  Here's the brochure (click for larger view):

It's at the Campbell County Library in Cold Spring, Kentucky.  If you're in northern Kentucky, please stop by, enjoy the art, drink some wine (proceeds go to the library), have some hors d'oeuvres and fancy desserts, and listen to live music.  It should be a lot of fun!

And now, for something completely different.
This intriguing article and interview about artist Anne Percoco at the Artslant Rackroom caught my attention recently.   Percoco uses a variety of diverse media, from collage to sculpture to installation to public art projects, to call attention to environmental issues.  Her work melds art with social/environmental activism by re-using found or recycled materials, thus forcing the viewer to think about where those objects come from, and where they will ultimately go.

 For instance, her new series of collages, entitled Field Studies, depicts forests composed entirely of images from discarded phonebooks, which were once trees.

 I was fascinated by her series of Shrines dedicated to the drainage system at Rutgers University, which flows into a New Jersey river.  She's now conducting workshops for a similar project involving the Gowanus Canal in Brooklyn, as part of the Flux Factory's Sea Worthy events: "In this workshop, participants will convert an old boat into a mobile shrine, constructed from primarily scrap material, and will travel along the now EPA Superfund site of the Gowanus Canal."

Here's a very cool Blurb book about her Indra's Cloud project in India:

And more good news, with absolutely no segue.

 I'm happy to report that one of my monotypes, Prayer, will be included in an exhibition at the Kentucky Museum of Art and Craft in Louisville.  Of the approximately 360 members of the Kentucky Guild of Artists and Craftsmen, the work of 52 artists were chosen to represent the guild in an exhibit celebrating the 50th anniversary of the KGAC.  The exhibit is titled Moving Forward/Circling Back: Celebrating 50 Years of the Kentucky Guild of Artists and Craftsmen, and will run from July 30 - October 15, 2011. There will be an opening reception on Thursday, August 11.  I feel very grateful and honored to be a part of it.  If you can come to the reception, I'd love to see you!

p.s. I feel I should apologize for the disjointed and disorganized structure of this post.  I also feel pretty sure you don't want to hear the story of how it turned out this way.  Suffice it to say that Blogger and I are no longer friends.

Monday, July 11, 2011

Altered Book Thingie Part 2

I finished the second part of the collage/assemblage/altered book thingie!  If you didn't see the first part, it's in the previous post.

Ingredients:  vintage book cover, monotype, caran d'ache crayons, watercolor pencils

 Soon I hope to have the middle part done, and then put it all together, so stay tuned...

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

My New Crazy Book Thingie: Part 1

I have embarked upon a new adventure, sparked by the great fun I had creating this altered book/assemblage/collage.  I'm not really sure what category these belong in, though.  They are altered books, but might they be too altered to be considered altered books?  I mean, I did alter them- if that's what you call ripping them apart, gluing stuff onto them (both 3D and 2D), drawing on them, cutting holes in them, and putting them together completely differently.  I suppose they're not really books any more at this point, so perhaps 'assemblage' would be more accurate.  Maybe I should call them 'deconstructed reconstituted former books.'  Or just 'mixed media' art.  That's pretty vague though...

Well, whatever it is, here it is!

Ingredients: vintage book parts, vintage child's writing paper, vintage sewing pattern fragment, image transfers, mica, embroidery floss, drawing pen.

So, what would you call it?  Stay tuned, part 2 coming up soon...

Monday, July 4, 2011

Workshop with Radha Chandrashekaran + The Pulse!

Last Saturday I attended a fun and fascinating workshop given by printmaker and mixed media artist Radha Chandrashekaran.  She taught three separate techniques: acrylic gel image transfers, kalamkari fabric painting, and takuhon stone rubbing.

Kalamkari is the ancient art of decorating cloth using a kalam (pen) to draw patterns; the tradition dates back to at least 3,000 B.C.E.  Above, Radha demonstrates how to make the kalam by winding woolen cloth around a bamboo stick, then wrapping the cloth in yarn or thread.

A piece of kalamkari- decorated cloth from India.

Radha demonstrates drawing with the kalam.  The wool reservoir holds enough ink to make a long line without "re-dipping" the pen.

Participants get to try it out...

and see what happens...


Here Radha explains takuhon, a traditional stone rubbing technique invented in China about 1900 years ago.  Rice paper is sprayed with water and placed over the surface to be printed,

then rubbed with a seed-filled cloth dipped in ink.

Workshop participant Kathleen Piercefield working on one of her pieces.

This was so much fun that I got quite involved, and didn't take too many photos from this point on.  It's not that easy to participate in a workshop and photograph it at the same time!

A couple of the rubbings I did using Radha's laser-cut wood blocks.

This is a piece Radha was using to demonstrate gel medium transfers.  Please visit her website and take a look at her gorgeous work.

No, it's not the sound of fireworks (good guess, though).  Nope!  Guess again...

It's the sound of a PULSE!   More precisely, the 5th edition of The Pulse -- The State of the Art -- "a survey in words and pictures of the online artist community [masterminded by Seth Apter of The Altered Page]. The Pulse is a collaborative project that aims to introduce you to new artists, help you get to know familiar faces even more, and allow you access into the creative hearts and minds of a very talented crew of individuals."  What could be cooler than that?  Get on over there and check it out!