This week the photo challenge dealt with using an editing trick...to use the mirror image in editing to create a new symmetrical photo. It was an interesting way to look around; to judge how something would look as or with a mirror image of itself.
Of course that sent my mind wandering and wondering about mirrors in general. We really don’t see ourselves in the same way others do. We see ourselves flipped horizontally the majority of time, while others see us the other way around.
Here I am as the way you see me, the way I see me, two of one side merged, and the other side duplicated and merged!
As a kid I often looked into the mirror and really wondered what I saw. I had the distinct feeling that I was an entity inside this body and not the body itself. I would look at others and wonder what it would be like to inhabit that body instead of mine.
And now as I age, that disconnect becomes stronger. It is ever more evident, with each year, that the mind and body do not age at the same rate. Most of my friends readily admit to being a 30-40 year old housed in their 60-70 year old body.
Body dysphoria is a real thing. I have seen it and heard about it first-hand from my daughter. Assigned male at birth, and later realizing that there was an incongruity with the body she inhabited and the gender she felt, she has claimed her real self as a transgender woman. I can’t begin to understand the confusion, anxiety and every other emotion that one would experience in that situation; looking in the mirror and seeing a stranger. Or the relief and joy of being able to align your mind/gender and body/appearance in whatever way you can.
People who lose weight, lose a limb, are scarred, or altered in any other “disfigured” way must feel this disconnection between self and body, too. To realize that our bodies can morph or change, while our minds may stay the same. With some changes we get further from our mental self, with other changes we may come closer to familiar territory. The reverse can also be true; when the mind changes but the body does not, as with dementia or mental illness, but that is a whole different musing.
This reminds me of a surprise birthday party we once attended. It was being held in a farmhouse in a very rural area which meant the host and the ‘birthday girl’, could tell from a distance that there were people in their house if any lights were on. Consequently, all of us attendees, most of whom didn’t know each other, spent about an hour in darkness before the guest of honor arrived. We laughed and joked and conversed freely. But once they arrived and the lights went on and we could see clearly, the demeanor changed. It became instantly more stilted and self-conscious. We were all trying to align the people we met with the people we now saw. It was a very interesting experience.
Anyhow, this is just a recognition of how important it is to recognize the whole person at all times. How visual representation is an easy way to judge and be judged, but it is only half (or less!) of the story.
Okay enough digression. Here are some more of the mirrored images I had fun editing.
This week I looked at the world in black and white. But it occurs to me that is exactly what we have been doing too much lately. Every artist knows that contrast is important; shadows and highlights are what give the image depth and edge and impact, but it is the gray areas that can provide the detail and connections.
While in politics or mask-wearing, or climate change there will always be the presence, and maybe the need for, the black and white extremes, the answers are usually in the grey areas. The areas of nuance. The areas of softness. The connective areas.
In editing these photos (which was our challenge this week), it was tempting to go for the high contrast. Maybe that is a throwback to my roots in relief printmaking. But as I worked on them, I realized how important the gray areas were. By subtly making the grays darker or lighter, it would change the focus to a whole different area. They could calm down either of the extremes of black or white. They could add a softness and stillness to the subject.
I have included this “before and two afters” of one of the photos so show you how the entire focus of the photo, the woman in foreground, changed to the people in the background with the edits and crop. (click on them to see them larger)
Perhaps that is how the news and commentary we hear these days gets edited.
They leave most of the blatant black and whites, but change the focus, nuance or slant by just shifting the gray areas of the story to change the picture to meet their purpose. Both of my pictures above are truthful. Both show a moment in time that actually existed, but the read, the inference and the narrative has changed. So neither is “fake news” but each tells a different story.
So what is my point? I guess just the old saying Caveat Emptor - Buyer Beware! In art we accept the use of artistic license; it is what gives artists their voice and expression. When it starts to enter journalism or science, when those gray areas get shifted towards supporting either the black or white, then we must recognize it and be aware that it is happening. If we limit ourselves to seeing only the whites and blacks of an issue, we will miss the gray areas of the picture that include both some black and some white.
In the meantime, here are more of this week's photos for you.
"A line in the sand."
"The line starts/ends here."
"Stay in line"
"Don't cross that line"
"Read between the lines"
"The shortest distance between two points is a straight line"
Lines are an integral part of our visual and verbal languages; they are everywhere. They are also the subject of last week's challenge in my photography class. This challenge sent me on a quest to see and record the lines around me; nature lines: man-made lines; perceived lines; lines made from light; lines made from groupings.
Thematic quests have always been a kick for me, just like I love thematic art shows. To take a subject - the more mundane the better - and make it a focus is a great way to see the variety that exists in existence, expression and perception. I would love to tell every artist in the world to make an apple and see the myriad of creations that would inspire. One of my favorite museum shows was that of the paintings done by VanGogh and Gaugin when they lived together. To see the same model or landscape painted by each at the same time, in the same place, was just wonderful. I am so enjoying my life drawing sessions now for the same reason. The uniqueness of each person's art is just fascinating to me.
I have always loved creativity with limits. In Graphic Design, my life for 40 some years, limitations were the norm. I always had limits of time, budget, production, and message. I loved pushing creativity as far as I could within those parameters. The lack of those requirements was one of the hardest things for me to get used to when I moved into fine art. Creating limits for myself was one of the reasons that I started entering shows. There I found size limits, construction requirements, and often a required theme. That was comfortable territory.
It is interesting now to look back on five years of making fiber art, and seeing what I have done. I am starting to recognize a voice of my own. In creating my own boundaries I am also defining myself and my art. I am sure many people find self and then make, but for me, it has worked in reverse. I let the make come out and then, in retrospect, I recognize an internal familiarity. Perhaps that is what ‘voice’ is; just how we each approach and record this universal subject called "life"!
I look at work that I did many years ago - paintings, prints, drawings, and even design - and see a direct line to what I am doing now. I notice a repetitive use of a preferred color way. I recognize my joy of details and texture. The compositions then and now have a similar resonance. Even the subject matter is often consistent. This retrospective recognition of voice is an unanticipated benefit of age.
But, enough of this tangent (see what I did there), back to my photo class… Here is a slide show of some of the lines I found this week.
It was a few months before “The summer of love” when I saw the headline “6,700 hippies expected this summer” in San Francisco. My older, wiser, and worldly sister had sent me a ticket for my 16th birthday to come visit her. It was my first time traveling on my own, my first airplane ride, and my first time in a place where 95% of the people were not birthed from either a Scandinavian or German heritage!
She worked as a nurse during the day, so I was free to explore the city. She gave me directions to the art museum, and off I went. I come from a wonderful family, but our art was TV; literature was the Encyclopedia Britannica and Reader’s Digest; music was the local AM station and Lawrence Welk.
I already knew I wanted to be an artist. I had sought out some of the art being done locally in the fantastic print department of the University of WI (Dean Meeker, Warrington Colescott, Walter Hamady, Ray Gloekler, et. al.). I had purchased a well-worn copy of Janson’s History of Art from the UW bookstore. But short of that I had never been exposed to “real art”.
I approached the museum with no idea what to expect. I walked in the door and was stopped dead in my tracks. If I had been older, I might have dropped to my knees, or fainted, but at sixteen I turned and ran, tears streaming down my face. Inside the door was one of Monet’s waterlily paintings - about 6-foot square. My mind was quite literally blown. I had looked at his work so many times in that dog-eared Janson book. Some black and white; some very small reproductions. I guess the measurements were there, but they had never sunk in.
I did go back, in a day or two, and tour the museum. Had tea in the tea garden. Road the trolley cars. Ate seafood on the wharf. All were great I suppose, but I have never forgotten, and still tear, up at that Monet.
Last week I was reading a book by John Berger “Ways of Seeing”. It is an old book (1972) that I have read before but wanted to revisit. He talks about the difference of seeing art in situ, vs reproductions.
“The uniqueness of every painting was once part of the uniqueness of the place where it resided. Sometimes the painting was transportable, but it could never be seen in two places at the same time. When a camera reproduces a painting, it destroys the uniqueness of its image. As a result, its meaning changes. Or, more exactly, its meaning multiplies and fragments into many meanings…. Having seen this reproduction, one can go to the National Gallery to look at the original and there discover what the reproduction lacks. Alternatively, one can forget about the quality of the reproduction and simply be reminded… that it is a famous painting of which somewhere one has already seen a reproduction. But in either case, the uniqueness of the original now lies in it being the original of a reproduction. It is no longer what its image shows that strikes one as unique, its first meaning is no longer to be found in what IT SAYS, but in what IT IS.” (Emphasis added)
Considering these words were written before the proliferation of many of the t-shirts and coffee mugs now sold in art museum gift shops, memes made from art works, Pinterest, and Google, he is only talking about the tip of the iceberg! What made me now think about this were the many virtual events and exhibits that are now seeing us through the pandemic. I cannot say enough about how I appreciate what many galleries and exhibits are doing to keep art sales and artist exposure alive and well during social distancing. Personally, McGuffey, SAQA and Visions Art Museum are notable in this, and are appreciated, but they have also raised some concerns.
Before COVID, many artists, myself included, expressed concern for show and exhibit jurying being done electronically vs in person. The efficiency of doing so is obvious, and the history of judging via slides is long, but it does present questions. Those questions have been validated by the number of times I have heard the exclamation “your work is so much better/different/more intricate in person than online or in print.” But nonetheless I totally understand the need to jury hundreds of entries electronically rather than the logistics of gathering/storing/returning the actual artwork at that stage, as it is being done by professionals who also use and understand the realities.
However, that platform is now being embraced for the next step; the final show for the general public. Again, during COVID restrictions, that is both understandable and appreciated, but will it continue into “after”, and if so, will it have an effect on the artwork produced? Will it become a normal adjunct to a show to have an online component? Or will the virtual completely displace the actual in some venues. Could this actually change what artists will make/enter in the future, or at least who would be juried in? Will it change the public’s idea of art? We are getting more and more comfortable with buying products on-line. Will we get comfortable in viewing our art that way? Will the actual experiences of shopping or gallery viewing become obsolete?
I have been chastised in virtually every art museum I have visited. My nose evidently gets far too close to the canvases when I am trying to discern the brushstrokes or glaze applications. But how else is one to see exactly how that glint of eye was accomplished? The same in fiber shows. It is not possible to see the intricacies of stitch, the loft of bat, the layers or types of fabric in the majority of virtual or print reproductions. Thus, the subject matter and the gross (impact not quality) forms of the composition become paramount to the viewer rather than the smaller, but possibly more significant, elements of the piece.
Even when “detail images” are included they are at a pre-chosen distance from a pre-chosen area, perhaps not one of the viewer’s choosing !
This morning, on Facebook I saw an announcement for “The Sistine Chapel in St. Louis”. A full “life sized” reproduction will be installed in St. Louis for tours at America’s Ballroom on the second floor of America’s Center. Here is their description:
“Michelangelo’s Sistine Chapel: The Exhibition recreates the awe and wonder of arguably one of mankind’s greatest artistic achievements while allowing its visitors to experience this art from a new perspective.
With special expertise and care, the ceiling paintings from the Sistine Chapel have been reproduced using state of the art technology. In order for the observer to fully engage and comprehend the artwork, the paintings have been reproduced in their original sizes. The overwhelming impression for the observer will be the dimensions of the art, the closeness to the picture and the modern style of the exhibition. [I am not sure those were Michelangelo’s hopes for the “overwhelming impression”] As a result, the visitor can explore the artwork up close at a distance impossible to achieve in the Sistine Chapel.”
My question is how do you replicate the “awe and wonder” when you have also made the images accessible, and taken out of the sacred edifice and in a convention center?
They go on to say:
“Visitors who have never seen the originals will be intrigued and inspired to visit the Sistine Chapel at some time in the future. Guests who have already visited the Sistine Chapel will find a new way of observing the art.”
And that, dear reader, brings us right back to Berger’s statement, “... its first meaning is no longer to be found in what IT SAYS, but in what IT IS.” [Emphasis added]
Recently I posted this photo of a pepper on Facebook. It was sitting on the counter after Jon had finished making our salads... just sitting there staring at me. Yes, I am familiar with the phenomena of pareidolia, but I just found this humorous.
When I posted this, one of the comments that appeared was "You see art in everything". That statement took me back for a moment and made me think for a couple of days. Yes. Yes, I do see art in everything. It takes my breath away when I look around. I am amazed that that a brick and weed and the sun light can compose the perfect still life. I think the cigarette butt on the sidewalk is both a statement and a story - as well as an interesting composition. I am easily amused and impressed. The edge of that brick building against that blue sky is the perfection of complementary color. The fog that shrouds that parking structure, while letting the dried weed be in extreme focus, is more than I can comprehend replicating.
On the way home from my studio tonight, I saw this image in a bank drive through. Eat your heart out all you abstract expressionists. Frame it, put it in the east wing of the National Gallery and let the critics opine.
They can write a missive on the tension between the lines vs the splashes, the contrast of the darks and lights. The significance of the shapes, or maybe they would discourse over the need for a pop of color. They would check the title for political or social significance. And contextualize it based on the culture from which the artist came.
Was it art before or does it take validation or reproduction to be so?
As I thought more about this, I thought about the very real discomfort I feel when some says, or asks if, I am an artist. Okay. Whatever. If I need to be qualified or quantified, you can call me that.
But, as I have said before, I prefer "maker". I make stuff. It wasn't there. It didn't exist and I birthed it. I used my intellect, my heart and, occasionally, serendipity to do so. I made it.
As I thought more about this, I decided that, perhaps, the real aim of an "artist" is not the product they make, but the continued attempt to make others see the art that already exists around us. I make for my own sake. Maybe we are - or should be - translators. I do believe people called artists see and appreciate differently; just as scientists, or mathematicians, or musicians, or chefs view their world differently. Then we attempt to use our human talents, venues, media, and connections to try to get others to see what and how we saw (or tasted or figured). It is how we write. It is how we solve equations. It is how we bake.
Some of this we learn through academics. We spend hours and years in drawing classes not drawing the cube we know exists, but instead, the cube as we see it. Then we move to foreshortening in life drawing and still life compositions where we talk about the space between not just the objects. We learn to see with our eyes, not our head. Once we can do that, we start to understand how what we see exists for only a moment: a tilt of the head or the cloud momentarily over the sun can change the reality. How our specific moment and object of focus is a reality that no one else experiences in the same way.
We are constantly saying "CAN'T YOU SEE THIS TOO?" and "OH YOU MUST SEE THIS". The landscape painter tries to capture and explain the moment of clarity they had when looking out on nature. The portrait artist doesn't paint just the resemblance, but the inner person as they saw or felt it. The photographer captures a moment that perhaps only they had the acumen/patience/luck to witness. The abstracters capture essence or movement or the core of something that needs no subject.
I am about to stop my studio work for a period of six months. Part of this is because I have been having one of those "what does it all mean? Why do I do this? Who cares?" periods we all go through. I still have the compulsion to make, but at this time of my life, I am not trying to monetize, I am not trying make statements, I have no great affinity for mastering a specific craft or media, so what to do with this compulsion, and where is it best directed. I am thinking this chunk of driveway might be a clue.
My life and heart are full and amazed just walking down the street; nature or concrete or people or whatever is before me surpasses most of what I could ever make. I often feel that trying to make art is futile and the real goal I am striving for is just to see what is already out there.
So now to figure out how or if I can or should just improve my seeing, or if I also try to translate to others.
And if so, how.
Of course, Degas figured this our long before I had my own "ah ha" moment:
"Art is not what you see, but what you make others see."
That has to be one of the most discussed and least settled on questions ever asked. I know I have made art, been called an artist, enjoyed art, bought art, sold art, and even taught art, but still can not define the slippery beast!
For many years I worked in the corporate world making “commercial” art (aka Graphic Design). It paid my grocery bills and car payments, it allowed me to use all those elements of design I had learned in school. My art satisfied a need. It helped some people get rich(er), it helped make people aware of products and services they needed (or didn’t know they did!). It was problem solving and satisfying for the most part. Was it art? Who knows.
When abandoned by the corporate world due to economy and age, I turned to what many would define as craft, not art. For seven plus years I bought hundreds of thrift store sweaters, then surgically removed the arms, the necks, and strategically cut the rest to make hats, sweater coats, scarves, gloves, etc etc. It was satisfying. People responded to them and bought this “art” to incorporate into their daily lives.
It was so fun to take my wares across the country and see people try on one after another. Some people had saved up their money to buy that one special art-to-wear garment. Others bought two or three, just as they would buy at Macy’s! I am sure the painters and sculptors in the booths around me (often waiting far longer for a sale) often though that my work was not real art. But people were choosing and noticing the colors, the textures, the technique and the overall uniqueness… isn’t that art? And it was so personal compared to the corporate art. It was personal to both me as I would drape a sweater over their back, and to them as they twirled in front of the mirror. Something aesthetically pleasing was giving them joy: Isn’t that art?
Now I am doing fiber art. Some are still slow to consider that an art media, but I will leave that discussion for another day. I have painted and made prints. I can honestly say that working with fiber has every bit of the same demand for aesthetic choice and technical knowledge that they did. But my audience and the “raison d'etre”has changed.
The corporate work was done primarily to meet the demand and needs of the client (within my own design voice and choices) and were by their nature both timely and ephemeral. The garments were made with a general demographic in mind and the cost/profit ratio, as well as the artistic merit, was important with each thing I made. They were meant to be used and used up. My fiber art is self-directed and I am, in many ways, the only audience considered during creation. I do not do commissions, and will do themed shows only when the theme speaks to me. It is the kind of art that is somehow deemed precious because it goes on walls with no apparent use other than aesthetics.
People do respond to my fiber work, and for that I am grateful, but it is always both a bit of a surprise and causes a bit of anxiety. Their response is so unplanned by me; I was working on something personal, and for them to respond is almost unnervingly intimate.
I want people to see my work and, as I have said, the stitching and fabric help to show “how I as an artist see” - but I have no preconception of what they will see, or if they see what I saw. Some respond to the subject matter. Some respond to the color choice. Some respond to the intricacy. Those are all valid, but all dependent on their history, aesthetic taste, knowledge of process - all things I do not control or anticipate. It is a strange thing, this thing we call fine art. The art that is not marketing, not utilitarian, not commissioned. It has been a hard concept for me to embrace.
I have been asked to give workshops, or presented with other opportunities. That is also something I tried a couple times, but haven’t gotten my head around. When I was a Graphic Designer, I also taught. I taught design concepts, color theory, printing processes, etc. the nuts and bolts. When I was making sweaters, I was fine with sharing my technical knowledge about how to serge knitted fabrics, or my process. It was not proprietary and the construction was, in many ways, the idea of it all. It had no internal value to me. That was all knowledge I gladly shared without any problem.
But now? What would I share? I use my design concepts, etc. but that is not what makes my work unique, nor my expertise any greater than many. I use a machine and various cutting and sewing processes, but that is not my interest or focus, they are merely a means to an end. I don’t even know what brand thread I use (or should use!). My process is “whatever it takes”!
How would I convey that intimate sound my heart makes when I know something is right. How do I explain that shiver that goes up my spine when the right stitch makes the right texture. How do I communicate how after looking at twenty five of my photos, that one says “I am the one you need”. That is all good and fine, and I am loving that is what I am able to do now - with little thought to profit or demographic appeal, but in many ways, it is very ego-centric and almost art masturbation. But it can be seen for some reason, as some higher level of art, but I don’t think it is.
Yesterday this girl came into my studio. At the gift giving season, I revert to the selling mode of my garment making days and make some earrings, gloves, and this year, holiday themed masks! The girl looked at my table of goods and picked out a soft cashmere pair of gloves. She didn’t care about the “fine art” hanging in my studio, she wanted those gloves in her life. She got them. I can honestly say that no one who has bought any of my “fine art” ever has expressed the pure joy of having it in their life, that she did for these gloves. Isn’t that art?
Most of us who have had any Art training have spent time in life drawing sessions. I have taken them both as an undergrad and graduate student. I have taught them ( I am not confident in my capabilities there) and have enjoyed various models and instructors. Now I am trying something new. Not a Student. Nothing at stake. No required media. No critique. Just an immeasurable amount of self-directed experimentation and a copious amount of freedom.
Today we reconvened after a two week hiatus. One of the benefits of moving from Wisconsin to Virginia that I had never imagined was to be able to do life drawing outside in mid-November! So take that Covid, you haven't stopped us!
Like any exercise, there is both a natural roller coaster of the feeling of competency and joy. Like any exercise, a couple of weeks off also make you stiff! Today was like that. I had felt pretty good the last few sessions; Fluid, confident, focused. But not today. I struggled with which media to use, what to focus on and to avoid the trap of "making something good" .
We had a great model. People do not realize how much difference that makes. When you are getting so intimately connected with a model visually, you can't also avoid getting vibes. Some models are uncomfortable, and it is impossible to draw. Some are just twitchy or itchy and don't realize that when you are striving to get the foreshortening correct and they stretch their leg and reposition it three inches over, it makes a huge difference. But today we had a model who nailed every pose. My props to Katie.
Still, I was very disappointed with my work. I never felt that "artgasm moment" that makes it all worthwhile. But when I went back and looked at my work I realized that while the final picture may not have been "frame-worthy" I had actually been alive and aware after all.
As I mentioned the other day, my piece "6' of Chaos" was just invited to show in Quilt National 2021. Here is some info about how it was created. There are three main stages, with many small stages in between.
First there is the photography. I take photos a lot. I have thousands in my computer. Only a few of these will become fiber works. If the photo speaks on its own, it doesn't need more, but some photos are just a recording of WHAT I saw, and not really HOW I saw it. Those photos need the textures and layer of fiber to complete their story.
Secondly is photo manipulation. Sometimes a photo just needs some edits of contrast, or cropping or some minor color adjustments, but sometimes, like in this case, many images are merged together to form a new image. Each is manipulated with my editing program, then merged into one image. The finished file is then sent to be printed on fabric. The photo becomes the starting point; sometimes just an underlying sketch for my finished piece. It is an important step because it is where I make my base color, contrast, and composition decisions.
Finally is the layered construction of the process. This can include layers of additional fabrics either above or below the photo fabric, hand and machine stitching, couching of yarns, fabric paint, or whatever it takes to create the colors or textures that I need for the piece. On some pieces non-fiber items like found objects or produce netting is added.
Together these stages create a unique image and surface for my work;
one that neither photography or fiber could create on their own.
The photo manipulation
After the fabric is returned with the photo printed on it, I start to add the layers of additional colors and textures. I have used some of the same techniques I show on the DEMONSTRATION page, but also some additional ones that are unique to this piece. Below are some detail shots and information about the process(es) used in that area.
I have written before and often pontificated about how we need only to look around for ideas. We do not have to go to exotic places, or view wide vistas; I spent a month photographing only thing on my block ( for more about that CLICK HERE , or HERE). my search continues, and is probably even more focused since none of us are wondering far these days.
There is a quote from Mary Oliver that addresses this: "Pay attention. Be astonished. Tell about it." I love that and if I have a mantra in life, that is it. Today after that debacle of a debate last night, we must continue to be vigilant and proactive, but maybe today, you need a little "pay attention and be astonished" to remember the beauty that is still all around us even in these times of pandemic and politics.
I thought I would just post a lot of my latest "details of life". Some from walks around the 'hood, some from a boring ride in the car, etc...
I just watched a Netflix show "Empire of Scents". As I watched it it dawned on me that maybe there is something disappearing from our world, and we haven't thought much about it.
I was a graphic designer back in the dark ages.
I remember when cut and paste required sharp and sticky things. Back when you would construct mock-ups using what ever materials you needed to simulate the finished product. When you often had to open the windows or turn on the fans because of the vapors!
My mind reels when I remember those smells. Then sweet vanilla of Rubylith and Amberlith. The warm smell of the hot wax. The difference between the smell of newsprint, coated stock, and Bienfang marker papers. There was something between fear and potential in the smell of the markers as you started rendering. There is not a graphics person around who couldn't identify the smell of rubber cement from a room or two away. And even the metallic smell of the rapidograph ink pens was a daily incense in our studio. Those are only a few of the odors that rose - for good or for ill - from our tools.
When computers came so did sterility. There is no smell to the keyboard (well there shouldn't be anyway!!) you can not smell the marker or glue residue on your fingertips. We lost the touch of the paper and the physicality of the construction. But until now, I hadn't thought about the loss of smell and how devoid of that sense the computer process. For me (insert "Ok Boomer" here) much was lost. The visual aspect of design was still there; The process was, in many ways, freer; Efficiency was enhanced. But it was like moving into a new building - shiny and beautifully functional, but without historic memory.
Now I sew.
I have long thought that I chose this medium because of the physicality and how it echoed those "good old days" of design. I fondle my cloth as I choose it and push it through its paces. I cut, slice, slash, poke, and iron my cloth, just as I did paper in "the good old days". That is where I though my joy came from.
But now I think maybe it is also the smells. There is a distinct difference in the smell of cotton vs. poly vs. linen. I realize that I am smelling the fabric as I fold it or rummage through my stash. The mixture of fear and potential is back every time I open a package from Spoonflower and smell that newly printed fabric. My bag of yarn scraps smell of sheep and hemp, and cotton, and mustiness. The slight oil smell that my sewing machine emits. When my iron hits the damp fabric there is a vaporous aroma that is sweeter than any perfume. The glue scents are there in the fabric spray and the glue stick. Once in a while the marker smells enter with the fabric markers or when I am addressing a box for shipping.
I often am jealous of my dog when we are on walk.
Her world is a completely different one than mine is. Mine is one of sight and I am thankful for that, but hers is one of scent. Sights can confuse her, distract her and even scare her, but scent is her reality. I would love to have a moment of that reality to see what I am missing.
I wonder, as we become more and more technological, if we are forgetting how much that sense of smell has meant to humankind. Will we remember video games in the way I remember the smell of Monoply money or the metal of the pieces. Shopping on line is efficient and I embrace it, but it has been a long time since I took an olfactory lap around the perfume counter at Macy's. Our quest for clean sanitized surrounding and concern for the environment has eliminated the smell of leaves burning in the fall. I am no Luddite. I am happy with the advances in technology, but this was just one of those things that (as Arsenio Hall used to say) make you go "hmmmmmm?!"
Just came home from the whirlwind weekend at the Quilt National Show. This was my first time entering and first time accepted and for that I am honored and grateful. It turns out that about 30% of the entrants were first timers. I would love to know the reason for this (even I like statistics now and then!) Is that normal? Did the more experienced not enter? Is there that much of a surge in new art quilters? A fluke? Judging criteria? Just one of those things that makes you go "hhmmmmmmm"
I must admit that after seeing the show I kinda wondered how my piece [stylistically] got/fit in! I think in the whole show of 90+ pieces there were about five "figurative" pieces, surrounded by colorful (and beautifully done) abstracts. There was one 3-d piece. Again, please understand I am not disparaging either the judging or the accepted entries, but I am confused about the ongoing intent of the show. There are so many wonderful directions that Art Quilting has taken recently that I was a bit confused about the lack of diversity in styles, medium and content. Is it a showcase for the trends that happened in Art Quilting, or is it an inspiring showcase for possibilities! Each show venue lives with a reputation and expectations. QN is grandmother of them all, and as such has both a history to live up to and laurels to ride on.
Now for the good part! My absolute favorite of the show was Jean Wells Keenan's No Stone Unturned. It was the epitome of that which could not be done in any other media. The colors are cloth colors. The textures are stitched textures (both hand and machine), The concept is both universal and intimate. It hit every tick box for me!
Betty Busby continues to be an innovative and positive force for the Art Quilt world. Never resting on a style or technique, she pushes ahead with obvious joy and skill! One year a quilt, one year a vessel, this year a wall sculpture. BUT all recognizable on some level (color? whimsy? craft?) as a "Betty".This year it was Coloratura. A piece inspired by Opera. Thanks for all you do, Betty!
Of the prize winners, I was so happy to see Dinah Sargeant's Riverstrong get recognized. This was another piece that took joy in fabric. Each surface considered. Each stitch meaningful. One of those pieces that is not "Art Quilting". It is simply "Art".
Here are a few details of some of the other award winners. Best in Show, Karen Schultz. Upper left: Emerging Artist, Irene Roderick. Upper Right: Heartland Award, Daren Redman. Middle left: Persistance Pays, Gabrielle Paquin. Middle Right: Quilt Award Japan, Dana Ziesemer. Bottom Left: McCarthy Award: Valerie Maserr-Flanagan. Bottom Right: Outstanding Machine pieced, Pamela Loewen
You know from the minute you see the gleaming mosaics on the outside and then the giant Icarus flying in the stairwell (shown on the left) , that this is not your usual museum. The exhibits right now were themed "Parenting" and the stories told were from all sides of the coin - parent and child. Recounts of childhoods spent in danger or isolation were seen in all media. From a man who spent 30 years sculpting a "family" and then making detail costumes for each doll, to harshly scratched out drawings of a life spent hiding from addicted parents. An imprisoned father's depictions of life were shown in detailed embroideries made from the unraveled socks he could get. So many lives told.
Here are just two of her images with the accompanying texts that were embroidered at the bottom:
One of my other favorite displays ran along the spiral staircase. It was a ten yard machine sewn illustration of scenes sewn by a man at the suggestion of those who stopped by.
Here is his story, idea of what it looked like, and some details.
It was a heart-wrenching visit, saved from being overly emotional by the gift shop at the end. What a place of wonder! Every trinket, accessory and fun things you could want for yourself or to give as gifts... will definitely be back there for the holidays!
I just spent two wonderful days seeing, talking about, and walking through art! I went to several museums with two of my fiber buddies, and we then talked art over good food, and while sitting in various transportation vehicles!
Monday we went to Washington DC. We decided to try out two of the smaller museums, the National Museum of Women in the Arts and the Renwick Gallery, before we hit the National Gallery.
The National Museum of Women in the Arts
As is often the case, we were too optimistic about how much time we would have, so it was a quick visit to the National Gallery. I decided to head over to the East Wing, and just say "hi" to the I.M.Pei building, and not worry about deciding what art to savor in only an hour. My next post will be about our next day at the Visionary Art Museum in Baltimore.... stay tuned.
in the meantime, here is a slide show are some of my shots from the national gallery, the Metro, and one from the wonderful deli/restaurant we stopped at for lunch.
One of the great things about having my studio at McGuffey, is the chance to meet so many new people. Our studios are open to the public, so people wander in fairly frequently. I have met many other fiber artist from the area. I have met art supporters, and the curious. Meeting the public at my art shows, was one of my favorite things about doing art fairs, so I welcome the personal contact and chance to talk art with both those who are knowledgeable and those who are seeking knowledge.
And of course there are my fellow artists. The sculpture pictured here is by Jim Respess, my studio neighbor. It is a monumental scale public art sculpture in Charlottesville. Jim is both a philosopher and an artist, and we share a love of mid-afternoon tea with a dash of discussion! Another artist and I are talking about offering 'open studio' or 'fiber funday' classes next fall. Michelle is a mixed media and book artist, with a background in printing, so it could be a fun partnership.
Then there are tours!
Last week I had three groups of third graders come tour my studio. They were wonderful! The first group was so attentive and asked great questions. The second was a challenge; all over the studio but enthusiastic. The third group was right in between. A little girl stopped on her way out and said "will you please teach me?" So I said maybe in a few years, but she could come visit anytime, and she immediately looked at me and said "FRIDAY??!!" I really expected her to pull out a Blackberry to book a time!
One of the things the kids wanted to do is touch... I totally get that...it is why I have textured textiles instead of flat photos. So I told them, to never touch in a gallery or a museum, but it was MY studio and MY rules, so go ahead and touch. They did! And really got into the textures. One little guy wanted to know how many beads were on one piece and, when I said I didn't know, so he spent 10 minutes counting them and announced "153"!!
The following day, the touching got better.
Sarah, a confident and out-going young woman came into the studio Thursday. She was looking for part time work or even to volunteer to help in the studios. This is not remarkable in itself, but she was blind so it was pretty remarkable! She was asking many questions about my work, so I invited her to see/feel for herself. Her fingers traveled from stitch to stitch, and found the frayed parts and the smooth parts. She wanted to know the origins of the textures. As an artist, it was wonderful to see my work appreciated on a totally new level.
What are we missing by instituting a "no touch rule"?
The kids and Sarah really made me think about a feeling I have long held about art. I think we make it too precious. Would Rodin or Michelangelo really never have wanted the surfaces of their work to be enjoyed? Didn't they choose their materials for the feel as much as the look? Would we have even more admiration of Amsel Kieffer if we could experience the sharp and rough with our fingers as well as our eyes. Textile art is, in its very essence tactile, so why can we only touch with white gloves? As an artist, I find the term "visual art" a limiting misnomer. Art might be a far deeper experience if enjoyed with as many sense as required.
Okay, I get it, we are preserving our art for the ages. What if we didn't care about that. What if we feel that a few generations ability to experience 100% was better than eons experiencing only a portion? Should artists be able to tell museums and galleries, that [respectful] "hands on" is okay for their art? Almost every artist I know (including myself!) has been chided by guards for getting our noses too close as we struggle to see brush strokes and textures. I bet if you actually touched a Van Gogh, there would be some powerful vibes still in those strokes!
The pieces I am working on now for my February show are getting pretty intricate. There is stitching, cutting, couching, beading, and more stitching. I have been thrilled with the pieces so far, but yesterday something started to tickle my brain.... When exactly does intricacy turn into obsession? When will I know if have crossed that line? Well after few hours of pondering and I came to a conclusion, or test:
If the ART WORK NEEDS
the element or treatment to complete the composition or statement,
then it is intricacy.
If I HAVE A NEED
to do the treatment or put on another element to support some inner itch,
then it is obsession!
I am not sure I will always be able to tell the difference (after all, that creative itch is awful close to the obsessive itch!) but this does remind me to stop frequently and take serious stock in what is going on as I work.
Working in my studio at the Art Center, has been so good for this type of reflection. There is art work - finished and in progress - everywhere. I stop. I look. I silently critique... and then I am set to critique my own work. There are artists everywhere. I have discussions about color or style, or other "artsy" things that may have been back-shelved in my brain for a while. They get dusted off and reexamined. There is time and space. My work can sit out over night while I ponder. My ideas can be posted on the walls for slow infusion into my brain. My previous work is at hand to pull out and remind me of things that were (or weren't) successful in the past.
Am I making this sound idyllic? Well it is. So far so good. I can already see the effect having the art, the artists, and the time and space is having on my work. I am grateful and excited.
There has been a lot of chatter on the internet about Pantone's announcement of the new colors for 2016; "Rose Quartz" and "Serenity".
To me and many others those colors hearken back to either baby shower wrapping papers or the geese, hearts, and ribbon decor of the eighties. Neither of which do I need to re-experience!
In one day there were several posting of sun sets or rises similar to this one that I took. Each poster noted the similarity of the colors to the ones that were forecast... maybe it was late in the day, the Pantone folks were tire and wanted to move on to cocktail hour, so they choose what they saw out the window!
The discussion reminds me of a conference I went to years ago, and I thought you might be interested in an insiders look at how some of this forecasting happens. The group I belonged to was the Color Marketing Group. This is an international group that is made up of creatives and product developers from many industries including auto, fashion, home decor, paint, flooring, etc.
If you think about it when you go to remodel your house, you want to know that there will be paints that will match your sofa and carpeting and window coverings (the industry I was involved with) . When you go purchase your car, it is nice if the seat upholstery color is in the same family as the carpet and the exterior. But all of these are made by different manufacturers so how does that happen?
At this annual meeting, we all brought three groups of information. First was the sales history, broken down many ways, of the colors that were selling now. Secondly, we brought information and samples of items that we were looking to release in the next season or two. Thirdly, we brought information and supportive evidence about colors and ideas we were just starting to look at now for use in few years hence.
We then got into groups of related industries to go over this information. The discussion were not just about color. They also took into account finishes (shiny, matte, metallic, etc), materials (natural vs. plastics, new technologies, etc) and processes. It was so very interesting AND I could see where this coordination is also necessary. If the lighting industry started focusing on bright blue metals, while the carpet industry was doing something totally out of sync with that, neither would sell much. Cohesively designing a car with parts from so many industries would be impossible.
After days of discussions, opinions, facts, looking at the economy and trends, we developed color boards using the results of these discussions.
The CMG committees would then compile this information, organize it and disseminate it to their membership. This information was just that; informative. It was not dictate of what any industry should or shouldn't do, but instead was cross-industry information that they could choose to apply as much or as little to their own product design as they felt was appropriate. Many just used it as a check and balance system against their own conclusions.
It was an interesting process, and on many levels an extremely productive one. The final color recommendations were certainly not always on target but they did suggest directions.
Next time you go into a store and can not longer find that royal blue you loved three years age, or suddenly the store seems awash in an orange you never thought you would wear or see again.... this is why! But if you can't find that royal blue, just go to Goodwill, and you will probably find loads of the colors that were popular a few years ago!
Recently a friend heard I was headed to Virginia Beach. She used to live in the area and implored me to go to the Chrysler Museum of Art while I was there. I was really looking forward to a beach vacation, and so wasn't sure abut this, but decided to stop in. Boy, was that the right decision! Not only is it a beautifully curated museum with many early works and women artists with whom I was not familiar, but it has one of the largest glass collections of any museum and a glass studio on the premises.
Truth be told, I have never been a huge fan of glass artwork. Maybe because I had not seen much of it, or maybe because I am mostly ignorant of the processes involved with it (other than, thanks to Audry Handler, I learned it it takes a lot of lung power and a really big furnace!) But now that I have seen a lot of examples, and was led through a chronological tour of glass through the centuries, I am very appreciative of the art form! Isn't that exactly what a museum should do; make you appreciate things a little bit more.
There were shapes of every kind; From the earliest small vessels, through lava-like mounds, to geometric shapes to the organic. The organic shapes were some of my favorites.
(Click on any of these to see a larger picture)
The process that really blew me away was the engraving. This process involves several layers of different colors, or shades, layered upon each other, and then the glass is carved/engraved back to reveal the color that the artist want to appear. The center picture shows one of the artist's sketches for the large vase.
(Click on any of these to see a larger picture)
I have a large collection of sketchbooks and journals. All 98% empty. Artists are supposed to keep sketchbooks. I've been told, that we should be introspective and keep journals with our profound thoughts and creative musings. I am a semi-competent writer, and a better than average artist (so I have been told), but miserable at documentation.
This blog is the only journal-like-thing I have managed to keep going for any length of time!
One of my art professors, Walter Hamady, kept hand-bound, beautifully written and embellished journals. They were on hand made papers, and were works of beauty - meant to last the ages. My friend Lorie posts beautiful images from her sketchbook pages. Other friends have kept sketchbooks that were achingly inspirational; musings, sketches and collections of ephemera! I have scraps of paper, sometimes, kept in a cardboard box, and my collection of journals and sketchbooks that have the first pages desecrated with horrible attempts at self-conscience profundity.
But now I have photos. Hundreds - verging on thousands - not taken for reproduction or sales or even journalistic documentation (with the notable exception of the ones of my family). They are exercise for my eyes. They are calisthenics for my knowledge of design and composition. They slow me down and make me think and work - hard.
At first I just snapped away in 'automatic' mode with my trusty Fuji. but soon I found out that to 'sketch' the right photo, I needed to be able to adjust the depth-of-field, and pick an exposure. Just like sometimes you want to sketch in color, and sometimes in black and white - the same applies to photo sketching. So I upgraded the camera and learned more about my manual settings.
Photography is an art in itself. A laudable and incredibly diverse one. But not one that I (at least for now) find a satisfactory final artifact of my creativity. I use it as the basis of my fiber art; Sometimes quite literally when it is printed as an image in my whole cloth quilt pieces. More often, as the inspiration for the textures or colors in other pieces. It isn't about the specific photographic image for me. It is about taking that to a more universal place of color, texture, and emotion through the addition of other fabric, objects, and embellishments. In the end, I hope the photo is integrated with the fiber art to create something much more layered - both figuratively and literally - than the photo alone. Here is one example of that idea (click on either to see larger):
Here is a piece that uses seven different photos within the final piece:
There was a post in one of my Facebook groups the other day, that posed the question "what inspires you?". A question that is posed to artists a lot, and is interesting to ponder. When I first went to college (at Minneapolis Art Institute) it was the rocking and rebellious late 60s and beginning of the 70s. Statement was king. Art was 'purposeful' (but extremely strange) and what you were saying about your work was often more important that how you created it. I found a lack of profundity in my work. I made stuff because I needed to make, not say. While I had political and social views, communicating them through my work was not important to me. I reveled in color and composition. I wanted to draw, not pontificate. So I left the fine art world for the world of advertising and design. There I could use my talent to express the message of others. That was fine with me.
Now I am back in the more finer side of art! Making things - not for purpose - but for .... uhm.... well.... maybe... not really sure what 'for'! Because I can? Because I need too? Because I have the time now. But back to the question "what inspires me?" Little things. I take great joy in the world around me. I am blessed with eyes that see in compositional and artistic ways. I have only, in later life's moments, realized that not everyone sees what/how I see. So that is what inspires me. Looking around documenting what/how I see and hoping it expands the sight of others. (I still leave the politics and social statements to other artists!)
Last night this balloon went over our house. It was very pretty from that vantage point, but I knew that from my urban mountain-top perch on top of the parking ramp, it would be better. So I ran there. and watched and waited until it passed by the setting sun; there was the sight that I wanted you to see. The inspiration was the balloon, but how I see it is the picture. The Grand Canyon is awesome (in the true sense of the word) but equally as awesome can be the sidewalk shadows right under our feet, or the kid marching across the street. Stop and take a look sometime, it will inspire you.
This past week I had the pleasure of visiting The Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Art in North Adams, MA. Honesty requires me to admit that I went there with low expectations, and avoidance of going sledding, but was pleasantly surprised! Contemporary Art is not my favorite genre. I often find it both self-serving and pretentious and not enlightening or uplifting in the least. Well some of it was. But the experience overall was wonderful and expanding.
The facility is both innovative and wonderful. It is a warren constructed of several buildings that once housed a 19-20th century manufacturing concern. They have retained the bricks and mortar and connected the buildings with tunnels and bridges that are interesting in and of themselves.
The highlight of the museum was the Anslem Kiefer exhibit. He is one of those artists that should rarely be shown in reproduction. The monumental size and the textural richness of his work is just not done justice no matter the number of dots per inch in reproduction! There is an entire building that has been erected to house three major works of his. The Museum will house these for no less than 25 years. The three works are vastly different in both concept and execution, but each as resounding as the other. For me, there have been few works (especially in the "contemporary" genre) that have moved me as the "Women of the Revolution" The literature about the exhibit explains the work as: It takes "its inspiration from Jules Michelet's 1854 study, Les Femmes de la Revolution, which chronicles the lives of specific women. who, in their uncompromising willingness to pursue democratic values, played an important role in the French revolution."
Click on any of the below photos to see larger and fully and at full crop.
Thank you Mr. Kiefer. You have done what art should do. Your craftsmanship is impeccable and supported fully by a strong concept and point of view, with not a trace of self-aggrandizing. You made me think on many levels.
A long time ago a very wise man, and a mentor of mine, told me that an artist should be able to find inspiration from whatever is in an eight foot radius around them at any time. I believe this with my heart and soul.
As I was thinking about Walter's words, I have noticed myself carrying my camera everywhere, trying to take “good” pictures, and not just looking around and experiencing. So to solve this I am taking a two pronged approach for the next thirty days.
First, all photos will be taken within a one block radius of my home. I will have to concentrate on that which I see regularly and find something new about it. Secondly, I will not take my camera elsewhere*. I need to go back to enjoying and experiencing the whole and not worry about how everything will look through a lens or on screen. It is odd, but in some ways, taking pictures has taken me a few steps from experiencing reality.
There was one time this distance served me very well, though! Years ago we were on a sailboat in the Virgin Islands. Every day we had been safely nestled within the small islands there. The one day, we decided to head out into the ocean, beyond the sight of land. I was excited and not at all apprehensive, until land disappeared. It was then that I learned the panic that happens when one discovers a new phobia! The only way I made it through that day was to look through my camera… it took me far enough from reality that I stopped panicking.
I think I have stopped panicking again, but this time I want that thrill and uncertainty of reality. My husband was telling me about a lizard he saw the other day, and I replied that I hoped I got to see it and that I better have my camera with me when I did. It was almost like I thought the experience wouldn’t be valid unless I recorded it. That feeling both surprised me and made me think hard about what I want from my photography.
The creative process, not the end product has always been the best part of art for me. I want to express the way I see and look, but I do not want the icon to be more a priority than the experience, so time for this exercise. I find it so easy to gt enthused and excited, but also it is so easy to fall into comfortable or safe ruts. I am not taking photos for fame or profit, so I must do it for my enjoyment and expansion first, so off I am to do that. I have to see if I can focus in and expand out at the same time!
You will see the results in my daily photo posts this month. Today I have posted the last theme photo for a while (my trusty foil) and have a few more words there about this topic, if it interests you. Wish me luck both on the new activity and the withdrawal!
*unless I am visiting the grand kids, maybe!
I was recently involved with yet another 'critique' discussion in a group for art makers on Facebook. It involved someone being upset and losing confidence because of the comments they had received regarding art they had posted. I have been involved with feedback/comments/critique and such for over 40 years now... on all sides; as a customer, instructor, maker, and professional. I am continually astounded at how often comment is mistaken for critique. And how often the subjective and objective are blurred. Or when critique is asked for simple validation is what is wanted.
NOTE: I am going to ignore the added level complexity and vitriol comments brought on by the anonymity of the web, and focus on the comments that would be more universally applied in any situation.
First, when one asks for feedback they should be clear as to what they are looking for! "Do you like this?" or "what do you think" leaves one wide open for anything, and everything, from opinion to fact. A friend asked me one time what my "favorite" painting in a museum was. I replied with the name of a fairly minor work. He could not understand my response, until I explained that he didn't ask me which I thought was the best painting... just which might be my favorite.
I would choose two very different paintings to answer each question:
Favorite? A subjective, gut reaction; Do I want to live with it on my wall?
Best? An objective ranking of technical skillfulness, academic proficiency, and appropriate use of subject manner.
There are many great artworks that I appreciate, but would not choose to live with, and there are many not so perfectly composed or produced artworks I would be pleased to have in my home because of the emotions they evoke, or they simply include subject matter I identify with. I love Folk and Naive art as well as Children's art. Rarely can those work be deemed the work of a virtuoso, but they may have great merit and emotion. If asked to critique them, I wouldn't bring up rules of design, or color theory; solving or applying those issues was not the intent of the creator. I would give an answer about why they subjectively appealed to me or not.
However if someone is asking peers for critique to improve their skill or marketability, they should be ready for both the objective evaluation of the technical merits of their work as well as how people respond subjectively to the image. Each person who responds will bring with them their own level of expertise, prejudices and preferences, and all can potentially be helpful, or if not, ignored!
It is up to the artist to use or ignore the feedback they asked for, and to decipher what of it is subjective and what is objective.
A comment or even an objective evaluation is there to use or not use. If you don't agree with it, you could/should ask for further explanation or reason for the conclusion, so you can understand where the critique is coming from. In doing so you may find that it is formed from a very personal experience, or from a fount of knowledge, or just from a gut reaction...
that will give you more information to weight the applicability and universality of the comments as they apply to the work. Or you can simply ignore it.
It is up to those critiquing to understand what comments or opinions may be important and useful to the artist. So make sure you understand if they are asking for a gut check, or whether they used a technique correctly; Were they asking if their color usage was effective or if you like the subject matter? If they have not made that clear - ask so you can be more helpful.
The beauty of art is that there is a myriad of reactions involved in each piece - and that sum is then squared by the two parties involved. There is the maker's intent and the viewer's reaction. Only the maker knows their intent and communication goal. Only the viewer knows their reaction. Sometimes those are in sync. Many times they are not. This could be from an incomplete presentation or failure by the artist, or a non-receptive or ill-educated viewer, or simply two people coming from very different places. Only dialog between the two can bring understanding and additional knowledge to both parties if that is the goal (for some artist the making is enough, and the viewers reaction unimportant, but that is a whole different discussion!!). A viewer saying that Lautrec should know that people are not blue, or that Miro should draw more realistically, would probably have been ignored or corrected by those artists, because they would have known they were not a meaningful comments in regards to their intent. But that doesn't mean the comments (heard in art museums quite regularly I would assume) are not valid reactions from that particular viewer. Only by understanding the cohesiveness of the intent and the reaction can an artist and a viewer understand if the critique is useful and relevant or not.
So to be a productive critique, the artist must be specific about what they are asking, and the respondent must honor that with appropriately directed responses or bow out . It is as appropriate for a viewer to appreciate only realistic renderings, or a specific subject matter, as it is for an artist to explore the avant-garde and conceptual ideas or technique, however they must understand the differences of thought before they hope to connect productively in a critique forum.
I can not remember a time when I have not made things. I can not remember a time when my brain didn't immediately crop and compose whatever I am looking at. I can not imagine my head not saying "what if" and "what about if you"... This is not a brag or a exhalation, just a constant reality of my life, just as each of you have a constant in yours. This is also influenced by the weeks of going through all my saved possessions and artwork as we prepare to move.
A while ago the Huffington post had an article on the 18 things Highly Creative People do Differently. To see it go HERE. It is worth a read!
It got me to thinking about the Photo group I am in, and the many artists I know, and the different approaches we are all taking to the challenge of taking a photo each day.
In the article it says:
"Openness to experience is consistently the strongest predictor of creative achievement," says Kaufman. "This consists of lots of different facets, but they're all related to each other: Intellectual curiosity, thrill seeking, openness to your emotions, openness to fantasy. The thing that brings them all together is a drive for cognitive and behavioral exploration of the world, your inner world and your outer world."
I figure anyone who signs up for the picture a day must be also exhibiting the "openness to experience"! What is interesting to me is how all of these creative minds interpret the experience we call life! The faces above are an example of one of my favorite things; a variety of interpretations of a particular, singular subject by a variety of artists.
It is not the accurate representation of subject matter that makes for interesting art - or photography - it is the artists hand and heart being evident in the documentation that makes it art. It is like hearing a particular idea expressed in a myriad of languages and accents, each with a nuance and reaction particular to both the speaker and the listener. The same vocalization can mean "home" to one and "enemy" to another, to one is is romantic and soft, to another incomprehensible.
For now, I just want to talk about the artist, not the viewer who may have his or her own criteria for enjoyment or interest. There are as many reasons for creating art as there are artists, but I have noticed some loose categories before, and they are really evident to me as I watch a oeuvre of work unfold from the various photographers in our group.
Some, like me, are The Dilettante: rolling around in something new and different whenever they come across it. For me it is the new found media, and all the facets it offers in techniques, subjects and other possibilities that makes finding a particular voice probably premature. I am sure, sooner or later, one facet will shine more than others for me, but until then, I am happy to experiment.
The Geek: Much like the painters who know the formulas for each of their colors, and the thread count and archival-ness of their canvases, and are concerned with the differences between a matter or gloss varnish, these photographers both understand and love the technical aspects of photography. They have tried every filter and filtering program. The lighting set up and the post work are as exciting to them as the subject and shoot are. They embrace every aspect of the science as well as the art of photography.
The Serial Shooter: Like Degas drew and painted dancer after dancer, or haystack after haystack, each time exploring a different aspect of the subject or scene, these photographers embrace a subject with all their heart. Some do it for a month, some for a lifetime. It is so interesting to see both what they hone in on as a subject, and what within that subject they then focus on for the study.
The Designer: These are the people for whom the composition and elements of design take forefront. They often have the more minimalist take or the most unique viewpoint. The subject matter is secondary to the impact of the design.
The Journalist: For them the recording of an event is important. The event could be monumental or momentary, but noticing it and recording it is their joy. Whether it is the genre art of everyday living, or the fleeting moment of a rainbow or sunset, or a newsworthy event; it is captured by them.
BUT no one is really just any of these, and truly great artists are all of these.
The journalist who doesn't know how to compose or capture the lighting will not make a provoking photo. The designer with no intimate knowledge of his subject will often resort to trite. and so on it goes... but there is something that starts the creative juices to move, and that is usually remains high on the hierarchy of the finished art work's presence. I am just finding it fascinating - and always have - to see how the individual stacking of these priorities creates an amazing array of creative output.
Today I, and three of my buddies, went to the Milwaukee Art Museum. It is an amazing building and the building itself is the most amazing piece of art.
The structure was designed by Santiago Calatrava and I applaud the City of Milwaukee for its decision to make this commitment to the arts. If you want to see a pictures of the space go to my pictures of the day for 03/01/2014.
The exhibit we went to see was the Uncommon Folk: Traditions in American Folk Art. As you might remember from my blog post back on Jan. 17. 2014, I really love Folk Art.
This exhibit was more than I could have imagined. It was curated perfectly; intimate groupings arranged by theme, and truly a cross-section of the sublime to the hilarious. The soul of each of the works was laid bare with the honesty with which it was made, and there were no bounds to the media or methodology!
If you are really into history, click here for blog posts prior to 2014 !