I continue to explore the idea of shift and in preparation for a residency working with middle school students I have returned to the notion of generational transition. My early work reflected my observation of the generation of parents and grandparents. As my own children have reached their early 20's the hard realization that my generation is not leaving them a sustainable world has set in. They and the generations that follow will need incredible problem solving skills, creativity and compassion to tackle their future. The cyclical nature of generation transition continues as it has throughout all time and hopefully our gift will be wisdom to know when t move aside and act as a supporting role to the generation behind. The painting below, Animate Existence speaks to the junction between planet and mortals embedded in the subtle narrative of the comings and goings of young and old.
Life has shown me that change is a companion to get used to and to make peace with. While change can bring uncertainty it can also open up unexpected horizons. Much has changed since I first began my art career, leaving my teaching career and discarding my education in computer animation for painting. After the first couple of years of paying the bills, painting still life and landscapes I soon realized my voice felt disconnected from this early work. The advice of my high school English teacher still resonated with me. "Write about what you know." I realized that the scaffolding for my art was built from my life experiences. Although, life provided plenty of fodder, guarding my privacy was a bit of a hump to get over. As I found myself squeezed during the years of raising children and caring for the older generation I realized that these were very common experiences that are shared by many. My artist's voice sought expression not just for myself, but had the hope that the work would resonate with others as well. Each series unfolded from there, leading to the most vulnerable work, Terrible Beauty, an attempt to put the past's ghosts to rest.
In the meantime, life presented a challenge, forging an enduring and indelible connection between life and art. Life forever changed as a result of an extended illness, two surgeries and extensive rehab. There were moments when Art literally tethered me to this life and although I had to change everything about the way I created art, I have never looked back. For those of you who have followed my work over the long run it has been a noticeable transformation and the current work may seem far removed from that early work, however, I look at it as a most amazing journey, not only the journey of my art, but of my life. I am left with only gratitude for life, the lovely spots and the difficult ones as well. The world is changing, both collectively and individually and I look forward to turning my lens to the wider world. More change to come for all of us. Peace to all.
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I have never considered myself a painter of landscapes, however, I have a secret stash of plenty in my studio closet that I view as my art hobby. When I travel I cannot stop myself from drawing and painting what is in front of me. When walking the dog in the neighborhood, something will catch my eye in the way the light falls or the subtle changes of the seasons. I get ideas that I usually have to and by have to, I mean, I must translate observations into paintings when I get back into the studio. Sometimes I will look to a photo, but most often paint from memory and then take over from there. I do not have a lot of time to spend on them because I am usually in the middle of two or three other projects so they are not large, 18 x 24 or less. I have noticed that one of the reasons I like to do them is there is a certain freedom and immediacy when work is done only for yourself. Working on these studies can prove meditative and probably more importantly, fun. I’ll share a few every now and then on the blog.
Last summer when I was visiting my family in Ohio my husband and I stopped in the Akron Art Museum and spent some time looking at a large exhibition called Myopia. I had not heard of it but it took over the bulk of the museum so I was curious. I have a habit of going through museum exhibitions from the end to the beginning. Looking at the work without context to make my own conclusions based on the images alone. I found life size sculptures, paintings, rugs, digitally manipulated photographs and one entire room full of 30,000 postcards all organized in 300 binders. I was simply blown away by this body of work and wanted to know more.
At the end, which was actually the beginning, I read the statement about the artist's difficult childhood because of undiagnosed Myopia. His vision did not extend beyond 6 inches. There was a bit about his hellish early school years which I could very much relate to because of my own learning difficulties. After reading more, I realized that he grew up in a town about 30 minutes from where I was raised in Ohio. Then I looked at the name; Mark Mothersbaugh, co-founder of Devo, the iconic punk band of the 80s. Standing there, I decided I wanted to interview him. I reached out to him this spring and he graciously agreed to an interview. We talked at length on the phone and he helped me make the connection between the art and the music, which not many know. He told me the most wonderful stories about the early days and the thread of his art always present, even to this day. He may just be a modern renaissance man. Here is the article and make sure you look at the images through the story and at the end.
Mark Mothersbaugh: The Artist Within
I was invited to jury the annual art contest for the Holocaust Center For Humanity in Seattle. I judged the high school age visual art entries, both the artwork and their statements. The theme was a quote by Elie Wiesel. “There may be times when we are powerless to prevent injustice, but there must never be a time when we fail to protest.” In light of the past 6 months it seems a most topical theme. The decision was difficult and I was impressed by the artwork and the student's thoughtful statements. Their compassion, intelligence and ability to articulate both in word and image were impressive. Perhaps the future may be in better hands. I featured it for the Huffington Post and the article is here. I have included many of the winner's images and have a link to the other film and writing winner's. Congratulations to everyone.
Out of the Blue I received a phone call from the Arts Director for the city of Lynnwood asking to buy reproduction rights for a painting I had done in 2014 for Inky Spokes, a bicycle inspired group exhibition. In 2012 I made my first trip to Amsterdam to attend my exhibition and not only fell in love with the city, but was completely in awe of their use of bikes throughout the city. If you have never been before, there are more people riding bikes than cars. Between the trains and the bicycles this city moves efficiently like no other city I have seen. I created a tripych celebrating the bikes of Amsterdam called “Bicycle Dreams” The city of Lynnwood is wrapping the traffic light boxes with the images. I attended the dedication last week and spoke and helped cut the ribbon. How fun! Thank you to Fred Wong and all the others involved in this project.
Last spring Dallas Public Library Curator and Arts Director, Rae Pleasant, reached out to me and invited me to do poetry reading based on poetry and artwork rooted in my family album. The reading was held on Saturday, May 12th at the Main Branch of the library. I want to thank all of those who attended and especially want to thank Rae for inviting me and all the work done on installation and organizing the event. Rae is an illustrator and artist herself and you can check her work out here at Pleasant Folk. It was also a treat to meet another Pleasant. Thank you, Rae.
“Family” is perhaps the most powerful, surely the first and most primal influence in defining who we are or who we imagine ourselves to be. As we move further away from our youth the previous generation takes its exit one by one. As we watch the cycle unfold we realize that "family" is beyond space and form. We idealize the ones who have passed on, but are keenly aware that their influence, (for good or for ill), remains ever present. Families have always been a messy business. Our experiences range from love, anger, joy, frustration, jealousy, ambivalence, compassion. It's all there. We can’t run from who we are and a large part of who we are lays at the feet of these experiences.
THE VEIL IS THIN
They have never left.
The sharp chill in the air,
the soft breeze brushing the cheek,
the faintest scent of lavender on a late spring day,
the swishing sound of an endless willow strand;
all reminders of enchantments felt, not seen.
Mothers and their mothers;
conservators of unconditional love.
Some missed the mark,
however, pure their heart’s intent.
Now, sentinels, on the ready,
a whisper, a breeze, a scent away.
When we are most in need of reminders that we are loved.
The veil is thin
and they have never left.
For my mom, Alice Pleasant, miss you.
In the spring of 2016 I was in the middle of completing two years worth of work (both artwork and poetry) for Terrible Beauty, an exhibition based on a childhood experience of sexual assault. After 30 years of silence it was an interesting time full of introspection, reflection and putting ghosts to rest. Two friends took me to a very special place, Serenity Equine Rescue and Rehabilitation where they rescue and place horses in permanent homes. They have a program called Horses as Healers which is an equine therapy program to help facilitate people who have been exposed to trauma. (PTSD)
I met Dante, a beautiful, larger than life Belgian work horse. This intuitive and compassionate being helped me and reminded me what it felt like to feel safe. It was an amazing experience. When I was a child I spent time around horses at my aunt’s farm. I was fascinated by them and my first art experience was drawing horses every day for years, literally I drew hundreds of pictures of horses. This day was a great reminder of my love for these majestic animals.
This spring I returned to say hello to the horses again and to spend time sketching them. It was so fun. They engaged with me and seemed happy to have the attention. I drew Dante’s head and turned the sketchbook around and he turned his head to look at it. One of the horses actually rested his muzzle at the top of my book as I drew until I finished. Horse magic. Thank you to Kristen of Serenity and of course, to the horses, especially Dante.
As an artist, there are these moments that you look at your work and have a knowing that there is something more, something just beyond your reach, something which will take you off the path. In life and in art that's when its gets interesting. For an artist it could be a new surface, a new material, a different way of putting things together, planning or not planning. Whatever it takes to move you out of your comfort zone will suffice.
I bought some india ink. I had not used ink since I was in high school which is a while back. I also usually do a study and put a fair amount of planning for my larger pieces. All this was tossed to the side and I have to say it felt pretty good. Something new is coming and isn't that what the creative life is about.
Recently, I was able to attend Nathalia Edenmont's Exhibition at the Nancy Hoffman Gallery in New York. What an amazing evening. Her photographs, larger than life and stunningly beautiful can truly be appreciated in person. Nathalia lives in Sweden and I was able to do an in-depth interview over several phone conversations. I found her story and the connection to her art to be fascinating. She attended the opening and I was able to meet her and have dinner with her and her team from Sweden. I am always grateful to meet and spend time with these amazing artists. I learn so much and always walk away from the encounter completely inspired. I want to thank both Nathalia and Nancy for the opportunity.
Here is the story published in the Huffington Post.
I was honored to be invited to participate in Nasty Woman Amsterdam in March at Josilda Da Conceicao Gallery in Amsterdam. This exhibition is an outgrowth of the original Nasty Woman exhibition in the Knockdown Center in Queens, NY. Since then there have been 30 sister shows and counting around the globe that have raised over $181.000 for women's rights and social issues. I created a poster based on a painting of my grandmother who perhaps was an original Nasty Woman. Just to review, "Nasty Woman" became a rallying call to woman, an unintended consequence to a thoughtless, misogynistic and disrespectful comment made during a Presidential Debate by Donald Trump.
From Emma Gray of the Huffington Post:
During the final moments of the third and final presidential debate, Donald Trump interrupted Clinton as she was answering a question about social security. “Such a nasty woman,” he muttered into his microphone. Women all over the world have reclaimed a word meant to insult. Happy to have participated in this show.
Exhibition runs March 4 – 12, 2017
Josilda da Conceição Gallery
Wormerveerstraat 15, 1013 JS Amsterdam