Who taught Whom?

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Having spent over 20 years in the classroom teaching elementary and middle school students  my view of the world is always colored by my experience with people in their formative years.  I am always hopeful.  A teacher is in a completely unique position to spend the bulk of one year in the life of a child, a predictable and sustaining presence.  In light of a teacher's influence, it is a great and solemn responsibility.  I think most teachers just want to do their best for each student and make a positive contribution to their academic, social and emotional growth and development.  I always said, "I never met a kid I didn't like."  I meant it and I looked for the small things which made every child special, something that was not readily seen unless you spend 7 hours a day 5 days a week with someone. No matter who the student was, I always found it.  

As an artist who has often incorporated candid photos into my work I have appreciated looking at life though the lens of a single moment.  When going through the artifacts of a teaching career; letters and notes, yearbooks and photographs I revisited and remembered these moments, these students.  In looking back, I noted that these moments not only revealed something about the day, but the students as well.  It may be a feeling of ambivalence, a show of strength, a touch of vulnerability, a glimpse into their imagination.  Looking back, it was magical.  I can't think of a series that I have more fun painting.  My students continue to give back to me more than I could ever give to them.  I am the lucky one.  

Images may be viewed here.

Lessons Learned, opens on May 8th at the City of Shoreline gallery on the 2nd floor. The opening reception will be held from 6:30 - 8:30 on May 8th. The exhibition will run through July. Hours are 9 - 5 Monday - Friday.

Coming Full Circle

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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.

Change is the Ever Constant

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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.

 

 

From Life to Paint

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. 

The Art Came First for Mark Mothersbaugh

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

In Better Hands

 Winner's of the Art, Writing and Film Contest at the Holocaust Center for Humanity

Winner's of the Art, Writing and Film Contest at the Holocaust Center for Humanity

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.  

Young Artists, Writers and Filmmakers Show Us the Way

An Unexpected Turn

 The parking 3 story parking structure at the train station in Amsterdam

The parking 3 story parking structure at the train station in Amsterdam

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.