Saturday Art Reviews
These reviews and more can also be found on Google + under #saturdayartreview
Canadian abstract artist Patti Agapi consistently produces artwork that is beautiful, original in its diversity, always note-worthy, and often emotionally compelling. What is surprising, however, is how much her work fits into the thread of what I’ve written about frequently in these reviews. I refer to the landscapes we human inhabit and the sense of place that accompanies a beloved landscape.
One might not think of a sense of place as being relevant to an abstract artist, but the concept fits for Patti Agapi’s paintings. Rather than a literal place in the world, Patti’s sense of place is that place where the soulful human spirit lives. This is something greater than one personal psychology. Her paintings are reminder of the universal spirit within each of us that best expresses itself in the arts.
Patti describes her abstract paintings on her webpage as mirroring “the hazy, transparent dream state of mind – each brush stroke, smudge and swear elicit the ethereal and fluid nature of the subconscious mind.” In Jungian psychology, there is the concept of the “collective unconscious,” a transpersonal state of being that all humans share. This is where the universal human spirit lies. It is that which we all share. Patti’s paintings directly address many of the concerns and preoccupations and joys that go beyond just one life to include all human lives. Her paintings are archetypal expressions of not just one personal psychological consciousness. Rather, they are expressions of those universal qualities that make us human.
Take, for example, this painting Remember (left). Like many of her abstractions, this painting can be read as a landscape with its swirling sphere of light above a multifaceted, grounded space rich with the chaos of human existence and memory. We see and feel and remember the richness of human experience. There are those colorful and joyful experiences, the dark knots of anger and fear, the circles of integration and unity as we connect with ourselves and others. Indeed it is a remembrance of our human existence.
Another beautiful work is Love is a Shadow (below right), a painting which expresses the complexity of human love. This one is energetic to the point of chaos – and isn’t love just that? The colors are representative of the experience of love – passion, anger, nurture, dark depression and loneliness, with those lovely calligraphic lines attempting to write a meaning for it all.
Hope Is the Thing With Feathers is one of my favorites (below left). Again, we see those landscape elements – climbing the mountain toward the light while trying valiantly to hang onto hope, like a bird flying toward the open sky. It is a lovely interpretation of Miss Dickinson’s poem.
Patti Agapi also creates some other excellent works such as collages and drawings, but her paintings remain my favorites. Learn more about Patti Agapi at:
December 8, 2012
The civilizations that came before us had a more realistic view of the place of humans in the world. They knew that their very survival depended upon paying really close attention to what was going on in the world around them. Humans learned how to observe, to fit in, how to adapt to environmental conditions, and how to be a part of the creation. They knew that to fall under the illusion that they were above it all, or that they could “control” outcomes would surely lead to disaster. As a consequence, they developed a sense of place and a spirit of place to create among in their minds and spirits a profound sense of respect for the place where they lived.
From the beginning, art had a role in creating this spirit of place, and of making sacred the place that sustains our lives. Lascaux cave painters, scholars believe, envisioned a good hunt when they painted those ancient animals. Native American hunters murmured a prayer to bison about to die so that the people could eat. Australian aboriginal song lines led wanderers to the next source of water on the way to Ularu. The Chinese had their sacred Buddhist Emei Shan, and the Daoist Wudang Shan, and they honored (and still do) the magnificent Huang Shan that inspired poet Li Bai and so many artists from the Tang to Ming dynasties. There’s the Ganges, the river that Hindus believe is a living being, and so many other great rivers of life.
The Romans had the notion of genius loci (spirit of place). Motivated by this philosophical concept, they set up alters all over the empire to commemorate the spirit of a specific place. Even today the Diné (Navajo) singers bless The People into balance with the words, “In beauty I walk; With beauty before I walk; With beauty behind me I walk; With beauty around me I walk; It has become beauty again.”
We lost our way a couple of centuries ago, and we’re trying to find our way again. We have forgotten that we are part of this mysterious miraculous planet teeming with life forms, and we suffer the illusion that our technology can control the environment around us. Lately, though, there are strong suggestions that maybe we aren’t really as much in control as we’d like to think. Words like “Katrina” and “tsunami” and “Sandy” and “rising sea levels” are starting to get our attention. And again artists are helping us to remember, to find our place in the scheme of things, and to hold sacred the places where we live.
Eric Fredine is one of the artists who are helping us remember and know the spirit of place. Fredine is a Canadian photographer who has lived in and photographed the landscape in Alberta and British Columbia. His prairie landscapes are particularly noteworthy, especially a mysterious place called Cooking Lake. It is worth the effort to go to his Google + page, click on Photos, and then on Landscapes to see more.
Eric’s landscapes are quite abstract which make them especially appealing to me because abstracts give us space to experience the image more fully. His masterful compositions draw attention to line and take the viewer’s eye on a journey of exploration across the picture plane. Color is important, too, but line dominates.
Take these two images. The first image shows us a line that zig zags toward the horizon. The line on the right is as minimal as can be – a simple line creating a horizon. This line is a pure expression of the essential nature of our relationship to our surroundings. We exist between earth or sea and the limitless sky. As such, his photos seem to me to manifest that “spirit of place” that the Romans honored, but on a grand scale. We look at his photos and we know in the most fundamental way that we are small, only a part of the great Creation. Like a Qing dynasty monk on the back a donkey gazing up at the sacred mountain, we know our place in a Fredine photograph. Yes, we are small, but like everything in the image, we are essential.
That’s how I view Eric Fredine’s work. So you can imagine what I thought when I read another art reviewer on Fredine’s work, Greg Fallis, who wrote, “I am not a particular fan of landscape photography. It doesn’t move me. Don’t get me wrong; I’ve spent a great deal of time in natural places of staggering beauty and I appreciate the allure of the landscape. But for the most part, landscape art doesn’t seem to hold my eye for more than a moment. Maybe it’s the lack of new visual information…..For the most part, photographs and paintings of landscapes fail to hold my interest.” Despite this constricted viewpoint, Falls did manage to appreciate Fredine’s work because Fallis sees Eric Fredine’s landscapes as “devoid of a sense of scale” and that they “exist outside of any human context.” He goes on, “There is nothing to seize the eye, but the nothingness is compelling. The poverty of visual reference doesn’t equate to a poverty of emotion. These photographs are, to me, powerfully and profoundly moving. They reinforce one’s sense of smallness, of aloneness.”
Fallis doesn’t get what’s going on here. What he thinks is nothingness is actually everything. Of course he feels small. That’s the whole point. We are small. And as far as “aloneness,” how can one possible feel alone in such a place rich with life? Fallis goes on to say that Fredine’s landscapes are “more like landscapes of an alien planet.” No. Not alien at all. We are looking at the essential suchness of our home planet. We are seeing the true nature of reality. And until we learn to see this reality and know it and honor it again, we will continue to suffer the ever-increasingly dire consequences of our egotistical shortsightedness.
See more at: https://plus.google.com/u/0/109725757995563930722/posts
December 1, 2012
Some artists present us with images that can bring forth different stories in our minds. These images tell a tale that instruct or inform us. It’s impossible to miss the story in Picasso’s Guernica, for example. Or perhaps an image carries within it a spontaneous story laden with diverse ideas or emotions – ideas and emotions that are very often related to what we are thinking or feeling in our personal lives.
Other artists have the capacity to go beyond concept or emotions in storytelling, and instead they present images that can be seen, interpreted, or read in many different ways not bounded by one story line. In these works, the essential nature or structure of the image can be read in different ways. It’s up to you and me to say what we are seeing. The image can be seen as micro or macro level, as a landscape in one minute, or a figure in the next; as abstracts now, or an impressionistic rendering in a future viewing. These multiple understandings of a single image are especially intriguing to me
Shell Rummel is one of those artists who can provide us with those compelling images. In fact she says herself, “The fluid grace of nature and its infinite interpretations is my inspiration.” The word “fluid” catches my attention here because it seems to encapsulate the character of her work. The very ability of her images to be read in different ways manifests this idea of fluidity.
Take this watercolor painting, The Heart Surges which is accompanied by a passage from the book The History of Love. From the title of this work and the book passage, an immediate interpretation comes to us. We imagine a “new feeling” entering the world, and we get to speculate on what the new feeling might be based on the image we see.
But there are other ways to read this. Are we looking at the interior space of a creature that carries within itself a heart and blood vessels and surging flood flows? That micro-level interpretation of the inner life of cells or structure of tissue appears often in Shell’s work. Or stepping back a bit, do we see a reposing figure with pulsating vessels just beneath the skin’s surface? Or perhaps this is something entirely different. Perhaps it’s a sea creature with tentacles floating on undulating waves. Step back again. Could the image be an island floating in the great ocean? We see rocky cliffs and sandy shores, tree lines and open grass prairies, trails and roads and little villages? Or perhaps this is the great Ocean itself with that pulsating, surging life-giving substance that gives planet Earth its true name, the Water Planet.
One can always be sure that Shell’s images will be organic, made of earth and sea and sky, of tissues and cells and atoms that make up the things of life. Her color palette is distinctive and perfectly supports her artistic message. Although I know much of her time is taken with her design business based in Virginia, I am always very pleased to see her artwork appear in her G+ stream. It has become something of an entertaining puzzle for me to see how many layers of reality I can see in her paintings.
Learn more about Shell Rummel at http://www.shellrummel.com/ or on Google + at https://plus.google.com/103950094023645163151/posts
October 27, 2012
Political art appeared rather late in the long history of human artistic endeavor. By “political” art, I mean those creative works that either protest an outrage or advocate a position. Prior to the 19th century, there was an occasional artist that would create a work that sent a message to the powers that be, but they were not common.
One example is Italian Baroque painter Artemisia Gentileschi and her work Judith Slaying Holofernes (1611-12) which depicts the slaying of Assyrian general Holofernes. This painting was presented as a Biblical tale of Israel’s salvation from the Assyrians by Judith and her maid servant who assassinated the Assyrian general. But the sight of a drunken man being held down by one woman as a second woman slices off his head, blood dripping copiously, must have made many men quite uncomfortable, especially when learning that the artist herself was a victim of rape.
As political art began to appear more frequently in the early 19th century and 20th centuries, anti-war messages became common. We remember Goya’s The Shootings of May 1808 (1814) protesting the massacre of Spanish civilians by Napoleon’s soldiers. Probably the greatest anti-war work of all is Picasso’s Guernica (1937) which protests the fascist bombing of a village in Spain during the Spanish Civil War. Protest against war and violence continue to appear in modern art, among them Jenny Holzer’s Redaction paintings (2006) which speak to U.S. state-sponsored torture in Iraq and Afghanistan. And there is Chinese artist Ai Wei Wei’s Remembering (2009), a protest against corruption that led to the deaths of thousands of school children in the 2008 Sichuan earthquake, and the official cover up that followed.
Political art in more modern times also celebrates the contribution of social groups, and also advocates for their full civil rights. Think of the art of the Harlem Renaissance, art that came out of the 1960s civil rights movement including the Black Arts Movement, the Chicano Renaissance art, and Feminist art. Many of us believe that these “movement”-related arts all address the same issue. They advocate for full human rights for all people regardless of sex, race, ethnicity, religious preference, or sexual orientation.
The three paintings we see here by Texas artist Maude McDonald fit squarely into the concepts addressed by political art for more than two centuries. Each of her paintings speaks to a specific current situation as we approach elections in the United States. And yet, each is universal and makes a more general protest against violence, and for full for human rights.
McDonald’s painting, No Joke, we see the cartoon super villain The Joker, who looks uncomfortably like one of our current presidential candidates. A woman dressed in a hospital gown open at the back indicating her vulnerability holds a red paint loaded brush used to warn us. Red paint like blood drips to the pavement The assault on women’s health care by the politicians is nothing to be taken lightly, it is not a laughing matter, it is no joke. This is read as a warning of what could happen to women’s health status and reproductive rights if one presidential candidate wins over another.
Yet there is also a universal appeal in this painting that transcends women’s issues. The vulnerability that we all feel, male and female, when captured by a dysfunctional medical system is palpable. We all feel naked under that hospital gown with its gapping opening in the back exposing our backside to attack. The Joker’s huge portrait on the wall is an indication of the vast, narcissistic ego of members of the plutocracy who believe most sincerely that their ill-gotten wealth and power is richly deserved and that their aggrandizement actually “helps” the rest of us. The Joker’s smug smile indicates this notion. And crossing out of the word “health” to make the slogan become “Women’s rights” is both a feminist statement and a statement of the need for universal human rights in the area of health care.
Disenfranchised is a painting that speaks directly to the relentless class conflict we face in our era. Again this is specific to the current election where one political party wants to punch holes in the social safety net with an ill-considered voucher program. But there also is the universality of the human struggle for survival in this painting. We see a line of primarily elderly people and children, always the first victims of a shredded social safety net, standing in line in the cold hoping and waiting for help.
This powerful painting reminds me most of the dramatic work of the great German socialist artist Käthe Kollwitz who spent a lifetime promoting the rights of working people and protesting the tragedy of Europe’s 20th century wars in her art. This is probably not a painting that the average person would want hanging over their sofa in the living room. But it happens to be my favorite of these three because it directly confronts what I consider to be one of the great struggles of our modern age – the increasing gap between the very few fabulously wealthy and the vast majority of the rest of us.
On the Brink is a more mythic kind of work with obvious connections to today’s political events. Is that a Republican Party elephant destabilizing the earth under women’s feet as they are fall off into a universe devoid of human rights? Traditionally elephants have had wonderful mythic meanings to humans: stability, strength, reliability, patience, and a long, long memory. How did it come to be reduced to this?
Again, the work can be read from a larger human-rights view point. In this painting an antiquated, less intellectually developed philosophy has turned the world into a flat plane with a vast ocean and universe all around. This notion of the world is quite similar to what 16th century European explorers believed. They set off to the west across the great waters hoping to discover new lands. They believed then that the world was flat, and if they did not discover new lands eventually they would fall off the edge of the world into the void. These days both men and women are engaged in a grand and destabilizing exploration as we redefine gender roles. We are explorers hoping to discover a land where each of us can be valued equally.
We know now that the world is round, and that we are connected to each other everywhere and in every way. As we face the greatest challenge that humanity has ever faced, atmospheric warming/climate change, we will have to integrate this insight of connectedness if we are to survive as a species. The women in this painting struggle to stay grounded on the earth. But my attention is drawn most to the woman who has her toe pressing against the elephant’s face as if to help this great creature remember who he used to be and who he can be now.
My profound admiration goes out to artists everywhere who struggle with these issues of human rights and an end to violence and war. My profound admiration goes out to Maude McDonald for her contribution to this tradition.
October 6, 2012
Chicago-based American artist Leon Sarantos is a multi-talented artist who paints a variety of subjects: landscape, and especially cityscapes, still life, portraits and figurative work, and also some pure abstractions.. With a degree in architecture and professional work experience in the field, it is not surprising that many of Leon’s paintings reflect his interest in architectural design.
He has a well-developed collection of cityscapes that are deeply informed by the architect’s sensibility. For example, his painting C-Shop, Coffee Shop at University of Chicago show students in a large interior open space in which the complicated design of the building is as important as the figures in the work. For those of us who have been challenged by the need to get perspective right in a painting, this work provides an excellent example. Attention to detail in rendering the buildings in Botany Pond and Bond Chapel also indicate his interest in architecture.
Leon creates interesting figurative work and portraits in which line is important in defining the figure. High contrast in the forms of the figures move these works toward a more abstracted look. The best among his figurative works, in my opinion, is Young Lady with a Pipe, a highly colorful abstracted work in which a few simple lines indicate form.
The pure abstracts created by Leon Sarantos are among his most compelling works. Here I share Mexican Roadtrip which Leon tells us was inspired by his time in small Jalisco village on the Pacific coast in western Mexico. I lived and worked in Mexico for some time, and I traveled to most parts of this country. Consequently this particular painting immediately attracted me.
Mexican Roadtrip is a gorgeous work composed of shifting quadrants of color that provide a vibrant portrayal of the basic elements of Mexican landscape – sea, mountain, desert, as well as those lovely little villages with cobbled streets and adobe homes. Yes, they still exist in Mexico. Smaller splashes of color in the painting are like images of the inhabitants of this colorful landscape. Line on the surface provide both integration and separation of space – just as if you were traveling through a landscape and moving from one space to another.. The overall piece successfully portrays the vibrant, complex country that is Mexico.
Learn more about Leon Sarantos and his art on his website at http://www.leonsarantosartist.com/ or from his Google + page at https://plus.google.com/u/0/115651432932660616605/posts
September 29, 2012
Marianne Slevin is an Irish artist who writes. She writes poetry, she writes stories about her artwork, and she writes about her life as an artist. Her poetry and words are both insightful and quite enjoyable to read because she is a very articulate artist. Marianne is one of that Slevin clan whose lives are so beautifully documented by her husband, photographer James Slevin. Yes, that’s the Slevins of Doolin village, not far from the sea in County Clare, western Ireland.
Marianne is a painter. She also creates what she calls “site specific works and installations.” Marianne recently shared with us on G+ images of three paintings inspired by dresses. The first is a painting of a dress that she dug up from the garden. The dress had once been worn by a woman who passed her life, some 90 years, in the house where Marianne lives now. The second is Marianne’s wedding dress, and the third, a dress belonging to Marianne’s daughter. In that these paintings document the stages of a woman’s life, it seems appropriate that they are painted on unstretched canvas and hang from long curved pieces of driftwood retrieved from the nearby beach. These are not the pristine, neatly controlled canvases you see on a metropolitan gallery wall. Marianne’s paintings are works that are closer to nature and never formally “finished” - rather like a real woman’s life.
Of Marianne’s artwork, I think the most compelling for me are those that she calls her site specific works and installations. These creations are great examples of ephemeral art, and Marianne Slevin is the consummate ephemeral artist.
What does this mean? Ephemeral art is that art that is not meant to survive. It carries a message and when that message is delivered, the art disappears. This type of ephemeral art when linked to a specific location in nature is often called “land art” or “earth art”. The Scottish artist Andy Goldsworthy is globally known for the sculptures he creates of twigs, leaves, rocks, and even ice formations. He creates them, photographs them, then he watches them disappear in sunshine, in ocean waves, in the natural evolution of the earth. Another favorite of mine is Arizona artist James Turrell who works with the most ephemeral artistic medium of all – light.
My first introduction to ephemeral art came from New York City artist Betty Oliver when I took her class in papermaking at Penland School in North Carolina. Betty cast paper onto the grass outside our studio workshop to create a long curved sculpture along the hillside. Her sculpture almost immediately began to disappear when it rained the next morning. This was quite an eye-opener for me because I saw immediately that creating ephemeral art had great of philosophical and spiritual meaning. Letting go is the most obvious insight. It means not trying to hold and keep. As Marianne says, “When we loosen the grip on control, interesting things can happen.” Being alert and paying attention in the moment is another insight. I mean, if you are waiting for light to appear or disappear, or ice to freeze or melt, or for leaves to float away on water, then you have to be paying careful attention. As Marianne says, “Art for me is about waking up fully.”
Consequently, I find Marianne Slevin to be one of our most daring artists. Her work happens in the moment. She writes messages on leaves, then distributes the leaves in places where they will be found and read …or not. She writes messages and poems on bits of driftwood which she attaches to a stone wall to be found and read…or not. There are her poems written on leaves and left on a park bench to be read…or not. And there’s her haiku written in chalk on city park sidewalks to be read….or not. She describes a 100 meter-long drawing she did in sand on the beach, then she watched the tide come in and the drawing go out to sea. There are the drawings on pistachio shells hiding a drawing and haiku. Like most ephemeral “land” artists, Marianne is keenly aware of her place in the natural world.
And here is her Words on Bamboo. It’s another example of her words ready to be distributed randomly to whomever might find and benefit. Her work is playful, integrated, and philosophical. I honor her bravery in defying the persistent social pressure to get and keep rather than to let go and live in harmony with nature.
To learn more about Marianne Slevin, go to http://www.marianneslevin.com/#_ and note in particular the link to The Secret Gallery.
To learn more about my teacher Betty Oliver and to read her poem Buddha in a Birdcage, go to http://www.penland.org/blog/2011/03/the-betty-oliver-poetry-project-on-united-states-artists/
Rest in peace, Teacher Betty.
September 29, 2012
An artist is a dreamer consenting to the dream of the actual world. ~~George Santana.
Knowing the dream of the world where each of us live is a task that we humans, and especially we artists, have, and learning to consent to the dream is a lifelong journey. I have this intuitive sense that James Slevin and his wife artist Marianne Slevin are dreamers who have consented to the dream of the world where they live – a place not far from the sea in western Ireland.
Granted, these are serious times with serious problems, and the evening news would have us believe that bombings and wrecks and murders and creeping environmental disaster have made the world more of a nightmare than a dream. That is an unbalanced view. Somehow James has managed to maintain a more balanced perspective of the world’s dream. We know this from his exquisite photographs and his videos accompanied by commentary that reveal an unflagging sense of humor which never fails to delight. His ability to find the humor in so much of life pervades his work. I had to laugh at a recent posting he made about a horse coming into his house through the kitchen door – 2 seconds to get in, 3 hours to get out. I grew up in ranching country on the high plains of West Texas. I find it quite impossible to imagine how a horse could get into one’s kitchen unless it was invited. In James Slevin’s case, this event remains a mystery…and a source of mirth.
James goes on an artist’s retreat alone to uninhabited Crab Island where he takes up the existential question, “Why would someone bring solar Christmas tree lights but not bring toilet paper?” then answers his own question, “Romantic delusions.” We laugh but we are left with some indelible impressions: the need that we artists have for a retreat now and then to reconnect to the natural world, and an awareness of the artist’s keen sense of observation (James makes some noteworthy observations about the island’s bird population). And then there’s the “authorities” who believe he needs rescuing and finally force an end to his artist’s retreat.
I like his photo montages A Year of My Eyes (A Year’s Worth of Photography in One Minute). He photographs his family in the most loving and truthful way. Those children – wild little critters they are – remind me so much of a wild little critter I once lived with who is now all grown up. Where did the time go?
This brings me to the photo I share here, Seconds Pass Like Water. This image brought tears to my eyes. Children become adults. Young people grow old. Life comes and goes. The world’s dream changes constantly and transforms eternally into a new dream.
See James Slevin’s videos at http://www.youtube.com/user/JamesSlevinVideos and his photo albums on his Google + page https://plus.google.com/u/0/photos/100565437335936094929/albums
September 22, 2012
Texas artist Marilyn Fenn has a series of quotes on her blog, one of which is from Willem de Kooning. “There is a time in life when you just take a walk. And you walk in your own landscape.” I think that’s a perfect way to describe Marilyn Fenn’s art. She is primarily an abstract artist who has created her own landscape. And her landscape is a delightful place.
There are two main themes in her self-created landscape. The first is one of wildly delicious color combined with undulating shapes, many of which are circular. This gives us a strong feeling of encountering natural life forms. Some of these forms appear to be cellular life viewed through a microscope. Even better are the ones that give us the sense of strolling through a barely tamed garden – flowers and leaves moving in a soft breeze, fragrance of blossoms rise in warm air, bees and butterflies sip nectar, and there’s a visiting hummingbird of course. Maybe there are also some juicy berries on that thorny bush waiting for us at the end of the garden path.
Another aspect of her abstracts is how musical these paintings are. The round and oval shapes seem to move like musical notes across the canvas. Jazz is the chosen idiom here. It’s Ron Carter on bass and maybe Chick Corea on keyboard. Color, movement, rhythmic sound – it’s all there in these lovely Fenn gardens.
Take a look at this painting Opps! ‘Scuse Me which seems more than anything like the fruit of the harvest from Marilyn’s garden. There’s a juicy watermelon pink, delicious mango, lime, and berry with those musical seed notes rising. And Marilyn is not afraid of purple. It is a color which is can dominate, and consequently is best used as an accent. But in this painting, hers is a perfect just-so purple.
In addition to her wonderful abstracts, Marily Fenn also has some thought-provoking minimalist landscapes, stunning encaustics including a series on tornadoes, and a still-life series of small-scale toys with big-time attitudes. My favorite in this series is that funny bunny holding a “JUMP!” sign. Her sense of humor comes across in every belligerent little face.
Marilyn no doubt struggles mightily with her paintings as most artists do, but the struggle doesn’t show. The end result are paintings that are joyful, vibrant, and ultimately very comforting. The life force is strong in Marilyn Fenn’s paintings.
For more see http://marilynfenn.com/ and read an interview with Marilyn from Charles Van Heck at his Whitman Pond literary and arts journal.
September 22, 2012
Abstract art is often described as what it is not – it is not an image of something we recognize in the world as we know it. If pressed, some might say that abstraction represents the interior state and emotional reality of the artist, or perhaps it is the representation of an idea or concept that cannot be limited by words and recognizable images.
In the case of Florida abstract artist Abigail Markov, these definitions of abstraction may be too limited. True that she speaks about her art in very personal terms which could lead one to think that she is mainly representing her interior world. She describes her work as experimental and doesn’t attempt to predict or control what will result.
However for me as the viewer of her artwork, it has been more interesting to think of Abby Markov’s work not so much as abstraction, but more as a new kind of realism. The insights and speculations of contemporary physics come to my mind more than those of personal psychology or philosophy. This does not mean her art literally illustrates the concepts of physics. Instead, I enjoy playing with the idea that her purely abstract works could be experimental representations of what physicists call the multiverses, those alternative universes where string theory and dark energy create a quite different reality than the one we know in everyday life.
Think about her paintings in that way for a moment and ask yourself if you don’t feel like you are entering a different reality than the one we experience every day. That’s how her work appears to me. She creates a different universe, and for a brief time, we can flow into one of the other universes that modern physics predicts. I don’t see a manifestation of personal psychological reality or a philosophical statement of a pure concept. For me, she takes us to where none of us have gone before. I appreciate Abby’s daring spirit for being so open to intuitive insight and experimentation about the nature of reality.
Many of Abby’s paintings are often bifurcated in imagery which is to say that color, shape and movement often form two major areas on the picture plane. One of my favorites is Aurora & Maleficent. The picture plane is divided into two large areas with co-existing universes that complement rather than struggle against each other. The title is intriguing. An aurora is a “radiant emission from the upper atmosphere” and “maleficent” is associated with evil or harm – does the artist feel uneasy at the universes we have yet to explore? Who wouldn’t feel uneasy?
Markov works on large-scale canvases or wood panels which no doubt make the work more dramatic. Recent work involves oil, resin, and encaustic beeswax on wood panels. The surfaces are rich and highly textured, and yet she manages to avoid muddying those pure colors. Her work often is compared to Jackson Pollack. Her work reminds me also of some contemporary abstract Chinese artists who work in ink, watercolor and acrylic. Markov’s Google + postings are informative, too, because we see her work in progress, her studio, and herself covered in paint – being experimental.
Markov is an artist to watch. See more at:
and on Google +
Nina Agi B.
Nina Agi B
September 1, 2012
Nina Agi B. is a photographer who creates a diverse range of creative images, some of the natural world – especially flowers – and others of human-created objects and places. It tells us something about her sensibility that she categories her images not as how they are typically defined, “flower” or “old vehicle” or “book,” but instead with words like “vivid” and “textured.”
Nina’s images are sometimes painterly, and other times stark in black and white contrast; sometimes realistic and at other times abstract. Images of books are especially attractive because they are filled with what feels like love; love for an object that brings us so much pleasure. In her work, color becomes a clear and poignant note that rises above the chords for just moment to catch our attention before falling back into the music.
The focus in Nina Agi B.’s work then is on how the manipulated image affects us emotionally and spiritually. We are led as viewers to see the object as Nina sees it – a beautiful and complete Form manifesting in the world for a moment in time.
I’m sharing here one of my favorite images that appear in Nina’s G+ stream about a month ago. What a stunning image! The landscape behind this bird with its subtle color and slight blurring gives the bird an instant and intense motion. The bird is gorgeous – sun on his head and beak, wings and feet moving too fast to discern conformation, an image of flight into freedom.
Nina Agi B is Hungarian but says she “woke up one day in Los Angeles.” I’ve woken up in Los Angles myself a time or two, and I know what a shock that can be (not in a negative sense but just saying LA is a different world). I’m glad she’s there now because the images coming out of that unique place are precious. “Creativity is a lifesaver,” she says. I couldn’t agree more.
You can see more of Nina Agi B.’s work on her blog at ttp://ninaagi.blogspot.com/
and on Google + https://plus.google.com/u/0/105586947745680244977/posts
September 1, 2012 One entertaining aspect of exploring the world of the artist and learning about his/her artwork is to discover what the artist does when s/he in not in the studio. In the case of Larry Mayer, I found that he has a whole other life as a geoscientist. How many artists on G+ do you know who have written scholarly articles on topics such as “Macroscale Tectonic Geomorphology?” Larry is that artist. On his profile, he tells us that he is intrigued by “extreme or complex realizations initiated by low probability events in the brain or on the planet or between two people.”
I can’t help but wonder if it was a low-probability event in Larry’s brain that led to the complex realization of what he was looking at when he took this photo, Go Ask Alice. For the none-Boomers reading this, “Go ask Alice when she’s 10 feet tall” is a line from the song “White Rabbit” by the Jefferson Airplane recorded in 1967. So after seeing this photo and reading Larry’s words, I drifted off for a while thinking about the artistic experience, of being present in the moment, of being really open and really seeing, and wondering what kind of “low probability event in the brain” might lead to such a moment. I don’t have an answer to that question, but I do have a lot of admiration for this photo. Look closely. Note that what you are seeing is completely realistic. At the same time, the image seems like a distortion, an illusion, a warping of a moment in time and light that gives us multiple levels of meaning to contemplate. I deeply admire this photo for the thoughts that it generated.
Larry lives in my hometown of Tucson and spends time also in his native New York City. Both locations have provided him with opportunities for great photos. His lovely, even romantic, views of New York from Brooklyn Bridge, suggest a love affair with one of the world’s great cities. One of my very favorites is his A Cloudy Tucson Sunset which can best be described as “brooding.” A low hanging bank of dark gray-olive clouds hover over the stark desert floor. It’s hardly the kind of bright blue sky/saguaro cacti landscapes we typically see of southern Arizona. And yet during this time of year, our chubasco (monsoon) season, we do sometimes see this kind of brooding sky. However, that Sonoran desert sun won’t be pushed back for long. Even in Larry’s photo, it insists on making its presence known on the edge of the horizon.
You can see more of Larry Mayer’s photos at Red Bubble http://www.redbubble.com/people/larrymayer/portfolio
and on his Google + page https://plus.google.com/118019328633110210449/posts
August 25, 2012
Spanish artist Arturo Espinosa is a versatile artist who works in oils, watercolor, and graphite. He moves masterfully among several genres: portraits, landscapes, and some unusual and colorful abstract drawings which he calls “Worms.” The landscapes in oil are the most interesting to me because of their great beauty and because they all carry that “sense of place” that we find in the very best landscape paintings.
Arturo calls the city of Barcelona his home, and the city shows up frequently in his oil paintings. Here we see a cityscape titled Ramblas. What the casual viewer from other parts of the world may not know is that Ramblas is the name of a Barcelona district noted for its street life. Street stalls and kiosks, small cafes, bars and restaurants, and I imagine art galleries, too, are found along tree-lined streets where pedestrians wander casually, shop, chat with friends, enjoy a meal and take pleasure in the day. It’s easy for me to imagine stopping off for a glass of wine at an outdoor cafe while watching street performers in Arturo’s Ramblas.
Arturo captures this lovely street life so well in this beautiful painting. His use of color is extravagant, yet always harmonious. Thick brush strokes carry the intensity of mauves and pinks and lemon yellow in the clouds and in reflections on the streets. Tree leaves shimmer with light. Windows in the buildings lining the street keep promises of the vibrant nightlife to come. People along the street move in a rhythm consistent with the Spanish guitar music we know will be floating toward us. Calligraphic marks lend a staccato to the rhythm of the street. Arturo’s Ramblas is a moment in time, a pleasure, a sweetness, a joy in a Saturday afternoon at Ramblas, Barcelona’s place to be.
After viewing his wonderful paintings, I had to add Barcelona to my list of “must visit” places.
See more of Arturo Espinosa’s paintings in his Flickr photostream
or on Google + https://plus.google.com/u/0/113533502402180936683/about
August 18, 2012
Landscape is a very common subject for artist to express their artistic vision. Despite how common landscapes are, one of the great pleasures of looking at landscape paintings is to experience the unique and personal vision of the landscape artist. We not only get to see bit of the natural world in some completely different place, but we learn something about the artist in how he or she portrays his personal landscape.
Never having been to Denmark, I can only imagine it to be a verdant, relatively flat landscape surrounded on three sides by a sea that is never far away and with hundreds of islands….so different from the desert where I live. In the case of Bjarne Witthoff’s paintings, I get a real sense of the Danish landscape and the deep personal connection that Bjarne has to the natural world.
Bjarne’s paintings are best described as vibrant, colorful, intense, flowing, even animated. The use of color is what first grabs the viewer. Bjarne uses a variety of bright, primary colors. The sky is a bright blue, the road through the fields a striking yellow, and the fields are full of shades of blue and red and orange and pinks and greens. We see flowers and a variety of plants, waving fronds, shadows and light playing on leaves. His brush strokes are strong and energetic. Despite the economy of line, the results are quite dynamic, vivid and full of vitality. There’s no escaping the fact that we are looking at a small piece of the earth that is fully permeated with a profound and encompassing life force. I think the artist must be a sensitive soul to be able to see and feel, and then portray that intensity of the life force. Bjarne’s seascapes are just as evocative and use the same economy of line with profligate color to take us to the seashore, smell the salt air, and watch the clouds skim over the sea.
See more of Bjarne Witthoff’s landscapes on his G+ page. An added treat is seeing his finely-crafted artist’s books at http://book-handmade.blogspot.dk/
I wish I could hold his books in my hand! I wish I could see a real Bjarne Witthoff painting!
August 18, 2012
Stacie Florer accurately refers to herself as a metalsmith rather than as a jeweler. She creates beautiful and unique jewelry of metals such as copper and sterling silver and even sheet metal with inclusions of pearls or polished stones. Her jewelry should rightly be seen as small sculptural pieces, and that’s how I view them. I have a little training in metal work, and based on that rudimentary knowledge, it looks to me that Stacie’s jewelry is created by using various fabrication techniques and perhaps some occasional soldering.
Fabrication means that each piece of metal is cut, bent, punctured, riveted, hammered or otherwise manipulated into the desired shape by the artist using hand tools. Often heat is used to make the metal more malleable. Fabrication contrasts with the techniques of casting molten metal (Navajo silversmiths use this method) or more extensive use of soldering which is typically used by traditional jewelers. It is possible to attach pieces of metal using the fabrication method by simply wiring pieces together or using rivets and eyelets with wires. Fabrication has always appealed to me because of its simplicity, because it does not require a lot of equipment – only hand tools and the artist’s hands and eyes and heart – and also because the results are unique. Stacie is a master at the fabrication method, and her artistic sculpture jewelry is an indication of her advanced skills. The results are stunning.
Beyond what Stacie does with hands and metal, she works in another medium as well…words. Stacie is as much a wordsmith as she is a metalsmith. I invite you to look at her blog at http://soultosubstance.blogspot.com/ to read her posts on a wide variety of subjects: putting her back out hauling some juicy peaches, visiting an elderly neighbor, and scoring some great antiques. I enjoyed reading her ruminations on art and the life of the artist. One of my favorite blog entries is a commentary on her ideas about teaching an art class. I’ve taught classes in book arts, and like Stacie, I believe in co-creation and learning from students as well as teaching them.
Too bad Stacie is so far away. She and I have a lot in common, and if she lived closer I would invite her over for a cup of coffee and a chat. She’s originally from Arkansas, and although I’m not a native Arkansan, I lived in that lovely state for many years. I still own a beautiful little acreage dotted with dogwood, service berry, and maple trees on a mountainside bench in the deep Ozark woods. There I had life-changing experiences of the natural world. Now Stacie lives in one of my favorite places in the world, western North Carolina not too far from Cold Mountain, the site of one of my favorite novels (the novel, not the film). Her region of North Carolina is home to many wonderful artists.
Learn more about Stacie at her G+ profile and her website at http://www.stacieflorer.com/
July 21, 2012
Seattle-based Kate Vrijmoet is an idea artist. Her large-scale paintings are visually arresting and would grab your attention in any case. But knowing her thoughts behind the paintings make her work even more compelling. She has two especially interesting series which are represented here, the Accident Paintings and Non Ordinary Reality Paintings.
I remember the first time I saw one of Kate Vrijmoet’s Accident Paintings, I couldn’t look away. There were men impaled by grappling hooks or manure rakes, sliced by machetes, eyes put out by slingshots, torsos stabbed by darts. Blood spatters and drips everywhere. Each painting seems to capture the anxiety and fear that lurks just beneath the surface in many of the humdrum, ordinary activities we engage in every day…. using a tool, working in the garden, playing a game. A sudden error made while engaged in a routine act, or maybe just being in the wrong place at the wrong time can lead to mayhem.
On Kate’s website, she writes, “The Paintings in The Accident Series depict a lone figure, isolated, on a stark white background, in the midst of a horrific accident. The subject, always a male, passively and perhaps complacently looks on. Jung described his own near death experience as an affirmation of things as they are: an unconditional “yes” to that which is. He said there is no guarantee – not for a single moment – that we will not fall into error or stumble into deadly peril.”
“Stumbling into deadly peril” is easy for me to understand on the day after 70 people were shot and 12 killed (so far) in a carefully planned assault by a madman in a cinema in Colorado. We have to agree with Kate and Swiss psychologist Carl Jung that violence, even accidental, can occur at any moment. The fact that the figures in these accident paintings are all males is fascinating to me. Kate hasn’t explained this, so I can only speculate why this is the case. Although the violence depicted could happen to either males or females, it is an inescapable fact that males are most commonly perpetrators of violence in our culture. So what does it mean that they are the victims in these Accident paintings?
Of the Non-Ordinary Reality Paintings, Kate says, “The central idea of these paintings is to give voice to the unscreamed scream, to what has been silent and demands to be heard — so that my point of departure is one highly charged with anxiety but also with the promise of breaking through. Water is a metaphor, both for keeping afloat and for a tide of change.”
These water paintings are beautiful, colorful, and for me, deceptively cheerful. Danger lurks beneath the surface and at the edge of frame, and the anxiety rippling through the water is real. I start from the point of view of a desert dweller who finds water both seductively beautiful and terrifyingly alien. It’s easy to imagine water as a metaphor for “keeping afloat” (barely surviving?) and maybe a “tide of change.” But change can go either way….good or bad. For me personally, the Non-Ordinary Reality Paintings are scarier and more potentially lethal than the Accident paintings. I am genuinely curious to know how others see these works.
KateVrijmoet was recently chosen to exhibit her work in the Beijing International Art Biennale. She’s an artist to watch. When Kate is on G+ (not often enough), she has some very interesting things to say, and some great art to share. I suggest you circle her and keep up with her artwork.
See more of Kate Virjmoet’s work at http://katevrijmoet.com/
July 14, 2012
The practice of humans to adorn themselves with jewelry goes back several millennia. When that Lascaux artist was carefully drawing images of bison and deer on the rock walls of the cave, I can easily imagine that there was someone on the other side of the fire stringing together shells and handmade beads fashioned of small stones into a necklace that later would adorn the neck of some honored person in the tribe.
Mia Leijonstedt’s beautiful hand-crafted jewelry pieces are modern day descendents of these ancient adornments so valued by our ancestors. Her works, most often pendants, are created with precious and semiprecious stones such as amethyst, jasper, and quartz. Sometimes, though, she makes the centerpiece of the pendant an unpolished stone that caught her artist’s eye on the beach or in the street. Unlike most modern jewelry made of metal findings and chains, Mia uses fibers to create the pendants. She knots together soft, pliable lengths of silk cording or other fiber to hold the stones. Very often this knotted fiber becomes a design element itself when the knotting turns to meticulous complexity and polished elegance.
Mia prefers to call her works “talismans.” A talisman is an object that carries some magical power. Probably the most common power associated with a talisman is the ability to turn away evil and to bring good fortune. The talismans are also in line with the ancient tradition of self-adornment. Those early ancestors sought beauty and also sought protection. Another form that Mia creates are malas, loops of beads used by Hindu and Buddhist practitioners to say prayers or mantras.
For many years, Mia was a book artist with considerable artistic success in the field of artist’s books. The most recent trade book about this medium, 1000 Artist’s Books, published just last month, includes Mia’s work. It was with some real dismay that I learned a few weeks ago that Mia has decided to move away from creating books to focus on her talismans. There’s a lesson in this that is relevant to anyone who is thinking that it’s time for a change in art or in life. It’s hard to let go of something that has worked well for you, and that you have come to love. But sometimes change and “letting go” is necessary for psychological, spiritual, or artistic development. Mia is showing us that a graceful transition to a new creative form is possible for an artist.
Mia is a native of Finland but has lived in England for many years. Luckily for us, she has two websites to peruse, and I recommend you take time to look at both.
http://miailluzia.com/ for the talismans and malas
http://leijonstedt.com/ for artist’s books
http://www.etsy.com/shop/SpiritCarrier – Mia’s shop on the web
July 14, 2012
Artists have the choice of presenting to the world a vision of beauty and wholeness with the intention of inspiring us. Or they can choose instead to bring us a message and motivate contemplation and action . For me, artist’s books are high on the list of very effective ways to convey a message.
Italian book artist Paolo Chirco’s recent work “Landscape Contaminated” is a superb example of an artist’s book with a message. Paolo’s description of the work tells us that it is a mixed media assemblage created of volcanic sand paper, tufa dust (tufa is a volcanic rock), cloth, burlaps, nails, and barbed wire. He says that the contaminated landscape (also translated as “tainted landscape”) is no longer represented by “blue skies, clear seas, and green hills.” His book instead presents “an idea of what will be the future condition of landscape.” In other words, like so many global artists, Paolo is taking up the issue of our natural environment and what is being done to it by our human activities. He warns us of what will be the consequences to the landscape around us. As such, his artist’s book is greatly effective as a carrier of this message. Despite his dire warning, the book also has its own beauty and calls out to be held and explored. His books are made of rough materials put together in dramatic ways. I find his work very inspiring, quite unlike any other artist’s books I’ve seen, and very compelling.
Paolo announced recently that this work has been selected to be a part of the international exhibition of artist’s books Naturalia_Anmalia in Sannicola, Lecce province in the Apulia region of southeast Italy. The exhibit opened Thursday, July 12. If I only had those magic red shoes worn by Dorothy in the Wizard of Oz, I would click my heels together and magically be transported to Sannicola to see this exhibit….and hold his book in my hands.
Paolo Chirco is from a small town on the northern coast of Sicily. He is an itaglio printmaker, assemblage artist, tapestry designer, book artist, and photographer. He also creates drawings which he considers to be the “first expressive form.” You can see examples of his prints, assemblages, drawings, and tapestries as well as his artist’s books on his website at http://www.paolochirco.it/home.htm. Additional views of his artist’s books are found at http://artistbooks.ning.com/profile/PaoloChirco
[My apologies for any mistakes I've made translating Italian to English. I sincerely hope I have not misrepresented Paolo's work or ideas. However, the images of his work speak for themselves and need no translation. ]
June 30, 2012
My nephew came to visit me once here in Tucson. He had just come from visiting the Grand Canyon for the first time. “You know,” he said to me, “I’ve seen hundreds of pictures of the Grand Canyon, but it’s nothing like…..” and then he fell silent. I knew exactly what he meant. Words like “grandeur” and “magnificence” hardly seem to describe that sacred place. Words don’t describe what it’s like to hike just below the South Rim and hear the sounds of the Colorado River rapids more than mile below drifting up to you. And then the canyon wren calls out its unmistakable, exquisitely lyrical song as an accompaniment. Words fail.
I suspect Alaska is like that, too… a place of such dramatic beauty that words fail to truly describe, and photos are mere reduced images of the real thing. However some artists get closer than others to portraying the reality of a place. Michele Cornelius is such an artist for Alaska. It’s obvious to me that she spends a lot of time out in the natural world, and that she has a real “sense of place” that comes from true connection.
Here we see one of my recent favorites which Michele describes as “low tide on Turnagain Arm on the Cook Inlet near Hope, Alaska.” I was so taken with this that I looked for “Hope, Alaska” in Google Maps. Google obliged with a sky view of the tiny town of Hope, all these mountains, the sea, and Turnagain Arm….which makes me wonder about “Turnagain.” Does it mean that this place is so beautiful that anyone who visits will (re)Turn again and again to see it one more time?
The composition of the photo is perfect, but even better is the light captured in the photo.. A setting (or is it rising?) sun behind far mountains cast a rich, golden light on the shoreline rocks, and the clouds above. Sea water roils, pebbles on the shore glow, and stately conifers stand watch. This is my favorite from Michele’s “Exploring Alaska” photo album on G+. Take a look at the album and tell us which one of the photos is your favorite.
And while you are there, don’t miss Michele’s excellent digital art. I’m usually not a fan of digital art simply because it looks like something a computer made…not very interesting. But there are occasional exceptions. Michele has an amazing ability to create digital art that looks like organic sea life, or maybe astronomical phenomenon from light years away. In any case her images are both mysterious and beautiful.
Looking at Michele’s photos today, it occurs to me yet again that we will work to save what we love. When the world’s artists and poets come to love a natural place in the world and connect to it on an emotional and spiritual level, we’ll do what we can to save it. I believe that is the relationship that Michele has to her Alaska.
For more of Michele Cornelius’s work, go to her site at Fine Art America: http://michele-cornelius.artistwebsites.com/ or Google Plus
June 23, 2012
I’ve always admired Shu-Ju Wang’s artwork. Her paintings, gocco prints, and artist’s books are beautiful, exquisitely crafted, and full of meaning,. A wacky sense of humor that never fails to entertain also frequently makes an appearance in her work. For example, Shu-Ju describes one of her artist’s books, Project Sushi this way: “Written as a blog, this is an account of the search for Ratwoman, superhero to some and villain to others.” Let’s just say that Shu-Ju Wang is one of the most creative and eccentric people I know. I intend the word “eccentric” in this case to be the very highest compliment that I can give another human being. I mean you have to admire someone who does artwork like this, and who also is a fan of rats and bats and who sports a chicken hat in winter.
Despite the many attributes of her work, what I like best of Shu-Ju is her artistic vision and her ability to articulate that vision. Perhaps it’s because she spent several years in the trenches (or maybe I should say the cubicles) working as a high-tech engineer, she has a very well developed left-brain to go with that well-developed artistic right brain. Her life experiences have added a level of cultural and artistic complexity and sophistication to her work that is very compelling.
I’m sharing here Shu-Ju latest painting We Eat, They Eat, a diptych of gouache, acrylic and plastic bottle cap shavings. This painting is part of a series titled Red Bean Paste and Apple Pie . You can see an album of these paintings in the Red Bean series among Shu-Ju’s photos albums on her G+ page. Red bean paste is an important ingredient in Chinese and other Asian cuisine, and that juxtaposed with apple pie gives you a big clue about Shu-Ju’s major underlying themes of migration and immigration. In her case, the migration was from Taiwan as a teen to the United States via a brief period in Saudi Arabia. This woman has been around the world, and her “worldliness” shows in the art.
In the case of We Eat, They Eat, the painting can be read on many levels. In her blog of June 17, 2012 ( http://thelastbedroom.blogspot.com/ ) Shu-Ju explains something about what she’s doing in this painting - a play on words, her favorite foods before and after migration, perhaps eating a favorite fish that may have partaken of of plastics from the great Pacific Garbage Patch somewhere between here and there. The other paintings in the series are also described on the blog so it’s worth checking it out to find out why dragons, unicorns, and Mr. Spock surfing on a Pringle potato chip appear in her artwork. Seriously
Her themes of migration and immigration were present in a large installation piece that she did last year The Laundry Maze , a mediation on the career changes that immigrants are often forced to make when coming to the U.S. According to her blog, the Red Beans and Apple Pie series will go on display in a one-woman show in Shu-Ju’s home town of Portland, Oregon in November. After that, there will be a large-scale, one-of-kind artist’s book as the next installment in her series. As a book artist myself, I’m really looking forward to that.
Shu-Ju Wang has that big artistic vision, and she knows how to describe it.
For more of Shu-Ju Wang’s work:
June 16, 2012
Andrew Crane is an abstract artist from the north of England who uses some unique materials to produce subtle paintings with deep, underlying insights.
Scrolling back in time through Andrew’s posted paintings, I was struck by the simplicity of his abstracts. I use the word “simplicity” as a great compliment. Simplicity is surprisingly difficult to achieve. It means finding and conveying the essence of a concept, of reducing the clutter and confusion of the extraneous, and then revealing the essential nature of something.
This is what mystics and contemplatives have done in prayer, in meditation, and yes, in art. It doesn’t surprise me to find titles on some of these works such as “The Cloud of Unknowing” (referring to a medieval guide to contemplative prayer) or “Savoir” (to know in French). Other paintings reflect a kind of whimsy which reminds me that monks are often known for their sense of humor. Who knew that an abstract painting could bring thoughts to the viewer of mystics and monks and of the contemplative life? Some of the titles on his work are completely mysterious which only acts to give us “permission” in a sense to be present to the moment, to be conscious of one’s own thoughts, and to define the work for ourselves.
Andrew’s work typically involves of a field of neutral colors, most often taupes, grays and browns, augmented with minimal shapes and lines in black and white and gray. I find myself looking into clouds, into a fog, into a desert haboob, or simply a minimalistic landscape with enigmatic lines that bring more questions than answers. When he does use color, it is often a subdued orange, ochre, mauve or olive. Brighter colors are rare and therefore attention-attracting when they appear.
Another noteworthy quality of Andrew’s work is his use of industrial materials in many of the paintings. Yes, there’s acrylic, oil, and graphite, but there’s also house paint, varnish and pharaoh cement. I had to look up “pharaoh cement.” I discovered that it is cement with inclusions fly ash (a by-product of coal combustion) and slag (a by-product of smelting ore). Oh that all our industrial products ended up as art! In one of his postings, Andrew refers to the influence of Catalan (Spain) artist Antoni Tàpies on his work. Tàpies. Of course.
Another key characteristic of his work is the calligraphic nature of the lines we find on the field of subdued color. I’m sharing here a painting that is most obvious for this component. It is titled appropriately enough “Manuscript.” It is worth your time to take a trip though his photo albums on G+ to see additional work. Look for those messages in the concrete and paint that were written in a calligraphy from some ethereal language calling us to meditation.
See more Andrew Crane’s work on Google +:
and at http://www.axisweb.org/seCVPG.aspx?ARTISTID=10133
One of the fun things about being on G+ is discovering new artists. This artist, Octavo Cuellar, is a real jewel. Octavio describes himself as Cuban-Mexican, he’s a graduate of Havana’s San Alejandro School of Fine Arts, and he lives in Miami, Florida. Octovaio is a sculptor who works in copper and other fine metals.
Before we go any further, I advise you to go to Octavio’s truly wonderful website at http://www.octaviocuellar.com/index.html In addition to being very well-designed, almost page has short passages of terrific Latin jazz to accompany your perusal of his artwork.
As is often the case, I found it difficult to choose an image to share. In his G+ postings and on his website, you can see some excellent outdoor sculptures, many with musical themes. His functional art is beautiful as well.
I personally was very drawn to his work En la piel de tus zapatos which he describes as ” A shrine to Mexican culture which summarizes the social palimpsest that country living.” Because I live quite near the Mexican border and am familiar goings-on along that invisible line that divides neighbors, I immediately identified this work with the folk art form “retablo” which is commonly seen in Mexicos. A retablo is a shrine, as Octavio says. A religious devotional image is painted, sometimes on wood, and sometimes on metal, in the center of a 3 part hinged structure in which doors close and open, revealing the image in the center.
“Palimpsest” refers to an ancient scroll or book that has been scrapped off so that new work can be recorded on the parchment or velum. In this case, I believe Octavio refers to the suffering of the Mexican people (again and again throughout their history) as they go through various types of destruction and are reborn/rewritten in a new form. In this particular retablo, we see Mexico’s beloved Virgin of Guadalupe on the left, a figure of death on the right, and boots in the center where religious imagery would normally be. Are we seeing the boots of migrant laborers as they make the long and dangerous trek across the northern desert to seek a job in the U.S.? Are they the following the path of Christ to Golgatha? Octavio’s posting of this work is in his stream on March 30, 2012.
On his website in the Conceptual Art gallery, we find a more whimsical and even iconoclastic viewpoint coming through with the unexpected placement of fans, telephones, Marlboro cigarette packages and cell phones as the focal point of a sculpture.
I’m sharing here one of my favorites of Octavio Cuellar’s sculptures. a work titled Geminal. Okay… so who last looked a bread toaster and saw a butterfly about to take wing? I love this because it reminds us that even among the most mundane objects and days in our lives when things seem hopelessly dull and predictable, there’s always the potential to take flight and reinvent ourselves.
June 1, 2012
Holly Friesen creates stunningly beautiful, large and small-scale landscape paintings. They are noteworthy for her dramatic use of color, and for the wonderful textures she finds in rocks, trees, and water. She lives and works in Montreal, and I can easily imagine the beauty of her bioregion just by looking at her work.
In this saturdayartreview, I’m focusing on a series that Holly shared with us on G+ called “Rhythmic Roots: Tree Poems.” Each work is a portrayal of roots and branches of trees. Some are so close that the image becomes almost abstract; others from a slight distance wherein the subject is easily recognizable. Her almost-abstract work is of most interest to me. The colors are subtle, the lines are flowing, and there is a sensuality about the works that remind me of both male and female reproductive organs in a variety of creatures. These small works show the intricate and complicated design found all around us in nature if we only take a moment to observe.
And yet, Holly has some very interesting words about “observation.” She says in her G+ profile:
<< After 30 years of painting from observation of the forests, rocks and rivers, I feel I am no longer observing the natural world around me but rather, in a reversal of roles, the natural world seems to be observing me. Painting is a direct response to this living, breathing earth. I am humbled and awed by this process. Fire is my heartbeat, Beauty is my compass, and the Earth is my Body.>>
I relate to this personally because I find my own relationship to the “living, breathing earth” to be my greatest artistic inspiration. This kind of connection between her work and the earth around make me feel a great deal of hope. We’re in a seriously critical time regarding the fate, not of the earth, but of the human species. Will we learn how to live sustainably, or will we continue to live profligate lives, and continue to dump gases into the atmosphere that have created this condition called “climate change?” The term “climate change” sounds rather innocuous, like the transition between temperate and tropic. But it’s not innocuous. And maybe this kind of love that we see in Holly’s works…this mutual “observation” is what will save us. all.
See more of Holly’s work at http://theroaringinside.blogspot.com/ and on Google + https://plus.google.com/u/0/112292414198276054098/about
June 1, 2012
If there is such a thing as a “bird whisperer,” surely Canadian photographer +Nathan Beaulne is that. His stream holds some really gorgeous and highly informative portraits of various species of North American birds.
One recent favorite posted on April 27 is a photo of an osprey hovering above Nathan. He titled the photo “Hi There Cameraboy.” I’m not familiar with ospreys which are also called “sea hawks” (I looked them up) in light of the fact that I live on a desert, and we’re a little short of both seas and sea hawks around here. This photo reveals the magnificence of this creature, mistress of the ocean realm, who came to check out Nathan. He said in his posting, “This pretty lady gave me the cold stare on multiple passes, and at one point hovered just 20 feet above my head! I’m not usually spooked by them but that was cutting pretty close, those talons could [easily]shred my face in a hurry.”
I had a similar experience once on the rim of Palo Duro Canyon in the Panhandle of Texas in which I was “checked out” by a red-tail hawk. Encounters with raptors remind us of our limitations, and keep us humble in the overall scheme of life in our global ecosystem.
Despite the wonders revealed in these bird photos, I find myself most attracted to Nathan’s abstract photos. I’m sharing here one he calls “Timing is Everything.” The title is ambiguous and invites us to imagine what we are seeing. So here goes: I imagine that I’m looking at an extremely close microscopic (maybe atomic force microscopic) view of the individual strands making up an extremely strong fiber. The fiber is so strong that if it were tethered to a mountain, let’s say Denali in Alaska, and if you could a force strong enough to pull, the fiber could move Denali off her base and into the Pacific Ocean. Or maybe it’s what happens to particles of water as they are sucked upward and into a spin that eventually becomes a massive tornado dancing across the North American prairie. Or maybe we’re looking at an energy field that has been spun into a vibrating, silvery gown to be worn by a Cardassian princess.
If you click on this link https://plus.google.com/u/0/105779560824580764120/posts/Kik54LeGWLa you’ll find in the response comments that Nathan explains what we are really looking at. Or you might stick with the Cardassian princess.
What I like best about knowing other artists on G+ is that they stimulate my imagination. A couple of years ago, I participated in a project organized by the University of Arizona Poetry Center. We artists were given access to some poems submitted by students taking classes at the University. Each of us chose a poem, and then interpreted it by creating an artist’s book. My book, ArcticHearts, is now in the Poetry Center’s permanent collection.
Nathan’s photography has the same potential except in his case, I think it would be appropriate to give his abstract photos to a writer and to ask for a poem, story, or essay in response. Maybe I’ll do that. Move over, Captain Picard. I have a story to write about a princess and her gown. ~Shane
May 5, 2012
Zipping past some luscious blueberries and gorgeous columbines, I finally found the images from Beth Akerman’s G+ postings that I want to share with you this Saturday. More on that in a minute. Here’s a little about Beth. She is an artist who lives in the American state of Ohio, and who works primarily in photography. She was one of the first artists who circled me when I joined G+.
Over the past 9 months or so, I’ve come to recognize two great attributes of Beth’s artwork. First, Beth is both an experimenter and a teacher. She will often experiment with her photographic images and, lucky for us, she shares the results with us on G+. By constant editing, she comes up with some quite beautiful variations on what might have originally been a rather prosaic image. By have an adventurous spirit through artistic experimentation and by sharing her experiments with us, Beth teaches us to see some new perspectives on a singular image. Also by example, she teaches us to just jump in there and go for it because that’s where art is discovered….in experimentation and daring.
Second, beyond the beauty of the natural world revealed in her photos, her work is also a form of documentary art. We tend to think of documentation as referencing some news event or perhaps noting historical events or places that are fading away. In Beth’s case, her documentation involves the changing natural world around her not only at one moment in time, but through the passage of time. I have especially enjoyed see her experimentation with images that follow the seasons. We observe the natural world around Beth from fullness of the late summer, colorful autumn leaves, indecipherable ice-covered items in winter, the rebirth of spring, and now her images are moving us into summer. There is both the passage of time and the sense of timelessness that comes from watching an eternal natural process.
In the image show, Beth has taken one shot of reeds and edited them three different ways. Each image is lovely, but for me the great value of the images is that they are placed together as a triptych. (to see all three, go to Beth’s G+ page) The overall effect is like looking at a modernist version of one of those gorgeous Japanese hand-painted screens. Were I a collector of these images, I would take all three and display them close together as a triptych just as you see them here.
You can see more of Beth’s work at http://www.akermansart.com/home.html and other places on the web such as Fine Arts America and Blue Canvas. Beth is also an editor and contributor to two photography books published by Blub.
See more of Beth’s work at https://plus.google.com/u/0/103274398541354707265/posts and at Fine Art America http://beth-akerman.artistwebsites.com/
Madagascar-born, UK/France-educated, living in Switzerland
April 28, 2012
Tim Grosvenor’s artwork showed up in my G+ stream one day, the result of a shared posting, and I found myself immediately attracted to his work.
Tim is a sculptor, painter, and mixed media artist who creates some profoundly elegant work. I recommend that you take a look at his website at http://timgrosvenor.posterous.com/ to see an examples of some unusual and beautiful mixed media work created with some unusual materials. One favorite of mine is Four by Four (pigment, charcoal, glue, dust, and acrylic on board), and another is Fingerprints (oil on galvanized zinc). His graphic drawings are very lyrical. See Touching on his website for one example.
He also produces very interesting egg-shaped sculptures with surface design that mirrors his graphite drawings. See Broken Egg (graphic on resin cast egg). I must admit to having a real fascination with both stones and eggs, so his work is compelling personally. Another place to see his work is at Art Orbiter April 13, Art Orbiter http://www.artorbiter.com/2012/04/13/tim-grosvenor/ on +Art Orbiter on G+.
I’m sharing here a selection of paintings (oil pastels and oils on wood) that Tim was preparing for an open stuidio where he lives in Switzerland because I find them so compelling. Look at the simplicty of form, the focus on light in different stages and phases. It’s easy to think of these as abstracted landscapes (my favorite!) in different weather conditions. But you could just as easily think of Mark Rothko’s work – luminous light moving from in to out, transforming the world.
Just yesterday someone on G+ posted a critical comment about the “tautologous” nature of fine art photos on G+ and I’m extending this to art in general. He said, <<Nearly every photo I see on here is of the type: Beautiful landscape is beautiful. beautiful flower is beautiful, beautiful model is beautiful, hip/scruffy street art is hip/scruffy, destitute yet noble human being is noble/destitute, cute/fluffy baby animal is cute/fluffly>> and so on. I do think he is missing something. Don’t you?
It’s easy for me to imagine the meditative state that Tim Grosvenor goes into when he paints these dramatic paintings. Being in the moment, not living in the monkey mind of human-generated ideas, for just a short period he’s standing in the pure present. And that’s what his paintings do for me, too.
For more, see http://timgrosvenor.posterous.com/
and Art Orbiter http://www.artorbiter.com/2012/04/13/tim-grosvenor/
These paintings (above) are 30 x 40 cm. 11.8″ x 15.7″
April 28, 2012
The first thing that drew me to +Patsy Priebe’s artwork is that she literally illustrates for us the most basic and important principle for all artists to remember. Drawing is fundamental. Even those who are abstract artists will often keep a sketch journal and regularly take advantage of drawing classes or life-drawing sessions to keep up skills.
Don’t get me wrong. I’m not suggesting at all that drawing must always lead to something else. Drawing is an end in itself. But drawing skills are the support upon which other skills emerge. I am reminded of musician Wynton Marsalis who has won Grammy awards for both classical and jazz recordings. He argues that learning to play scales, and learning to have control over your instruction comes first.. Only when you have control of your instrument do you have control of the capacity for improvisation.
Patsy came from a science background and it shows. She demonstrates a serious attention to detail just as would a scientist coupled with a light, lyrical touch that makes her drawings come to life. Go back in her postings and you’ll find some lovely examples of her drawings. My favorites are the feet of adults and babies. I am reminded of Renaissance masters who would so often carefully observe and draw human body parts.
I’m sharing here a portrait Patsy did in honor of her son’s birthday. Like her flower drawings and drawings of human feet and hands, her light and efficient, just enough to create the visage. The splashes of color are so simple and yet so effective at creating ambiance. Best of all, she has captured what she refers to as a “smirk” which is an expression that most parents know very well indeed in our own children. I have a smirker in my life, too. Her son comes across as a delightful, charming, and very well-loved person. I consider this portrait a great artistic success.
See more of Patsy’s work on her Public G+ postings at https://plus.google.com/u/0/114899522425082849357/posts
April 7, 2012
I have previously referred to “artists who represent in some way a relationship to Transcendence within the human soul” when discussing artists who create works informed by religion or spirituality. Now I share with you another artist in the same realm, Kim Anglin.
When Kim’s photos appear in my stream, it’s as if the moment has stopped, and I get a chance to “be here now” as the Buddhist like to say. Her photos are elemental, fundamental, simplicity exemplified, elegant and refined in their expression of the most basic reality we know – that of earth and sky. But of course in her case, the “earth” is actually represented by the ocean which is entirely appropriate because this is a water planet.
Kim teased me once and said that the reason I like her photos is because they are so much like my paintings. I wish it were that simple! I do aspire to that kind of elemental simplicity in my paintings. As an artist and as a resident of this lovely water planet, I am deeply concerned about our relationship, and my relationship to my home of Earth. I’ve always liked Qing dynasty paintings which show humans in their proper relationship to the landscape…humans are very small. Kim Anglin’s photos of ocean and sky have the same effect and remind us of our proper place.. Her images remind of us of now, and that we humans are only a part of the cosmos, not the dominant element despite what we might think. We, too, are subject to fundamental ecological processes.
Anglin’s photos are images of the eternal…of the Creation. They invite meditation.
“North Beach, Del Mar, California”
See Kim’s photos in her Public postings at G+ https://plus.google.com/110845441428499536036/posts
April 21, 2012
When I started writing #saturdayartreview, my intention was to inform people about some of the great artists I’ve found here on G+. As time went on, it became apparent that my interest in environmental topics and the natural world was influencing my choice of artists, and how I view the artists’ artworks.
This is true of the artist for this Saturday, Donna Marsh. Donna lives in a foreign place for me, Montreal Island, Quebec, Canada. By “foreign,” I mainly mean that she lives in a bioregion quite different from my beloved Sonoran Desert. What captivates me about her work is her unique approach to her subjects.. In her many paintings of urban structures, she addresses the important issue of how humans are changing the natural world.
Donna Marsh’s distinctive palette includes bright primary colors, especially a wonderful red that ties everything together and gives each of her paintings an primal life-force kind of energy that we don’t usually associate with cities. Urban areas are constructed, not grown, and we usually associate them with machines, technology, and a lot of very stressed humans scurrying this way or that. In her painting shared here, Balconies (posted 4-15-12) note the curving, tilted perspective that almost creates a sense of vertigo – the kind of vertigo that we might feel when climbing high above the city street. The life force behind the walls of the apartments seeps through, but there is also an unbalanced sense about the piece, as if we humans were not really all that comfortable living in the places we live, and in the way we live.
She often takes on subjects that painters rarely find worthy, and she does a masterful job of making them both beautiful and oddly compelling. She paints the kinds of things we see in our urban environments all the time – parking lots, bridges, storefronts, and freeways – all done with brushwork that makes them flow to the point that they almost become abstractions. She paints subjects that we have typified and that we don’t really “see” anymore. She forces us see the city around us because we cannot resist both the beauty and the truth of what we have made.
One of the most poignant of her recent paintings (posted 4-17-12) is a landscape in which we see a small, barely noticeable developer’s survey marker. She tells us that later that a structure went up in that spot and a landscape was changed forever. In effect, Donna Marsh is documenting the landscape and how humans affect it through urbanization. And because she leads us to really “see” the urban areas, the greatest value of her work may be her ability to make us be completely present and to really notice what is there in the city we’ve constructed. And this makes us think also of what we are doing to the natural landscape, so often very mindlessly.
I also want to mention that +Philip Hartigan has a wonderful blog about artists and he recently featured Donna Marsh in his blog and on a video on YouTube. Check it out at:
See more of Donna’s work at http://dmarsh.artspan.com/home or on Google +
March 25, 2012
The Spanish language has a construction that I find especially expressive. When you want to say that you “love” something as we so often do in English, you say, “me encanta” or “estoy encantado por….” The Spanish verb is not “love” but “enchanted.”
“Enchanted” really is the right word for me to describe how I feel when I see works by +Roberta Murray. There are so many of her ink drawings, paintings, and most especially her gorgeous photographs, that I could make a list just from this week alone of worthy works to share with you. Here I’m sharing one titled Painted Sunset not only because it is a beautiful image, but also because Roberta generously passes on information for those of you interested in knowing about how she created this photo-painting from the original image.
Not being a photographer and knowing nothing about these processes and techniques that she uses, I find more meaningful for me are the underlying psychological or spiritual ideas conveyed in her work. Here is a quotation from Anne Frank that she posted along with her Perfect Endings photo earlier this week. “The best remedy for those who are afraid, lonely or unhappy is to go outside, somewhere where they can be quiet, alone with the heavens, nature and God.” Most of us are afraid, lonely or unhappy at some time or other, and sadly, sometimes really often. We need solace. We need to be able to connect and feel a part of something greater than ourselves, something eternal and free of the daily strife than humans cause and endure.
This idea takes me directly to the heart of why Roberta’s work is so beautiful and so important. It’s not all that unusual for an artist to be inspired by nature. What is less common is for an artist to have a special sensitivity and insight into the natural world where s/he lives, to demonstrate love for it, and to be enchanted by it. Roberta is clearly enchanted with her world. I believe she sees the world where she lives, the Alberta prairie, in the way that Martin Buber spoke of the existential relationship that humans sometimes have with each other. Rather than “I-It,” we have the capacity to enter into an “I-Thou” relationship with each other. In the case of the I-Artist, the “Thou” is the World as it manifests in grass and wind and water and snow and rain and rocks and horses, clouds and an occasional human construction – a farmhouse or a church. And always there is the sun overhead or coming and going through a timeless cycle. Her artwork show us where and how the “I the Human Person” and the “Thou the World” can be alone together and experience peace.
For too long, we’ve had an I-It relationship with our world. I believe that artworks like those of +Roberta Murray’s will help us change that relationship into “I-Thou.”
See more of Roberta’s work at painterlyphoto.com
March 25, 2012
About a year ago, there was a program on National Public Radio about science and art. One of the panelists was physicist Dr. Lawrence Krauss. When asked about the connection between science and art, Dr. Krauss said, “Well, to me it’s kind of obvious. They ask the same questions. Science addresses – really what it does at its best is force us to reassess our place in the cosmos. Where do we come from? Who are we? Where are we going? And those are the very same questions that you get in art, literature, music.”
I thought of what Krauss said this week when I saw two of +Jill Saur’s paintings in my stream. The one I am sharing here, Nocturnal Ascent, is a realistic portrait of an octopus, one of those delightful eight- armed invertebrates (no backbone) cephalopods that live in the ocean deep. They are colorful creatures that display as bright oranges, reds, mauves, pale creamy whites and terra cotta, sometimes with spots and sometimes not. Their colors are due to special cells called chromatophores that contain pigments which reflect light (much like the paints used by artists). The octopus has a beak like a parrot (yes, it can bite), two eyes to see in the murky depth, and a method of locomotion that involves shooting out water behind it. The octopus escapes predators by secreting a inky black substance that hides it as it flees. It can grow to 100 pounds and display 8-foot long tentacles. Researchers have learned that these animals are surprisingly intelligent. All in all, they are colorful characters well-adapted to their ocean ecosytem.
Why tell you so much scientific detail about this creature? That’s where the art and science come together. Jill has portrayed this beautiful creature in a truthful and aesthetic way showing us all its color and dramatic anatomy, its curves, its elegance as it moves effortlessly through the dappled light of its home medium of seawater.
Recognizing the artistry of her formal portrait, I am also taken by the size of this portrait because therein lies yet another insight. At 48″ by 48″, this painting, this portrait of a sea creature that many of us will never see in its habit, really makes a statement. That statement is, “Look at me! I am octopus!” We know this creature in a new way by looking at Jill’s painting. We see this creature in all its integrity. We comes to “reassess our place in the cosmos,” to move over and give the octopus a place next to us in the universe, to realize that we are not alone. We exist with others and one of those others is this beautiful, self-contained organism. That is one of the tasks of art…to show us who we are, and who others are as well.
Earlier this week, Jill also posted a painting this week in her stream titled Little Blue Frog in which she describes an experience of the natural world when she was a child, in this case a frog, that helped her cope with traumatic loss. Jill’s art work, this frog and this octopus and her beautiful aspen forests, reminds us that we live in a magical place where life dances all around us and within us at all times.
See more of Jill’s work at www.JillSaurFineArt.com
JR Snyder Jr
March 17, 2012
For the second week in a row, I’m alerting G+ers to a really fine photographer and poet, +JR Synder, Jr. I’ll admit from the start that I have a special affinity for fellow Arizonans. We think the word “hot” means anything over 110 degrees, and we get all goofy about the scent and sound and promise of rain. So JR and I have that in common.
Beyond that, JR does some wonderful things with his photos. I can’t post more than one here so I’ll just pass on to you one of his recent works, Sitting and Resting My Booted Feet In Quilted Fields of Desert Clover. The image itself is lovely…rich colors of denim blue and brown boots, and an lively green gridded surface…there’s depth and texture throughout. Also the image is sweet and funny and rather whimsical in its unique perspective. We look down at our feet all the time, but how many works of art do you see from that perspective? And by the way, I have yet to see any clover in Arizona.
And there’s a poem to go with the image! Okay…so I love this. To me, every image deserves a story or a poem; and every story/poem deserves an image. JR in his posting informs us that there is a G+ group +Poets society of Photography curated by +Claudine de Fay where postings include a photo accompanied by a poem or quotation. I followed his links and now follow the Poets Society.
Back to JR’s poem, now here’s a bioregion I understand and love. His poem, like his image, is rich and evocative of the desert environment. I can hear those rocks crunching beneath his boots, and I can smell the sweet scent of water coming up out of the wash. To read the entire poem (it’s not long), you must link to his blog, http://www.jrsnyderjr.com/2012/03/sitting-and-resting-my-booted-feet.html And while you are there, you can see one of the photos from which he was working looking down at those boots. Watch the video, too, and experience an Arizona monsoon storm. The sound track is especially nice.
Well done, JR
See more of JR’s work at http://www.jrsnyderjr.com/
March 17, 2012
Earlier this week, I happened to catch a Charlie Rose interview with administrators from the Philadelphia Art Museum regarding an exhibition they have there now on Vincent Van Gogh. The exhibit is comprehensive and includes many rarely seen works. See for yourself http://www.philamuseum.org/exhibitions/743.html
The arts administrators wanted viewers to go away from the exhibit with a strong of VanGogh’s genius. They also expressed the hope that he will stopped being remembered as a crazy artist but more as a brilliant artist who had health and mental problems. They showed some close-up photos of Van Gogh’s works that I had not seen at all or seen very infrequently. I was struck at how Van Gogh took Impressionism and Post-Impressionism and ran with it. His later works played with light and dark in daring ways. Close looks made the paintings appear to be dabs of chaotic and incoherent pigment, but step back and images of flowers, of landscapes, of figures emerge from the chaos.
I had seen something similar this week in the work of Terrill Welch. Terrill is well known for both her stunning photos and sumptuous paintings of the Mayne Island, British Columbia coastline where she lives. The painting she posted this week, Coastal Winter Storm, is different. Unlike the truly beautiful and serene scenes of clouds and sea she usually shows us, we find ourselves suddenly in the dangerous and frightening intensity of a coastal winter storm…wild surf and wind all around, freezing cold and easily lethal. A close look at this painting reveals the same dabs of pigment that we see in Van Gogh. Yet looking at the overall painting, the fury of a storm is apparent.
I’m afraid of water. I grew up on a dry prairie, and now I live in the desert. Water is rare and precious where I live. Terrill’s paintings of the ocean are intriguing to me, beautiful, and sometimes scary as hell. This is one of the scary ones. I admire her ability to make me really know a coastal storm which is something I have never experienced (and hope I never do).
In addition to admiring Terrill’s ability to artistically portray both the serene and the terrifying aspects of her beloved shoreline, I also admire Terrell’s “sense of place.” . Unlike some artists who use landscape merely as a vehicle to express their own ego-bound view of the world, Terrill is connected in a deep and personal way to her bioregion. The ability of an artist to truly love where s/he is, and to portray it with honesty and feeling is what I think will save the world…or I should say, save we humans who seem determined to destroy our habitat. We are in deep trouble now – we humans – in our relationship to our Earth. For an artist to show her love for her “place” and to share that with others maybe what gets us out of this mess we have created for ourselves. Love of place. Van Gogh loved his place, and Terrill Welch loves hers.
See more of Terrill’s work at http://terrillwelchartist.com/
March 10, 2012
I’ve been watching Linda Stokes on G+ for a while now. She lives in Oklahoma in a bioregion very similar to where I grew up on the high plains of Texas. It’s a fairly high altitude prairie where the wind blows constantly. It’s horse country, oil and wheat country, with a big sky stretching from horizon to horizon as far as we can see. I won’t pretend to say anything about the technique of her photography. I’m not a photographer, and I know little about it as an art form. But I know a good image when I see one, and Linda produces many good images.
This one, though, is my all time Stokes favorite for its deep cultural meaning. I would put this photo in a category that I would call “Americana.” The image reminds me so much of the essence of America…our deep attachment to the land and especially to the American West, the beautiful sky, the rushing car with its tail lights streaming behind. Cars are our modern day horse. We are a people who love our horses, love independence, love exploration and movement, who are innovative and who are risk-takers to the core. We had to give up our horses, and we’re going to have a very different relationship with cars soon enough because of global environmental problems. But we will respond creatively as we always do. We are Americans, and this is an iconic American image. And by the way, Linda calls this “My Kind of Drive By Shooting.”
See more of Linda Stokes at https://plus.google.com/u/0/109501436364165187027/posts
Russia -> USA
March 10, 2012
For this week’s Saturday Art Review, I take a look at the work of Lena Levin, in particular her most recent posting, Pacifica. Lena’s artwork has a distinctive “voice” which is something that all artists hope to achieve. She achieves this by having a consistent and easily recognizable palette and brushwork. The pallet colors are intense, bright, and with strong complimentary aspects. Brush work is energetic. Her work reminds me of the Fauvists, late 19th century French painters who came after the Impressionists and who also were noted for dramatic use of color, and the painterly quality of their brushwork.
Although much of her work is still life, Lena Levin’s landscapes are just as compelling. Take for example a painting she recently posted in her G+ Stream, Remembering Petergof (a bridge). Easily recognizable as a bridge, this painting is striking in its use of brushwork and color, almost to the point of abstraction. I’m sure the Fauvists would have loved it.
The painting we here, Pacifica also has those same vivid characteristics. Added to the strength of the piece is that fact it was painted plein aire – also something those late 19th century French artists would have liked. Plein aire is a French term that simply means painted in the open air. It’s not easy to deal with sun and wind and seasonable temperature variations and still come up with quality of work.
You can see more of Lena Levin’s artwork at http://www.lenalevin.com/
March 3, 2012
Melodie’s soft-pastel painting is titled Satin Embrace. In the spirit of full disclosure, I also paint in soft pastels and in oil, too. It has always been something of a mystery to me that pastels are in a way a step-child in the world of art. They are often called “drawings” rather than the “paintings’ that they truly are. In the art market, they have a lesser value than an oil canvas. I really disagree with this categorization of soft pastel paintings as somehow being lesser.
Take a closer look at Satin Embrace. The most significant aspect of the painting is the masterful portrayal of light in several ways, not just light coming in from the right side of the painting. Light is carefully expressed all through the satin fabric – at the top where the fabric catches more light, and below where shadows change the quality of the light. There are two colors of satin, and each has its own expression of light. But perhaps best of all is the light within the two glass bottles. You can see not only a reflection of light on the exteriors of the bottles, but also you can see how light is distorted as it moves through the interior of the glasses. This is a very sophisticated and complex portrayal of “lights,” not one light, but several.
I said once in an art class that I thought pastels were more difficult to do than oils. The art teacher disagreed, but then, she was an oil painter and did not do pastel paintings. Pastels are far less forgiving than oils. With oil, you can paint into and paint over. Pastels require more advanced planning, and it’s more difficult to recover from mistakes. Soft pastel artists deserve more respect! And I hope Melodie Douglas gets the respect she deserves for her beautiful pastel work.
See more of Melodie’s work at http://www.melodiedouglas.com/apps/webstore/products/show/2986350