Sunday, November 17, 2019

Baranova at Standard Space

This article appeared in print in the Lakeville Journal's Compass 11/14/19

Brutal Flowers
Baranova's Brutal World
Do you crane your neck to see the car crash by the side of the road? Do you wonder at the story behind the anemic mug shot? Does your phone ping for every notification of a catastrophic headline? Tragedy and death may be among us, but a vicarious front row seat to it is an experience that is only infrequently offered.
For those of us in the Northwest corner, there is some quiet melodrama going on at the Standard Space gallery on the green in Sharon. It’s all drama, from the title of the exhibition to the stark display of medium-format color photographs. Florals march along the walls in single file.
Marina Baranova has titled the show, “This Brutal World” and, when asked about it, only says, “its beautiful too”. Baranova is Russian and was raised in Finland. She moved to New York seven years ago and specializes in portraits of performance artists. The fading flower series began between her photographic portrait shoots when she noticed flowers left in the studio bathroom by the neighboring floral designer. Baranova started bringing the limp bouquets into the portrait setting and through the lens of her Hasselblad camera, and with the natural studio light, she choreographed dark punctuations of a floral swan song.
Having just turned forty, Baranova admires the visual traces of age and comments philosophically on the rapid transformation of celebratory flowers to the tissue-like delicacy of the dying bouquet. Her photos capture a moment and thereby Baranova does her part to arrest time and halt the oblivion of death. She is memorializing life at its sensitive and vulnerable last gasp. You can hear the flowers moan and imagine the offering of forgiveness that can only happen at a deathbed of secrets.
The artist’s focus on the delicacy of dead flowers set against a backdrop of blackest black is far from dreary. The work summons up our collective memory of fresh blooms and hints at a feeling reminiscent of better times and richer moments. Perhaps they remind one of the slip-covered sitting room of an aristocratic auntie. Developed with a richness that is mesmerizing in its soft sheen, the photographs within their simple black frames, create an almost funereal procession.
There is something pure to the course of Baranova’s process. She shoots using real film and only under conditions of available natural light. The velvety black hand-printed square format type C-prints have a focus that is intensely shallow, literally forcing a bloom into focus and leaving the vase in a blur. Having recently moved to a new studio, Baranova commented that the light is no longer the same and the series is probably over. Though this may be a one-act play, don’t discount Baranova’s future. Her prowess with film displays an artist’s masterful control of the lens and our imaginations.
This Brutal World will be up through December 8th.
Standard Space is at 147 Main Street, Sharon CT
Open Friday to Sunday, noon to 6pm, or by appointment.

Thursday, October 31, 2019

The spirit of Jo Renbeck

I have just armed this Goddess created by Jo Renbeck, ( 1942-2013), with a braided vine scepter. It is so good to have her out in the forest, watching the house, trapping the sunshine and sending fierce love back to us. I miss my friend Jo Renbeck, the fabulous poet, book artist sculptor and painter who died in 2013 while I was living and working in Miami. For 9 years the sculpture of this Goddess was in storage in our basement corner. Putting her back out into the world, especially into the forest, was one of my first acts moving back.
At Jo's funeral I am told she requested this song be sung to the melody of Amazing Grace:
Amazing Grace, how sweet the earth,
the dirt between my toes,
the sun pours down upon my crown,
the mighty river flows.
Amazing Grace, how sweet the sound
of bird song in the trees,
the air is dense with fragrant scents
soft floating on the breeze.
Amazing Grace the ocean swells,
the waves break on the shore,
the moonlight rides upon the tides,
oh, who could ask for more.
Now we’ve been here four million years
sustained at her sweet breast,
let’s sing her praise for all our days,
then in her womb we’ll rest.
 -copyright by Elizabeth Cunningham, 1995. (Feel free to sing at any occasion. For permission to reprint, contact Elizabeth through her website.)
 Elizabeth also shared that, "Jo was a seer. She saw keenly the visible, natural world around her, and she also saw the invisible world, the spirit at the heart all things". ... "She was someone who could go between the worlds, inner and outer, visible and invisible, waking and dreaming, the world of deep human connections and the intricate connections of the natural world, of all life."

Looking out into the woods, I would welcome a visit from my friend Jo. This time of year so much is shed, and we are distilled down to our bones. The spirit world seems palpable.
Jo Renbeck (1942-2013)

Wednesday, October 30, 2019

Studio vistit to ERIX

 Have you ever felt like you could shrink down, to the size of a coin, to fit through a slot and enter into the illuminated, colorful, stimulating and  frenetic world of a pinball machine? That is how I felt walking into Rick Gilstad's home studio last week. Gilstad, aka ERIX, has a full gallery of works from floor to ceiling. In fact, on the ceiling he has glued every pair of shoes his ll year old granddaughter has ever worn. In a trail that loops above our heads, the empty shoes make a path that defies gravity and embraces wonder.
 That is how I found myself slinking back and forth among the shelves and trays and drawers of collage sculptures. Everything speaks of abundance and collecting. ERIX is a collector. A very gregarious personality, ERIX brings humor into even the darkest works with a gift for titles.
 Working with material from flea markets, antique stores, and with a strong sense design, the works use items from the past to comment on the present. There are multiple ways to appreciate each sculpture.
Spring is in the Heir
 Hundreds of duplicated objects are assembled and displayed with an eye for the funny bone. His photographs of details are works of art themselves.  Sometimes those photographs are collaged into another work. There is so much to look at it will make your mind explode.

Gridlock(detail), Elvis has Landed
 The studio is definitely a great place to have a conversation.
Statue of Limitations (see bloody stumps?)

details of his mini collages, these are in fuse boxes
 Bring friends and stop by ERIX at 3610 Pleasant Ridge, Wingdale, NY
Because the ARTEAST open studio tours are over this year, you should email him first.
ERIX desk

Collects everything, even words.

Wednesday, October 23, 2019

There is an Ink tree on the hill

Black Walnut tree
Do art supplies really fall from trees?
You would think so!

Lately I have been in a foraging frame of mind. An abundance of acorns have fallen on the deck. Horse chestnuts litter the driveway. Up on top of the hill, a row of widely spaced black walnut trees are loaded with tennis ball sized green walnuts.
On Instagram I follow my friend Martha Miller who has spent this October making inks from nature. She has experimented with pokeweed, acorn caps, tumeric, saffron, blueberries, marigolds, rust, amaranth, elderberries, blackberries, goldenrod, rosehips, basil blossoms. The colors she gets are just beautiful!

I am in awe of the work that she did to transform my black walnuts into a batch of brown ink. She sent me back a gift of it and I can't wait to do something special.
Also on my wish list is this book:
Jason Logan, Make Ink book


Monday, October 21, 2019

Painting plein aire at the Diner

The weather was lousy or I just hadn't developed the skin to feel comfortable in this northern hemisphere. So I tucked my art supplies into the warmth of my jacket and ordered a booth at the Millbrook diner, out of the wind.  Luckily, I work small and clean. A little bit of paint, water, paper towel and some acrylic paint pens, and I am all set to go. Sketching it in light sage green, I layered the colors until I felt the perspective to work.

Needless to say I could have been overwhelmed with the chrome and reflections...and at times I was. I took breaks and painted my coffee mug and the table settings instead. It always helps to work on more than one painting at a time.
The effort was to support the local free library with an art sale to celebrate the arts in and around Millbrook (NY), that evening. I thought I could not be more satisfied when I placed the picture in a fresh frame and up on the display easel in the library lobby.
BUT! Guess what?
I got even more happy when the art collectors snapped it up within the first couple of minutes of the opening. Stunned, I asked them what it was about the work that made them so eager. The husband replied that he was a local and he practically grew up in the diner. This is going to a good home!!!

All three works sold that weekend. I am so happy. Love it when I get to paint and the work goes home with other people.

#sold #artcollectors #pleinaire #painting #millbrookny #dutchesscountyny

Sunday, October 20, 2019

Go see the Icons Salisbury, CT

On a grassy knoll, down the Twin Lakes road in Salisbury, sits a simple white clapboard chapel that promises an experience both dramatic and inspiring. A delightful sensorial surprise is had upon entering the All Saints of AmericanOrthodox Christian Church. Picture a space with angels and the heavens sparkling down and around you. Saints and martyrs look out, with eyes of resilience and wisdom, and catch the gaze of all who enter. Brilliant colored Icons and relics line walls and a large mural of Christ as Triumphant King encapsulates the spectator from overhead.

Icons are a distinct art form of the Orthodox Church. They serve as an art-based path to direct revelation, giving the viewer access to the spirits. The holy images may be on wood, canvas, mosaic or fresco. An iconographer creates an icon, “written with light”; to be a transparent window and, using an inverted perspective, the church installation manifests a great cloud of witnesses, reminding the assembled that they never worship alone. The interior warm white plaster walls reflect the abundant gold leaf, and bounce the light which combined with the pungent smell of burning wax candles and smoking incense, transports you to another place

The enthusiasm of past visitors has prodded the church into initiating free Saturday afternoon tours before Vespers. Rev. John J. Kreta and the abundance of available literature at the door, reassure the secular visitor of the gregarious hospitality of the church. My tour guide on this third Saturday of touring was Evelyn Kreta. She was bubbling with enthusiasm. She is choir director as well as an experienced icon painter. The first thing she explained to me is that icons are not painted, instead they are “written”, because they serve as a way to transcribe the scriptures just as any words might do.

The artist, Reverend Andrew Tregubov, is an award winning iconographer and historian. Commissioned by All Saints of American Orthodox Christian Church, Tregubov has written the majority of the icons in the style of Father GregoryKroug. Father Kroug was born in Russia in 1909, but left after the revolution to study at the Art Academy in Paris. When he became a monk he was given the name “St Gregory the Iconographer”. He died in 1969 in a small hermitage outside of Paris after he had written 550 different icons and wall paintings. Tregubov has received grants to study and archive the work of Kroug and other master iconographers.

The iconostasis, or icon stand, divides the nave and alter. Hung with icons of angels and saints and portrayals of events from scriptures, the structure has three doorways and is meant to serve as a bridge between heaven and earth. Written dark to light, the figures have gentle delicate features that seem lit from within. Garments are brushed with all shades of colors and the folds are highlighted with bright streaks of lines. Red outlines surround much of each figure and frame. The contrast of the frenetic lines to the simple expanses of background gives the figures a feeling of active presence. Brilliant details attract my eye and standing in the space I sense the feeling of collective inspiration.

Eleven relics of American saints with expressive eyes and symbolic gesturing hands are assembled in the prayer niche to the right of the alter. Each follows a prescribed pattern with minor variations between them. Small shards of bones are encased in circular cavities below each portrait. Layers of transparent brushwork enrich the robes. The large searching eyes are the most striking. Young and old, the American martyrs engage us in their story of faith. This is an encounter that must be seen!

Tours every Saturday from 3:30 to 4:30 before Vespers at 5.  
All Saints of American Orthodox Christian Church on 313 Twin Lakes road

Tuesday, October 15, 2019

The importance of writing (and illustrating) our art history book

Wouldn't it be cool if I wrote down the stories that have come down through the family tree and have helped shape world histories? I feel like, in doing so, I would find my place and even give validation to my well as share some pretty wild tales.
It's about perspective.
As a woman in a society increasingly bent on marginalizing our story and removing our rights over our own bodies, I want to be the one to tell the story! Those who write history, it is said, are the champions of the times. So much of the history is about men. I guess that is why it is called "HIS story". I am tired of being told. I am sick of learning about another well respected and successful female artist who is systematically wiped out of the records after her death. I mistrust the historians of the past.