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Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Trying too Hard

I think it is impossible for me to paint a painting about the love I have for my sons. It is a selfless love, and so there is less of me, a sacrifice of sorts, of my self for them.  But I can't paint it. Here I tried:
Took out the "Madre" banner, and think it works better this way

 I am so pleased with how much they love each other and the true bond they share.

I want to take a chain saw to this piece but have decided to hide it away for a while and come back to it later. It's good to get a little distance. it is so unlike me to work so long and hard on one piece! I'm a "daily painter", for goodness sakes!

Monday, September 28, 2015

Should the work speak for itself?

Writing artist statements is the bane of any artist's existence. I always wish they would make a novelist get up on stage and paint a picture to tell us what his book was about. Do we really have to come up with the words and craft a piece of literature to explain what can be seen with the eyes? Truthfully, I do not always know what I am painting. The work takes a life on it's own as I move through the process, and lately I collage elements in, and rip them right out, each for a differing effect. I think it takes about 3 years for me to digest, to get some hindsight, and to understand what I was painting.  So I was pretty psyched to hear what 10 of my peers at the Field last Saturday would say about my new triptych, which is actually half of the 6 pieces I envision working together. They looked at the work for 5 minutes, taking notes, and in silence. I could not say a thing.

And then... this is what they saw and felt: "illness and impending death, violent decomposition, rebirth." Some wondered about "heart surgery," and "the role of bees in nature and medicine in our bodies". They felt the symbolism to be strong- "maybe too strong and the three images together were confusing". It "makes the viewer work too hard for meaning". There was some positive feedback- the "disintegrating" lace was "a soft touch, a bit sad, but tender, like a fading memory". The middle section could be about "positive nourishment and care". The running title of choice was "Life Support", and they liked the hearts as flowers and the mother as a very strong presence. Last question was, "Was the bird in the center pulling apart the heart or stitching it back together? "

They did not pick up at all about what my statement might have said about the feminine stitching literally tied to the masculine necktie fragments around the frames! I thought that was an important social sexual comment... and the color embroidery touches! Doesn't it kick up the color? Is black always so full of gloom?  I like working with black, because like Picasso, it outlines and frames and tells a clearer story.   But I am still not sure of the story. Should the pictures speak for themselves or should I try to clarify the impetus for the fragments? Does the work look fragmented? I was hoping for more of a melody...

Doing the third panel I was struck by humor and the thought of how my parents generation is much more wild and addictive than me or my siblings ever were. We sometimes worry about them doing too much self-medicating. Its been a conversation lately and I laugh at it.

The second panel was called "violent"...and I wonder if that is just because of the surgical scissors or the graphic angles of the nest area? and the first panel was called colorless... I hadn't looked at it that way, but now I see... a bit of diagnostic insight I guess.

Friday, September 25, 2015

For the field work tomorrow

My newest tryptich...
Each of the embroidered felt paintings is stitched to men's neckties, and stretched on a canvas.
11 x 14 inches each.

Monday, September 21, 2015

Look what my kids can do with torn paper!

Every one of these is a masterpiece. I love this project! I love it when the kid's projects turn out so well and they take pride in their work. One student told me she has started another one at home!

And these are just 8 first finished out of the 25 all together!

Sunday, September 20, 2015

SOLD for a song

(and a little more) My songbirds floating by the chair painted on a map. On view through mid October at the Akin Natural History Museum and Library in Pawling, NY

Thank you Amy and Chris!

Saturday, September 19, 2015

Australian Spiritual Masterpieces at Perez

Today I got a chance to see the new exhibition called No Boundaries: Aboriginal Australian Contemporary Abstract Paintings. It opened this week at the Perez Museum in Miami, and it will be up through January 3rd. The work is divine, inspired, and hallucinating inducing. An afternoon panel discussion promised to be helpful in providing a context for the work... they showed lovely portraits of the artists, descriptions of their studio support system, and images the dramatic landscape. Three of the nine artists, one aged about 94, were in the audience.

Either I was too tired or too stupid, but the curators questions were so full of artspeak double talk that I could not understand what was being asked. From the looks on the faces of some of the panelists, they didn't get it either. So I didn't stay for the Q&A and slipped out to review the work in the gallery.
Most of the paintings are painted flat on the ground. Only a few were displayed like that. The orientation as the works are hung on the walls of museums and collectors houses is arbitrary. I found myself twisting my head around to see them from different sides... imagining the artist's progress in the creation of them. The patterns are informed by the artists desire to map their history and culture, as well as their landscape and, a topic mostly used by women, mapping their source of food. They use dreams and the idea of travel and Time in their art. The art communities have gotten so popular that the artists have been commissioned to design cell phone covers. That example and the fact that the show will travel to many other cities after Miami, is a sign of the increasing global attraction aboriginal art is engendering today.
 I love the Perez Museums commitment to showing contemporary art from places outside the western mainstream. This work is a powerful addition for our visual understanding of another way to make sense of our surroundings.
I thought of a fun lesson plan for the students in my class to map out their daily travels to and from school... use bright colors and borders and dots. Turn the work to switch orientations as they design it. Stay non-representational and abstract and see what happens...

If I owned one, I would display it on the floor and make everyone walk around it.

The labor intensive dots and patterns really played havoc with my phone camera lens... and I just wondered, if I let go of my left brain need to label and categorize, and let my senses free, how disorienting an experience the paintings would have on my eye's rods and cones. In an altering state of reception, how hallucinating the work could seem! It definitely has the potential to remove the familiar and put us in an extra-ordinary state. Wonderful exhibition.
Don't miss the chance to see this on your own.

Tuesday, September 15, 2015

The fine art of grilled cheese

A teacher's job is never done.
Today, in the spirit of educating the seniors as to how to cook for themselves, I demonstrated how to make a grilled cheese sandwich in four minutes using an iron. I also cooked an egg, (it took about 10 minutes), on an iron propped to lay with the hot side flat up. With the promise of a sandwich that will win them friends and possibly sustain them early mornings on the way to class, I added Canadian bacon and presented a "bacon, egg and cheese sandwich" to much applause. These tips can also serve well for time spent traveling through motels.
I am afraid Michael was in the crowd. He took the pictures. I hope he doesn't think I am ready to start making meals at home!

Sunday, September 13, 2015

Field work in Miami

I'm participating in an exciting and stimulating program through the ArtCenter/ South Florida, on Lincoln Road. It's a forum of two parts... the first where we present one work each week and have the other participants respond to it. The second part, which is much more interesting to me, is where each of us spend 5-8 minutes observing and feeling the works of other participants. The instructions are to make notes of what we see and what we feel. This does not include critique or explanations. So often my mind wants to place things in context and "understand". Also, I notice many of my artist friends are big on critiquing, as if their insights if acted upon, would tidy up the world.  Not doing that calls for a more accepting stance. You accept that each artist is presenting a work, a statement, a soul song...and you work from that point.

The Field Miami ArtCenter/South Florida presents the Fieldwork Workshop, a unique forum for artists to share developing creative works and exchange feedback, peer to peer. The FieldWork structure reveals how each piece is perceived by others and fosters a detailed information exchange. Incisive and stimulating critiques are guided by an experienced facilitator. Comments focus on what’s happening in the work and how each choice shapes the work, keeping the authorship of the artist constantly supported. FieldWork cultivates insight into composition and strengthens one’s ability to give critical commentary.
This 8-week workshop facilitated by Oscar Fuentes will culminate in an informal showing open to the public.

Friday, September 11, 2015

The Akin show opens this weekend!

On Sunday head out to Pawling to see the opening of the 5th Annual Meeting Past exhibit at the Akin Free Library. This exhibit features over 90 regional artists'  work inserted into the Akin Library collections, including the Historical Society and Natural History - and the opening reception includes music by Jazzmen. 1-5 p.m.Located at 38 Old Quaker Hill Road, Pawling.
my paintings over the cradle
Two of my paintings are installed there, as well as a work by Michael and pieces by my father, Julian Strauss!

Tuesday, September 8, 2015

Early conceptual painting assignment

In this case I was inspired by a manifesto from the Museum of Everyday Life, called a "Meditation on the Toothbrush", written by Claire Dolan.

This was read as a class and the students were instructed to brainstorm ideas and turn in a sheet of 6-8 thumbnails. Not many of the 28 works were successful- I think it was too early in the semester to give the students so much freedom, ...but they were aching for it, and I guess that is what I was responding to.
I did give them parameters- like they had to use collage, and a spot of color but remain predominantly black and white.
 We will have a critique tomorrow. I have to judge them purely by design success.

Monday, September 7, 2015

Studio language on my Labor day

Spiritualism and is so hard to describe what I am searching for when I labor over a work of art. By my age, I have come to realize that there is a certain vocabulary that repeats itself even if the medium changes. In this totemic work of plaster, burlap, felt, embroidery thread and paint, there are the songbirds, hearts, wings, and fruit. These images have threaded themselves though my art since...well... years and years ago. There must be a reason, and someday I might mine my photo albums and listen to the family stories and actually figure it out... but right now the symbols flow from my paint brush, dance with my needle and thread, and trace across my sketchbooks of their own volition.
Aesthetically my work balances between black and white (I love the way Picasso used black, and how Cranach the Elder and Alice Neel used a fluid outline). Perhaps because of my Carribean based youth and my current residency in Miami, most of the work has a pitch of bright colors. One constant from my traditional western education is the rectilinear flat plane.
I don't know the meaning of these pictures yet... I work on them, adding layers or sanding layers off, until they feel right, and then, I try to place the parts in poetic juxtapositions that might reveal something of the situation of where they were made. Perhaps they are all over the map. I am going to try to find out...

Sunday, September 6, 2015

A flying ramble

One of my favorite things to do is to travel. It is all about departures. In the quest of it, I have shunned a deep social life, avoided costly drug habits, cultivated a delight in simplicity, recoiled from shopping expenses and escaped fashion snobbery. All my spare change goes into purchasing a boarding pass. I prefer to travel by air over any other means... certainly over walking, automobile, or boat. There has always been a fascination for me with airplanes and airports. I love the hallways, the smooth and glistening surfaces, leading to gates. I love the promise of gates, portals and ramps, that breathe exotic place names. Many airports now have artworks curated in themes relating to the particular geographic region or the glories of voyaging. Competing with the windows for attention, the art hangs from ceilings, flashes across escalators and moving sidewalks, and blinks from the divisions between shopping mall-like stores. Every now and then you can find the small plaque posted in a corner that tells you more about it.
If I am lucky enough to have to tour across an airport by tram and be at eye level, nearly on the tarmac, with the planes and all the tractors and trucks feeding and fixing them, I am in pure ecstasy. The planes are like large silver babies, smooth and expectant. They promise to lift us up and deliver us to the clouds. With the change in perspective, a travelor might get around to understanding where they have been. In bidding adieu, the location and the importance (of home) is established.
We used to dress up for our excursions. I wore my best Maryjane shoes and a new smocked dress. (Okay- I have a little fashion snobbery!) Families and neighbors would all come to the airport to say goodbye.
Me and my dad in the middle of a goodbye crowd of well-wishers
Over the years I have noticed an increasing elementary style of travel wardrobe, (pajamas anyone?), and the corresponding lack of celebration in the ritual of globe-trotting. Travel feels mundane and the paradox is I attribute it to anything but mundane; to the increased fear of terrorism. This has led, as we all know, to lengthy security measures, long lines, and a lot of waiting.
How hard it seems we go to feel safe when we travel, when any movement, thus any real traveling, entails a risk... a letting go of the familiar. Now we all sit about like vegetables being packed into crates. We wait to arrive somewhere.

Saturday, September 5, 2015

Celebrating Big Love

Sophia and Luke, together in faith and trust!
It could not have been a more beautiful day. Tons of food, music, friends and family, we all partied way into the night.

Thursday, September 3, 2015

Kevin MacDonald opening in Hudson

A shelf in Kevin's home

My good friend Kevin is having a show in Hudson at the Wendy MacDaris Fine art gallery. Its a great chance to see his witty assemblages and delve into the manifesto of a rebel artist.
Kevin's studio is a laboratory where, with simple ingredients such a building materials and frame supplies, he puts together sculptures that whisper forceful one liners and then continue to hum with echos of laughter.

The show opens September 5th (6-8pm) and runs through October 4th.
In a minimalist homage to the glorified history of art, his recent sculptures are comprised of three parts:  "support, pigment, and hardware". Makes you think.