Month: May 2016
I’ve been working on my Art-o-mat® series – 50 cigarette pack-sized wooden blocks with tiny still life paintings on them that will be called Lilly’s World. They’ll go off to some Art-o-mat® near you or on the other side of the world.
Here’s a sneak peak…
Here are ten things not to do to a widow who is struggling to survive after her fiancés suicide. Of course there are more; It’s amazing how insensitive and selfish people can be!
10. Ask her, “Why did he do that to you?”
9. Pretend it didn’t happen and when you see her next joke around about the size of her butt instead of acknowledging the horrible tragedy she’s trying to survive.
8. Tell her she’s your best friend and sleep with her and then insist she keep it a secret so your chances with other women are not diminished.
7. Forget about being patient with her when it’s Christmastime and she doesn’t want to decorate and tell her she’s being selfish and you’ve had a harder life than anyone else.
6. Cut her off from the family and tell her your psychiatrist told you not to speak to her anymore.
5. Talk to a lawyer to see if you can legally get all her late fiancé’s belongings from her.
4. Tell her not to change her last name to her late fiancé’s; tell her to just do what you did after your divorce and forget all that “baggage” and go back to your maiden name.
3. Call her frequently to talk about your own trivial problems and don’t bother to ask her how she is doing. And if she says she’s not doing well, ignore that. When she gets upset after you’ve done this several times get your wife to call her back and shame her for hurting your feelings.
2. When she asks for help, tell her not to be so selfish, that after your father died you didn’t ask anyone to pay your bills.
And #1…this is a good one…
Tell her that her dead fiancé’s spirit is hanging around with you now.
I’m worried about Mommy. She’s very sad now so I stay with my dad most of the time. But I know she loves me. And I go see her sometimes but she seems like she’s tired all the time and sometimes I hear her crying in her room.
Her fiancé died. I miss him. His name is Jeff. He was always so much fun. He showed me how to shoot a bow and arrow and taught me about trees on hikes through the woods on our favorite trails. We called him our own private forest ranger.
He was the smartest guy I knew. It seemed like you could ask him about anything and he could tell you about it. I guess it’s cuz he read a lot. He collected all these cool old books; I bet he read every one of them, too. He taught us how to find four leaf clovers. He was always finding them, It was like he was the luckiest guy around.
Jeff was an artist. He made the coolest things. He never yelled at me for touching them, either. He said if something broke he could just fix it cuz he made it in the first place.
He was always joking around. We used to play pranks with a whoopy cushion. He always seemed happy. He was always doing something and making things. So I didn’t understand at first why he was there one day and then he was gone.
Mommy said he was sick. She called it depression and alcoholism. She said he got really sad sometimes and it hurt him a lot and he finally found a way out of the pain. She said he killed himself and she understood why. I didn’t really get it, cuz I never saw him that sad. He must have hid it from me.
When my mom isn’t so tired sometimes we go on trips. We went to the beach. It was fun. We stopped at a diner on the way and had the best pancakes ever. It was a rainy day but the sun came out when we got to the beach and me and my brother played in the waves. Then we spread some of Jeff’s ashes in the water and we saw a cloud shaped like a moth. My mom was smiling.
One day we went to the mountains for a hike. Mom said it was the park she and Jeff went to when they first met. When nobody was looking we dumped some of Jeff’s ashes over the cliff. We did it secretly cuz we thought maybe people would be creeped out. We watched the ashes blow away in the wind, in the sunshine. We could see the trees and rocks below. My mom was smiling but I heard her sniffling, too.
The apartment is a lot quieter without Jeff. And we miss the burgers he used to cook on the grill. But For a while, after he died, we saw tons of rainbows and it was like Jeff was with us every time. That summer we saw lots of moths. I never saw so many moths before; every time we saw one it made my mom smile. And we were always finding four leaf clovers; it was like Jeff was still pointing them out to us.
I hope my mom is happy again someday. I don’t really know what to do for her so I just hug her and tell her I love her. She told me that one night when she was really really missing Jeff and wishing he was still here, she looked up in the sky and saw a shooting star! That made her feel a little bit better. I think it was Jeff telling her everything’s gonna be ok.
I’m working on this painting, well, not at the moment. Right now I’m drinking a chai tea late and scrolling through Facebook and shaking my head after reading about the artist who’s being sued and threatened with violence for putting out a hilarious painting of a nude that resembles Trump. Like censorship will make America great again! Jeeeez.
Anyway, the other day I posted this in-process photo of my painting and apparently some people thought it was an actual photo, not a shot of a painting. Funny and interesting. There’s this debate among some that realism is boring, that abstract and abstracted works are the “real” art. Although photo realism, when a photo is reproduced inch by inch, as if by a machine, tends to lack soul or some kind of magic, I believe that a painting done in a realist style can have soul, magic, and feeling infused in it.
For years prior to falling in love with still life painting, I painted in an abstract expressionist way, striving to capture and convey energy and emotion, wonder, depth… Imagine my surprise when my professor admired my self-taught technique and suggested that I approach my still life paintings with an abstract expressionist mindset. I loved this idea; I’d been struggling with whether to define myself as an abstract or realist painter and whether my work previously held merit compared to the work done as an art major under the tutelage of a professional.
Why do we have to be either an abstract painter OR a realist painter? Why do we have to have labels at all? The truly great artists that came before us were skilled in a myriad of techniques. Look at Da Vinci, Picasso, and especially Gerhard Richter to illustrate how an artist can be versatile and extremely skilled in multiple techniques. Remember when knowledge and skill was valued, admired, and rewarded, when people would employ an artist to create something most people couldn’t make, something that took years of education, study, and practice to accomplish.
Now almost anyone who slops some paint on a store-bought canvas can call themselves an “artist” and label it “fine art.” As if I could call myself a lawyer or a doctor and practice those professions just because I declared myself as such. The public requires a degree and years of education and experience to practice professions. But when it comes to art they have no expectations and therefore do not value art and the idea that it should be a paid profession. The public’s idea/definition of an artist has changed. When they think artist, they think emotional, a bit crazy, impractical, not someone who can do the job precisely and with skill.
I do believe that emerging artists must recognize themselves as artists, recognize that they possess some inherit predisposition toward making art, and believe that they are artists before they can present themselves to the world as such. But it doesn’t stop there, a true artist continues to learn and work to refine and improve technique, to hone observational skills, to learn about history and art and the people who made it before us and how that affected the world and the definitions of art.
But if yer gonna slop some paint on a store-bought canvas and call it art, that’s not to say it might not be amazing! I still believe in the magic of what can happen on the canvas, what can be created out of inhibition, enthusiasm. I appreciate what this kind of work brings to the world; it’s just plain fun! (Cmon…I’m not that much of an art-snob.)
When you get the call to create, before you have the knowledge, education, confidence, etc. to create the images that are within you, you have to play! And when that play is combined with education, repetitive practice, hard work, failure, success…it all comes together to create, dare I say, a true artist.
The challenge is to create with all that skill and knowledge without losing the fun, the spontaneity–to approach still life painting with the mindset of an abstract expressionist.
I still believe in magic, I do.
I was recently invited to be guest curator at the gallery at Friends Homes at Guilford in Greensboro, NC – a retirement community full of really cool people. Retired professors, artists, authors, and other professionals admire the work displayed there. I was honored to have a solo show there last October and fell in love with the place.
When Yvonne, the curator, approached me about guest curating an exhibit of student art, I immediately thought of Kate Mitchell and her wonderful prints! I knew she would have enough really strong work to fill the gallery with a solo show.
Kate is a student artist at Guilford College. Her work is flawless. She works really hard and is fairly prolific even at her young age; she’s a junior this year. She makes fantastic, meticulous drawings, woodcut and linocut prints.
I first met Kate a couple years ago while I was a TA for Roy Nydorf’s woodcut printing class at Guilford. Then we took an etching class together. Kate has a tenacious work ethic and meticulous attention to detail. She works harder than most artists I know. Plus she is just an excellent human being.
When we hung Kate’s prints and I looked at them all together as a body of work, I saw how autobiographical they are. Her subjects resemble Kate herself, although she says that’s coincidental. I absolutely love how Kate illuminates the subtle beauty of life!
I was proud and delighted to be involved in bringing Kate’s beautiful work to The Friends Homes. The artist talk was a success – packed with people admiring Kate’s work and asking interesting questions. Kate’s French Braids print brought viewers back to their childhoods. And there were several questions about Kate’s carving and printing processes.
Here’s Kate’s artist statement from the show:
My name is Kate Mitchell and I am a junior Art major, specializing in Printmaking, at Guilford College. I didn’t know I wanted to be a printmaker until my sophomore year when I took Roy Nydorf’s woodcut class. I absolutely fell in love with the amount of discipline and attention to detail that printmaking demands. It takes strength and thought and care, which is all I could ever wish to portray through my work. This is a collection of both linocut relief prints and etchings that I have made in the last two years.
Linocut is a printmaking technique where a design is carved into a sheet of linoleum. The raised, uncarved, areas are then inked and transferred onto paper, resulting in a mirror image of the carved design. Etching is an intaglio technique of printmaking that involves the use of metal plates and acid erosion. Intaglio means that, instead of applying the ink to the surface of the plate, the ink is held in acid-created indents or incisions made in the plates and the surface is wiped clean. Just like with linocuts, the inked areas are then transferred onto paper, resulting in a finished print.
I’m not done creating.
My best work was not my senior thesis work.
I still have paintings to make.
I still have words to write.
So why can’t I get off the couch? Why do I feel so lazy?
It’s ok; it’s just a pause in production…
I’m sitting here at Delurk, the artist-run gallery in Winston-Salem, NC working my Sunday afternoon shift. As I look at this painting of mine hanging on the off-white brick wall, bathed in warm light, I think about how it came to be.
I was at a place where I was unsure of my palette, and what textures I wanted to paint next. I was in the studio on a warm spring morning, just messing around with paint, when Jeff walked in, on his way back in from having a cigarette out on the loading doc, cradling something in his hands. He held it out to me and said, “Look what I brought you…!”
I peered into his outstretched hands. It was a moth, with soft powdery wings of various browns and beiges, slow, on the verge of death, too tired to fly away. I gasped at the beauty of it. He gingerly set it on my table next to my easel, patiently waiting while it stepped off his fingers and onto the edge of a book.
I was mesmerized; It was gorgeous! I studied the lines, the colors, the textures–warm beige fading into dark dark browns and dots of soft powdery white. I stepped up to my easel and palette and began mixing the colors I saw on the moth. I applied them to the canvas, smoothing and blending, and scraping off at times.
The next morning the moth was dead and gone when we arrived at the studio but I continued working on the painting that was inspired by this beautiful, magical creature and the wonderful man who brought it to me.
“I think it’s done,” Jeff declared a couple weeks later when I stepped back to evaluate my work.
It was May of 2012. It was the last painting I did before Jeff’s death.
That spring and summer I saw more moths than I’ve ever experienced in my life. It was like they came to visit me silently in our studio, sent there magically somehow by Jeff to let me know that everything was going to be all right.