In 2016 I was the proud recipient of the North Carolina Arts Council and the partnering arts councils of the Regional Artist Project Grant Program. After researching, purchasing and practicing with materials–various mediums and varnishes, and brushes, I decided on a project that would separately show the results of each medium used: linseed oil, walnut oil, stand oil, dammar varnish….blah blah blah…paint terms that only an art geek like me would get excited about…
I decided to produce seven paintings in seven days. It was also serendipitous that I had that week off from my job so I could focus on painting only! Needless to say, I was absolutely in heaven.
I played with the idea of being more open and obvious about the narrative. The paintings were about Jeff, my fiancé who chose to leave this world through suicide. I’ve often debated about how obvious I should make that in my work. The objects, colors, and numbers of things in my paintings are almost always significant, intentional. But should I come right out and say/show Jeff’s name or his likeness? Also, I’m not sure if I’m quite ready to paint a realistic portrait of him, despite his death having occurred over four and a half years ago now.
And then this little troll morphed into Jeff before my eyes. And I found myself smiling as I painted this one!
Halfway though the week I went to see The Women of Abstract Expressionism show. It was fucking fantastic, standing in the midst of these wonderful works by Joan Mitchell, Elaine de Kooning, etc. I wanted to stay there, step into the canvases, into their worlds. But more about that in a future post. Anyway, I was excited to paint some expressionist works again and decided to make the last two of the seven abstract.
Here are the finished #7in7 which I will probably end up working on more–more layers in the abstracts, more colors in the shadows of the still life, more brown in that moth, more frayed threads sticking out of the bare spot below the bear’s eye…..
Fabulous easel and supplies made possible with support of the North Carolina Arts Council and the partnering arts councils of the Regional Artist Project Grant Program. Have I mentioned I am a grateful recipient!
This painting, Miss Kitty and the Not So Cheerful Cherub, is currently in an exhibit in the gallery at Friends Homes Guilford, here in Greensboro, NC called “Our Brush With Tales – An Interactive Exhibit with Five Artists and Two Storytellers.” At the opening the storytellers preformed the stories they created inspired by, or in response to, the displayed paintings.
When I submitted this painting for the show I wondered what the storytellers would see. It was interesting to hear the stories that were told around my painting. But it was almost as if the act of storytelling, the performance, was more important than the story or the actual narrative of the artwork itself.
(You can come up with your own story, if you like, before you read on!)
One story was told from the point of view of the objects: about a bad kitty who harassed all of the objects or characters. The clown, troll, stuffed toy, and cherub were all carefully described along with the hideous acts that were perpetrated on them by the mean kitty. The books on the shelf were described in detail, including a recited poem from the pages of The Cheerful Cherub, as if the storyteller actually opened the book and read it.
The other story was about a reminiscing mother who comes home after dropping her son off at college. She walks into the son’s bedroom and sees the shelf, just as it was left by her son as a child, and describes these sweet, cliché memories of his childhood. And I thought, really? Does that really look like a shelf that would be in a child’s room?
I wondered what the storytellers really got from my painting – if their initial impressions differed from their presented stories, if their stories were censored in any way, or if they were so puzzled by my painting that they had to invent just semi-related stories.
The exhibit includes printed versions of the stories that were told along with the artists’ own statements about their particular painting.
Here’s what my painting is about…
I survived Jeff’s death. We were planning to be married. The morning I found him hanging peacefully, finally free of pain, my whole world was shattered. But I understood. I accepted. That didn’t make it hurt any less. I grieved. And I painted.
I fell in love with Jeff’s things the day I met him, his belongings an extension of who he was. We both had an affinity for old, sometimes obsolete items. He taught me to appreciate things as we found them – usually worn and covered with dust, loved and left behind.
After Jeff’s death, I continued to cherish his things. I looked to them for answers, for comfort. I continued to collect things in his absence. I combined these things to tell our story – various still life scenarios in oil paint like this one: an abandoned stuffed toy sits on a shelf next to his books, daisies wilt in a sunny yellow vase, little troll and clown smile as if remembering a happy time, a silly cherub plays with a noose on his ankle, and a moth hovers briefly, visiting.
On Saturday mornings together we would go scouting to rescue vintage and antique treasures from yard sales and estate sales. These things surrounded us in our studio and in our home. Many would find their way into Jeff’s artwork. Now they find their way into mine.
One day Jeff said, “This is gonna change your life!” and he placed in my palm a small packet of golden watch hands.
He saw me struggle with time, how time taunted me, or rather, how I allowed it to taunt me. He helped me see how to disregard it, to just let things be. I was working on reconstructing time according to my own inclinations toward it, not how it’s typically imposed on us.
I realized that I’d been collecting old clocks. I’m drawn to them – the beauty of the design, the mystery of time that they hold. I wonder what was happening when the hands stopped moving on that particular timepiece.
These concepts of reality and time, you can construct them, stretch them, mold them, into what suits you. And when someone mentions “the real world” or thinks you’re not in it, they have no clue…
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…
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’m getting ready for my next solo show. Time is ticking. It’s down to the wire, as they say. I wonder what the origin of that saying is…
Oh, Thanks, Google:
1.informalused to denote a situation whose outcome is not decided until the very last minute.“it was probable that the test of nerves would go down to the wire”
Well, it’s not exactly that. I have in my mind how the show will look and I think it will be well received. It’s just amazing how much time it takes to plan a thing– arranging and rearranging it in your head, diagrams on paper, deliberating, deciding, sourcing objects for an installation portion of the show, and trying not to be distracted by other pressing issues like searching for another rental house that fits in my budget with extra room for a studio.
The theme of this show is Clairsentience.
I love old and vintage things: treasures hunted and inherited. I wonder about how I’m drawn to them, what they mean to me, who they belonged to previously. Monumental objects that require immortalization as well as small almost incidental items that collected dust on a grandmother’s shelf for ages.
“We leave a little of ourselves in the objects that are precious to us.” I’m fascinated by how things become an extension of a person: who and what we construct a person to be from the things they leave behind. Old photos, baby shoes, toys, tools, a favorite teacup…
Clairsentience, also referred to as psychometry or psychometrics, is the ability to perceive the history of an object or person by touching it.
And I’m working to finish one additional painting for the show. A lonely little somersaulting clown. I feel like that little clown, out of control until his gears wind down, next week after a grande opening reception…
Oh, It’s U! oil on cavas, 18″x18″
Today is for painting. But first, a few words…
Last weekend was the Keep It Local Art Show. While peddlin’ my wares, I fell in love with a llama, met some wonderful fellow artists, visited with friends, ate some delicious chile, received lots of favorable feedback, sold some work, and donated this painting in the Art Hunt to raise money for the One Step Further food pantry. (We raised 596 pounds of food and $400 dollars!) With a canned food or cash donation you could hunt for free art and go home with something cool.
I wonder who found my painting. I wonder who’s wall it’s on now. I wonder who passed it buy cuz it was “too creepy.” One guy (who seemed creepier than my clowns!) said he saw it on the art hunt and although it was well executed, he wasn’t keen on the subject matter. Seriously? So, apparently, creepy doesn’t attract creepy, or maybe it does.
Anyway, It was great fun! I think I’ll do it again in the Spring.
The Fabulous Princess Inca, Infamous Celebrity of Oak Ridge, NC
This is Jack and Rosie. They lost their heads and found each other.
How did they get here? Where have they been? Who loved them before? Who loved Rosie so much that she has a worn spot on the back of her head where there is no painted hair? She used to have a soft body and a chest with a noise maker that whined when you rocked her. Now she is silent, paint flaking off her pouty lips.
And Jack wonders why so many people shudder and say, “Creepy!” when they see him. He’s nice. Just look at his smile.
Clairsentience, also referred to as psychometry or psychometrics, is the ability to perceive the history of an object or person by touching it. Wouldn’t that be fun?? Maybe not…
Jack & Rose, oil on canvas, 8″x8″, contact me for pricing.
I’m getting ready for the annual fall Keep it Local show in Oak Ridge, NC. I don’t usually schlep my paintings to outdoor shows (I prefer my work in galleries with proper lighting; I’m a snob that way.) but this event is super fun!
On a small cozy farm in Oak Ridge, NC, nestled away from the main road, with LeeAnne Pizio’s precious little studio/gallery building beckoning, the sound of clucking chickens and crowing roosters, and friendly dogs to welcome you, it’s the perfect backdrop for an art fest.
There will be over 20 craftspeople (including me!), wonderful musicians, an art hunt, and Princess Inca the Llama…! Plus it’s on Halloween day–only the best holiday of the year!
And, by the way, what’s this anti-candy corn movement I’ve been hearing about?? Sacrilege!