“Realism, n. The art of depicting nature as it is seen by toads. The charm suffusing in a landscape painted by a mole, or a story written by a measuring-worm.” –Ambrose Bierce The Devil’s Dictionary (1911)
I was painting small things, toys left out, or caught out exploring. From the eye level of something or someone small…
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…
My latest show opened on Friday, March 4th during Winston-Salem Art District’s monthly gallery hop. Delurk Gallery became the temporary home for some of my most beloved objects.
My paintings (still life and abstracts) were combined with installations, recreating familiar moments in a grandparent’s home–like playing on a knit quilt the floor as a child, viewing vintage and antique items arranged in an heirloom glass door shelf, or the surreal scenario of self as a clown in front of a dressing table.
The items brought the viewer back to a familiar past; the paintings activated their imaginations. A group of young men stood around, intently examining each one of my paintings and discussing them, sharing what stories were conjured in their minds when they looked at my work.
A couple of women commented on my painting of a clown toy, asking if the bells on his pants were strategically placed by me–they were amused by what the placement made them think of. They thought it was playful and fun.
I was delighted by the number of people who looked and smiled, reminiscing. Many read my statement, nodding unselfconsciously, and connecting with my sentiment. People were loving my work and asking who the artist was, eager to meet me, ask questions, and share their reactions. It was overwhelmingly positive. I felt like a star!
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…
Conversations with Lilly
Lilly is a painting of my favorite sculpture who lives in my living room. From the time I met her she has provided comfort; that’s why I had to paint her–it’s a portrait of a friend.
Let’s see where she’s been…
Who is Lilly? What’s her history? Maybe that’s another blog post…Anybody interested?
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.
The Three Graces, oil on canvas
I’m having so much fun meeting and working with the folks at the Friends Homes here in Greensboro. It’s a retirement community, based on Quaker principles, full of the coolest retired professors, artists, and authors, most still active in their crafts. As the administrator joked about me being a new resident, I thought of how nice it would be to live there.
When I was asked to do a show at Friends Homes, I was surprised at the work that was chosen. Shame on me for assuming our retired friends would want to see typical soft impressionist landscapes and simple still life paintings. After previously hearing such feedback as: “Your work is too dark; I could never sell that.” and “Oh, That’s kinda crazy…” I’m always surprised when my work is embraced.
As we curated my paintings, a few people examined my work as they walked by, some even laughed, as if they got my private jokes. (Very Cool!) When I stepped back and looked at the combination of paintings that were chosen–some darker, brooding expressionist abstracts, along with some still life paintings from my thesis work regarding Jeff’s suicide, and some lighter abstracts and still life paintings from when things started easing up–I realized this combination of works comprise a journey, through life and death and life.
I wonder why some people don’t see the light in my work; it’s always there, like when you look up at a cloudy sky and you know, you feel, the blue sky and the sunshine behind the clouds.
The opening reception for the Friends Homes show, A Luminous Pause, will be on the afternoon of Friday, October 2nd when I’ll do a short talk and present my artist statement for the show which goes like this:
One does not become enlightened by imagining figures of light, but by making the darkness conscious.
― C.G. Jung
I make paintings–curious objects combined with abstract elements, emphasized by light and shadow. This collection represents a story of great scope, of life and death, a journey through dark grief, while looking toward the light.
Conjuring the melancholy of past desires, abandoned objects ask me to paint them shadowed by the lives of the people who loved and left them. Embodying triumph and tragedy, the objects are all that’s left of those who have gone on. They remind me of what slipped through my hands, a magnificent life no more. They are the last vestige of stories lost once voice is stilled.
Some things just make me smile and beg me to play, like wooden dolls, a vintage firetruck, and a telephone you can’t keep your hands off the dial. I paint those, too.
Navigating the chaotic currents of life, I reach for acceptance, move forward while learning to embrace the mystery of reality, the uncontrollable, the inevitable, and the joyous.
Hello? oil on canvas
Do you ever get lost in the details, with the devil, just enjoying the view,
relishing the tiny bits that before somehow went unnoticed?
How did such wonder fail to beguile you before? A passage, a moment, a tiny arcane portion of something…
These are details from some of my paintings. An artist’s eye view. See where I get lost for seemingly timeless stretches.