Friday, June 29, 2012

Stolen Eggs 2009

I recently became aware of the work of Chris artist based in Seattle, Washington who is best known for his large scale works depicting mass consumption and waste, particularly garbage. He has been called "the 'it' artist of the green movement". Wikipedia

I was absolutely mesmerized by his images, especially his Midway project, which is about sea birds that live on the Midway islands in the middle of the Pacific, ingesting large amounts of plastic from the ocean, and then dying.  Chris's photographs are of the corpses of these birds; a cornucopia of the plastic remains of what was in their stomaches surrounded by the feathers and appendages of the birds. The images are stunning visually, and then you are hit with the impact of what they mean.  But it isn't just these bird images; all his images are very extremely powerful, and all depict a world/culture that is out of control.  After going to his website and looking through all of his images several times, I left feeling that my images, about much the same things, don't have the same visceral impact that Chris's have.  My images are several steps removed from reality because they are about things that are about other things:  a man with eggs in his belly and blood dripping from one hand might mean that something bad is going on in the forest or it might just be a man whose body is made from a bird's nest in a world of strange trees and flowers with something red dropping from his fingers.   My work says, "You might want to think about this, but if you don't, that's fine, just look".

I know I can't go where Chris goes.  For one thing, I can only imagine the world he must live in in terms of anxiety and worry about our world.  I carry that around with me also, but I can ignore it when I want to think about other things-bicycle races for instance. I don't think he ever gets away from it.  Chris' work says that we can't ignore the trouble we are in.  If we do, it's going to be us with the plastic in our bellies, if we aren't there already. 

Chris is trying to raise money to make a movie about Midway through Kickstart.  He needs 100K and he currently has raised 40.  I just donated $200 dollars(I was going to donate $100 but then saw that I would get a small signed print if I came up with another $100).  I hope he raises the money he needs, and I know he will.  We need both Chris's voice and vision.

( This link will take you to an article in Outside Magazine that will link you to Kickstart if you think you might want to help Chris make his movie)

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Couple with Roses 1995

My brother and I had a game we played where, after being put to bed, we would wait for a short time, then sneak to the front of the house and spy on our parents.  Incorporating all of our skills learned from reading Indian and spy books, we would get just close enough so that we could hear them talking, but not so close that they would see us.  We would listen for awhile, then sneak back to bed when we got tired.  I don't think our parents were wise to us.  At any rate, nothing was ever said.

The last time we played this game we had slithered into the utility room on our bellies, then found hiding spots behind the laundry basket and the ironing board.  We could hear our parents talking in the kitchen.  We always had to muffle our laughter when we first started, and we must have done pretty well at not being heard, because the conversations always went on without any breaks.  As we settled in to listen and observe, it became clear that something wasn't right.  Our mother was crying and our father's tone of voice was somber.  I don't remember what he said, just that I went from feeling silly and happy to serious in an instant.  My brother and I lay and listened for a bit longer, then, without any overt communication between us, we crept back to bed.  My child time line isn't clear, but sometime after that my mother told us that my father would be moving out, and he did.

Saturday, June 23, 2012

Young Man Smiling 2000

About twelve or thirteen years ago, I did a short workshop in Kentucky at a small University.  I worked with art majors, both in painting and photography, and we had a Friday, a Saturday, and a Sunday to work, which meant that the students were giving up their weekend for the workshop. Although I was there for only a short time and didn't get to know the students as well as I would have liked, I remember coming away with the feeling that it would have been nice to have had a son--an art boy.

I have two wonderful daughters, and had really wanted girls rather than boys. I wanted the best of both worlds--adorable little tomboys wearing high tops and overalls.  Of course, we got two girls who went their own ways, sometimes in high-tops and overalls but more often than not in sparkly red shoes and frilly dresses.  My experience with boys was that they were loud and wanted to throw balls in the house all of the time.  They seemed foreign to me, as if from another planet.  But not these art boys.  They were kind and sensitive, and filled with all kinds of wonderful and interesting neuroses which they had no problem sharing with me.  For the first time I realized that my husband and I might have missed out in not having shared our lives with a boy.  But then again, we might have gotten one of those little football throwing, gun desiring, never talking, boring beings from Planet Normal.

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Two Dogs Out Walking 2007

Yesterday I headed out with my two dogs for a run.  I had Junior, the mentally challenged Dalmatian, and Niko, the small but mighty Rat Terrier. Usually, I keep them on leashes until I get to the banks of one of our irrigation ditches, but, if no one is around I take the leashes off, or, if there is someone with dogs, but their dogs are off leash, then I will do the same. Over the years having a dog off leash has gotten dicier and dicier, and can lead to some big problems.   However this is what my dogs live for-- the 15 of 20 minutes of complete freedom that allows them to sniff, pee, and run, pell mell, on their own up and down the sides of the ditch.

When I got to the ditch bank, there was a woman with two large white dogs on leashes, and a third, a black lab, loose.  Since her lab was loose, I let Junior and Niko go, and headed off in the opposite direction, assuming my dogs would follow.  I heard a frantic, "No, No" as my two started to follow her lab back to where she was standing.  I called them, but with no luck, and they proceeded to head towards the woman as she repeated, "No, No, No!" over and over.  By this time Junior had made it close enough for one of the white dogs to lunge at him, and the woman was dragged to the ground.  Junior yelped and then turned and scurried back to me, tail between his legs, Niko close at his heels.  I snapped their leashes on and turned to face the woman, laying on the ground, tangled in the leashes as her dogs struggled to get free and come after us.
 "Wow!" I said.
In a quavering voice she answered, "I tried to tell you!"

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Shakerag, Sewanne, TN 2012

St.Andrews Prep School, Sewanne

First day of class-clean tables and blank spaces
I just returned from teaching a one week collage/paint workshop in Sewanee, Tennessee at Shakerag.  Held for just two weeks every June at St. Andrews, a small  private prep school, Shakerag is tiny operation in the world of arts & crafts workshops. Because the school is a boarding school during the academic year, Shakerag students and faculty are fed and housed at the school, and the classes are held in their classrooms. The food is spectacular, often local and organic. All of the bread for the meals is provided by a local wood fired bakery, as well as the coffee coming from a local roaster.  The students are fanatically loyal, coming back year after year for the classes offered.
Alice George's Artist book/paint and collage with her poems
Kathy Loisel's workspace
My class was about learning how to combine paint and collage.  There were 15 students in the class--a combination of different types of artists with most being women (we had one man in the class).  Students worked in many ways, but with the commonality of using paint(either oil, gouache, or acrylic)and some kind of collage media.  One student constructed a book from large sheets of water color paper, halved the sheets, bound them, then painted and collaged onto the surfaces, finishing off by adding her poems using an acrylic transfer technique.
Ami Cole working
The class was a rowdy bunch, working late into each night.  Each morning when I would come into class I would be astounded by what had transpired during the night, along with a constant stream of references and jokes hatched the night before. On the last day we had a critique, each student putting up their three best pieces to be talked about.  The student whose work was being critiqued was only allowed to listen--a fly on the wall-as we discussed the merits and problems presented by their pieces.
Teaching is an enormous pleasure for me, and I left Shakerag pleased with what we had accomplished.  I felt refreshed and revitalized from the lush landscape, the wonderful food, and the generous and hardworking students I had worked with, as well as the community of like minded people that I was part of for the week--perhaps as close to artist's heaven as we get.

McLeod Tumer examining work before the critique

Thursday, June 7, 2012

Deer with Spots 2011

Frida Kahlo "El Venado Herido"(Wounded Deer)1946
In this painting of a young stag fatally wounded by arrows, Frida expresses the disappointment which followed the operation on her spine in New York in 1946, and which she had optimistically hoped would cure her of her back pain.
Back in Mexico, however, she continued to suffer both physical pain and deep depression. In this painting, Frida presents herself with the body of a young stag and her own head crowned with antlers. Pierced by arrows and bleeding, the deer stares out at the viewer from a forest enclosure. Although the stormy, lightning-lit sky in the distance is a brightening hope for escape, the deer will never reach it. One meaning of the word "Carma", which appears in the painting's lower-left corner, is "destiny" or "fate". In this painting, as in most of Frida's self-portraits, she presents herself as incapable of changing her own destiny.
Frida used her own pet deer "Granizo" as a model for this painting. The deer in the painting is surrounded by trees and trapped, transmitting a feeling of fear and desperation, with no way to escape from the situation.

I have always been a fan of Frida Kahlo's, and in the early 80's my husband and I made a trip to her home in Coyoacán, Mexico.  The brightly painted walls were covered with objects, and, like every artist, they were all the things that inspired her.  She had a huge collection of paper mache figures, and I remember standing in front of her bed trying to figure out the easel mounted above it so that she could paint lying down. In the true spirit of Mexico, the security guard was drunk, staggering from  room to room, paying no attention to us at all.

Frida helped me realize that is is possible to talk about very personal experiences, no matter how dark or how harsh.  Her painting, The Suicide of Dorothy Hale was an image that may have influenced my work as much as any other that I know of.  And while my work is considered "dark", it pales in comparison to Frida's.

Saturday, June 2, 2012

Startled Rabbit 2011

Rabbits survive because of their startle response.  Like deer, with no defense except for hyper awareness and quick bursts of frenetic speed, they have to always be ready to move, and quickly, so they don't end up as someone's main meal.  But this response is also what gets them killed.  When they see a car coming the rabbits frantically dodge and weave to get away from the large thing moving rapidly toward them.  They don't understand that the car, having no need of rabbit meat, could care less about these evasive tactics as they head directly into the path of the car's rolling wheels.