Friday, December 31, 2010

Vacation and the Act of Creation

I just returned from a wonderful vacation to San Diego, California. It was over the holidays and we stayed with family. Of course some might argue that this is a recipe for disaster with family drama and all the insane over indulgences of the holiday season, but it turned out to be an unexpected time of creation and renewal of my artistic spirit.

Because there were so many people visiting at the same time there were snippets of time that allowed me to slip away and be alone in the warm California sunshine. The locals felt it was cool, but to my blood the 60s and sun were gorgeous and very balmy compared to the 20s back home. I took advantage of these moments and sketched or painted. It's not that anything fabulous was produced, but it was the nurturing of that spirit and that quiet reflective time that was important.

Working as a full time art educator you spend so much time fostering your students flickering flame of creativity. If you're able to go home in the evening and stoke your fire you are lucky and more energetic than I. So this vacation was a chance to spend time with just me and my moleskine sketchbook. I love flowers and gardens and my mother-in-law has a lovely expanse in the back yard next to the pool. I painted the ice plant and the few roses that were blooming. I photographed the lovely liquid amber leaves of the maples and the burnt red berries hanging in clusters over the fence. So much color for an artistic soul who'd just settled into the whites and grays of winter.

There were other stolen moments too, when we took a large communal walk with the 14 cousins, sons, daughters, aunts, uncles, parents and grandparents all present for Christmas morning. It had rained over night, but the sun was shining for the walk and the low dramatic clouds clung to the mountains in the distance. The dramatic lighting made this photographer positively giddy. I brought my camera and while others walked and talked I dawdled behind a bit snapping images along the way.

When we returned home and I uploaded my shots my father-in-law commented "Did you take those on our walk?"
"Yes" I replied.
He said, "I never saw any of that."

I smiled to myself. Isn't that really the artist's calling? To hold a magnifying glass or mirror to those fleeting moments that most don't see or take in. The artist registers the subtle innuendos of light and color. The artist sees the light shifting. The artist notices the shadows. How delightful to be able to see so much. I always tell my students Draw what you see, not what you know. Really see the subject. Take it in. Through artistic observation we see so much more.

My final day in San Diego was spent seeing....looking and interacting with art at the San Diego Museum of Photographic Arts in Balboa Park. While I greatly enjoy this Museum I was especially thrilled to see the New Realities exhibit featuring the works of Jerry Uelsmann and Maggie Taylor. I must say I was so filled with emotion walking through this exhibit. I was by myself and my only regret was that there were no other students of art to share my joy and wonder with. If I had an iphone I'd have tweeted endlessly the happiness that filled me as I walked through the exhibit.

I'd studied Mr. Uelsmann's work as a college photography student back in the 80s. He was amongst the "gods of photography" whose actual work I hoped to see someday. He was also amongst the last of my "gods" that I had not ever seen before. Ms Taylor's work is some of my favorite current digital work. She is a goddess of Adobe Photoshop and the use of a scanner. I often show her work to my students to help them understand what is possible, that artistic digital photography goes beyond just shooting an image. There is so much more one can do. There was an excellent digital display that illustrated the step by step screens of how Ms Taylor builds these images, which develop like paintings really. There was also a video featuring Mr. Uelsmann discussing his process. He does his large black and white, surreal juxtapositions by using 8 enlargers in his customized darkroom. No computers are involved. I wish the video had shown a bit more of this step by step.

Overall the exhibit was wonderful. It showcased each artist as individuals, but also paired a number of their photographs together. Uelsmann and Taylor are husband and wife. This partnership was evident in these pairings, but I don't know if they intentionally create imagery that is that closely linked. Several that struck me included the Uelsmann 2008 Untitled piece that featured an archway with a female figure standing silhouetted in the low light and with female faces juxtaposed in the walkway. At the bottom in the foreground there was an open tintype or daguerrotype print with the face of the woman repeated and an old image of a young girl in 19th century dress. Taylor's work next to this one called "Small Storm" 2002 replicated the archway shape, but featured more whimsical imagery of an umbrella and rain falling under the umbrella. There were other pairings that were equally intriguing in their repetition of themes, shapes and compositions. I loved this exhibit and spent nearly an hour wandering through and revisiting sections.

After viewing this I continued to the rest of the Museum and discovered images from some of the greats of photography. It was like bumping into dear old friends. There were Ansel Adams, Ruth Bernhard, Edward Weston, Bill Brandt, Dorothea Lange and Walker Evans to name a few. I was equally as excited as an art educator to view the juried local student exhibit of works called: Reflections: Exploring Cultural Identity. The energy and vision of the students, some as young as third grade, was very inspiring. Having taught in California I was especially happy to see the quality of work being produced in this era of program cuts, which usually gouge the arts right out of schools.

I also took a brief stroll through the San Diego Museum of Art and saw many favorites there. Mostly I just enjoyed the beauty of the rain-drenched Balboa Park walkways as I found my way back to my husband and son at the Aerospace Museum. It was a lovely day even if the rains came down. To me it gave everything a clean wash of light and color. I was awed as one often is in California by the grandeur of nature the enormous banyan trees and eucalyptus and the wondrous palms and flowers; their colors and textures all larger than life.

It is good to be an artist on vacation. I think I saw more than the other people I was with or maybe I just imbued it with my artistic imagination. Either way I face the dull gray winter with a renewed spirit of creativity and will keep the colors and the light in my soul flickering through the long winter.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Robert Redford Speaks Up for Art Education

I have always loved him! What great words for an artist educator to hear. The story at the end is worth listening for. Teachers can make such a difference in the lives of their students. There are so many art students whose only place that they feel safe and accepted is in the art room. We are different and a place that allows us to be different is required. I try so hard to look for the creative way to meet my students half way and to make their experiences worthwhile and maybe even life changing. What a great anecdote and message he leaves us with.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Manifesto on Creativity in Schools

ADE Creative Manifesto from Matt Cauthron on Vimeo.

I haven't written in awhile because it seems the part-time artist has had to be a full time teacher lately.  Quite honestly, lately I have been an overworked full time teacher!  12 hour days 6 days a week has finally beaten me down I must admit.  So today during my prep I spent some time trying to refill my cup a bit.  I have a lot of papers to grade, projects to look at, but today I surfed the web and looked at people who inspire me.  This can be a bit dangerous when you're feeling low.  You can sink into the realm of "gee everybody else is so much better than me, look what they have all accomplished with their students."  But really if you fight that urge the goal is to allow yourself to be re-inspired and amazed.

One of the teachers who I greatly admire is Matt Cauthron.  I have never met Matt in person, but I have met via the  that I participate in.  I have learned so much through the posts that Matt shares, the comments he makes and visiting the various websites he keeps that house his students' work.  It is my guess that Matt must work 24/7 on his teaching job!  The accomplishments of his students and the level of quality is astonishing.  I also wonder when he finds the time to learn all he's learned and to continue expanding and growing.  I believe Matt earned the Apple Distinguished Educator distinction last year and the above manifesto was created during his summer workshop.  Check out some of the projects that Matt shared recently in Tweets on Twitter.  and and   Thanks Matt for helping me become re-inspired today.

Friday, September 17, 2010

Hidden River Art Festival in Brookfield, WI

I am so excited to get to the weekend. I have decided to devote my weekend to art.  It is challenging to be a part-time artist, especially once that part-timer goes back to full time teaching duties.  The beginning of the school year is extremely challenging as we retrain and re-tool our efforts to become even better educators.  Each year I have a slightly new or changed teaching assignment and by mid-to-late September I am exhausted from my 12 -14 hour days spent trying to make everything perfect and functioning for my classes. We are usually also asked by the administration to take on one or two new initiatives as well.  This year's focus is on literacy across all curricular areas including hands on subjects like art.  Trying to creatively incorporate reading and writing into a hands-on-make-art-class has been especially challenging and so the long hours and lack of personal time.   Usually the cycle ends with a  weekend like this where as the Italians say: "basta", enough....I've had it.  Time for some me time.  So this weekend I am devoting to art.

This will mark the start of the Hidden River Art Festival in Brookfield.  It is at the Sharon Lynne Wilson Center there.  I feel especially proud of this  festival because I used to be a volunteer at the center when they were in their formative stages.  One of the things we worked to do was make a stronger link to the Visual Arts community.  The center had a lot of performing arts opportunities, but not nearly as many visual arts opps, so this festival is just one of the ways they've connected and reached out.  The list of artists who will be exhibiting is quite fabulous.  See the link below.  Many are local Wisconsin artists.  Some are quite young and that inspires me greatly.  I tell my students about their youth and say " this could be some of you in just a few years."  I checked out the list of exhibitors and many are the same as year's past.  Rather think "oh it will be the same show" I am looking forward to renewing acquaintances.

Talking and getting to know the artists is just one of the many pleasures of the festival.  There is a casual atmosphere in what I hope will be warm, golden September sunshine.  The festival highlights some other gems besides art.  Many local eateries offer lunch and snacks including coffee and cookies and many other goodies.  There is also a silent auction of works of art that have been donated by many of the exhibit participants.  Then of course there is the center itself.  If you've never been, you should go.  It is a beautiful facility that celebrates the natural wildness of the surrounding fields and wetlands.  The soaring fireplace, sculpted tree trunk stools outside, the sculptures in front and even the ceramic pieces in the bathroom all exude a creative spirit that celebrates the arts and the natural world.  Then there is the natural world itself.  Strolling about the tented grounds of the Wilson Center for the exhibit you may forget to look at all the natural beauty around you.  This is the area where I usually go on my bike rides.  It is splendid, adrift with wildflowers, hues of violet and gold, flitting butterflies and tiny yellow canaries.  The winding Fox River and the twisted trees and grasses all make for an inspiring setting to enjoy art.

Lastly, there are the artists.  As I mentioned it is really great to chat with them and enjoy their works.  Two of my favorites are:  Joann Engelhart and Katie Musolff.  There is great variety in the show with painters, photographers, sculptors, jewelers and fiber artists.  I had never met Joann Engelhart before and last year I started talking to her and we quite literally chatted for almost 2 hours.  She is a wonderful woman and a very inspiring artist.  Her story is inspiring too.  She went back to school to get her MFA late in life.  She teaches part-time at UW-Milwaukee and is a great example that it is never to late to follow your passion.  Joann   will also have a solo exhibit later this year at the Sharon Lynne Wilson Center.  Katie is one of the young artists who is amazing, friendly talented and really just so good at the paintings she produces.  I met her while taking a watercolor class a few years back.  At that time she was a student at MIAD, but now she is a successful fine artist. 

Make sure you make time to get to the exhibit.  Here is a list of all the artists participating.  Hope to see you there. 


Thursday, August 19, 2010

Downtown Racine Art Day

I finally found the time to take my mom out for a day of art.  We decided to check out the Racine Art Museum (RAM).  There are several great exhibits there all centered around the theme of insects.  RAM is a craft museum, housing a great collection of ceramics, jewelry, sculpture and other craft-based media.  I have wanted to get there for a long time and finally did so today.  It was such an easy trip down there.  Parking in the all day ramp just east of the Museum was great, only $2.50 for the day.  The best part of course was the art. 

My favorite had to be Eccentric Insects which is on display through October 17, 2010.  This exhibit featured several really beautifully crafted large, whimsical insect installations.  One of the most beautiful combined fiber, painted paper and knitted or crocheted wings by Andrea V. Uravitch.  These were stunning in their creative use of materials.  The larger than life size caused one not to be overwhelmed or scared, but rather to be fascinated, as if the insects were being viewed under extreme magnification. 

There were several other standouts in the Eccentric Insects exhibition.  The beaded creatures housed in the collaborative installations by Betsy Youngquist and R. Scott Long were whimsical in their use of space and material.  I felt as if I was looking into a secret garden, yet to be discovered.  The bead work was especially lovely and reminded me of the works of Liza Lou although on a smaller scale.  This part of the exhibit also featured the work of Roberta and David Williamson.  I liked the feeling that I was staring into an old Victorian drawing room looking as somebody's lost collection. 

I also enjoyed the JoAnna Poehlmann exhibit, Insectopedia.  She is a Milwaukee-based artist whose finely drawn tiny studies of insects is just the beginning of the enjoyment her work brings.  She has also experimented with hand-made artist style books to display many of her drawings, prints and paintings.  Her wit and enjoyment of visual puns is also something to be admired.  I have loved her work for a long time and so it was wonderful to see it collected here. Jennifer Angus' Patterns of Life exhibit features real insects pinned to the wall in installations that are reminiscent of wall paper patterns, but that isn't the only thing included here.  She also creates entire environments with doll houses that house the insects.  There is a great deal of bees wax used as well.  It is a beautiful, but eerie exhibit and if you can get over the weirdness that these are real insects it is quite engrossing.  You are the guest in this house and the insects have invited you!

There were other insect-themed exhibits at the Museum.  One I must confess I found a bit disturbing and actually had to rush through and walk out of.  I actually don't mind insects and don't have the phobia that some people have, but the artist Catherine Chambers' exhibit American Cockroach pushed the envelope for me.  I did have a cockroach infested apartment when I first moved to Los Angeles.  It was disgusting to walk into the kitchen and hear them crawling before you turned the lights on.  We tried to get rid of them, but to no avail, so maybe this exhibit just was a bit to scary a reminder of that first apartment.  There were video installations, large color photographs and collaged roach parts creating delicate line drawings.  While these were creative and innovative I found them to be disturbing. 

After RAM we headed to lunch at the Red Onion in the Johnson Wax Administrative building, which was a work of art in it's own right.  There were many intriguing public art pieces in the building including what looked like a Chihuly glass sculpture.  Lunch was tasty and air conditioned!  Refreshed and reinvigorated we headed back out onto Main Street to explore some of the many shops.  As we walked along the street we were entertained by the many public art clock pieces displayed.  They were really cute and enjoyable.  There were many shops to stop in and galleries too. 

We loved INSIDE-OUT, which featured many colorful, eclectic gifts, clothes  home decor items from around the world.  There were gorgeous hand dyed silk scarves, bags mad from recycled materials, lovely linen shirts and much more.  I bought a couple of green apple candles and a small ceramic sea horse.  Next stop was a great gallery, whose name I didn't catch.  The work there in wasn't my favorite, just ok, but the thing that caught our eye was a collaborative piece that was a large square mosaic made up of 6 inch square canvases all designed around the theme of food by Racine Artists.  The collaborative art called Art Squared was sponsored by the Racine Artist's Guild.   We loved the variety of styles featured in the work. 

After this stop we were onto Funky Hannah's, which is a bead and jewelry shop, but before going in we found Sheepish, a wellness store that featured teas, books, drums and lots more in the pursuit of wellness.  I was most impressed and pleased as I asked about a certain red chai tea and how it smelled.  Instead of getting just a sniff the shop keeper actually brewed me a cup and let me taste.  Very nice touch!  Finally we got to Funky Hannah's, which I'd wanted to visit for  awhile.  What a delightful shop with so many sparkling beads and infinite amounts of creative inspiration.  They offer classes and also sell already made jewelry pieces designed by local artists and some by their own shop workers.  I don't really consider myself a beader or jewelry artist, but I got so many ideas just walking through.  Very fun!  It was getting late and hot so this was our last shop. 

We didn't make it to the Wustum Museum, which is the old site of the Art Museum.  There is a great collection of works there as well, but my mom was exhausted after all the wandering around at shops so we will have to save the Wustum for another trip.  On the way out of Racine we did drive up Main Street to the lakefront along the drive by all the old historic Victorian homes.  I can't wait to return with my camera and more time on my hands.  Maybe this fall when the air is crisp and the light less hazy with heat.  If you haven't check out Racine, you should!  Really great, creative inspiring day!

Saturday, July 31, 2010

Officially August: Time for Teachers To Panic!

It is officially August (that's because I am up until 1am typing this!).  It is now time for all teachers to panic!  PANIC! There is really only about 2.5 weeks left of your summer break.  If you taught summer school like I did and attended a 3 credit, one week intensive class you really haven't started your summer break yet, but guess is nearly over.  What to do?  Should I start working on prepping for the school year or should I grab my sunscreen and head out to enjoy what's left?  Looks like I will do a bit of both.

I am teaching a few new things this year (new to me that is!).  One of these courses is Video Production.  It is not being taught from the art side of things, but rather from the Tech Ed side of things.  How is that different you might ask?  Well if I got to teach it as an art class we'd be doing experimental videos with recording unusual soundtracks and collage found and recycled film and video and studying the works of 1980s music video to present and looking at avant garde films too.  That's not what the course is about however.  Instead it is my task to teach the technical side of video production, how to use the cameras and how video production as a career in TV and broadcasting works.  This can be creative too, but there will be challenges.  The class sizes are large, but the video equipment is limited (26:3 ratio, not good).  The software is sweet, but confusing sometimes and isn't what I learned video on (iMovie 09 instead of iMovie HD). The lack of a sound booth means we will have to improvise to get quality sound (the library,  the bathroom, the closet).  I am ready for the challenge, but may also start to stress out and lose sleep.

I will be teaching Fashion this year too.  I haven't taught the course in several years.  It is a fun class, but very heavy on the paperwork.  It is my goal to reduce the paper and make it more interactive and 21st century.  This will require creativity, research and a lot of work on my part.  It is also a non-art class that I will be teaching for the Family and Consumer Ed department.  It isn't a Fashion Design class, but rather Fashion Analysis, where students learn about the industry of Fashion, the names of the different parts of clothing (is that a bishop sleeve or a cap sleeve?) and also about the trends in terms of color, designs and more.  Again it can be interesting, but again it requires a lot of PANIC!!

Lastly, I get to teach art.  Yes that is really what I do, but due to the large number of students who decided to take Mandarin Chinese and Sports Management instead of art I will be teaching in 3 departments instead of one.  I am not complaining since I know I am lucky to have a job.  It will just be a challenge after last year, which was a DREAM year for me.  I got to teach full time art in the media areas that I love Digital Photography, Animation, Drawing 1 and 2, Painting 1 and 2 and AP Art.  It will be challenging to have to spread myself thinner, when I am already intensely busy with the art department.  Teaching art is what I'm passionate about.  I LOVE IT!  This year also for the first time I will be the department chair.  This includes more responsibility and more demands on my time.

So now that it's August I think instead of PANIC I will go to the beach and lay in the sun and celebrate my birthday and least for a day or 2 more.

Monday, July 26, 2010

MIX Art Opening: What A Thrill to Be Part of This Group Exhibit!

This past Friday was Gallery Night in Milwaukee, WI and for the first time I was not just a viewer of art, but rather an artist with work being exhibited during the quarterly mass celebration in my city.  There are always many recommendations in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel about where to go and who to see.  The exhibit I was part of was not recommended or even listed on the schedule of official stops, but that is part of the fun of Gallery Night as there are a lot of other exhibits that happen, some impromptu and some well planned that don't quite make the printed official list.  The exhibit called MIX at the Tenth Street Theatre was a well planned exhibit featuring work by artist, Thea Kovac and the many adult student artists who have studied under her tutelage.

I love Thea!  She is a great teacher and artist.  Since I spend the bulk of my time during the school year in the classroom being a teacher I can truly appreciate Thea's gifts for education.  She is a free thinker, nudging her students in many directions with fun and sometimes a bit wacky exercises that really do help the artist come out and play!  One of the better paintings I've done with Thea was the result of one of these exercises.  She had us don old glasses and then rubbed KY jelly or petroleum jelly can't remember which all over the lenses.  This view of the world is a lot like how I really see if I don't have my contacts in.  This blurry observation freed up your brain's preconceived notions and allowed you to see the colors and shadows while not sweating the nitty gritty details.  One of my better watercolors was the result.  No the Louvre isn't calling for it, but at least it is good enough to grace the walls of my dining room.

To be part of the Mix exhibit opening was great.  There are so many wonderful people who stopped in to see the exhibit, enjoy the fabulous hors d'oeuvres that the artists provided and of course look at the art work.  I believe only one painting sold, but that wasn't really the point.  It was a true mid-summer celebration of the artistic talents and spirit of those who have studied with Thea.  Several friends and my cousin stopped by and even one of my students.  This support was quite gratifying.  It is always worthwhile to note that while there is a great deal of enjoyment and pleasure taken from painting, having the works actually seen by people and looked at and enjoyed is a much richer experience.  I am proud to be part of the show, which runs through September 2nd.

Monday, July 19, 2010

Creativity Crisis In Children: Newsweek Article and My Reactions

I read the article entitled Creativity Crisis in Newsweek magazine.  The article discusses how creativity is measured and tested in a standardized format and the fact that the results of these tests show that American children's creative abilities have been testing lower and declining since the 1990s.  TV and video games are blamed for this decline in creativity.  They never mention any other factors, like the decline of arts programs in schools that started occurring with regularity back in the 90s and into the present era.  Nor do they mention that the 2000s is when we as a nation embraced the No Child Left Behind test, test, test mantra.

While I find the article interesting I also find it really frustrating.  The above deduction that creativity scores dropped off due to video games and TV only doesn't seem reasonable since children's lives have changed in so many other ways over the past 20 year.  Family structures changed greatly as more women went back to work.  Sure we became a more electronic people, but there are other factors that could be considered, such as the none stop testing and cutting of programs that support creative thinking and development.  Children learn through play and investigation.  The arts allow this kind of playful experimentation and problem solving and have always incorporated these sorts of skills.  The cutting of these classes in school settings to me is part of why the scores have declined.  Physical Education programs have also been cut.  Yet the article discusses how physical activity helps to stimulate creativity too.  Could it be that the very programs that keep getting cut might be some of the programming that had been helping children improve their creative skills?

The following quote causes me consternation:

Overwhelmed by curriculum standards, American teachers warn there’s no room in the day for a creativity class. Kids are fortunate if they get an art class once or twice a week. But to scientists, this is a non sequitur, borne out of what University of Georgia’s Mark Runco calls “art bias.” The age-old belief that the arts have a special claim to creativity is unfounded. When scholars gave creativity tasks to both engineering majors and music majors, their scores laid down on an identical spectrum, with the same high averages and standard deviations. Inside their brains, the same thing was happening—ideas were being generated and evaluated on the fly.

Of course the arts have a special claim on creativity.  It is what the arts teach and cause to happen.  The arts are the ultimate problem solving activity.  Yes engineers and others engage in creative thought processes, but it is the arts that foster this development.  The exact kind of brain activity the article praises is the what people engaged in the process of art making experience as well.  The point of the article of course wasn't to bash the arts, it was rather to illustrate how creativity can be tested and how all curricular areas can begin to learn to incorporate activities that will stimulate its development.   There was a quality discussion of the successes that project-based learning classrooms have experienced.  This seems to be a current trend in education.  I know my district is piloting a program at the middle school level.  Again, I can't help but think that art is already project based learning.  We investigate not only the media of the project, but all of the connecting strands of history, research and cross curricular connections while completing a work of art. 

There was definitely a push in this article for a non-specialist approach to education, that is a wholistic, cross curricular approach, where math might be taught as creatively as art.  Having taught as a regular ed classroom teacher before finding employment as an art educator,  I applaud this point of view and I certainly tried to utilize these techniques while teaching first and fifth grades and as an English teacher. I can't help but feel, however, again that this is yet another assault on the arts and arts education programming in schools.  We are being cut and cancelled at an alarming rate due to budget cuts and testing-crazy curricular demands.  In this test happy, assessment-based atmosphere I was enthused by the articles description of how creativity could be measured and tested.  I don't want my art classes to be tested, but maybe if we were on "the test" we'd be more valued. 

In conclusion it is vital that education be creative and teach students how to take risks, and critically solve problems.  But as we know students learn in different ways and the solution to the creativity crisis is not to remove arts education programs from our schools by divvying up what they used to teach to non-arts-certified educators, but rather to embrace the techniques and skills taught there.  We must continue to fund the arts and allow those specially trained individuals to continue to lead us to the paths of creative problem solving.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Camaraderie of Fellow Artist Educators

Today I spent a blissful, sort of muggy, but blissful none the less afternoon in the company of fellow artist educators from the Milwaukee Area Teachers of Art (MATA).  We came together for our midsummer "Luncheon on the Grass".  It was wonderful to relax and unwind, but also engage in stimulating conversation and art making.  Those present had the opportunity to create ATCs (Artist Trading Cards) and then exchange them at the end of the party.  It was a great way to while away the hot summer afternoon.

The breezes blew through the trees while we chatted, ate and created.  At one table there was a conversation about whether or not the images were Jungian or not.  One person didn't buy into Jung and the shared consciousness, while another did and had participated in a group that discusses dreams and Jung.  Another conversation was about the ramifications of cuts to the visual arts programs at local schools.  Who will still have a job?  Who may be forced out?  How many positions will just cease to exist as art educators retire?  These were some of the heavier conversations.  We also had lighter discussions such as one member sharing how she met her husband through the MATA group.  A much younger member then became interested.  Perhaps she is looking for a spouse or at least a boyfriend!  The food was lovely, as was the wine and water and desserts.  One person made a beautiful trifle that towered high in a cloud of mocha cream. 

After much eating, drinking and talking we finally engaged in the ATC making.  I always find it fascinating to create art and crafts in large groups.  Sometimes my inner anxiety gets the best of me and I find it difficult to work as I worry if my art is as good as the other people.  Other times I watch the group members because I learn a lot from watching their techniques.  How do they use paint or ink or fabric?  Why is she scratching and sanding that image?  How did he get that flower to stick?  Then finally I settle into my work and become engrossed and barely speak to the rest of the group.  I finish creating and instead of wondering if it is any good I get instant feedback from every body else as they wander by.  Art isn't supposed to be this competition, but somehow I always end up thinking this way.  For the ATC trade we drew numbers and each person went up to choose the card they wanted.  Instead of worrying that I wouldn't be chosen, which is normally my inner voice, I actually worried that other people would choose the ATC that I wanted!  Silly!!  It was a lot of fun and I really enjoyed seeing these miniature works of art and learning how others create.

Monday, July 12, 2010

Robert Bergman Exhibit at Minneapolis Institute of Art

I visited Minneapolis recently and saw the Minneapolis Institute of  Art for the first time.  I must say I didn't have time to visit every single collection so I hopped around and went to the things I knew I'd enjoy and appreciate most.  One of the most astonishing finds was the Robert Bergman Exhibit of large color photo portraits.  The exhibit blew me away and I think I spent easily an hour just looking and gazing and trying to see into the souls of these beautiful, ordinary, haggard grizzled people that were portrayed on the walls.  In many ways the photo portraits were like paintings.  The colors were soft and muted, the skin tones blended and lit from within.  Textures of clothing and buildings framed the people, many of whom were perhaps not the usual choice of portrait artists.  I felt transported trying to imagine the lives these people led and the ways that life had perhaps ground them down and spit them out and yet here there were portrayed with dignity, courage and beauty. I can't really choose a favorite, but instead encourage you to look at the exhibit yourself or follow some of the links here to learn more about Robert Bergman.  He was new to me although he's been shooting photos for a long time.  Here is a quote from an article about him and his thoughts on his process and portrait making:
You don’t want the photograph to be an escape and I don’t want to sentimentalize. I don’t want to objectify or deny emotion and I don’t want the photograph to document anything except if subliminally we may find out that they document a climate of our times but it wasn’t an intent. The last thing I want them to document is the artist’s intention.
For more check out the article or visit the exhibit! Here is an NPR article and story to listen to as well.

Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Self Promotion Come to My Show

I began two new paintings this week. They will be part of a group exhibition later in July. Here is the postcard invite for the show. Hope you can come.

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Bravo's Work of Art: The Next Great Artist

Competition, reality shows, the next top model, dancer, chef, designer....blah, blah, blah. These reality shows are their own genre and for some bizarre reason they really hook people in. I have watched most of the above, but not gotten that hooked until NOW. Bravo's Work of Art: The Next Great Artist is fascinating to me since I am an aritst(part-time and unpaid!!). I also teach art so I've been viewing the show from the perspective of an educator. I am almost more intrigued by this aspect of the show. I think the super tight deadlines that the artists are faced with and forced to work under really cause a variety of issues and some intriguing results.

Deadlines are a realistic necessity. I work better under the pressure of a deadline. A huge part of being an artist is procrastination but that procrastination is mostly about fear. I see my students hesitating all the time and I do the same because we are afraid we will screw up. Artists must fearlessly put themselves on the line with their work. You work in this vacuum in your head, trying to get what's there to show up in some semblance on a canvas or in a gallery space. Along the way you crash into the media you're using and craftsmanship and the ability to manipulate those supplies intersect with the idea you wanted to portray. Often this is where the most interesting twists evolve, but you are essentially still working alone at this point.

The show on Bravo and any art class setting bring in the element of collaboration and competition. You work on your solution to the problem and you see what others have done and you may start to self doubt or question if yours is the right choice. You may wish you were as good as so and so or you may become a complete jerk and think you're the best of all and have this hyper condescending attitude to the rest. This dynamic occurs in the best classes. There is the yin and yang of the competitive and collaborative nature of the group. Not everybody is friends with everyone, but in the spirit of the class, cohort or show everyone talks and interacts, some helping each other, while others completely sabotage the other person either indirectly or through their irritating work habits. Within this environment you produce a piece. I think in the best scenario artists learn from each other, maybe not even so much about technique or ideas, but more about the process of how people work. I find this environment to be extremely challenging since I am a very self-conscious and confidence-challenged artist.

The exhibit or reveal is the most nerve wracking part. I remember in my MA program just dreading the critique because I couldn't stand finding out what everybody else thought of my work. Usually it was fine and nobody really said anything horrible, but sometimes I wish they had to push the envelop more. I think the Bravo show takes this to the ultimate level with people actually being eliminated each week based on the work they produce. That level of competition is how the real world works. In the classroom we could never eliminate kids from the class or program, but we do vote by giving them grades although this to me is a diluted process. What would happen if the classroom was run the the show? Tight firm deadlines with uninhibited criticism and elimination of those that don't cut it. Whoa...reality, INTENSE!

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Welcome to My New Blog

I found that my other two blogs (Digital Sojourns and Bella Fiore) were not letting me talk a whole lot about art since that wasn't their focus, so I decided to create a new blog devoted to that purpose. It is weird to say I am a part-time artist since I experience and see the world through an artist's eyes full-time. I always seem to be composing pictures and seeing art in everyday light and shadows. If my eye could paint the picture or photograph the shot... In fact I think I spend so much time in these sorts of artistic reveries (daydreaming) that less time is actually spent making art. The point of this blog is to talk about the process of being an artist and an educator who teaches about the art making process.

Artist-educator, is a more active term than art educator. To me art educator implies that I am educating students on the subject of art, but actually as an artist-educator I am actively participating in the act of being an artist who in turn teaches about the how-to's in the field of art. I would hope to instill in my students the understanding that art making is a process and a journey that doesn't always end in masterpieces. I hope to blog about this and more. Please follow me on this new endeavor.