Saturday, January 30, 2010

It Refused

After getting up early from a restless night's sleep, I figured the best way to start the day was to take a walk. Off I went with the dog and my camera. I hoped to capture some early morning pictures, but my camera would have nothing to do with it. It refused to operate; I guess that 5 degrees is too cold an environment for the little fella. So I'm sending my camera balmy thoughts ... and I'm sending them to you, too.

(Taken from a beach in Placencia, Belize)

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Woo Hoo!

I got an exciting email today from Pippa Eccles, Assistant Editor at Quilting Arts Magazine. Holy Smokes -- my entry to the "Let Out Your Inner Animal" reader challenge has been selected as a finalist!! Can you hear me scream? Is your floor shaking because I'm jumping up and down so much?

Wow, wow, wow is all I can say. Oooh, and woo hoo, too!

Since this piece is being considered for publication I'll save posting a picture of it for another day . In its stead I'll leave you with this one: a Southern sting ray about 8 feet long that we encountered during a snorkel. Check it out; his tail goes to the edge of the picture. He's HUGE. I'm so glad he was in a good mood.

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Renoir in the 20th Century

There's an exhibit currently being shown at the Grand Palais in Paris that focuses on the works Pierre-Auguste Renoir created in the last 30+ years of his life. Think that the works on display will be impressionist paintings? If you do, you'd be wrong. No, the works collected for this exhibit show Renoir's attempt to approach more traditional subjects with a "sense of liberty", as per Sylvie Patry, the curator of the exhibit.

Indeed, after Renoir's trip to Italy in late 1881 to view works by Renaissance masters, the artist would later state that he came home feeling, "I had gone as far as I could with Impressionism and realized I could neither paint nor draw." For the rest of his life, Renoir would work hard on paintings that harkened back to those he saw in Italy, full of mythology and female nudes. He focused more on technique at this stage in his career than precise reflection of his subjects. By doing so, he influenced artists who came later, including Pablo Picasso, Henri Matisse, and Pierre Bonnard. Patry says, "It was just this free interpretation of a traditional subject, this sense of liberty, that captivated Picasso." In fact, Patry believes that Renoir's painting, Eurydice was a source of inspiration for Picasso's Seated Bather Drying Her Feet (1921). (Eurydice was one of seven Renoir paintings which Picasso owned.)

Eurydice, Pierre - Auguste Renoir, 1895-1900

Seated Bather Drying Her Feet, Pablo Picasso, 1921

This period of creativity met with skepticism and disappointment from the critics, but now Paltry is hoping to show that Renoir's work was invaluable to the development of the modern works which followed. This exhibit is coming to the Los Angeles County Museum of Art on February 14th and to the Philadelphia Museum of Art on June 17th. It includes about 70 of Renoir's paintings, drawings and sculptures, along with modern artist works influenced by Renoir. I'd like to know more. Road trip, anyone?

(To learn more, read the article by Richard Covington in the February, 2010 Smithsonian issue; it's the source for most of what I wrote in this post.)

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Looking at Potholes

It sounds rather odd but yes, I've been looking at potholes lately. Do you want to know why? It's because there's hardly a speck of snow to be found, the ground is hard and barren, but the potholes have some pretty interesting looks about them. Okay, I'll admit it's odd, but I'm trying to see beauty where I can and there hasn't been much else to look at lately, except the hoarfrost.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Tote Tuesday

Logo by Jeanelle McCall

Virginia Spiegel is at it again -- organizing us artists to help raise money for the American Cancer Society. In a nutshell, tote bags filled with artwork and/or assorted goodies will be auctioned off and the monies donated to ACS. The kick-off date for the event is February 2nd. For more details, please visit Virginia's blog. You'll even get a sneak peek into a few of the wonderful totes that will be available.

I'm honored to be playing a small part in this effort. I'm donating a piece of art to be included in a tote called "Celebrate Life" which will be filled with artwork from seven artists. Here's a teaser of my piece called, "Daisies":

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Georgia O'Keeffe Abstractions Exhibit

Georgia O'Keeffe: A Portrait (1918), Alfred Stieglitz, gelatin silver print

It is only selection, by elimination, by emphasis, that we get at the meaning of things. - Georgia O'Keeffe

Today, I went to the Georgia O'Keeffe: Abstractions exhibit at the Whitney Museum in New York City. I'm fascinated by many of O'Keeffe's depictions of the American Southwest, but I was relatively unfamiliar with her abstract paintings. So off I went to see what I could see.

The first thing I encountered was the long line to get into the museum. Yes, the curator I chatted with as I waited was most pleased to see the line -- business was good! Alas, I was sad about that as I traveled through the exhibit; I wanted the rooms all to myself so I could linger and ponder each painting more easily.

The exhibit was arranged more or less chronologically, beginning with some charcoal drawings from the start of O'Keeffe's career (1916). Some of these contained simple lines, growing slightly broader as they moved across the page to give them motion. Others were curves and spirals, delicately shaded for dimension. Later in life, O'Keeffe admitted in an interview to Perry Miller Adato that there were a few shapes her mind kept creating and that she unwittingly kept repeating in her artwork. It's clear that the circle, curve and swirl were some of those shapes because they were already present at this early stage in her career.

O'Keeffe added blue to her art after reading The New Science of Color (published 1915) which stressed that artists should introduce color to their palette one at a time, but only after mastering charcoal. But my impression from the show was that this limited palette phase didn't last very long. As early as 1917, O'Keeffe was using every water color in her box, painting portraits (which she called "songs") and creating series with very bold primary colors.

Evening Star No. III (1917)

By 1918, O'Keeffe was using oils in her work. She was attracted to "...the idea that music could be translated into something for the eye". Hence, her Music series was born. These paintings were created to give form to O'Keeffe's feelings and thoughts in a similar way that music can give expression to emotion without words. Many of the paintings during this period of her life have the undulating lines we're more familiar with from her later paintings of flowers. These were in stark contrast to the linear, more "fractured and flattened forms of European Cubism". (I can't take credit for that good explanation of cubism; I copied it from the note on the wall.) In this way, O'Keeffe was more of an avant-garde artist than I realized. She was doing something completely new.

Music Pink and Blue No. 1 (1918)
Her 1923 exhibit was not well received because people were negatively influenced by previous photographs of O'Keeffe -- many of them nude -- taken by Alfred Stieglitz, her lover at the time. (They married in 1924.) The public felt O'Keeffe had too great a comfort with her sexuality. One critic stated that the curves and colors in her artwork were an expression of the "...body's subconscious knowledge of itself" and that it was distasteful. O'Keeffe argued that critics were reading too much into her art, but to no avail.

The experience, however, led O'Keeffe in a slightly new direction in her art. She began to abstract forms found in nature. Some of my favorite pieces in the exhibit were from this time period. I especially liked the beautiful series of paintings of Lake George where she frequently vacationed at Stieglitz's family getaway. The paintings are made with great attention to color -- all very earthy, saturated and gorgeously blended. But interestingly enough to me, they also represented two of the primary ways in which O'Keeffe represented line: undulating and in sharp points at the end of curves. (Please note this is MY take on the paintings.)

From the Lake No. 1 (1924)

Lake George (1924)

Because she had assisted Stieglitz with the development of his photos of her, O'Keeffe had also learned how photographers cropped photos to achieve more powerful compositions. She now began to employ that same technique in her art. Sometimes, as in the 1930 Jack in the Pulpit series, O'Keeffe would start with a realistic representation of her subject and slowly begin to strip away some of its elements to get to that portion of the subject which interested her most. While living in New Mexico, O'Keeffe would also use this technique in her bone series. Here, she uses the pelvic bone of an animal as a frame for the sky. I confess that I really like this series as well. It's graphic and so focused, and yet there's still great detail and delicacy in the depiction of the curve of the bone and depth in the color of the sky.

Pelvis with Blue (1944)

As she aged, O'Keeffe made a shift in her art again, creating more linear representations and using architecture as her inspiration. This reinvigorated her art. Black Door with Red (1954) was a huge canvas in the exhibit. In its composition the piece is much simpler, but it still carries a pretty good punch. The colors are bold and shapes have crisp lines save for a few, where the edges of some rectangles are blurred with the background. I like those blurred edges....

Black Door with Red, 1954

All in all, it was a good day and I'm so happy to have seen the show. I saw artwork that I hadn't encountered before from an artist whom I admire. I saw O'Keeffe from a completely new perspective and I think that's exciting. I'm curious to try out this close cropping technique she used to such great effect to strengthen composition. I wish that the flow of the exhibit had been easier to follow; sometimes I inadvertently skipped a few years by starting out on the wrong side of the room (it wasn't clearly marked or consistent). The tiny numbers on the walls that corresponded to the audio guide weren't always easy to find or visible through the crowd, making the audio guide harder to use than it should have been. But, I will say that I learned a great deal from the guide -- in fact, most of what's written above is a paraphrase from the notes I took while listening. I also really enjoyed listening to excerpts from interviews with the artist herself. It was fascinating, for example, to listen to O'Keeffe describe her first impressions of New Mexico in 1929 by saying "...that was mine .... that was my country ... it fitted to me exactly."

I strongly urge you to see this retrospective if you can, but you'll have to hurry; it's only open through January 17th.

Saturday, January 9, 2010

Winter in Black and White

Although it's been very cold here lately, we haven't gotten a lot of snow. As a result, all my efforts for winter wonderland types of pictures have been foiled. The snow's not lying very thickly on the ground and it's rather dull and gray-ish. So, imagine my surprise when I took a hike with my dog and came home with some pictures I rather like.

The water in the stream must have frozen at different rates, leaving these beautiful patterns in the ice.

And, because it's so crisp and clear outside, the sun reflects just magnificently off the water that's still running.


Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Working on....

seeing beauty in a stark, blustery, cold world,

putting away the last of the Christmas ornaments,

costume alterations,

and drawing class. I'm VERY rusty and only had the last 35 minutes of class to work today (unfortunately, I had to get to class very late), so my drawing's not that great -- but here it is. Though I've loved this class tremendously, I've decided not to continue with it in the winter session in order to free up more time to create. I think this is a good choice for me right now.

Friday, January 1, 2010


I think today is a good day for thoughtful reflection on last year and the year to come. How did I stack up against my art goals and what would I like to challenge myself with for the coming year? Let's start with a review of last year's goals:

1) Continue with weekly journals: Oops; this one completely fell by the wayside after about five weeks. Ouch!
2) Create 10 new pieces: I met this goal, though I wish I had ended up with more artwork I could exhibit. I swapped a lot of what I made and I didn't work too carefully in the few journal quilts I did make. Hmmm....
3) Learn to use PhotoShop: I get a C on this one. I've fiddled with the program, but didn't do any coursework or take classes so I haven't achieved any sort of proficiency.
4) Participate in SDA and/or SAQA exhibits: Bingo! I'm so glad I was in the SAQA NY trunk show and the SAQA 20th anniversary "Meet the Artist" exhibit. Our local SAQA "Fiber + Thread = Art" exhibit was a great hit as well.
5) Find other exhibit opportunities, whether through shows or participation in an exhibit group: I think I met this one, too. Two highlights include getting my piece published in Quilting Arts Magazine for the "Rock On!" challenge and becoming a member of Textile Abstractions.
6) Have FUN: Yep, that's a solid yes!

I was supposed to achieve all this with the word "discipline" as my rallying cry. I'd say I left a bit to be desired on that front. If I'd been more disciplined, I might have gotten more journal quilts done and finished more pieces. But I'm not disappointed in my year. I can't believe I was published! I got the terrific news that I'll have a piece in the upcoming "500 Art Quilts" book. I exhibited more than I ever have. I went to more art exhibits than ever and was thrilled to meet Paula Nadelstern at her exhibit. (Did I ever tell you that my review of her exhibit made it's way to her via the museum? They liked what they read and forwarded it to Paula. How cool is that?) Anyway......

Enough about last year... now, on to my thoughts for this year. I think I'd still like to have a "word" to inspire me throughout the year. And though it may seem silly, I've chosen the word "CREATE". Here are my goals to help you understand why I chose this:

No, I'm not trying to be snide. Instead, what I'm trying to do is to encourage myself to create. I don't want to decide now what types of things I "should" make for this year, I just want to be sure I do. Of course, this will include making art to meet commitments, but beyond that, it's a blank page. For example, no journal quilts unless the spirit moves me.

No, I'm not a master physicist with a new time travel gadget. Instead I want to make time to do the following things I believe will be important to my emotional and physical well being:
* make time for family and friends -- they're invaluable;
* make time for exercise -- let's face it, ours is a sedentary pursuit and my wardrobe cannot keep expanding in time with my waist!
* make time for learning -- I feel a palpable need to keep finding out more about art in general and art quilting;
* make time for other interests and pursuits -- photography and reading are just two things that I absolutely love and know I can't live without.

Yep, there I go again, sounding all Albert Einstein-ish. What I'm trying to say is that I need to organize my space better so I can do more. I need to use up more of my commercial fabric stash (there's a creativity challenge in there I'm sure!) I need to go through all the magazines I'm hoarding so I have room for my feet under the table. I need to free up some shelf space so I can buy more fabric paint. I need to rearrange the room so I can include items from other pursuits, like my drawing supplies. I'm sure you get the general idea.

There's no doubt I'm deadline-driven; I seem to work best (or is it prioritize better?) when the clock is ticking. Last year, I tried to motivate myself by keeping a list next to my sewing machine of all the events I wanted to participate in for the year. Looking back, I don't think it was as effective as I needed it to be. So this year, I'm going to make goals by month with notes about things I need to keep in mind for the upcoming weeks. I don't want to look at all the things looming on the horizon. I think it was too much for me. We'll see.

Whew; that's it! Now, off to do a little organizing. I still have time tonight to go through a few magazines, pull out what I'd like to keep and recycle the balance. See, I already have folders to put stuff in! Someday I'd like to have binders, but I didn't have supplies on hand, so this will do for now. At least I'm getting started!