Saturday, November 27, 2010

Time to Celebrate

I love this time of year -- it's a season of celebration, in my opinion.  We take time to be with family, we make plans and party with friends and, in our case this year, we're hoping to welcome a new addition to our midst tomorrow: a female black Lab.  I'll be posting cute dog pictures next week if it works out....  meaning, if our current dog likes the new girl on our visit.  If you can think of Halloween-themed names for the girl, I'd love your suggestions; her name right now is Quella (yech!)  Our female (who has since passed away) was Boo and our current male is named Goblin.  We love Halloween and think it's a perfect fit for black dogs.

Until then, I leave you with a picture of me, expressing my feelings at a dinner party this last weekend.  Busted!  I'm a party girl.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Almost Wordless Wednesday

Light through the maroon leaves of a Japanese maple.  Is anyone tired of the colors of fall?  I'm not yet.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Contemporary Realist Painters

"American Artist" Magazine, December, 2010
I've just missed going to church because I was engrossed in the article, "What is Genuine?" in the December 2010 issue of American Artist.  I was fascinated by it, in part because the art shown on the pages is amazing.  But it was especially compelling because it spoke about a recent exhibit called "Hard Times: An Artist's View" at the Salamagundi Club in New York City in which the featured artists were all contemporary realist painters.  Believe it or not, these artists are themselves just now beginning to gain more popular recognition for their brilliant artwork.  As you can imagine, their pieces are in direct contrast to the Modernist movement that is so in vogue.

In my previous post, I wrote about what appears to be a trend in high caliber quilt art exhibits: more non-representation work seems to be getting wall space.  Apparently, this trend has been evident in the painting world for decades and the pendulum may just now beginning to swing the other way.  Max Ginsburg, one of the painters whose work was shown in the exhibit, states, "When I was teaching in the 1970s, students would come in early and paint from life with me and a few others.  It was difficult to do.  Administrators were opposed to it; they thought we were giving students old-fashioned ideas."   Garin Baker, who also had work in the exhibit, had a similar experience.  "I remember at the beginning of my career, working in a traditional realist style was tantamount to being a 'hack' or 'lowly genre painter'.  I was thrilled to be a part of an exhibition that gave me the opportunity to show work alongside these great mentors who have demonstrated the importance of staying true to your own vision".  Mario Robinson, whose pastels and watercolors were also in the exhibit, explained that his choice of subject matter was personal choice, not a matter of social commentary.  "I'm not trying to be the big bad wolf or anything.  I'm trying to show that there's beauty in everything."

This exhibition was important to many of the artists because there are few opportunities " show this kind of work, because galleries don't think it will sell."  (Max Ginsburg)   For Burton Silverman, "...participating in the exhibition provided him with an opportunity to start a dialogue on the power of realism and traditional techniques."

This was such a timely article for me, given all the recent dialogue about representational vs. non-representational art in the quilt art arena.  If there's something to be learned from this article, it's certainly to be true to your voice, whether it's in vogue or not.  While representational art may not be the preferred method of expression, it certainly remains valid and important for any artist.  You have no control over the current trend in collecting or representation, but you do have control over your creations.

I am so sorry to have missed this exhibition, but I will try to get to the retrospective exhibition of Max Ginsburg's work that's scheduled for next summer at the Salmagundi Club.  I'm certain I will enjoy it and learn a great deal.

Friday, November 12, 2010

Representational "vs." Non-Representational Art

There's been quite a bit of chatter lately on some textile art internet groups about what appears to be a growing trend: juror preference for non-representational over representational work.    The conversation started when an attendee at the Quilt=Art=Quilt show (which she thought was very striking) commented on her perception that there were very few representational pieces in the show.

To start, let's be clear on some definitions.  Because I can't possibly say it better, I'm going to borrow from Elizabeth Barton:

A quilt which strove to totally recreate a specific scene or photograph would be representational, one which took some elements from a scene and modified them would be abstract and one which had no reference whatsoever to anything in real life would be non-representational.

So, is it true?  Is there a preference for non-representational and abstract work over representational?

Without knowing the pool of entries, it's difficult to fault the jurors with having a bias.  Perhaps there simply weren't as many good representational works submitted as non-representational.  And, let's face it, even a Renoir would look out of place in a room full of Pollocks and Kandinskys, so can't you blame a juror for thinking the same in selecting a cohesive textile exhibit.

However, I have done a little bit of research over the past few days and I do think there's some merit to the statement that abstract and non-representational art is being shown more often in some recent exhibitions. To start, I reviewed the Art Quilt Elements catalog.  I know that there were over 600 pieces entered into that show.  Of the 50 which were selected, only three would qualify as representational.  The rest were predominantly non-representational, with about seven that could be considered abstract -- and they're pushing the definition to its limit.  

Then I looked up the artists who were accepted recently into Form, Not Function at the Carnegie.  The jurors received almost 400 entries and 31 were selected.  While I wasn't able to access pictures of all the selected works, I extrapolated from other artworks on artist websites as to what type of work the artist does.   There are certainly artists whose work uses identifiable human form (such as Shawn Quinlan), but they are highly stylized and abstracted, so only four artists that I could identify -- extrapolating from other works they've done -- might have a representational piece in the show.

Finally, I looked at Rayna Gillman's blog post about the recent Festival of Quilts in England. She notes that European textile artists are predominantly creating abstract and non-representational works and this was reflected in the show.  You can see that borne out in her pictures.  Hmmmm.......  

So what does this all mean for those artists whose voice speaks to them in representational terms?  Well, I don't think it means give up.  I think perhaps it means create more and better work and get it out there.... if that's what motivates you.  Some of the representational works I came across as I did my research had a social or political bent to it, but I don't think that's necessary to do good work.  This trend does suggest that we have to create art that does more than make a viewer say "oh how pretty".  It has to be thoughtful and evocative on several levels.  It has to give pause and pull a viewer in to consider and contemplate.   But then, isn't all good work supposed to? 

That's what I think right now, but I'd love to hear your comments and thoughts as well.  If I've missed something or misrepresented something, my apologies in advance and please be sure to let me know.   

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Almost Wordless Wednesday

First good frost of the season ....