29 December 2015

Memoir








As 2015 comes to a close I am reflecting on many of the enriching experiences I have had this year. So many of these take the forms of art, including literature -a daily pleasure. It turns out I have read a number of memoirs by writers and artist in this recent cycle of the seasons. What a delightful way to learn not only about others' lives, but life itself.

Among the books I have read is Virginia Woolf's A Writer's Diary (edited by Leonard Woolf), a journal she kept about her creative process -and the many things that encumbered it- over 24 years. Also an author's memoir, Jeanette Winterson's Why Be Happy When You Could Be Normal? That was such an illuminating look into the life of a contemporary writer I admire and feel a special affinity with. Cheryl Strayed's Wild was an adventure of another sort. I also received the gift of photographer Sally Mann's memoir, Hold Still. This book kept me up late with remarkable drama and suspense, as well as the amusing and stirring photos that illustrate it.


In some ways my favorite was Eudora Welty's One Writer's Beginnings. The book was initially conceived as a series of three lectures Welty was invited to deliver at Harvard University in 1983. While I enjoyed all that Welty shared of her early life experience, and how that shaped her as an artist, I also appreciated the very structure of the book: "Listening", "Learning to See", "Finding a Voice". In it's three chapters -full of anecdotes and affectionate remembrance- she describes "coming to her senses" in personal and creative development.

I'm prompted to consider how I have learned to listen, learned to see, learned to speak in the various languages available to me. And further inspired to seek influences that will help me to listen, see and speak more clearly, reverently, eloquently.

11 November 2015

By Any Other Name


Secret Visit of the Broken-hearted Man, 1995. Oil on canvas, 60x48".


I recently had the honor of jurying the 21st Annual Student Art Exhibit at the University of Montana. I was confronted there by 97 works of art from which to select not only the exhibition, but eleven awards. This was both a fascinating and consuming task. The drawings and paintings, sculptures, prints and photographs consistently raised questions for me. In an effort to understand the artists' intentions, I turned to the submission forms, seeking titles. Titles, I believed, might answer some of my questions, guide my consideration. What I discovered, over and over again, was "Untitled".


One for Sorrow, 1999. Oil on canvas, 27x27".


I do not fault artists for leaving work untitled. There are philosophical and pragmatic reasons why one may not give a name to a work of art. (This might be particularly true for art generated under instruction.) It can be hard to come up with a strong verbal image to accompany every visual image into the world. But that's what titles are, verbal images that provide another opportunity to express the artist's motivations and meanings.


Scavengers Trio, 2014. Graphite & oil on wood panels, 66x12".


Titles have become practically important to me. With an archive of nearly 2000 images, a name is easier to call up or track down than "Untitled I, V, L, CXVI, CMVII....". But more significantly, titles can help steer interpretation. The name of an art work can offer clues to the artist's central interests and interpretation. Even in process, having something to call a piece fosters a sense of relationship to the work particularly -and in the broader scope of my endeavor.


Red Flag, 2015. Graphite & oil on wood panel, 18x24".


I've come to believe there is an art to titling. Artists can be descriptive, simply giving the image an identity. Artists can also use titles to signal a way of looking at and ultimately understanding a work of art. Titles can also help us contextualize images culturally, linking them to collective myths and symbolism. And rather than give the interpretation away, titles can be used to add to the mystery and elusiveness of visual imagery. I've embraced titles as a way of deepening intimacy with my own work, and with hope that they also help to draw viewers closer too.


                             

Cherisher or Light & Collector of Possibilities, 2000. Oil on canvas, 30x20".



Lover of Time & Student of Loneliness, 2000. Oil on canvas, 30x20".
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06 September 2015

Thinking Out Loud


Drawing is many things to me, including visual note-taking that has more to do with acquiring information than producing art, a sort of "thinking out loud". Poring over the sketchbooks in preparation for the Pattee Canyon Ladies' Salon annual show, Studies from the Figure, has prompted me to reflect on the process of figure drawing. For me now, this routine sketching is often a form of thinking out loud.


I believe study of the human figure is critical to all image-makers in learning human proportion and presence. There are further technical benefits for those of us who work with the human subject, even expressionistically. But I have qualms about the female nude as decoration. In the history of Euro-American art this decorative use of the female form has served to support deep and enduring notions of women as things, objects to appraise or delight in (or denigrate) solely for their appearance. 



I believe we can celebrate woman's inherent beauty and create images asserting agency in the world. We are subjects with the full complement of human gifts: physical, mental and emotional strength, fertility and other powers, experiencing life with both grace and gracelessness. Though my Salon drawings (according to the studio tradition) often portray women as idle or passive, they are hopefully images that indicate a consciousness and capacity for meaningful engagement.

19 August 2015

Arriving as a Mystery

Attendants, 2015. Diptych, each: graphite & oil on wood panel, 16x10", 16x22 overall.
Every infant arrives as a mystery. We cannot readily guess or determine how life will unfold for this new being. We do not know who they will become. This mystery often multiplies in the case of adoption. All who mother, father and nurture this child may never be known. And those mothers, fathers and nurturers may never know the becoming child.

"Attendants" alludes to the biblical tale of infant Moses, hidden in a basket, floated in the reeds of the river, tended by his elder sister, Miriam. I was first drawn to the subject by identification with Miriam in her role as attendant to her brother. As the image took shape in my mind and I recalled the story, I recognized that Moses passed through many hands and hearts in his rearing. So in this diptych composition he appears merely as a floating basket between his vigilant sister and the Pharoah's daughter's handmaiden. It is this unnamed servant who conveys Moses on the next passage of his journey.

My explorations continue with further studies of Miriam and Moses, or less specifically, the attendant and the infant. I am only interested in the biblical story as a cultural touchstone I might share with those who also contemplate such essential relations as they appear in the series.

The subject matter -like virtually all of my current work- has presented opportunities to explore new media and palettes.

In the Reeds, 2015. Graphite & oil on wood panel, 10x8".

"Miriam Study I", created last Winter, inspired a continuing series of images with unexpected themes and interpretative possibilities. Such discoveries and productive diversions are part of what I love about image-making.

Miriam Study I, 2014. Graphite, ink and watercolor on paper, 8x10".

14 June 2015

Blue Ribbons


Ford, 2015. Graphite & oil on canvas, 48x48".
The painting "Ford" was awarded a blue ribbon in the 'Scapes show at Radius Gallery in Missoula. Truly, there is a blue ribbon pinned  beside the artwork in this exhibition of Landscapes, Seascapes, Mindscapes. I'm honored. And this puts me in mind of other blue ribbons I have won. It stirs a deep and enduring gratitude for the early affirmations my art received when I was a child.

Growing up in Walla Walla, it was a happy Late-Summer ritual to submit artwork, crafts, science projects, and produce to the Southeastern Washington Fair. As one benefit, we all received a free entry to the annual carnival with our submissions. It was also a treat to see our handiwork on view to fairgoers and possibly receive a ribbon, white, red or blue.

I didn't always receive a blue ribbon from the judges, but it still meant so much to me as child to receive some public recognition for my efforts. Year after year I was in some way affirmed for my projects. I believe this helped me to form my identity as an artist in community. It seemed that what I created, whether at school or alone in my room, could mean something to others.

The county fair may not be the first place we look for aesthetic edification as adults (though one may be surprised!), but it was a first for me as a young artist. That venue in the heart of my home town mattered. Now, having worked with through another mural project with the students of Willard High School, I prize more highly those quaint chances to acknowledge the creative efforts of children. Let us welcome their visions into our artistic scope, ever evolving.
Pears, 1981. Ink & Water color on paper, 8x10".

For further information about the 'Scapes show at Radius Gallery: www.radiusgallery.com

15 May 2015

Commencement Day

In 1994 I graduated from the University of Montana with a Master of Fine Arts degree. That day was truly a commencement for me. I decided, as an experiment, to see if I could make art my livelihood -if only for a year. I am glad and grateful to acknowledge that more than two decades later, the experiment continues.



It is an experiment indeed. Year to year my income from art changes with circumstances, opportunities, the vagaries of the market. Through all of this the spiritual sustenance I receive from image-making is steady. That is what I truly chose, when I chose to make art my livelihood. I can, more than many, devote my energies to my passion.



Yes, I've done other sorts of work from time to time to enhance my income: property management, home repairs and improvements, sketching in the courts, illustration and design, and teaching more than anything else. Teaching is a naturally part of the labor of sharing what I love. Let me continue to support other artists in their endeavors. May we each learn to manifest our visions, and keep envisioning!


I'm cognizant of the beautiful fact that this is possible because of others' choices hundred of choices. Those who have invested in my art work have funded its continuation and evolution.







So in I expressing my gratitude for this challenging, creative enterprise, I wish to THANK the hundreds of people -collectors and curators, models and gallerists, teachers, friends, family and neighbors who have provided support to me as an artist. You have make my living, in art, possible.




I shall continue seeking new possibilities every day, in each season and year by year, with gratitude.



30 April 2015

Suite

Ford, 2015. Graphite & oil on wood panel, 48x48".

One of my great pleasures in the studio is working amid a suite of images -the preliminary and exploratory works that flows into an ultimate composition. Many of these smaller studies are never exhibited, and rarely with larger scale or more substantial paintings. However, in addition to helping me  figure out what I want to do, they create an immersive environment for creation. The images within this post are all part of the investigation for "Ford" and have been part of my field of vision in the studio over recent months.

This Trio of Sky Notes helped me to derive a simple palette and techniques to combine drawing and painting in subject matter as ethereal as the sky.


With the Great Blue Heron drawings and paintings, I became better acquainted with the form and stature of this large and elegant wading bird. Repeating the form in multiple studies is also part of an ongoing experiment with combined media.



Ford (detail, circa 36x26")

Finding a convincing and compelling pose for the human figure was another step in composition. In this case I actually scaled down from the studies to incorporate a very small version (circa three inches) in the painting.


Ford (detail, circa 8x10")

What a wonderful opportunity I have here to share the scope of the work in its course and digressions over the past several months. Enjoy!

18 April 2015

Face Value

Small Profile, 2015. Graphite, oil & collage on art board, 10x8".


The first assembly of the Thursday Artists' Working Group met in my studio in December of 2009. We have since shared countless afternoons generating, discussing and celebrating art. We have also exhibited together, mounting our most recent show Atelier III on 3 April 2015. For each exhibition we have chosen a common object or element to address in our various media and styles. This year we chose self-portraits.

For Atelier III I embraced the challenge of self-portraiture for the first time in many years. This provided opportunities to regard myself in the mirror, observe signs of aging, and reveal what I saw with my current process and skills. At times I was preoccupied with the logistics of holding a pose, managing light and materials in the studio. But I was, nevertheless, presented with a distinctive means to contemplate my image and image-making.

As time goes on, I seem to care less and less about how I look. That is to say, I care less about my appearance. Now I care so much more about how I look actively: my perception of others, the immediate and wider world, my place within it. I want to see honestly, respectfully, compassionately.

Unflinching, 2015. Graphite on paper, 10x8".
Gray S-P, 2015. Graphite & chalk on paper, 10x8".
Backlit, 2015. Graphite & oil on art board, 10x8". 


There is a peculiar severity to my face in concentration. This is not the cheerful or tender countenance I wish to offer others. And yet this is the way I look when I am looking, a searching gaze. These studies, like all of my work, are essentially artifacts of a process -and not just the process of a day, an hour or season- but the life-long process of learning to see clearly.

14 February 2015

Giving Thanks






                

Wild Turkey I, II, III, IV, 2014. Graphite on paper, Graphite & chalk on paper, Graphite & oil on paper, Graphite & oil on art board. Each, 10x8". (These Wild Turkey studies were part of my Thanksgiving feast back in November, 2014.)


I have been feeling so grateful following the Open Studios I recently hosted. After two long years of repairing and remodeling my house, it was a joy to throw open the doors (even in the dead of Winter.)

The experience has given me much to reflect on. I have been thinking about gratitude itself. Gratitude may be associated with contentment, a sense of belonging or good fortune. I enjoy that, but more than ever recognize gratitude as a force, a source of motivation. All this stimulation and affirmation have not only "re-warmed" my home, but kindled my creative fires. I want to live up to my blessings. I want to see them repeat and multiply in all of our lives.

As children -and adults- we are often chided to "count our blessings". Sometimes we do need to be prompted in that way, to appreciate what we have, as well as what we have been spared. But rarely does forced (or enforced) gratitude bring us into the inspiring dynamics of giving and receiving. I'm so glad to be in that virtuous cycle with friends and neighbors near and far. Still and again, THANKS. 



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An artist living and working in Missoula, Montana.