more trash portraits!

Completed baby on tray

I’m trying to work consistently on the portraits now, knowing that my studio will shortly become uninhabitable once winter kicks in….we may get the wood stove installed sometime this winter, but then again, we may not!

The baby above is the second completed portrait, and I’ve begun the third below. Collecting the “commissions” and then issuing letters to everyone who had submitted objects took more time than I had budgeted in. That’s a weird thing about being an artist…you spend a lot of time with paperwork and documentation, and emails.

I sent out letters letting people know that I had received their materials and planned to complete as many portraits as possible before December. I had to send two letters out that asked the recipients to please send me a photo of someone to be painted on the fabulous object that they had left for me. I have received no response from either one. I can’t figure out why they would leave me an army green plastic canteen, for example, with no photo of someone to paint on it.

I’m very excited about the two kids below…I can’t help feeling that the commissioner of this one really understood the project!

bother and sister with Betty Crocker started….
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Drawing Naked Ladies Gets More Interesting

an assortment of drawing surfaces

I love to draw and am very proficient at it. Not only does it come naturally to me, but I also spent some intensive years in Drawing classes in Art School. Then for many years, I did not draw very much though I continued to paint. Last year, helping my son prepare a drawing portfolio, got me re-interested. I took him to a life model drawing session nearby so I could instruct him and he could draw. At one session, I paid the fee and drew too. It was fun at first, but not really compelling and I began to feel bored. He went off to art school, and I spent the next winter making several detailed large drawings of my children and my house. It was heavenly to be drawing again. The figure-drawing sessions loomed in my memory. I challenged myself to think of a way to get interested in “drawing naked ladies” again, like we did so much in art school. And then I thought of drawing on found materials with ink if necessary. I had a large atlas of maps and I attended one session and tried it out. It was definitely interesting.

Corrugated Nude

Getting ready to leave for a figure drawing session this past Sunday morning, I opened the recycling bin in front of my house …I was in need of diverse surfaces on which to draw. The materials inside were actually quite inspiring…butter packages that I imagined prying apart to draw n the inside grayish-brown cardboard surface that would be such a nice geometric yet fairly rectangular shape. Then there were lots of cereal boxes; I wondered if I would decide to draw in ink on the outside or again try working on the more uniform surface inside. I already had some materials gathered in my studio. I collected it all into a portfolio and went off to the session.

I brought regular white drawing paper too, but you know what? I did not use it. It was really exciting and interesting and rewarding to draw on all the found surfaces. I started out with 1 minute gesture drawings on data pages from the large atlas that I am slowly pulling apart…I have used the pages for folding home-made berry cartons, and drawing on maps. Then a five minute drawing on a map followed by another 5 minute drawing inside an Annual Report…This seemed like a wonderful place to secret beautiful intimate drawings of nudes….I will bring it again and work on filling the pages with drawings.

The highlight of the morning was definitely the nude on the white corrugated cardboard above. The holes that are punched through the drawing vie for attention with the tonal pencil drawing of a standing nude woman. I recognized immediately that this was very successful.

Next week, we will have a male model..I will have to decide  if he belongs in the Annual report or should it be all women. I lean towards all women. A naked man has a different relationship to all those stocks and bonds I think.

Principle Gesture

Blind and remembering

the “wetlands” behind my house

I attend my last “native plant” class today. This will be our 6th session, meeting once a month during the growing season to “meet” about a dozen plants a session. These plants are full of nutrients and medicinal properties and they grow around the house and along the edges of the roads…. Last month, we did something different; leading and being led, with our eyes closed and without language, through the woods. When it was my turn to close my eyes, I at first felt unsure, and then as I walked along with my companions’ hands guiding my arms, I grew more at ease, trusting their pace and the subtlities of the pressures of their hands on my arms…and then a most amazing experience swept over me. I would think that I sensed sunlight, or deep shadow, and then I found myself experiencing ideas of being next to a driveway under a tree, or being in “the” backyard and it was sunny just ahead of me. It felt like clear physical memories without any idea of naming places or events. I felt so grateful for being able to feel this that I wanted to cry. Does my body have a deep well of experiential memory? I have never felt this before…it is akin to the feeling one gets by shutting ones eyes and counting ten calming breaths; the sudden remembrance of being in one’s body more than in one’s brain, as we mostly are.

Cleaning that desktop

rubber rage? along the route to NC in Delaware (I think)

So, I am struggling to regain space in my computer so as to transfer some video footage for a  job, and I find myself finally culling through the files and piles of images that my family of 6 has amassed and “dumped” into the computer….To be perfectly honest, it is mostly myself and my 13 year old son who are the villains here. He takes tons of photos….and unfortunately, a great proportion of them are worth looking at. So here are two that particularly caught my eye.

This makes me want to stretch a canvas in these dimensions and channel Botticelli or Fra Angelico…. 

Eco Art and Other Impossibilities

artist sketch of “Bug Cinema”

I am belatedly reviewing an “eco art show”, “Whale Oil To WholeFoods” that took place this past summer in two locations in Greene County, New York. I am reviewing it now because, I have time, the curators are friends of mine, the show was a good example of well-intentionedness gone awry, and I don’t like to step on any toes but I don’t see that anyone else on the web or otherwise has seen fit to honestly assess the effort and intent that went into this show and efforts like it. 

The show took place this past summer, and was billed as an “Eco Art Show”.  The curators hoped to put together a collection of art that reflected various perspectives on the ecological issues that we are faced with, and to that end, even invited artists from other countries to participate.  I thought that the first version of the show at the Greene County Council on the Arts was interesting and even contained work that I wanted to own; the dust bunnies created by  Suzanne Proulx. Ms Proulx made believable life sized bunnies  out of dust collected and somehow transformed into a sculptural material. The bunnies all look like they are snuffling along quietly. Now if you ask me, that is eco art. Taking something that nobody really has much use for and using a minimum of energy and resources to transform it into something that feels compelling and real.

Due to a certain amount of personal involvement, I was too aware of some of the extremes that went into mounting the second leg of the show that was exhibited at the Agroforestry Center.  James Brady was invited from Ireland to participate in the show. He had proposed creating a “Bug Cinema”.  So here we have the first red flag. He flew here from Ireland using his share of the 44 tons of fuel necessary for one trans-Atlantic flight. Once he was here, he was assigned a driver (my 19 year old son) as James did not drive. Second huge red flag. The fact that he was coming to a rural area and did not drive, but could not stay right where he was mounting the “Bug Cinema” created a situation where he had to be driven. This actually resulted in twice as many miles being driven than if had been able to drive himself, as my son had to drive the 7 miles to go get him, drive him to his destination, drop him off, and then drive home himself. Then the whole diesel expenditure occurred in reverse to get him home at night. On other days, they drove even further, to go rent special solar lighting in a town 20 miles away, or to go buy fabric for the project in a different town 20 miles in a different direction.

I am not picking on James Brady or the curators. I must clarify right now that I am only writing about this (and risking upsetting people I really admire!) because we are all faced with ethical decisions about  expending our share of trans-atlantic jet fuel in order to see our 8o year old mother-in-laws or take our children to see the Parthenon, etc. This eco-art issue just exemplifies choices we all make every day…..   I think it is important for all of us to acknowledge when we are making a mistake even when we are trying to “do the right thing”. It is often difficult to know which is the “right thing’.  For example, in the grocery store, when the cashier asks if you want your groceries in a plastic or paper bag, what is the right answer? I’m sure I don’t know unless it is “I brought my own bag”, but even that might not be right as it may be made of plastic at least in part that required some sort of terrible pollution in it’s manufacture, or pillaging of natural resources….  

I also think it is possible for one person to be imported from far away, at the price of their share of the 44 tons of fuel, and maybe more, but the message that they bring must be inspiring, thought-provoking, and big. Brady’s Bug Cinema was not. I’m not sure what sort of experimentation Brady may have done before attempting the project here, but the evening that the bugs were supposed to succumb to the attraction of the solar lights in order to perform some antics for an expectant art audience, two terrible things became clear. Brady’s solar lamps were not bright enough, even once they had been sort of jury-rigged by my electrician husband (who is thankfully not an artist but a person who knows how to make electrical things work) when they failed to work. The second terrible thing was that Brady had missed an obvious lighting solution for his cinema: the all night signage lights for the Agro Forestry Center that we all filed past after over an hour of trying to imagine that some sort of Bug Cinema was occurring in Brady’s dim set-up in the woods. The moths and bugs were too busy  in the hot exciting lights of the AgroForestry signage to go looking for Brady’s unchartered and unpromising pitiful solar lighting situation. And the Agroforestry signage lighting would have cost the Arts Council and the environment nothing as it was an existing lighting condition.

When I was a student in undergraduate school, we subjected ourselves and everything around us to scathing critique. I think that is healthy and I miss it. Not everything is wonderful and not everything makes sense. IF more people voiced a critical opinion it might lead to greater thought going into projects before they are mounted…Another important aspect of criticality is that it can be paralyzing. I imagine that at some level, Rupp and Potash who curated the show, could sense that Brady’s contribution was requiring a bit too much fuel  to qualify as a good eco-art idea, but they had a deadline to meet and lots of other things in their lives to take care of, and they just went ahead, hoping that his final piece would make it all worthwhile. 

Many of the most critically astute artists that I went to undergraduate school with, eventually stopped making art. A truly critical and intelligent perspective can lead to inertia. I guess I feel that in this case, inertia might have been a better approach than the literal slurping up of fossil fuel to a make cinema that very few bugs attended.