drawings always begin with the idea that they are my own personal visual
journal (which gives a great sense of freedom to create for the joy of
Traveling or walking with a small sketchbook allows me to easily record and remember my impressions of a day — light, color, season — by using succinct notation to record my visual experiences. The sketchbook offers an opportunity to experiment with new ideas, compositions or materials, and can later become a resource to inform or sometimes inspire other works or projects.
Sketchbook drawings remain a real time record of an artist’s visual thinking, and although intended as a personal diary, because of their authenticity, conciseness, or energy, they can often stand alone as works in their own right.
empowers an artist with the truth of creativity, it sets him or her upon a
path, and thrills him or her forever. LM
I am an oil painter and my
process is very slow. Forty-five minutes to
organize my palette, lay out colors, mix glazes, select appropriate brushes,
and assess the work in front of me before I touch paint to surface. This is
followed by hours of mark making and erasing in very small sections. Cleaning
up at the end of a painting session takes forty-five
minutes as well: reorganize salvageable mixes, clear and wipe down the
remaining palette, clean my brushes to carefully remove all traces of paint and
glaze. I’ve learned that I cannot skip or speed up any of the steps. It all
takes time and is a ritual that I love.
My sketchbook by contrast is
immediate, requiring no preparation and taking up very little room. It’s the
place for figuring out what needs adjustment for works in progress before I
commit with paint. It is my catchall for sudden impressions and visual
thoughts; an immediate place for pursuing ideas wherever I am. It’s also the
place for catching words and quotes that have meaning and influence for me.
Drawing involves a piece of
paper, a pencil, a tortillion and an eraser. I make marks. Light and shadow
only. Nothing is precious. Everything can be repaired and redone with one
swipe. Fully-formed concepts are not
necessary. Ideas that stray from current projects and series are fine. I
explore anything that moves me without full commitment or investment. I indulge
obsessions and techniques. I pursue why objects and places have meaning for me.
The ritual is unconstrained.
Draw. Smudge. Erase. Turn the page. Start again.
are from trip journals. Begun as a way
to process and archive ephemera collected while traveling, they developed into
a response to the blizzard of visual data many of us encounter daily. As I traveled, I found myself collecting more
and more paper. Pamphlets, tabloids,
tourist guides, posters, tickets. Credit
card slips, cigarette wrappers, food wrappers, toilet paper wrappers. Text in unfamiliar languages, symbols both
familiar and not, messages only machines can decipher. Over time, the journals became less overtly
diaristic and more abstract.
Subsequently, they began to inspire larger scale works.
These are four recent paintings that
I’ve created on my 12” iPad Pro using the Procreate app, an Apple Pencil, my
fingers, and other software (Photoshop, Lightroom, Illustrator). Using those
tools has been my primary artistic practice for several years. I do that for
many hours each day, creating a new artwork every day or two (more than 200 in
2018, so far).
Some works are little more than
sketches, and all begin that way, as a mark or two on the iPad that I then
develop in whatever ways they suggest. Many of my works evolve far beyond that
first mark or two, and take me days or longer to complete. The result is a
personal visual journal, a record of my ongoing artistic journey, a product of
my imagination and whatever skills I bring to expressing it.
I print some pieces that I exhibit
in juried shows and open studio events, post many of them on
Instagram, and all of them on my website. I send out a now-and-then newsletter to
friends and subscribers.
always carry a sketchbook, pencil, etc. Drawing is the meat of my work, the
protein, the substance. The drawings occur randomly, but there is a consistent
thread of “figure” content. I draw my family, my pets, trees, women standing
with their children at the lake, children playing, travelers waiting in
airports, train stations, library visitors who linger, trees, leaves, seeds.
the summer, when ventilation is accessible, I paint with hot wax encaustics. I
use drawings from my sketchbooks and make trace-prints on fragile rice papers
that pick up lots of useful irregularities.
third is of my grand-daughter on her 5th birthday. She is sensitive
and vulnerable, or a firestorm. Her choice.
Two of the sketchbook drawings included here were dancers from rehearsals for “The Twenty-Dance,” that was created as a response to my series, “The Twenty—an Elegy to the Children of Newtown, CT,” last November, 2017 at the Portland Ballet.
fourth is from a video of deportees that I saw on television.
images came together with others in the spring and summer of 2018, when we all
watched the children separated from their parents and put in cages with
metallic blankets for comfort.
I keep sketchbooks but tend to rip out their pages when they
have something to do with my painting. I hang them up around the studio. Once
in a while, a sketch will serve as a beginning to a painting. Other times,
sketches help me change direction in a painting so I can move forward.
Sometimes, I sketch during the process of painting to record what is there
temporarily, just before I cover it up, as a record which might direct me
later. I also make sketches to loosen up, not as a means to an end but as an end
in itself. Sometimes the sketches have color, sometimes they are stark black
and white. I might use pencil or charcoal or crayon or ink and watercolor with
When confusion visits me these
days, I tell myself it is the blur of growth.
Suggestion is too coy for the
real meaning of a painting. I struggle with whether my images are complete or
incomplete, not with what they might suggest.
It is color, color, color that
I am an ambassador for the
color green, a spy for the color red, and a surgeon sent to insert the color
In private life, I am white’s
lover. And gray’s.
Some days, I feel like I am a
dictionary in reverse, cataloguing all the possible meanings, and then coming
up with a word.
When I paint, my colors are a
shape and a placement. I paint their boundaries. Just this much I paint. Here.
Sometimes I enhance the
boundaries by painting them as lines. Sometimes I let the boundaries be where
two areas bump into each other.
The way to become an artist is to apprentice yourself
and make a thousand stupid mistakes from the heart.
When I paint, the world is
malleable. It is up to some definition the paint and I work out.
the 1980’s, when I was painting in my studio in Bath Maine, I wrote notes to
myself in my sketchbooks. The sketchbooks are long gone, but in the late
1980’s, I still had them, and I referred to them for a talk I gave at Bowdoin
College in 1988, on Creativity.
1990, The Georgia Review published a double volume “Women and the Arts,” and excerpts from my
studio notes were included as an essay titled, “Powerful Red Dogs.”
I’ve got a lot of good memories of Stan. I used to draw him a lot after those enervating TV programs put him to sleep. I would jump at the chance to draw him, whipping out my pen and sketchbook while he slept, so still and so cooperative. He might not appreciate my showing him at his best like this. Or maybe he’d be okay. After all he was used to my intrusions. Wherever he is, I hope he’ll forgive me.
impressed by the idea of maintaining a personal visual work board when I first
came across Whitefield artist Roger Majorowicz’s notes to himself pegged
outside on his barn wall, well beyond the concept and scale of a table-top
sketchbook. Among some indecipherable scribbles to himself and many
affirmations which I assume kept Mr. Majorowicz going through the years were,
“the man who says it cannot be done should not interrupt the man doing it” and
a quote by Emile Zola, “The artist is nothing without the gift, but the gift is
nothing without the work.”
My own work
board is comprised of a number of elements which for all intents and purposes
resembles a disparate ransom note: quotes, titles, poetry, scraps of paper,
magazine articles, line drawings, postcards, vintage maps, cards and stamps (an
addiction), photographs of textures (another addiction) and travel keepsakes.
From this menagerie of elements I create my encaustic montages. By going back
to the beginning, I am able to affirm my direction and to stay focused ~ I
learn to see with a new perspective. As Lillian Hellman in Pentimento said, “perhaps it would be
well to say that the old conception, replaced by a later choice, is a way of
seeing and then seeing again.”
Amy Peters Wood
When complete, my hand sewn
and bound sketchbooks contain private ruminations, rants, ideas, travel logs,
poems, scientific illustrations, architectural plans and inventions, and the
thumbnail sketches for my large format egg tempera panels. Starting out as sewn
signatures, and carried in a small leather satchel I made years ago, everything I need to do a quick watercolor,
carbon smudge, colored pencil, pen and ink or charcoal drawing is with me at
I have included some of the
My sketchbook is always with me. It is my memory, my datebook, my therapist. I use it to plan future projects, record interesting things I see and hear and read, take notes at workshops and classes. It holds my doodles during meetings, finished drawings that I am not sure enough about to commit them to “real” paper, and helps me understand things more completely through drawing. It is a safe place to put anything that is making noise in my head, though and is self-care through tough times.
I spent the month of April 2017 in Virginia, and was attracted to the wild grape that wrapped and clung to trees along roadways and through the woods. Their invasive, chaotic, and complex structures made their way into my work and have engaged me since. Originally, I recorded their baroque movement through the surrounding space, eventually focusing on the knot of the vine, which will be formatted into a grid structure in a current project. In my preparatory sketches I enjoyed exploring the endless compositional variations with different materials. Many of my favorite studies were done with water-soluble graphite on paper.
My studio upstairs is draped with spiderwebs and clotted with storage boxes. What happened? Lost my inspiration? Doubt my creativity? Run out of material? No, I’ve gone digital. My Ipads are filled with pencil drawings, watercolors, and scribbled ideas. Almost any image that pops up in my imagination can be instantly sketched in pixels, any size, any color, any media. Can’t remember what a giraffe looks like? Hundreds of photos are available for research. Mistakes are erased completely by double taps. I carry my studio with me and it weights about a pound. The Ipad is also a camera and can record scenes to be later translated.
Of course there are negatives. The drag of an Ebony pencil on paper, the scent of turps, brushing a three foot slash of vermilion on canvas…all can be reproduced digitally, but it is like drinking a glass of water thinking it is coffee—-some experiences are lost. An original work of art can be sold with the understanding that no other tangible copy exists. However digital images are now art products for sale (which still have to be framed to be hung in some galleries).
Thousands of tutorials are available online. Other artists are colleagues for reachable conversations, typed or Skyped. And like tangible studios, digital sketchbooks can become just as cluttered as a studio. The clutter is unused apps, half-baked ideas and thousands of images.
All I need is an Ipad, Apple Pencil and available WiFi and electricity. Paper and pencil are kept for blackouts.
I have used sketchbooks in many different ways over the years, often just as writing journals to think about new sculptural ideas, but also as a way to look back at existing work. In late 2017 I needed more space in my studio and my head to find a place for new sculpture, so I parted with lots of pieces. As each piece went out the door I drew it in my sketchbook. In the beginning these were pretty highly rendered drawings, but in January 2018 I decided to loosen up my hand and brain and draw only right-handed (as I am a lefty). These are four of the right-handed drawings that I did at the time, some representing existing pieces, and others new ideas. Wonderfully, this created new room for new sculptures. Some of the new work will be in a show I have curated at the Portland Public Library in March 2019–ON BOOKS: Sculpture that References Literature.
I was born in Bangor, Maine in 1958, and began drawing and painting as a youth. My early influences were the seasonal moods of the wild coastline of Maine and the artists in my family and circle of friends. Growing up in a remote location with the absence of television, I reacted to my environment by painting. The ocean and sky were constant sources for observation and expression. I studied art at Colby College and with Maine painters Henry Isaacs, Philip Frey, and Judy Taylor.
My current influences are:Max Ernst, Kathe Kollwitz, Emily Carr, Max Ginsberg, Jim Carrey, Milton Avery,Waldo Pierce, Rockwell Kent and The Group of Seven. My goal as an oil painter is to move away from inanimate subjects that convey the comfort of nature’s beauty and to move towards human subjects that embody life’s tragedies.
I just started my 96th sketchbook. Fifty-eight years ago at RISD, most pages were filled with drawings of classmates, figures or anatomical studies.The images were quite realistic, as I came there self-taught, wanting to be Norman Rockwell.
Once I discovered primitive art, Picasso, de Kooning and other modern masters, I reflected their influence in the later sketchbooks of my growing family,vacations at the Maryland shore, lunchtime crowds in Philly, commuters on the train, etc. I later filled sketchbooks with stylized self-portraits and studies of admired masters or of primitive art, hoping they would influence my work through osmosis.
Figure drawings and portraits have always dominated my sketchbooks and still do, often transitioning from realism to abstraction. I have rarely considered them studies for other work. They are stand-alone pieces of art, with mark making and page design always on my mind.
Recently,after thousands of figure drawings, many of which are 19” x 24” semi-abstracts,I seem to have come full circle in my sketchbooks, back to more-academic figures. I’m not sure why, since my paintings have become almost-totally-improvisational abstractions. Perhaps the long poses each week at Waterfall Arts encourage detailed study – or perhaps it’s just a function of age.
Though from different times and places, it’s easy to draw connections between the entries in sketchbooks and journals, to find ways to understand the effects of our choices, the states of mind we’ve been in. I began keeping a journal in third grade, and have filled many since then, the content including daily accounts, poems,sketches, musings, and letters. They area place where my past selves gather, a place where I can always find inspiration, and trust.
The sketches “Wildfire Smoke in San Francisco” and “Palace of Fine Arts Theatre” were done from 35mm film photographs that I took on a road trip from Washington to Maine. “You are beautiful,” is from two 35mm photos I took while in college, and the words from a letter sent to me by a college friend and mentor. “Between Notebook Pages” is a journal entry that I keep tucked between pages, along with the feather, from Whidbey Island,Washington, where I was living when I wrote the entry. The poem refers to a day on the road trip back east from Washington, driving along the coast.
I use my sketchbooks as a place to look, study, be present, and free myself up. The pages of the sketchbooks are typically heavy, textured watercolor paper. I work on both the front and back of the page. This means that there are no wrong marks in the sketchbooks, only opportunities to integrate all marks and colors into a finished page and book. No page can be ripped out because there is something on its back which relates to another image. Therefore, the challenge becomes incorporating all marks and all media together.
The pages of my sketchbooks grow over time, ultimately to become a unique book which records visual images I have explored. I sometimes complete one page of a facing dyad and wait until an image which compliments the first is clear to me. An example: two facing pages in my sketchbook are labeled ‘The icons – Katahdin and Monhegan’. The sketch of the lighthouse on Monhegan was completed in July; the sketch of Katahdin was completed in September. For me the two together were a statement about Maine.
I use permanent ink, watercolor, colored pencils, and graphite in the sketchbooks, anything which encourages me to play. Some pages are doodles developed while listening to something in my environment. Some pages are intentional drawings. With the sketchbook, I take the opportunity to center myself, be present in a silent place, and focus on line, form, color, value, and energy. This later informs larger works, not as replicas, but as a way of being present in the work.
I have carried a sketchbook and a pen every day for many years. Frankly, I feel a little lost without them. I prefer pen, because graphite smears when pages rub, so pencils and charcoal are for sketch books that stay in the studio.
And every day, I take out my sketchbook and enter something: a name, address, portrait, landscape, invention, a to-do list, a scribble or a watercolor, a wish, a regret, a collage, a feather or butterfly wing.
My sketchbook is one of my intimate places, where I experiment, dream, observe,think, pretend, be free, fail, shape up, break it all down, remember, and forget. I keep stacks of them, often with an intention to return and dig into ideas that don’t exist anywhere else. Often, I do return to these ideas and they become something else; often the ideas stay right there and never see the light of day again. Any way it goes, each morning it’s keys, change and knife on one side, wallet on the other, with sketchbook and pen in their own pockets. Then I’m ready to face any wicked day.
“Gallimaufry” is a great old 1500’s word meaning, “a confused jumble or medley of things.” Often a stew or hash. My sketchbooks are my gallimaufry: a potato here, chunk of lamb there, carrot, onion, tomato in a sauce, spicy and savory, at least to me.
Alan Crichton and Abby Shahn collaborative sketchbook
This is a collaborative book, a kind of mutual sketchbook that Abby Shahn and I made a few years ago.
She and I describe our process and some thoughts about making this book.
Abby – I think that the thing I like most about this process
…. about making these folded books.. about collaboration … is the way that
one is forced to give up plans… to forget about intentions… because the
other artist will obliterate them with a single stroke.
I’ve made these books with several different artists …
it’s a nice way to visit a friend.
– A brand new open book, open door. Fresh, heavy paper,
accordion-folded and blank, ready for a conversation you can see. No rules.
Start anywhere with anything interesting and send it back, let the book and
friendship build, see what happens. Pages start distant, move towards each
other, then overlap and layer. Always a surprise, from one friend’s hand,
through many postmen’s, to the other. Real play in real time.
Abby – You got a new book coming this way? Hooray!
Al – Great idea! I’ll send a new start with the new year!
My paintings explore visual stimuli either from direct observation or from photographs and drawings made of scenes from my daily life. Lately I have been working on a series of still lifes which are contemplations of a group of objects I have in my studio. I had only planned to make one painting of these objects. However, I have discovered different views of it are intriguing to me for various reasons, so I am making several paintings from alternative views and perspectives. In the way a jazz musician can take a series of chords from a song and make an infinite variety of improvisations from it, I am finding that this still life affords me multiple opportunities for variation on a single theme. The more I come to understand the forms and patterns of light and shape in the set-up, the better I am able to improvise and play with making original compositions. By understanding the fundamentals of the visual stimuli, I can freely express myself by abstracting the most important elements, exaggerating some aspects, minimizing others, and changing still more .
Michelle Leier, “Green Still Life”, oil on panel, 12 x 9 inches, 2018, Jay York
Michelle Leier, “Blue Still Life”, oil on panel, 9 x 12 inches, 2017, Jay York
I have been working on The Resilience Project for about eight years. The latest installment is called simply The Map. It is scripted to document, in images and words, my thirty plus years living in rural Central Maine.
My studio practice had been erratic for years and I was unable to make this story meld cohesively. About a year ago I invited some of my favorite archetypes to join me in my working space and they definitely livened up the place.
At first the critters on sticks were so endearing that I became obsessed with making them, thinking maybe they were to become the centerpieces to the story I wanted to tell. Eventually they settled into the background as I returned to my favorite complexity of line drawings, photo grids and words. My studio now has the layered look of a palimpsest landscape where I am comfortable creating.
Sandy Olson “Critters And Places” photograph
Sandy Olson “Icons in Cutouts and Lines” photograph
Sandy Olson “Ma Famille” photograph
Sandy Olson “Mapping Time And Place” photograph
My work has always revolved around still life compositions. In an effort to (literally) expand my horizons I’ve experimented over the past few years with painting plants where they grow, in the context of the garden landscape. This practice expanded the visual field and added a level of complexity that was difficult to achieve with arrangements and props in the studio. On a quest for the perfect still life painting, however, I was still not completely satisfied with the result.
Last Thanksgiving I went to London and spent most of my time in the National Gallery. I had the opportunity to study hundreds of still life paintings “in the flesh” and found myself fascinated by Dutch and Flemish work from the 14th to 16th centuries. The overflowing vases and anonymous backgrounds had never appealed to me in printed images , but the effect of standing in front of the collection was electric. The depth of field in a still life composition is generally quite shallow but the masters of this period managed to represent the universe in a spray of blossoms on a tabletop.
Since the trip I’ve been working toward understanding the Dutch Baroque period constructs and learning how to apply those ideas to the heaps of roses and pumpkins and apple blossoms that will soon be at hand from the garden. Maybe there will be a hermit crab with a basket of blossoms inspired by Balthasar van der Ast, or a bowl of colorful berries and pet birds from van Hulsdonck and George Flegel. I feel like there are decades of inspiration down this road and can’t wait to set up the paintings and get to work.
Pollien finds inspiration in this painting by Balthasar van der Ast
The Italian Vase, 2018, 24 x 18, oil on panel A large vase of coreopsis, cosmos, and zinnias in a traditional still life composition, work in progress
Honeysuckle and Matronalis, 2016, 36 x 24, oil on panel Composition in the garden, image courtesy of anonymous collector
Garden Studio Painting a set-up of fruit and vegetables with drapery
“Photography is a way of shouting, of freeing oneself, not of proving or asserting one’s own originality. It is a way of life.”
Living in Paris during the long, cold, grey, windy winter of 2018, my photographs capture moments of LA CRUE when la Seine overflowed its banks by 5.84 meters.
My life, my daily photographic life, consists of meandering with my camera – seeing, composing, focusing, pressing the shutter, winding, rewinding, reloading, and knowing, as Cartier-Bresson also said, that “of course it’s all luck!”
Ruth Sylmor “Crue de la Seine 2018. Pont des Arts” silver print 14 x 11 inches
Ruth Sylmor “Crue de la Seine 2018. Ile de la Cite Bernard” silver print 14 x 11 inches
Ruth Sylmor “Crue de la Seine 2018. Quai St” silver print 14 x 11 inches
Ruth Sylmor “Crue de la Seine 2018. Ile de la Cite Bernard” silver print 14 x 11 inches
The state of my studio is always in transition – seasonally packed in a suitcase and moved from one continent to another (I have three studios in all: one in Portland, one in Athens, Greece and one on the Island of Kea). I split my year in half between Portland and Greece, traveling with a suitcase full of artworks in progress. Asian paper and cloth work best, light and easily folded or rolled into a suitcase and ironed flat again on arrival. There is never room for cloth in my suitcase, and it is always opened and checked by TSI.
My studio in Athens is three blocks from the Acropolis. How does that proximity affect my work? I’m not sure. I feel the energy of The Rock, but happily don’t have a view of the Acropolis from my studio. That would be too overpowering. Instead I look out at my walled garden. When it gets too hot in Athens, I travel to my third studio on the Island of Kea, and again my works in progress travel with me.
I spend winters in Portland and love the quiet contemplative time of winter in my studio. This year my Portland studio was transformed radically as I started making sculpture again after many years. I had the honor of being granted the Maine State House copper reuse commission, to make artwork with the beautiful 100-year-old copper removed from the State House dome in reroofing. I managed to finish and install the commission in March just before packing my bags again for Greece, a good thing because 47” long copper would not have fit in my suitcase.
Judith Allen-Efstathiou, Portland Studio
Judith Allen-Efstathiou, Outside In, Acid cut copper, three sections, 47 x 15 x 2.5” each, 2018 in Portland studio
Judith Allen-Efstathiou, Athens, Greece Studio
Judith Allen-Efstathiou, Outside In, Acid cut copper, three sections, 47 x 15 x 2.5” each, 2018, installation over the Law and Legislative Reference Library, Maine State House, Augusta
Perhaps it is because I have had to empty personal possessions and histories in a few houses lately, rummaging through basements and closets. Perhaps it is because of a fascination with the shape and design of things used in a bygone era. Perhaps it is because of a concern about the rapid obsolescence of things that we now acquire as we discard sturdy old items. Perhaps any and all of these are reasons why I looked more closely at old discarded tools, deciding to make them a focus of my recent painting.
With this new focus, moving away from the bright landscapes of the region, I now use a limited palette to capture something important about forgotten times and items. I muse about whose hand held these tools, about the strength and dexterity required to use them, and how they once made tasks easier.
Pamela Grumbach “Oarlock” watercolor 11″ x 14″
Pamela Grumbach “Grant’s Hammer” watercolor 7″ x 10″
Pamela Grumbach “Drop Line” watercolor 10″ x 7″
Pamela Grumbach “Old Paintbrush” watercolor 8″ x 11″
I moved to Maine from Colorado in October. I grew up on Cape Cod so the East Coast is my home, but Maine is all new to me. Moving asks you to sacrifice a previously comfortable way of living. It requires that you be creative and adaptable to fall into a new flow of living and working.
My new studio flow includes lots of time working at home alone. I’ve always enjoyed being alone with my thoughts and imagination. I’ve also lived with anxiety and agoraphobia for years, so this extensive alone time at home feels almost indulgent. This leads me to examine my inner state frequently. I get a lot of inspiration from sitting with, and confronting my anxiety. “Sad Girl” and “Mental Health Day” are pieces I created from observing and expressing my feelings, viewing myself as not a body or a person, but as a feeling or an environment.
My small work space confines me to drawing, so I use ink, colored pencil, and oil pastel. I combine the three materials and use them a bit unconventionally. I play with traditional methods of line illustration and let my lines overlap. I am working towards more layering and depth in my pieces.
Another theme I explored this winter was partnership. Living with another person in a very small house through a particularly cold Maine winter brings that relationship into a clear view. I’m always inspired by birds, and the way that they generally choose just one mate for a long period of time, or for life. I created “Avocets”, “Grebes”, and “Egrets”, each with a distinct color palette and overlapping lines to explore different facets of partnerships.
When I’m not focusing inward, I look out to nature, and especially to birds and plants for inspiration. Being limited to working at home, I use what I see in my yard and neighborhood. “Regularly Scheduled Chaos” is inspired by a flock of starlings and a few odd grackles that inundated my yard for a month and a half, eating up all the birdseed every few days.
I listen to and read the news often while working. Sometimes the titles of my pieces reflect my fears about the state of the world. I feel selfish and privileged to be insulated in my house creating art while American leadership destroys civility, decency, the environment, healthcare, and the lives of immigrants. I’m currently exploring themes of nature and chaos, using overlapping lines and bold color to express my feelings about the current state of America.
Alanna Hernandez, “Mental Health Day” ink and colored pencil on paper, 12″ x 8.5″ 2017
Alanna Hernandez, “Sad Girl” ink and colored pencil on paper, 12″ x 9″ 2018
Alanna Hernandez, “Grebes” ink and colored pencil on paper, 14″ x 17″ 2018
Alanna Hernandez, “Regularly Scheduled Chaos” ink and colored pencil on paper, 14″ x 17″ 2018
These four graphic pieces are an exploration of photo collage and color. This is a very different process for me. I have to a large extent used wood as my primary medium in which color and form are generated. Using the wood as sketch, through process into product, the physicality of the process draws me in and out of the work.
The past 3-4 years have been an exploration. I have felt the need to say more than framing beauty from found wood. I dove into dance, performance, video, and have landed here with pixels, in the form of photos, shapes and color.
And amazingly enough it has brought me back to three-dimensional work and ideas that have been waiting for the opportunity to find expression.
These four graphic works have been part of that process.
Kenneth Kohl, “sale, HOME” Photo collage poster, 11″ x 17″
Kenneth Kohl “PLccell” Photo collage poster 11″ x 17″
Kenneth Kohl “Tipping Point” Photo Collage poster, 11″ x 17″
Kenneth Kohl “Herstory” Photo collage poster, 11″ x 17″
I have spent most of my time in this physical body contemplating existence. As a child, I would travel out into the night sky to see just how far I could go. Spoiler…I have yet to find an end point.
As a young adult, I spent many years living in a quiet cabin. The land and streams provided a good portion of my food. Trees that were thinned from the surrounding woods gave me warmth and cooking fuel. Water was gravity-fed into my home from an ever-flowing spring. Most of my contemplations during this time were about living in harmony with the ever-changing seasons. I understood my connection and the presence of oneness.
In my middle years, I moved to the dry bones of the American Southwest. The landscape opened my Soul to a deeper night sky. Ancestors roamed the canyons and mesas. Time was arranged in layers and spirals rather than linear.
Once, on a peyote journey, I saw my physical beginnings. Egg and sperm, dividing and multiplying, molecules forming…all of the complexities of my human self…an ultimate creative act.
My father lived to be ninety years old. His mind and hearing had pretty much left him. When I received the call that he was nearing his passing, I drove the 12 hours from my home to his. Arriving at 7:30 pm to the hospital, he was in bed and mumbling in an incoherent manner. I stood quietly watching him. At one moment he opened his eyes and clearly said, “Oh, you are here!” We proceeded to have an unusual lucid conversation which was sustained for 45 minutes. He then fell into a deep sleep. The next day, as I was looking into his eyes and he was looking into mine, he took his last breath. In that moment I saw the entire Universe open.
When my mother died, I sat with her body for a lifetime. She was truly done with her physical body after ninety three and a half years. We buried her the next day. Later in the day, in a sacred grove, I meditated. It was there that I clearly felt my mother’s presence. She gestured with her hand in a high arc from left to right, and I heard her, in a voiceless way, say, “It’s so much more”.
My DNA results confirm both my paternal and maternal lineage, Eastern European Jew and Italian, respectively.
It is all of the above that defines my Origins, from physical to infinite. This is what is expressed in all my creations.
Some would say my origin is that of a female middle child born into a traditional large Irish-Catholic family. Like all of us however, I am many things, but I continue to have fun mining the deep chaotic well of my childhood. My work speaks of traditional female domestic work, large family dinner table banter, growing up in the 60’s. I embroider because, although I wanted to paint, painting was taboo in my family. It was the age of Picasso. We were not going to be encouraged to emulate a philandering foreigner who painted disjointed nudes. Although I paint now, embroidery was my first love and my entry into the world of art. It is still a favorite of mine. I like to embroider anecdotes and funny thoughts I experienced growing up. My original intention was to pass on to my children what I was like as a kid. It only became artwork as the project grew. In hindsight, it reflects how different life was in urban white America fifty years ago, than it is now. I like the contrast.
For me, the annual spring ritual of making ‘Pysanky’, the ancient art form of Ukrainian decorated eggs, is an acknowledgment and celebration of my cultural heritage. The tradition I grew up with, passed down to me by my mother, I now carry on with my family.
It was a natural evolution to depict this iconic symbol in my paintings. So full of meaning and lore, I found endless inspiration in its rich narrative and 5,000 year old history. It was a way of honoring and connecting me to my roots.
A grid generally has little significance: lines crossed and crossing, a symmetrical
pattern; no imagination. Simple symmetry. Yet a subtle shift, a bit of curve and flow, and the grid vanishes, becomes latticework, a very different experience.
These latticeworks belong to a series that seemed to emerge from the paper and
swim, or float, in various directions. They are an exercise in circles and lines, using few colors (albeit my favorites). I get the sense that the images were born as inside/outside vying for expression.
The latticework is reminiscent of Lorca’s poem, “La monja gitana” [‘The gypsy nun’]. It seals the woman inside the convent, protecting from being ravaged by things or persons outside. It also seals her in the tomb of four walls and makes her heart burst with the desire to be with others, or another.
This is my world as well. Lust for living an active life, knowing it brings danger and
perhaps death. We must penetrate that outer world if we are to live, however. We
seep through the panes or grating into the exterior, taking chances, fearing yet
needing. There is still the option of retreating, taking up residence in the inner
world, watching and enjoying solitude. The image that comes from this inner vision may be distorted, but it is less disturbing. The semi-straight lines lend order, and assume lesser or greater degrees of luminosity. The lines tie life, and us, together, like a tapestry one weaves, or a shawl one crochets. Lines like fibers, the links between inner eyes and outer eyes that scan space to see what is there.
These four pieces, then, are both inner and outer visions. They are hopeful, trusting in light and hues to keep everything on an even keel. Some show a stormier sea; others are peaceful, resilient. In these prints and their companions in the series, each line, each angle and wave of the latticework, are unplanned, are gifts.
Waking or dreaming, the world that is within us is closest to the
heart of the artist. One is never constrained by space and time or
the concrete “reality” of our lives. The poet Seamus Heaney’s grave
marker says “Walk on air in spite of your better judgment.” Walking
on air, going deep within our psyches, dreaming, trusting our inner
visions, are really the fabric we use to weave our art. These are the
warp and woof of our creations.
‘My current work is created from the ‘inside out’…I have no idea what the finished piece will look like when I start. I build it in layers. While the inks are still wet I drip absorbent ground gesso and bright acrylic paints from a sharp stick onto the image. When the paints are dry I further define the image.
I do not have a ‘vision’ of what the painting will be when I start it…it sort of works itself out as I go along…’
Humor Keeps the Balance
White humor, black humor, and all the shades in between, give me balance and help me carry on. These days it seems like every waking moment is flooded with crazy, scary, unbelievable news that you couldn’t on a good day, make up. My focus and inspiration for my art for as long as I can remember is the magic in nature. The perfect ecological balance is extraordinary when one gets to witness the amazing evolution that exists everywhere allowing species of all types to flourish and survive. Couple that with our species and what we are doing to the planet and the emotions generated for me are anger and despair at our greed and stupidity.
I recently finished a book and art show on Balance & Imbalance,A Celebration of Nature and a Call to Action, which made me feel empowered. Briefly I felt like I was contributing to waking up the public to climate change and human caused environmental degradation, at the expense of the perfect balance in nature. However after the project was complete I found myself in a strange dark empty place. Too dark for creativity to makes its way in. I knew just enough about the consequences of our behavior to need to retreat and rest from our wayward ways. Nothing happened for about a month, which was fine with me since by then I was out of my funk and into a state of wonderment about what would be coming next. What followed happily was the need for the positive to feed the spirit. Straight ahead humor or laced with irony always has its rewarding results. I decided to research exotic insects, which I found to be absolutely amazing! The patterns, colors, textures and designs I found where brilliant at fooling a viewer like me. I saw all kinds of creatures within the insects that I’m sure in nature were used to inflate its presence in order to ward off predators or impress a mate. They all seem to have the ability to transform themselves. The insects have redirected my art into a playful amusing realm which definitely feeds off the magic in nature and is helping to keep me balanced.
In my childhood, there was art everywhere, art books, and music. Encouraging, yet intimidating. My grandfather etched. A fine draughtsman, he could portray people, animals, landscapes, and made one masterly seascape, “typhoon” a three-masted ship in a ferocious storm. A self-made man, he didn’t understand fear or hesitancy. I was gifted with the ability/facility to draw, but the desire to push it, pursue it, to make drawings or something else into an expression of feeling didn’t come until much later. Retreating into books was a safety zone. Cultivating the inner world, wild and never-ceasing adventures, exotic worlds and vicarious emotional shocks.
Well-intentioned parents sent me to Catholic Schools. They were blissfully ignorant of the flavors of tyranny which prevailed. The whole of the experience wasn’t entirely black; there was humor and nurturing and some excellent teaching, here and there. Once my critical mind developed, I had to distance myself from the power structure and bureaucracy, the terrors of punitive sisters and the confessional. I packed away the beauty of the music and rituals and peculiar splendor of churches with their creaking pews and musty incense-scented interiors. Those memories metamorphosed into the thread of my fascination with a byzantine past.
I got a 35mm camera and learned how to use it. Outside of my books, now really traveling – experiencing the soaring high baroque music and architecture, my optical cortex violently stimulated by Moorish tiles, tapestries, perfect stone apses, universal patterns cross time and cultures. I was dumbstruck witnessing Russian iconography alongside the ludicrous omnipresent wealth of religions.
While still letting light fill the lens, presently I’m compelled by images that invoke the divine, to continue to expand my understanding of what, in heaven or earth, it might be.
These pictures are from my series “Surface to Air”. It explores how water intersects with the earth and sky around it and corporeal and noncorporeal elements as they reflect or skim or otherwise exist across boundaries of matter and not-matter. During the first months of 2016 when life on earth appeared especially brutal and without meaning to me, this work led me to understand that I- we- intersect with the world in much the same way as the subjects of the pictures I pursued. The beauty I found here is not a corrective for depression or the barbarity of life in the late anthropocene, but it certainly helps.
Mary Becker Weiss
Sans Carapace: Without a Shield
“We choose subject matter we are drawn to for reasons we don’t
always understand, and such choices are critical to our exploration of
who we are.”
I began a series of portraits in 2015 called “Explorations.” Against my
innate inclination to control the outcome of each piece, in these
explorations of line and color and intensity, I had to learn to let go of
the reins. It didn’t come easily. I was surprised, sometimes disturbed
by the results. “Sans Carapace” which I created for Harlow Gallery’s
“It Takes a Community: Transforming Violence II” was a difficult
personal challenge. I struggled with how far I wanted to go. I am
usually able to create my strongest work late into the night, when I am
long past caring about the outcome. By morning when I came back to
her I was taken aback by her power to move me so unexpectedly.
I had stumbled into an unknown territory and rather than run away
from the unfamiliar sensations, I learned to embrace them and to keep
going. This new-found freedom has strengthened my work and has
facilitated conversations and indeed friendships that would never have
otherwise materialized. I am “touched with joy and ecstasy” at this
new revelation and eager to discover where my “explorations” will take
“The Presence of Evil” was painted in August 2001, anticipating 9/11 by one month, after a year of exploring the title theme in printmaking. Dark clouds in a flaming sky seem to form an ominous face hovering over a blackened island and one aflame in the general shape of Manhattan.
“Assault” incorporates disparate but related imagery and narratives: bullet holes, breast nipples, and a formal, even monumental, presentation suggesting that when assaults and gun violence are the accepted norm, they have become institutionalized.
“What’s the Point?” hints at the frustrating conflicts that arise from the process of total improvisation, being sensitive to the interplay between design elements and principles and the unconscious emergence of a narrative context.
“Mood Indigo” is the direct result of total improvisation while listening to jazz, in this case, Duke Ellington’s haunting masterpiece by the same name.
The end of 2015 found me facing the most difficult choice in my art career – health issues had pushed me to either find a completely different way of working or stop altogether. I chose to rethink materials and step forward into a totally different world. Out of that struggle came “Tango” – a series steeped in the joy of creativity and one that brings to light the “give and take” in the dance of life. Using materials that are normally found in a printmaking studio, in unexpected ways, “Tango” has guided me into a world of new forms, new colors, new surfaces, and a whole new artistic language. Images that once belonged to what I held before my eyes have now given way to something deeply embedded in my mind and soul.
“Tango” itself, as with all art, has begun to evolve and bring me into yet another new arena; one that looks at the role of chance in existence. “Between Chance and Fate….the Human Tongue Speaks”, is just beginning. I am looking forward to where this will take me, what new thinking will it open – In the quiet of winter, I am looking forward to discovering what I do not know.
The first image I have submitted entitled, “…ought not to have done,” is a reflection on regret and remorse. Past decisions made that can’t be changed, but linger in my soul. A sadness is born and carried through my life.
The other three images are based on the death of my mother in 2006. Waiting was started while my mother was in her final months of life, awaiting ALS to take her last breath away. Departure, with a red cardinal flying off leaving mementoes of religion and photos of love. And Memorial by theSea telling me death is solid as a rock in its reality. Is there anything so real except for life?
Politics does not stop at the museum or gallery door, neither should it be dictated by commissions or commissioners. Diego Rivera said as much when he refused to remove an image of Vladimir Lenin in a mural he created in Rockefeller Center in 1932. The mural projected a hopeful future where humans reached across social class lines and used technology to benefit all humankind. It is a message that resonates loudly in the world of American politics today. Rivera’s mural, however, was chiseled from the wall in 1934 at the orders of the art patron and business tycoon John D. Rockefeller.
“I don’t think anyone can separate art from politics,” asserts contemporary Chinese activist artist Ai Weiwei. “The intention to separate art from politics is itself a very political intention,” he explains.*
Everyone, including artists, are enmeshed in the politics of economic and social injustice and environmental calamities. Artists can no more escape these realities than any other human being. Because all means of expression and communication evolve from relationships with others – family, community and wider national and global societies – personal creative expression is profoundly shaped by social forces. Thus an individual artist’s experience, as with all human experience, depends very significantly on class background, education and other social agency.
Freedom of expression has been an ongoing struggle throughout history. When discussing the history and demise of the Bauhaus School (1919-33), Artnet Magazine associate editor Ben Davis writes, “Art cannot afford to turn away from history.”** According to Davis, the idealistic and leftist leaders and teachers in the Bauhaus of Germany’s Wiemar Republic, failed to directly confront the historical circumstances and class divisions that the Nazis successfully exploited. When the Nazi regime came to power in 1933, it closed the Bauhaus. Hitler declared all modernist art “degenerate.”
Nazi denunciation of modernist art was a direct assault on intellectual and creative production, a pretext for cleansing culture of the questions, criticisms and visions art expresses. Purification of culture – we must remember – is the first step toward purification of blood. “The Nazis burnt Picassos, Dalís, Ernsts, Klees, Légers and Mirós years before they built Belzec, Sobibor, Treblinka, and Birkenau,” Yara Zgheib points out.***
Today, democratic culture is under direct attack in the United States and throughout much of the world. Though paintings, books or other works of art have not been publicly burned or destroyed in mass rallies, an assault on culture is nevertheless underway. “Alternative facts,” “fake news” and the nationalist appeals of the “alt-right” are part of the ongoing attack on the “liberal media.” And, as government relaxes regulation on media corporations, nationalist media is poised to extend its reach and influence. Already Sinclair, the largest broadcast media company, plans to expand its politically conservative programming beyond the quarter of the nation’s household it now reaches. Combined with the proliferation of right-wing social media and widespread reactionary radio talk-show hosts, nationalist and nativist voices are now engaged in an aggressive attempt to fashion headlines and gain ground in the daily news coverage.
The emergence of branding in national politics is another crucial concern for artists. The most abject form of advertising, branding seeks to establish loyalty among it followers. As such, it seeks to displace critical inquiry and scientific evidence, to undermine competing voices. Message repetition, subliminal messaging and soundbites are key tactics in both commercial and political branding strategy. Branding also carries connotations of marking for ownership, as commonly practiced in the livestock industry. It is, of course, a genuinely ominous development for democratic politics. When branding becomes political strategy, when symbols and words evoke political loyalty, the shadow of doubt engulfs all forms of criticism. Reality can be stood on its head. Social and moral chaos may ensue.
Artists in every media are quite familiar with the technical elements involved in eliciting human response – to color, to sound, to motion, to image, to words. We know the power of symbols. Because we work in these currencies, we have a social role and responsibility to keep a dynamic and critical culture alive.
If we do not elevate our criticism of socioeconomic inequalities and environmental deregulation at this moment of national and global existential crises, then a new culture with fewer critical voices may evolve very quickly.
Do not allow isolation, indifference, fear, lassitude or social class overwhelm our critical creative voices.
We must be politically conscious and remain engaged in the world. In words often attributed to the indefatigable philosopher, writer and activist Rosa Luxemburg, “The most revolutionary thing one can do is always to proclaim loudly what is happening” ****
*(Liang Luo, The Avant-Garde and the Popular in Modern China, University of Michigan Press, 2014, p. 226)
above: Jo Ann Bianchi, “Egg on your Face”, acrylic on canvas, 24”x24”, 2017
Jo Ann Bianchi
My recent seasonal move to Maine was for the cool summer climate, its geographical remoteness, its earthy scenic lure, and the dynamic artistic pulse of Portland.
My creative inspiration and expression comes as a visceral response to an ever changing geopolitical climate as seen through social and mass media.
Janice L. Moore
Regionalism for a painter has an established meaning: it’s painting what an artist lives with, in, and around. I’ve lived and painted in Maine most of my life. My work is specific to my experience here. I’m interested in what’s real and particular about us; namely in the landscapes of our Maine work that speak directly of who we are and how we got here.
Maine is my context; it’s not negated because I’ve lived and worked in other locations.
Neither is my connection negated because I’m exposed to a wider culture or other influences and art forms. These influences will be filtered through my experience as a painter grounded in Maine. My portrayal of place is in direct response to an increasingly homogenous popular culture dominated by national brands and franchised box-stores. My connection to place helps me find reliable truth in the face of the barrage of “alternative truth” and selective reality.
I love Maine other than the prolonged winters and short summers. We get to experience the fullness of 4 seasons. We have diversity of landscape from the coast to mountains to the rolling hills of Aroostook County. It would be abnormal to my mind not to be influenced by where you live. An art teacher told me once to paint what you love. I love my home state of Maine.
Regionalism is absolutely relevant within the US because the attitudes and values of the people around you reflect the landscape/cityscape and the local industries. In Maine, I am living on the edge of wilderness. It is a cold, mountainous and rocky country where the summer plants grow like a jungle. A certain type of person chooses this place as their home. They must be people who love the wilderness, who see the sublime in the landscape around them, who rejoice in the ferocity of the environment.
above: John Ripton, “Executive Meeting”, Photograph – Inkjet on Archival Paper, 12”X16”
A wall is a wall until it is art, or until it is torn down, as happened with this colorful street mural (above) on a wall in Portland. I gave the photograph an ironic title to express the tension that often exists between street art and commercial interests. This is a universal phenomenon and truth in our cosmopolitan world.
Rauschenberg painted brooms and goats. Duchamp exhibited a standard manufactured urinal and a bottle rack as art. Ai Weiwei suspended 886 stools at the Venice Art Biennale 2013. In this photograph an anonymous Biddeford tattoo artist uses an electric needle to paint an anonymous man’s flesh.
One of the first conscious acts in human evolution is applying our hands and minds to shape physical materials. To our existential peril we forget that artifice engages humans with their environment for survival. Here in a room in a former textile mill above the Saco River a violin-maker hears notes that will travel around the world and may one day awaken humankind to the music of forests and minerals.
This group of Portland teenage musicians on Congress Street are influenced by various strands of American and world music including American punk rock and scream-style music as well as traditional Irish ballads. The young female vocalist appropriates the winged boots of the Greek god Hermes and the drummer experiments with a towel on his snare drums as the young Ringo Starr once did.
What Maine Means to Me as an Artist
My husband and I moved here from
California to Maine twenty years ago
to be near family and to experience seasons
Especially winter. We love winters in Maine,
all of winter with its storms, heaps of snow, slow
melts and, yes, the ice.
My husband writes dramas and I draw memory
pictures during gray winter days
Something in the soul needs something to
endure – it is winter for us.
My focus as an artist is the Maine landscape, studying the interior woods or small islands in the midday light. On location I observe and paint the high contrast of light, the shadows and the forms it creates in nature. My work is representational but not literal. I paint with the intent is to compose form and spatial depth, combined with personal imprint.
above: David Wade, “Sumi”, archival pigment print, 16 x 21″, 2012
What Maine Means To Me
I think every artist is influenced by their environment and choose to be where they feel most inspired and free to create. Maine’s empty open spaces and shorelines do that for me… I like to work alone with my camera, with no fixed preconceptions, and let the natural landscape talk to me and tell me what to do… Maine is one of those perfect places to escape to and leave behind all the noise and confusion of daily existence …
The energy of the landscape at the shore’s edge where the water, air and land all meet is extremely powerful and primal territory, and it calls me…
It is where I can stand at the edge of creation and look upon it in awe… where I can recharge my batteries, make my art, and refresh my soul…
I find that being in Maine definitely influences my art. It gives me a chance in this rapidly changing world to stop and reflect on the human experience, while being nourished by its peaceful yet powerful surroundings.
I have been on an amazing journey spent with women artists who I have created and co-created with to make our environment open enough to express deepest longings. We strive to know what is going on in the world, we respond to it, we delve into making art to reveal our authentic selves. We ask the questions of what we need in our daily lives to grow our art. So I would say that innovation or provincial is a matter of the artist’s personnel perspective. Nature will never fail the human experience unless we rob it of it’s resources.
Through our art we can advance ideals of living free and equal, of always having clean water, air and food for everyone; as well as freedom of expression.
I am a Maine artist, loving the land, the sea, the freedom; grateful each and every day for all that Maine offers.
My artistic focus, however, is often miles away from here. Much of my art is about daily struggles, human connections and global issues that confront us all. I usually paint the challenges that face us in our complex world. Working alone in a rural studio, sometimes, it is just too much!!
Then I re-center myself by painting Maine trees, Maine waters, Maine skies. Thank you, dear Maine. You give me the strength to carry on.
I identify as a Maine artist because this is where I am from, and where I have decided to make my home and earn a living. My family has been here for generations: they worked in logging, agriculture, and in Maine’s once-thriving mills and factories. My art is informed and influenced by this history, and I consider it to be a continuation and expression of this living narrative.
I understand there is a long history of art tied to the landscape of the Maine coast, but I grew up in central Maine, and many of my childhood experiences revolved around trips to remote areas up north on lakes and streams. That said, I sometimes have a hard time relating to much of the coastal landscape paintings I see saturating local galleries because they do not speak to the Maine I know. That’s not to say these are not valid expressions of Maine’s beauty. But I do worry that their pervasiveness, and the tendency of the market to cater to what most easily sells to tourists, might limit other expressions out there, and it may be the only Maine most people will ever know.
This submission contains excerpts from my solo exhibition The Gravity of Place, which utilized historic Maine photographs in collage to depict various industries and labor that once thrived in Maine.
I have lived in or visited every state except Alaska, as well as traveled in 52 countries – including Peru, Australia, Russia, Bolivia and Nepal. Everywhere I go, I absorb the local culture, and tastes of it inevitably appear in my artwork. Portland, Maine has rubbed off on me artistically by inspiring and encouraging me to be more spontaneous, abstract, whimsical, courageous and not so oriented or driven toward academic perfection. I am grateful for this particular inspiration, as I am extremely appreciative of other influences, for example Islamic Art, from the several months I lived in Pakistan, and visited India and Turkey.
The IRS considers me a Maine artist even though Google does not. I live in Maine. I paint. I live off the money I make from painting. Therefore I am a Maine artist. Or am I? Tourists used to ask me that at art shows, before I finally gave up on them as annoying wastes of time, the shows that is, not necessarily the tourists- “Do you have any paintings of light houses?” I do not.
The process of painting, for me, is the whole deal. Not the resulting piece of art. Like a mandala from sand or a religious icon, I use the ritual of creating egg temperas to show my reverence for a state which I know to be truly special. After building a boat and sailing around the world and visiting countless iconic places in paradise, Maine is still it.
The low angled light and beauty doesn’t knock your socks off like some parts of the planet. It’s much more subtle, creating introspection, not outward exuberance.
After selling the boat and building a floatplane, I now spend my time criss-crossing Maine’s heart at three thousand feet; in every season. From the pockmarked green carpets of summer to the ethereal purple prickly-treed quills of winter, where shadows are fantastic shades of turquoise and blues, the entire bowl of Maine can be seen extending to each corner. At three thousand feet eagles soar and that amazing light bounces off the mountains and lakes of Maine and New Hampshire to the North and West, and the far distant ocean horizon to the south and east. With fractal expansion, islands look like continents; the Gulf of Maine, the entire globe.
So, while I may paint scenes from other areas of the country, the iconic rocks- trees-water of Maine help me to feel grounded. While death, instability and disaster surround me on a personal, as well as societal level, picking up a small brush and a dab of paint allows me to take control over a world I can create. Atmospheric distance? Pfft. I can reverse it. As well as all the laws of perspective and balance.
This is my world. And yes, it is in Maine.
The wrack line left by the approach and retreat of the tide is the focus of this series. To walk to the ocean’s edge year round creates a seasonal rhythm and a marking of time. On the coast of Maine we are privileged to observe the most fascinating collection of detritus and imagine stories created by the salty sea.
It would be impossible to live in Maine and not be affected by its ubiquitous forests, lakes, rivers and ocean. My most recent works are inspired by waters and those creatures that live in them. I am
interested in what lies beneath the surface whether it is a tide pool, mountain stream or river. My art asks what could we see if we took time to sit quietly and observe. What insight into nature would we find there? We live in a time where we spend less and less time with nature. Yet, our relationship with nature defines who we are.
I create my art in Mexico and the US, two distinct countries with contrasting cultures. They differ in the art forms that have graced their national histories.
It’s a privilege and a challenge, and a delight to hear artists and the public talk about “their Maine.” There is no uniform agreement, and an attempt to establish any consensus on the subject is fruitless. My artistic vision of Maine maybe only one more probing into its ‘essence.’ Yet, I feel I have enabled Maine to have a distinction of its own by addressing the essential elements of its character, rather than displaying its outer skin. For I paint Maine as unforgiving, uncompromising, demanding your daily awareness and testing your ability to live with nature as a constant in your life. You may want to ask: “What can I do to help guarantee that this fragile environment is maintained and not destroyed by our very human presence?”
The granitic coast of Maine provides a point of departure for
this work. It seems nearly impossible not to be moved by it.
The rocky subject gives rise to ideas about geologic time,
glaciation, rising sea levels, climate change, the fate of our
increasingly threatened planet. Working in series with
monotype and monoprint processes invites the expansion of
imagery through exploration of these ideas using a globally
recognizable visual language.
My sources are local and regional. I am here, now. The
shared impetus of those of us fortunate enough to live and
work here may be that the content of our art is without
I was all about making sculpture, and then, after the loss of two people close to me, I felt the need to “talk about things.” Instinctively, I developed a creative outlet for intuitive feelings. Through art, not words, I let the pieces evolve expressing a response better suited to me. Through this process, I have continued to express life as I know it.
Mj Viano Crowe
DRESS CODE NARRATIVES
I am in love with, and conflicted about fashion. Clothing, often the bridal gown, figured prominently in my past work. Other series used embodied and empty dresses as both surrogate and metaphor. For me clothing is a potent vehicle to convey ideas about the spirit and matter, ritual and transformation.
In DRESS CODE NARRATIVES, compelling tales in the anthology, Women’s Indian Captivity Narratives, first and secondhand accounts from the 1500s through the 1800’s, were my inspiration. As settlers moved westward, Native Americans, endlessly exploited and marginalized, retaliated to survive. White women and children were sometimes taken as hostages, or as replacements for family members who had perished in earlier battles.
The accounts of the women I depict are part of our nation’s conflicts, and our collective histories. In cobbling together these dresses, cutting and pasting cultures and perspectives side-by-side, understanding and new meaning emerges. The truths of these stories are simultaneously simple and complex, transparent and layered, reshaped through the passage of time and in the re-telling, much like memory itself.
See the Word
// i // personal beyond personal // wife died // devastation // pain // stopped creating // the word not seen // psyche a desert // after 2 years slowly create // one word // God // in the visual sense // God? // visual literary // creating GOD part visible // 24 x 36 // silent God // life a desert // one word exploring // personal beyond personal // searching words // negative // devastated // defining words // everyday words // historical // redefining words // seeking // exploring // visual literary // work with fuck // fuck // discover word fuck positive // in one word totality // variations // exploring // visual literary // personal social beyond personal // a beautiful word // recreate // 50+ variations of word fuck for beauty // seek single words // moving slowly beyond devastation // beyond pain // seek freedom // hitler // nigger // one word // explore // personal beyond personal // GOD? // fuck // nigger // devastation // create create create // visual literary // creation is destruction destruction is creation // pain // the eye of the mind // i see the word //
I work in a combinatorial way and draw upon stories and mythological ideas from East Asian, Western and Native American sources for my images. The materials that I use include acrylic and oil pigments, India ink, my own photography, drawings, cut and torn papers, and “objects” that I’ve found over the years.
For the past two years, I have been using a sort of formal “framing” for my works (like the ones I’ve submitted) that are inspired by 16th century Italian, French and German playing cards. I’ve given this series the title “Cartomancy” inviting personal divination as viewers, perhaps, imagine how they might be interpreted or even “played” for themselves.
With this, I’m trying to tap into a centuries-old cartomancy that facilitated self-reflection and even storytelling. Italo Calvino described cards (Tarot in particular) as a “combinatorial narrative machine”.
I live and work in Portland, Maine.
Collage and assemblage continue to be strong factors in my work; I simply enjoy the physical process of layering and the intuitive discoveries that layering can bring to more formal compositional relationships. My work deals with common themes of transition and transformation. There are stories, to be sure, but I rarely begin a piece with a narrative already in mind. Instead, during the process of making when a narrative begins to appear, I simply hang on and wait for instructions. Sometimes the stories take a more public direction; they might turn up in titles, or in bits of exposed text, or in obvious visual symbolism. But mostly, the narrative factors accompanying my work remain private; they are the personal notes I have imbedded in paint and the never-ending questions I have on my mind.
My Half Life:
I never dreamed that 25 years of my life would not be fully accessible to me, that large sections of my body would not occur to me, that I would stop breathing, lose vital signs, focused vision, coordination, energy. What crystallizes in it’s place is color, loose, shifting forms, the earth’s joyful animation. But also my isolation and entrapment, invisible to everyone else.
For many years now I have worked with birds that have crossed my path due to what I call “expected accidents”. Our connection to birds runs deep. They are in our myths and on the cave walls. Pictorially they are often depicted with human bodies. I use the birds that come my way to speak about relationships, consequences, sacrifice and modernity. Using them as metaphor, I tenderly work with these birds, honoring what happens to them as they live life.
“In times of darkness humor carries me forward. These Sandwiches were all made before this particular troubling time, but all reflect the need to face adversity and lunacy with laughter and art.” – Lin Lisberger
The light in these dark times often needs to come from within as well as from the community. Seeing beauty in natural forms helps us respond as creative people. Out of the deep forest, the entangled garden and the storm light and strength can come. Going to nature is my response to assert the interconnectedness of all beings.
During this time when the world seems askew and inside-out, I turn to poetry.
The Peace of Wild Things By Wendell Berry
When despair for the world grows in me
and I wake in the night at the least sound
in fear of what my life and my children’s lives may be,
I go and lie down where the wood drake
rests in his beauty on the water, and the great heron feeds.
I come into the peace of wild things
who do not tax their lives with forethought
of grief. I come into the presence of still water.
And I feel above me the day-blind stars
waiting with their light. For a time
I rest in the grace of the world, and am free.
I created Rainbow Warrior 31 years ago in response to the removal of native families in the Four Corners area of the southwest from their tribal native lands around Big Mountain. They were relocated so The Peabody Coal Company could strip mine coal. The elders were not happy.
Still today, the energy wars continue as fossil fuel companies plunder sacred native lands and threaten our planet. The elders standing, dancing and praying peacefully on the frigid grounds of Standing Rock shine light into the dark drive of these energy companies. In the drive for profits, the Dakota Access Pipeline aims to move dirty oil at the price of harming our water supplies, disregarding native lands and the rights of tribal treaties and agreements and destroying our planet.
May many Rainbow Warriors fight on!
Walking in nature has been the place where I’ve found light in the current atmosphere of political darkness. It is the place where I’m able to breathe and let all the daily political news dissipate from my mind. I’ve recently used my painting to express my belief that nature is not here to be dominated. It is not a commodity to be used to increase our standard of living or to increase our amount of consumption.
There are so many problems right now with water and food production that it is imperative that we begin to think globally about what is happening to the world’s resources. We must recognize and honor our interdependence with nature and realize that we are all connected by it. We must consume less, pollute less, share more, recycle more, protect nature, and create a more sustainable earth.
Selected and edited definitions of “light” from Random House Webster’s Unabridged Dictionary 2nd edition.
luminous energy, electromagnetic radiation to which the organs of sight react
to come into existence or being
the aspect in which a thing appears or is regarded
something that affords illumination
to brighten with animation or joy
the state of being visible
a gleam or sparkle in the eyes
spiritual awareness; enlightenment
to accept or understand
to be discovered or revealed, to begin
The theme of enlightenment is dear to my heart. In art, I attempt to depict the highest level of love and wisdom “i” can conceive of. Routinely, little buddha-like images pop out on small papers; I search for the higher-self in life drawings and portraits; paint plant paintings enthusiastically in the garden; and explore outer/inner space tirelessly in meditation and the abstract realm.
Artwork Included: a recent pastel portrait of a baby doctor-to-be drawn from life; a response to two teenage self-immolations – in Tibet and India – protests on the same day against Chinese rule in Tibet – 3/2016; two light tributes to the Buddha, dharma and sangha.
Inspiring Quote from Leonardo da Vinci:
“You must grow in patience when you meet with great wrongs, and they will then be powerless to vex your mind.”
My paintings are an expression of the ironic space between the mundane that i can influence and the BIG PICTURE stuff that remains beyond my reach. Especially in these times, when we’re confronted by powerlessness, dissolving truths, and even the end of our planet, how does one carry on — whether it’s picking-up a toothbrush or a paintbrush? My “Before the Flood” series uses figurative abstraction to embody this disconnect between singular actions and nothingness.
These works explore aspects of cooperation. They explore issues that commonly arise within ourselves and with each other.
Two implicit questions:
1. Self and other—what might we make of them?
2. What is involved in cooperating toward ends that we all seek? Among those ends: peace, harmony, compassion toward each other (in spirit and in deed), shared prosperity, mutual tolerance and respect, equality (i.e., of access to opportunity, power, privilege, liberty, etc.).
“The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.” Emma Lazarus
Lisa Mossel Vietze
I picked up a camera in 1998 with the intention of making landscape images full of drama with grand, far-off vistas in which I could hope to escape from childhood misery.
But what my images came to reveal is the power and intimacy of smaller landscapes, like that of a flower. I was increasingly drawn to the subtleties of petal, leaf and stem; I stopped chasing the horizon and began to search my own backyard.
A flower is the plant’s highest expression of self, as well as a promise of a new generation, giving of its energy for creating seeds. I’m often in awe of the color or design when I’m making a flower image. In this process, I continue to heal.
Flowers … become like messengers from another realm, like a bridge between the world of the physical form and the formless.
[ some words from Eckhart Tolle’s book A New Earth.]