Saturday, June 21, 2014

Everyone Has An Idea

Everybody has an idea and they work it.- my mom

My mother is an artist. She's never had a show and the last art class she took was when she was pregnant with my brother over 60 years ago. She quit when she could no longer fit in the seats. It was her love of art that spurred me on in my explorations, that made it tangible. As a child I used to leaf through an envelope of her drawings, marveling at how she used an eyebrow pencil to capture my uncle's Navy uniform. I tried something similar in an early drawing, mimicking her technique.

We would go to the Chicago Art Institute and she would get postcards of her favorite paintings, lots of Klee and Roualt. Her taste was interesting, often quite contemporary and abstract. An Austrian artist named Hundertwasser was one of her favorites. She put the postcards in a little kitchen gallery, glancing up at them as she cooked or washed dishes, her little oasis of personal expression. When we were children she allowed us to each select a plate from her Van Gogh book to post over our beds. I grew up with his sunflowers watching over me.

My mother became a first grade teacher and carried her love of art into her classroom. She was known for her puppets. She constructed them of paper-mâché with carefully stitched clothing, paws or hooves and tails.

Now 87, she is contending with memory loss. Her world has shrunk as her ability to retain the thread of a story has faltered and reading has fallen by the wayside. My mother is a good problem solver however. Her problem was how to occupy her time now that books no longer filled her days. She is a purposeful person and needed a reason to get up each morning. She found that in a new pursuit, collaging. Or as she calls it, cutting and pasting. Each morning she gets her notebook, her newspaper and her glue and scissors and begins to cut. She marvels at how much good material is thrown out each day that she now makes use of.

When she started she was placing discrete images on a page, unconnected to the other images. But an interesting thing has begun to happen. Her images began to overlap, to meld together, color and form juxtaposed in unexpected and interesting combinations. Virtually anything is grist for the mill. Family photos sometimes appear causing me to wince when she uses the originals, even as I rather like the result. I make a frozen dinner for her lunch and notice the image from the box has joined her collage. When we go out she grabs any loose paper, menus, ads, all possible imagery. She works at this like a job, focused and intent, highly purposeful. She knows what she likes. She always did.

I like what she is doing and sometimes envy her ability to suspend planning.  I would agonize over finding the perfect arrangement of imagery. She follows her eye and just as a photographer takes many pictures to get the critical moment, she just keeps producing and as you can see her work is often quite interesting. She tells me"everybody has an idea and works it". This is her idea.

Sunday, June 15, 2014

The Unveil

 Thursday night we had our great unveil. The efforts of the past year culminated in an exhibition on light that shined, both literally and figuratively. The gallery was filled with attendees and of course the artists. I often find that openings are not good times to see the artwork, there is just too much going on. I began to view the artwork only to run into friends and then resume at some point far across the room from where I began. My meandering path through people and art was more of a buffet, filling my plate with nibbles rather than deeply savoring each piece in its entirety. That I saved for a subsequent visit.

I brought my friend to the opening. Both friend and muse, her experience was the subject of my artwork in the show. My friend is legally blind. The first time she asked me to take her to an art show I stammered,"But but, how will you see it?" She patiently explained to me how I would assist her in that effort by reading and describing everything to her. I have found that while this is sometimes taxing, it is a good way for me to fully take in a show. I look forward to our more in-depth visit next week. In the meantime here are some of my initial nibbles.

As we entered we were greeted by Toni Dachis's beautiful sun. With torn paper from past projects she recycled her work into a thing of beauty. Raised textures and colors glowed, promising and inviting.

To our right was Rani Halpern's exquisite cut paper piece that echoes the prayer which speaks of the "Creator of day and night, who rolls back light before dark". Intrigued with our sketchbook project in which she expertly cut the pages into forms and Hebrew text, Rani got a much larger sketchbook and formed it into a star, shaping it into a reflection on day turning into dusk with a background layer painted deep midnight blue. Each layer is beautifully cut with day offering glimpses of the night that is to follow.

As I walked through the gallery I noticed Leah Golberstein's work gently swaying in a breeze of movement. Her delicate handmade paper formed a berth for pomegranates, echoing the nerot tamid, the eternal light.

Behind her work, Ann Ginsburgh Hofkin's forest invited me in. Printed on aluminum was an image of a light from above illuminating the darkness of the woods in a way that caused me to expect something miraculous to follow. Perhaps capturing the moment was miracle enough.
Nearby Kris Prince's large painting also beckoned me into the woods, but in an entirely different fashion as I followed human forms guided by candlelight in a joyous procession.

I detoured to the middle to read the intriguing letters in the pockets of Alison Morse's work. The letters are written from the perspective of workers in the Rani factory disaster and that of the Triangle Shirtwaist factory, I chided myself for forgetting to bring my contribution to her poem for the closing. "I will bring it when I return Alison", I silently promise. She will then take our contributions to weave into a final poem.

Louise Ribnick's work beckoned me nearby with her bright colors and the imagery of a young child running ahead, a meditation on her grandchild, soon to enter the world.

And then a stop at Robyn Awend's word find, searching for light, or at least words on light. I found for someone who loves words, I struggled to find them. With the aid of Toni and her husband, I found a few before moving on.

I glanced up to locate my friend who was in rapt attention as Jonathan Gross described his work to her; A light box of sorts which reflects dust in beams of light. Light is the vehicle to enable us to see what may already quietly exist.

As I left the gallery I noticed Joel Carter's crack in the world created from rock, the light now coming in, an eloquent meditation on the quote from Leonard Cohen, "There's a crack in everything, That's how the light gets in".

In the lobby I chatted with Anita Konikoff about her initial foray into exhibiting her beautiful stitched imagery on the light of Jewish rituals. She asked if one gets past the intimidation of showing when you do it often. "No" I thought, "it is always there on some level. You just learn to forge ahead anyway". I am so grateful to my fellow artists who forge ahead and share their work, creativity and energy.

And there is so much more than what I've mentioned here. With 25 artists, I can't speak of all of the amazing work. I merely offer a taste. Please come for the main meal and enjoy all of the artists' intriguing contributions.

Note: I've written in this blog about the development of my own work for this exhibition. You can see the work and read the story behind it on my website.

Or Chadash, A New Light: Unfiltered Tychman Shapiro Gallery and Shared Walls Exhibition Area
June 12-July 20, 2014 Closing Presentation July 20 5:00-7:00pm (Readings)
Free and Open to the Public

Saturday, June 14, 2014

A Two-Sided Coin

Tomorrow is Fathers' Day. No more do I go in search of cards that speak to some signature trait of my dad. It was never easy to find the right card. My father didn't play golf or fish or watch sports. All the cards that were designed for the prototype dad didn't seem relevant to our world. We weren't gushy so nothing about the best dad in the world and truth be told our relationship had its challenges. I certainly wasn't a Daddy's girl so that genre also fell by the wayside. I used to wonder what a typical father-daughter relationship was like and how did mine fall so far outside the sphere judging by the range of cards. If I was fortunate, I found one with some humor that spoke to some childhood experience.

It is now the third year since my father's death. Now Fathers' Day is a celebration for my husband. A different holiday all together. My son-in-law texts me to check his size. We gather at his daughter's for a combination Father's Day/ birthday party for our granddaughter. My husband has a strong relationship with his daughters and raised them post-divorce. I remember when his oldest daughter warned me early in our relationship to be good to her dad because he was a pretty special guy. I was touched to see the strength of their relationship.

My dad was not the stereotypical father. He was a complicated man, often difficult, wrapped up in his world, driven, self-absorbed, quick-tempered and impatient. He was also a doer, clever at making things happen, creative, a visionary and a principled man. He believed in speaking up, not standing passively by. He was fluent in speech and the written word. An excellent problem solver who delighted in being able to help others. Great to have in a crisis, not so easy in the everyday. He wasn't an easy man to grow up around, but he made an indelible mark, not only on me, but on many who were close to me. My ex-husband revered him. Somehow my father understood what he needed and encouraged him when he most needed it. Ditto for my female friends who he encouraged and helped as they sought careers in traditionally male professions.

I have come to realize how much of him is in me and how much he shaped each of his children, good, bad and otherwise. He liked to be in control and didn't like his universe disturbed. He used to say, "in my house you live by my rules". So I moved out at seventeen and having control of my life has been a central principle since. When I talk to my younger sister I realize she too possesses that need for control. I love her dearly, but give us too much time together and we clash over whose in control. We both responded to my father's need for control and our childhood lack of it.

Somewhere along the way, I accepted my father for who he was, a mixed bag with good and bad traits that were often interrelated, flip sides of the same coin. He lightened up later in life. As a grandfather he was able to express his love and adored his two granddaughters. Later in life as memory faltered he reached out to his children with a new fondness that often touched me.

As I've gone through my dad's papers I've had many shocks of recognition. We share many qualities. I have a better understanding of the pride he took in many of my accomplishments for I now know he recognized himself in me as well. Happy Father's Day, Dad.

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Openings and Closings

The Artists' Lab exhibit opens this week. Yesterday we got a sneak peek into the exhibition and I was awed with the work of my fellow artists. So many different takes on light, so many creative approaches. It is always a wee bit intimidating.

By now I am far too close to my own work, it is hard to step back and see it through fresh eyes. I struggled with this piece, tired of working with themes that I still find daunting. It is time to move on and I am considering new subjects, but have promised my friend one more painting in the Holocaust series based on her stories. There is an empathetic element to the way I paint, feeling through another's memories. It is perhaps like being an actor and feeling your part too deeply. Sometimes I need to step away and breath fresh air.

What I most enjoyed with this work was the poetry that began it. The poems will hang with the painting and I will read them aloud at the closing on July 20 5-7pm. My favorite audience of course was my friend Dora on whom they are based. She felt they captured her experience in a very true way and marveled at the little details I recalled from her experience. That gave me much satisfaction.

As the lab's Resident Writer I've been busy writing articles for the catalog and for an on-line magazine and of course the Artists' Lab blog. My own blog is sometimes neglected, but ideas to share abound. More to come shortly.


And just to close out the lab, I thought I'd share some of my work from the sketchbook exchange project. I've already written of some of my sketchbook images in the Sideways Glance and A Flash of Light. My other two contributions were on the themes of luminosity and the art of nature. Instead of drawing, I decided to use some of the photography from my photo library, those source material images I shoot when something captures my eye. I had some amazing photographs of clouds that were truly luminous and cut out the forms and positioned them on opposite pages. One of the artists had drawn circles throughout the book so I painted them in a complementary fashion. The other image I had was of an elaborate spider web. I coupled it with a quote from Picasso on where artists draw their inspiration.

Soon our lab will come to a close and the next year will begin in October. If you are in the Twin Cities stop by the Tychman Shapiro Gallery June 12. 6-8pm for the opening. Then plan to come back without the hubbub and carefully read about and contemplate each work.
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