Making mistakes and changing the world

Neil Gaiman, one of our contemporary artists and thought leaders said:

“I hope that in this year to come, you make mistakes. Because if you are making mistakes, then you are making new things, trying new things, learning, living, pushing yourself, changing yourself, changing your world. You’re doing things you’ve never done before, and more importantly, you’re doing something.”

art-desk-1-1-2017My desk shows that recently I have been busy making something. My hope for you is that 2017 brings the accomplishments of making and trying new things and that you’ll join me in pushing ourselves to be the best we can be.

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Wheels of Fire

Interested in history? This week I was remembering 1968 when Cream‘s album, Wheels of Fire was released. Eric Clapton was at the beginning of his career and his fascination with American Blues fused with rock is the standard on this album. Image result for cream wheels of fire

Cream’s Wheels of Fire became the soundtrack of my life that year. Eric Clapton’s virtuoso guitar, Jack Bruce’s bass, and Ginger Baker on the drums created a sound that was transformational.

For me, life was in California, but the news went beyond those borders. That summer of 1968 began with the shooting murder of Martin Luther King. In August, Richard Nixon was elected as the presidential candidate during the Republican Convention, and eventually elected president in November. Every night you could watch Walter Cronkite announce the latest death toll of Americans on the news from the Vietnam War. Finally, the Civil Rights Act of 1968 was signed.

Most importantly, that August in 1968 was the month that my mother died – she was 37 – and today I realize how young that really was. As my life unraveled, Wheels of Fire became the touchstone of a new reality that I had moving into the future. The album had songs of memory (Those were the Days), political wit (The Politician), fantasy (Pressed Rat and Warthog), and the blues, (Born Under a Bad Sign and Crossroads). Wheels of Fire carried me through that first year on my own and helped me imagine how on earth I was going to put my life back together again. Thank you, Cream for the music that provided magic and comfort in our lives.

Hear the entire album here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yPIXJ7B2I7E

Life and the Art of Cooking

2016-04-24-11-28-56Winter is here, bringing cold slush, freezing temperatures and making me think about heading back to Mexico. The temperatures are not only warmer, but the people are friendly and the food is wonderful.

Finding good food in Mexico City is easy enough – just walk into the nearest little place and order the menu of the day.  Most of the time lunch will include soup, salad, main dish and a dessert. Eating this way is easy and inexpensive, but the more we wandered through markets with the stunning piles of chiles, fresh squash blossoms, fruits and tortillas, the more we talked about how fun it would be to be able to make our own meals. During our last trip to Mexico City, we stayed in an Airbnb with a kitchen, which opened up the possibility of shopping and cooking our own meals.

First, I should mention we are a family of people who love to cook, including two chefs who make their living this way. There are few travel activities more exciting than wandering through a food market and finding new options for dinner.

Some of the food is simply beautiful in its color and pattern, such as the stacks and stacks of dried cereal, pasta, and spices. Other types of foods we had no idea what we were looking at and had to ask how the vendor cooked it at home.

2016-04-25-16-54-15-1  Shopping in the neighborhood also gave us a glimpse of life in that community, since we had to visit the green market, the Mercado for supplies, the bakery, and a liquor store for our favorite tequila, Gran Centenario.

 

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Dessert from the bakery – an important part of dinner.

We enjoyed every minute of these neighborhood wanderings and arrived back to begin preparing that evening’s feast. Dinner one night included a simple stew with garbanzo beans, corn, tomato, and small red potatoes – it was delicious, but the experience of shopping and cooking was a large portion of the pleasure.

 

 

 

Life and the Color Red

enjoy-ruth-edwy_a-landscape-in-red_oil-on-canvas_24x24The color red has long been affiliated with passion and warmth, perhaps because it is also the color of fire and blood. Emotionally intense, red increases respiration, raises blood pressure and enhances human metabolism. Red also has significant cultural meaning around the world: in China, red is associated with good luck and fortune; in Japan, red is associated closely with a few deities and statues are often painted that color; and in Sweden, red was reserved for the privileged class.

Recently, Emerge Gallery & Art Space in Saugerties curated, “Primar(il)y Red: A Group Exhibition of Artwork Celebrating the Color Red.” Robert P. Langdon, Emerge Gallery director stated, “Everyone experiences art differently, but I believe that the selected works in this exhibition will offer the viewers a chance to connect with their feelings to see which emotions are elicited from spending time with the work.” Forty-five pieces of art representing forty-four emerging artists from the Hudson Valley and New York Metropolitan area were included in this exhibition. Langdon stated, “Although some of the work included is not entirely red, the viewer’s eye is drawn to the red element in the piece.”

enjoy-marilyn-rowley_descent_mixed-media_11x14This is noted in “Red Wings,” a painting by Elin Menzies depicting two Red Winged Blackbirds perched in the brush. The artist uses layering and sgraffito on the surface, creating a magical setting for the birds to roost. The brush is painted in subtle colors making the vibrant red-colored wings pop against the background. Marilyn Rowley uses another approach with red in “Descent,” where the first thing viewers will notice is the vibrant red background. The artist has captured the moment as a black bird lands against a red background with white gestural lines completing the dynamic composition.

enjoy-alison-winfield-burns_red-palio_oil-on-canvas_36x28Alison Winfield-Burns exhibits “Red Palio,” a painting inspired by the annual tradition of the Palio horse race in Siena, Italy. Capturing the excitement of riders and horses that are working together to win with an impressionistic approach, the action on the race track is framed by the stadium’s red swath above the spectators.

enjoy-ross-corsair_assignation_photography_39x28-1Ross Corsair’s moody photograph, “Assignation,” is a study in compositional elements. Viewed from above a plaza, there are intersecting lines, patterns, and textures, primarily in shades of gray. The eye will immediately focus on the red triangles, part of an umbrella held by a lone person crossing the plaza. Corsair’s artist statement explains: “Most of my photographs attempt to capture the ephemeral, a fleeting moment, sometimes cloaked in mystery.”

Ruth Edwy shows “A Landscape in Red,” a lovely, painterly abstraction of the landscape. At first glance, the viewer may think this is simply an examination of the color red, but looking closer you can see form and gesture, design and line. The artist explains her inspiration in her artist statement: “My paintings involve the landscape, more and more, whether in a very abstract form or very literal, but in the end what defines all of my artwork, over many years, is my love affair with light and color.”

This essay originally appeared in the Poughkeepsie Journal’s Enjoy! section, December 16, 2016. 

Appetite for Destruction

The title for Wassaic Project’s 9th Annual Summer Exhibition, Appetite for Destruction, is taken from an artwork of the same name by Robert Williams, a California-based artist that was at the forefront of psychedelic, apocalyptic artmaking. Williams’ painting was selected originally for the cover of a Guns N’ Roses album, but after its initial release was banned in record stores, forcing the album reissue with his art inside the album and a new image on the cover. Although that was 1987, apparently art still had the capacity to shock and provoke strong reactions.

Appetite for Destruction at the Wassaic Project’s Maxon Mills exhibit space takes a more measured approach. The works on display by contemporary emerging artists focuses on the artists’ interpretations of the untamed world – whether that world is the outdoor landscape, the built environment, or the imagined. The annual exhibit is important to present emerging artists’ work, building reputations and allowing artists to experiment and take risks with their art. Of the 56 exhibited artists, 45 are alumni of the Wassaic Artist Residency, where artists can live and make art in Wassaic during their residency period.

This year there are exhibits installed on the grounds that can be spotted before visitors enter the space. The exhibition space is a seven-story grain elevator with artwork installed at every level. On the first floor, visitors are greeted by David Grainger’s larger than life sculpture, “Dear in Headlights.” A manufactured forest and the sound of water encourage visitors to explore an installation by Jen Catron and Paul Outlaw, featuring a boat in a built stream surrounded by vegetation. The artist statement described the installation as “influenced by belief systems and how they related to visions of the future.”

Deborah-Simon-Flayed Rabbit-photo LMRMoving up the stairs to the next level, see Deborah Simon’s “Flayed Albino Rabbit” wearing a beautifully embroidered jacket depicting trees and interconnected root systems.

As visitors continue to move up the stairs, don’t miss the small wood boxes containing 3D digital animations created by Meredith Drum and works by J. D. Fontanella installed in the grain elevator shaft.

Natalie-Baxter-Warm Gun photo by LMRIMG_20160904_135650The third level is an installation of Natalie Baxter’s “Warm Gun” series. Natalie stated that she “learned from her Appalachian grandmother to create soft objects that challenge feminine ideals, gun laws, and violence.” The next level has an interactive exhibit by Gregg Evans featuring 12 photo panels on three shelves. The artist encourages visitors to rearrange the panels to create a new story, demonstrating how art can be re-interpreted by its surroundings.

Roxanne-Johnson-Run to the Hills photo  by LMR20160904_141651Next up are Roxanne Jackson’s fantastical creations – the exploding ceramic wall mask is a tour de force of design, color, and imagination. Don’t hesitate to enter and explore Sabrina Barrios’ installation created using UV light and string.

Sabrina-Barrios-Coup D'etat how they did it. Photo by LMRIMG_20160904_141144

Continuing up the stairs, Holden Brown’s “Stairway to Heaven” installation will invite you to ponder the pure white stairs cordoned off by a rope. The artist stated, “My work is about fantasy and unfulfilled desire. It addresses the human pursuit for utopic perfection and the images we associate with the idea of “Utopia.”

David-Grainger-Stairway-to-Heaven-LMR photoIMG_20160904_142427He used Google to search for images related to “Stairway to Heaven” and “Utopia.” Facing the installation, visitors could see an open door at the top of the pure white stairway, a blue sky with fluffy white clouds slowly moving, visible through the open door – a heavenly choir completing the utopian scene. Visitors may wonder if they will be allowed to pass beyond the blue velvet rope.

Appetite for Destruction at the Wassaic Project’s Maxon Mills is located at 37 Furnace Bank Road, Wassaic. Exhibit up through September 18, 2016. 

 

This essay (in an edited form) originally appeared in the Poughkeepsie Journal’s Enjoy section, September 9, 2016.

Fun House – the art of the unusual

Summer 2016 will be remembered for the Fun House exhibit, held at Barrett Art Center in Poughkeepsie and curated by Eve Biddle, local artist and curator. The exhibit was inspired by Hudson Valley regional artist David Lax’s surreal painting, spotted in the entry hall of the gallery. “There is something about this theme, the bizarre, weird, and wonderful, that really strikes a chord with artists;” Executive Director, Joanna Frang commented, “We had over 300 local and national entries for the show.” Local artist and curator, Eve Biddle, selected 81 artworks by 51 artists, hailing from 17 states and 40 cities and towns. Biddle’s curatorial statement sets the stage in anticipation for seeing the art: “These works are a jumble of dreams and nightmares designed to overload the senses and spark the imagination.”

Santiago Cohen_The Fight_Courtesy the artistMany of the artworks include the unexpected juxtaposition of collage images, such as John Baker’s painting, “Born and Raised in the City of Chicago,” and the photographs by Annie Stone and Kerfe Roig. Santiago Cohen’s “The Fight,” reminds us of the strong influence of the surrealism movement on Mexican art. Born in Mexico, this New Jersey artists’ influence is seen in his three paintings on exhibit.

2081913Ileana Doble Hernandez exhibits staged photographs from her series, “Animal Nature,” which are inspired by animal-human interaction. The photograph “Pollito Chicken,” depicts a mother with a pig-mask sitting at the dinner table, her baby is dressed in a bright yellow romper and appears to be trying to crawl out of an aluminum roasting pan. There is a roast chicken in front of the mother, but the placement of the baby next to the dinner and the empty plate might make the viewer feel uneasy. The artist notes that “In the end, we are also animal kind.”

Jim Allen exhibited “Traveling Dreams,” a surreal black and white photograph that captures reflections and shadows of travel, whether by fantasy or memory. The fantasy of riding off on a stallion is viewed through a scratched windowpane, making the memory seem unreliable. Through the window the viewer sees the distorted image of a school bus leaving on its route.

James Allen_Traveling Dreams_Courtesy the artistSculptural pieces include Trent Taft’s artworks that could have come from the special effects movie prop storeroom: meticulously created and vaguely disturbing, these are artworks from a new master.

Marah Carpenter’s fabric work series, “Paper Doll Look,” a reconfigured wardrobe inspired by paper dolls, features three pieces that are actually wearable, creating a one-dimensional view of the model.

Isaac Roller’s pen and ink scroll “The Changeling” demonstrates the artists’ skill at drawing animals – both real and imagined. Although a small portion of 31’ scroll is viewable, what is on display is truly bizarre.

 

Abstract Expressionism lives on!

Abstract Expressionism developed through a New York school of painters and established an art movement born in the United States. Let us consider Elaine De Kooning and Grace Hartigan, whose paintings exude a sense of energy in the paint application, or Lee Krasner’s work, filled with abstract forms that feel reminiscent of a fantastical landscape. However, in the machismo world of the Abstract Expressionists, Jackson Pollock, Willem de Kooning and Robert Motherwell are historically mentioned as making important contributions to this movement – at this point in time, we should acknowledge a more equitable list of artists contributing to this movement.

The Hudson Valley region has many artists that have made their life here, including artists whose work is inspired from the Abstract Expressionists. Barbara Gordon’s art must be included in this group and it is a pleasure to see a full body of her work in this solo show, “Active Engagement – Testing Boundaries.” The exhibit is aptly named, as active engagement has been the consistent thread for the artistic output seen in the show and evident over a lifetime of her artistic career. Barbara Gordon states: “My academic grounding, at Cooper Union, was firmly in the abstract expressionist tradition, in which figurative work was a virtual taboo.”

The artworks in this exhibit show the growth of the artist’s vision after her early studies. For instance, the artwork, “Faith in a Seed 1,” utilizes a variety of materials she uses as her medium: papers, cardboard, scraps of wood, and paint. Through collaging of the materials and overpainting, the drips and faint markings are composed around a wood fragment with rusted nails. Many of the pieces for the exhibit the artist has composed wood framing devices, pieced together from wood scraps from her barn. For instance, “Bent Tree Construction” has vivid hues of blue and orange establishing a dynamic palette, while the wood pieces carefully fitted together add the touch of the human hand to the composition. Thoughtfully layered cardboard, watercolor papers and paint give the work a feeling of a precious relic.

bent tree construction 1Gordon’s dynamic painting style is evident in “Notes on a Red Headed Woodpecker,” the delicate nuances of the background creates a dimensional foil for the energetic red and black slashes, which are reminiscent of gestures seen in Franz Kline’s works. This piece, however, exudes an other-worldly serenity where that energy can abide. In the painting, “Blue,” the artist uses an energetic paint application, including drips overpainted with layers of color: blue, sap green, and red compete for space in a composition that seems inspired by the landscape.

notes on a red headed woodpeckerThe exhibit is rich with visions that the artist has captured working out of her Accord studio, which she described as her artistic practice: “Now, being directly in nature, living along a rail trail, surrounded by silence and the constantly changing light in the land, mountains and sky I strive for a synthesis of pure abstraction with the concrete, specific images of nature, animals, and people that have interested me since childhood.”

BLue