Story of My Trip to Italy: Part 3, Florence

"I painted, and my painting was equal to truth;

 I gave my figures poses, animation, motion

And emotion.  Buonarroti taught all the others

And learned from me alone."

--Annibale Caro, epitaph for Masaccio

found in Giorigio Vasari's "The Lives of the Artists"

   Ponte Vecchio , the famous bridge over the Arno River: one of my first sights when I got off the bus in Florence!

Ponte Vecchio, the famous bridge over the Arno River: one of my first sights when I got off the bus in Florence!

Most people reading my blog know that I went to go paint in Italy last July.  It was such a rich, intense experience, that it has been taking me a long time to process it.  I've been doing it in stages (see: Story of My Trip to Italy: Part 1 and Part 2.  Now, in Part 3, I will tell you about my first visit to Florence, which was a field trip with the other artists in the JSS program in Civita.  First, I got off the bus and immediately found an amazing gelateria.  Gelato is like ice cream, but better.  Melone was my favorite flavor!

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After wandering a bit through the streets on my own, I met up with my roommate Kristen at the Brancacci Chapel.  This chapel is in the Santa Maria del Carmine church, sort of on the outskirts of my tourist map of Florence.  We spent a couple hours there (Kristen stayed even longer!) and I had a very intense experience looking at Masaccio's frescoes, especially the "Expulsion of Adam and Eve from Eden" (1424-27).  Looking at the despair on their faces brought me to tears.  (So I guess I'll need to update this old blog post: The Only Painting that Has Ever Made Me Cry.) 

I did a little pencil sketch of The Expulsion (below).

my diary in Italy, July 14, 2017...

Today I went to the Capella Brancacci in Firenze, and saw "The Expulsion from the Garden of Eden."  I cried.  Kristen, my wonderful roommate, who was sitting and sketching beside me, held my hand.  I confessed everything to her [things in my personal life causing me anguish.]  She comforted me; I felt better afterwards.  Later, I went to buy a postcard of "The Expulsion."  The man who sold postcards in the foyer must have guessed my sorrow.  We had a meaningful talk in Italian (can you believe I can do that!?) about the two Adam and Eve paintings, the one that had touched me so emotionally (Masaccio's) and also the other one by Masolino, which faced it across the chapel.  The man selling postcards told me that Masolino's painting was more hopeful, because it caught the moment before the couple had sinned, before it was too late, and therefore there was tranquility and beauty in the image.  He really wanted me understand this: he gave me the Masolino postcard for free, as a gift.  How did he know I was sad?  How did he know I needed that?

In the early fifteenth century, when they were commissioned to create frescoes for the chapel, Massolino was forty, and Masaccio was only twenty-two.  I wonder if Masaccio's art is more emotionally raw because he was so young?  Perhaps Masolino, in his maturity, had come to value equanimity and peace of mind over the passions and emotions of youth?  We will never know what sort of work Masaccio might have created later in life.  Unfortunately, he died at the young age of 26; some rumors suggest he was poisoned...

Anyway, my experience at the Brancacci Chapel really stuck with me.  When I returned home from Italy, I made these two still life paintings as a response. 

Now, back to Florence... So, I left Kristen at the Brancacci chapel and found a cute little restaurant where I had this amazing lunch of spaghetti bolognese and prosecco.  Mmmmmmm.

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I spent the rest of the afternoon wandering in the famous Boboli gardens.  I was so full of good pasta, and the sun was so hot, that I found a nice quiet place in the shade under the trees and I took a nap!

 pathway in the Boboli Gardens

pathway in the Boboli Gardens

 Can I Rest My Head on Your Shoulder... in the Boboli Gardens?

Can I Rest My Head on Your Shoulder... in the Boboli Gardens?

Below...more photographs from the dreamy Boboli Gardens.

I climbed to the top of the gardens and looked down at the rooftops of Florence:

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Finally, I realized it was getting late and I didn't want to miss the bus back to Civita.  I hurried out of the gardens and down the street, running into my artist friend Christina on the way.  Together, we stopped for one final gelato indulgence before we said farewell to Florence!

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Epilogue:  It wasn't my last visit to Florence!  I returned alone, at the end of my art residency, to spend a few magical days in that beautiful city.  I will write about that adventure in a future blog post!  I promise.

Shapes

a poem by Lauren Kindle

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You aren't a poem-person,

you said,

but how can you resist

this poem?

I wrote it just for you,

about a rectangle as red as jam on toast,

leaning against a funny blue shape,

blue the way the sky is, sometimes...

and both these wonderful shapes, surrounded

by small, imperfect circles,

dark purplish-black,

sweet as a handful 

of ripe blackberries...

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More poems can be found at the bottom of my Creative Writing section of my website.

Lisa Bonforte Harmuth

This is my "Artist Profile" for the Easton Irregular Newspaper, April 2018 issue.

   "Wren on Peonies" 12x12"

  "Wren on Peonies" 12x12"

The paintings of New Jersey artist Lisa Bonforte Harmuth are instantly recognizable by their sweet tenderness and attention to detail. It’s not a contrived sweetness, but rather an authentic expression of Lisa’s spirit and her deep love of nature. In particular, the oil paintings depict the beauty of animals in natural settings. She renders wild and domesticated creatures with a respectful and delicate touch. Her paintings radiate a quiet dignity; the colors seem to glow softly, with reverence.

Even as a child, Lisa always liked to draw, animals in particular. When she was young, she even drew on the walls of the house! However, although her parents preferred she use paper rather than walls, they were always highly supportive of her talents and encouraged her artistic inclinations. After high school, Lisa went to the Newark School of Fine and Industrial Arts, where she met her future husband, the artist Will Harmuth. (See the “Artist Profile” in last month’s edition of The Irregular, in which Will was featured.)

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In school, Lisa studied illustration, a field which then became a successful career for her for 25 years. During this period, she illustrated over 200 books, including sticker books and coloring books for children. 50 Favorite Birds, a Dover Nature Coloring Book, is still popular today. After graduation, Lisa and Will worked side by side for years in the illustration and commercial arts businesses. They helped each other in many ways, offering support and feedback on each other’s work, despite significant differences in their styles. Eventually they had a daughter, and Lisa was able to find a good balance between work and family responsibilities while they raised her.

 "The Sicilian" 11x14"

"The Sicilian" 11x14"

At a certain point, however, the deadlines and stress of working as an illustrator began to take their toll, and Lisa felt burnt out. After 9/11, when their daughter was in middle school, a lot of changes happened in the art world. At that time, many galleries went out of business, and Will’s own commercial art business died out. It was a stressful time for the couple. Fortunately, they used this setback as an opportunity to try something new: going to outdoor art shows and fairs. Thanks to a lot of hard work and perseverance, they were able to make a living this way for a while, selling their artwork at many outdoor events.

Eventually, Lisa realized she didn’t want to return to the illustration business. She wanted to try painting for herself, instead. She didn’t want to have to work under tight, oppressive deadlines. So she entered a new chapter in her art career. She painted for her own enjoyment, and she started doing pet portraits on commission. Since she was her own boss, she no longer had to feel pressured by outside deadlines; she could work at her own pace.

 "Summer Gold Rush" 6x11 5/8"

"Summer Gold Rush" 6x11 5/8"

A few years ago, Lisa decided to try something a little different: human portraits! Currently, she has been spending time creating these portraits of family and friends, and she is eager and curious about trying something new, although she still continues to paint animal portraits. Recently, Lisa was commissioned to do the painting, “Rusty”, a portrait of a comfort-dog who helped people who were traumatized after the 9/11 attacks. In this painting, Lisa painted the dog’s portrait, and Will did the background, including the flag. One of the benefits of having a spouse who is also an artist is the ability to collaborate on occasion!

 "Rusty"  24x30"

"Rusty"  24x30"

Lisa now enjoys the freedom of doing what she wants to do, and taking as long as she needs. She doesn’t adhere to strict studio hours, but just works when it suits her. Although she describes herself as “not driven”, she nevertheless produces delightful paintings with regularity. In this way, she is able to avoid the burn-out of earlier years.

For Lisa, painting has always been a way of life, and on a deeper level, it’s how she makes the world a better place. Her love and compassion for animals is apparent in her work, and she regularly donates pet portraits to fundraisers for Common Sense for Animals, a local no-kill animal shelter in Warren County, New Jersey. Through her paintings, Lisa manifests the calming effects of beauty and nature, and ultimately, that is her real gift to the world.

 

 "A Word from the Wise" 11x14"

"A Word from the Wise" 11x14"

More of Lisa’s work can be seen on her website: lisabonforte.com. Lisa is represented by two galleries in New Jersey: Clinton Falls Gallery, Clinton and Decoys and Wildlife, Frenchtown

 Here is a painting of  me!   While I was interviewing Lisa in my studio, she snapped a few photos of me, and surprised me not long after that with this lovely portrait!  What an honor!  Thank you, Lisa.

Here is a painting of me!  While I was interviewing Lisa in my studio, she snapped a few photos of me, and surprised me not long after that with this lovely portrait!  What an honor!  Thank you, Lisa.

A Farewell Note: 

This is my last "Artist Profile" for the Easton Irregular.  A year ago I was offered a position as staff writer and I learned so much from the experience.  It was truly a pleasure to have this job, and a great way to meet other local artists.  It happens that my studio work has become more time consuming, and I now am too busy with commissions to continue writing for the paper regularly.  I am deeply grateful for the opportunity, and I am very happy to introduce the next staff writer: Dawn Ouellette Nixon.   elucidatormag@aol.com

A Year of Writing for the Newspaper:

Writing and Art (my thoughts after being offered this position)

Published!  Introducing Myself as a Writer  April 2017

Chawne Kimber: May 2017

Devyn Leonor-Briggs:  June 2017

Charles Stonewall:  July/August 2017

James Gloria:  September 2017

Nancy Bossert:  October 2017

Kenneth Browne:  November/December 2017

Jessica Bastidas:  February 2018

Will Harmuth:  March 2018

Lisa Bonforte Harmuth: April 2018 (this is it)

 

 

Lemons

"..bazaars
for the light and the
barbarous gold. 
We open
the halves
of a miracle.."

--Pablo Neruda, "Lemons"

 "Peg's Lemons" oil on board, 4x5"

"Peg's Lemons" oil on board, 4x5"

A Lemon

a poem by Pablo Neruda

Out of lemon flowers
loosed
on the moonlight, love's
lashed and insatiable
essences, 
sodden with fragrance, 
the lemon tree's yellow
emerges, 
the lemons
move down
from the tree's planetarium

 "Barbarous gold" 4x5" oil on board.   for sale

"Barbarous gold" 4x5" oil on board.  for sale

Delicate merchandise! 
The harbors are big with it- 
bazaars
for the light and the
barbarous gold. 
We open
the halves
of a miracle, 
and a clotting of acids
brims
into the starry
divisions: 
creation's
original juices, 
irreducible, changeless, 
alive: 
so the freshness lives on
in a lemon, 
in the sweet-smelling house of the rind, 
the proportions, arcane and acerb. 

 "Marisa's Lemons" 5x7" oil on linen mounted on board, 2018

"Marisa's Lemons" 5x7" oil on linen mounted on board, 2018


Cutting the lemon
the knife
leaves a little cathedral: 
alcoves unguessed by the eye
that open acidulous glass
to the light; topazes
riding the droplets, 
altars, 
aromatic facades. 

 "Juicy Lemons" 6x8" oil on linen mounted on board, 2018

"Juicy Lemons" 6x8" oil on linen mounted on board, 2018

So, while the hand
holds the cut of the lemon, 
half a world
on a trencher, 
the gold of the universe
wells
to your touch: 
a cup yellow
with miracles, 
a breast and a nipple
perfuming the earth; 
a flashing made fruitage, 
the diminutive fire of a planet.

 "Lemon Wedge" 4x5" oil on board, 2018

"Lemon Wedge" 4x5" oil on board, 2018

 "Helena's Teapot" oil on board, 8x10" 2017

"Helena's Teapot" oil on board, 8x10" 2017

  "So sweet is their flesh..."  oil on board, 8x10" 2017

"So sweet is their flesh..." oil on board, 8x10" 2017

Response to Arundel

"A force is only visible in its effect, and it is the split second in which this effect becomes just barely visible that haunts me.  The turns of life are secret."

-- Anne Truitt in Daybook, on her Arundel series 

 Here is a view of the sculptures on display in the  National Gallery of Art , a special  Anne Truitt  exhibition called  "In the Tower."   On the far wall you can see the Arundel painting, but it's difficult to appreciate how  large  it is (73.5x73.5"!) and it's impossible to really experience the intensity of the painting from a photo, without being in front of it in person.  In this blog post I have attempted to convey my encounter using words.

Here is a view of the sculptures on display in the National Gallery of Art, a special Anne Truitt exhibition called "In the Tower."  On the far wall you can see the Arundel painting, but it's difficult to appreciate how large it is (73.5x73.5"!) and it's impossible to really experience the intensity of the painting from a photo, without being in front of it in person.  In this blog post I have attempted to convey my encounter using words.

 Arundel XI 73.5x73.5" graphite and acrylic paint on canvas

Arundel XI 73.5x73.5" graphite and acrylic paint on canvas

Looking at the large white Arundel painting, I felt emotional.  How could she make something so large and so exposed?  The whiteness struck me as a raw vulnerability.  It was a large canvas, large enough for me to lose myself in, physically.  At first it seemed entirely white.  Standing quietly before it, I could slowly perceive a slender column of barely differentiated white, slightly lighter, on the left, with a pale graphite vertical line encased within it.  So subtle, without artifice, without "showiness."  I wondered at her strength. 

Do we have the right to reveal ourselves like this?  Do we have the right to take up this much space?

And yet it was humble, almost ephemeral, a tender touching-of-light, a "oneness" with something vast, something not for sale, something beyond description, classification, and ego.

It appeals to no one.  She appeals to no one.  She does not please, excite, seduce, or entertain.  She is not "pretty."  She just opens herself to us.  "Here I am," she says.

And it's a mirror.  I look within, and I tremble.

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Will Harmuth

“Painting should be a great joy. It should be joyful…

When people look at my painting, I want them to see that it’s alive.”

-Will Harmuth

 

  “Another Day”, 24”x24”, acrylic on panel

“Another Day”, 24”x24”, acrylic on panel

“I like to imagine that he just plows through a thick rainforest-of-canvases, wielding his paintbrush like a machete, gracefully knocking them out with ease…”

 I wrote those words about the artist Will Harmuth two years ago, commenting on an art blog (linesandcolors.com), and it’s still true today. It’s clear Harmuth deeply enjoys his work, much of which celebrates the scenery around him, for example, the bucolic landscapes of rural New Jersey, where he lives, and the urban architecture of Easton, PA. He manages to paint these subjects without sentimentality or triteness. Rather, they proclaim an exuberant strength, an authenticity true to his inner vision.

Harmuth has both facility and confidence in his ability, and for good reason: he has devoted the last 45 years of his life to painting. He began his career with a strong foundation in art education, learning the craft from skilled teachers and mentors at the Art Students League and the Graduate Newark School of Fine and Industrial Arts. After putting time into learning and mastering the rules of painting, he feels quite joyful about breaking them!

  “Purple Passion”, 24”x24”, acrylic on panel

“Purple Passion”, 24”x24”, acrylic on panel

Harmuth sees himself as part of a lineage going back to the Ashcan School of American Realism. Robert Henri (1865-1929) was a leading teacher and painter in this movement. He wrote the wonderful book, The Art Spirit, which Harmuth highly recommends. This book is immensely helpful to artists; it gives a mixture of practical “how-to” advice, as well as a glimpse into the deeper philosophical meaning behind the artist’s vocation. Henri writes:

 

“The most vital things in the look of a landscape endure only for a moment. Work should be done from memory; memory of that vital moment.”

 

Capturing the moment is what it’s all about, according to Harmuth. It’s something only the artist can do. “Whatever resonates with you, the artist: that’s your moment,” Harmuth tells me, on a recent visit to my studio. “Only you can express that moment. When people buy a painting, they are buying a moment.”

  “A View of Easton”, 24”x24”, acrylic on gallery wrap canvas

“A View of Easton”, 24”x24”, acrylic on gallery wrap canvas

In addition to Henri, Harmuth finds inspiration in the work of Edward Willis Redfield and Walter Baum (both local artists who painted in the first half of the 20th century) and the contemporary painter and sculptor, Marta Whistler (who was an Easton resident for many years).

Harmuth is married to the artist Lisa Bonforte. They met in art school, and the couple has been together 42 years. They assist each other with both the creative and business sides of their art careers. When Will is blocked, he explains humorously, Lisa helpfully tells him to “get over it.” She provides some common-sense motivation, keeping him grounded. Sometimes the two artists work together on a painting, as they did recently with “Rusty”, a painting of a heroic rescue dog.

Although husband and wife do collaborate at times, the two artists are committed to giving each other space. They both work out of their home, but have separate studios and work schedules. A typical day for Will Harmuth goes like this: wake up early and paint, breakfast, computer/commercial art work, nap, dinner, and more painting. He advocates a regular studio practice: “If you paint every day, you will get better.”

  good morning sunday 24x24

good morning sunday 24x24

Will Harmuth manages Williams and Philips Graphic Design. This sort of commercial art work is how Harmuth has supported his wife and their daughter (now grown) for decades. Of course, a career as an artist has its financial ups and down. After 9/11, the commercial work dried up. Harmuth had the idea to do a whole bunch of small paintings (5”x7” and 6”x8”) to sell relatively cheaply. The idea was a hit, and for a time the family paid their bills, living off of those small paintings.

Harmuth currently finds himself in a stage of his career where he can devote more energy to the fine art side of things, which is his passion. He reveals his enthusiasm for painting with every bold, vigorous mark and in his prolific output of strong, vibrant compositions. He advises artists who are starting out:

“Don’t paint the life out of it. Paint the life in it.

 

  “A Winter’s Evening”    16”x20”oil on canvas

“A Winter’s Evening”

16”x20”oil on canvas

This article can also be found on Willl Harmuth's website and in the March edition of the Easton Irregular newspaper:  "The Artist Profile" column.

Will Harmuth is an active member of the Easton art community. He is currently represented by Connexions Gallery in Easton, PA, Clinton Falls Gallery in Clinton, NJ, and Weiler House Fine Art Gallery in Fort Worth, Texas. View Will’s work online at www.willharmuth.com.

   Here is a portrait of me!    Wil l painted this after our interview together.  It was such a delightful surprise to see myself through his eyes, sitting in my studio with my paintings hanging on the wall behind me!  

Here is a portrait of me!  Will painted this after our interview together.  It was such a delightful surprise to see myself through his eyes, sitting in my studio with my paintings hanging on the wall behind me!  

With a Light Heart

“People must live. And bear their burdens with a light heart.”

--Matisse

 Still Life with Anemones, 1924 (oil on canvas), Henri Matisse

Still Life with Anemones, 1924 (oil on canvas), Henri Matisse

Matisse suffered from ill health in his old age, which prevented him from standing up at his easel.  He didn't stop making art, though, he just changed his method of working. 

Here's a picture of him cutting out paper shapes in bed!

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The limitations of his illness forced Matisse to experiment with new methods of art-making, resulting in his fabulous colorful paper cutouts.

 "The Fall of Icarus" a paper cutout by Matisse

"The Fall of Icarus" a paper cutout by Matisse

I feel comforted looking at these photos of Matisse making art in bed, probably because I've had to be in bed a lot myself, lately.    For the past six weeks or so, I've been in a lot of pain, unable to walk or stand for very long.  I have an old injury in my body that was caused by childbirth, and although I have lived with it for eight years, it has recently taken an unbearable turn for the worse.  

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I feel grateful that, despite my pain, I can still do lots of wonderful things: I can hold my kids on my lap and read to them, I can play the piano, and I can sketch and paint (as long as I am sitting down.)  So, I'll look to Matisse for a positive role model, and I'll try not to get depressed.  I have a few doctor appointments scheduled in the coming weeks, and hopefully things will improve.

"Hope springs eternal!"

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Hope springs eternal in the human breast;

Man never is, but always to be blessed:

The soul, uneasy and confined from home,

Rests and expatiates in a life to come.

 

--Alexander Pope, an Essay on Man

April 9, 2018 UPDATE:  It's been about a month since I wrote this blog post, and I'm very grateful to report that, after some physical therapy*, my intense pain has subsided, and I can do some of the activities I used to love, like walking to my studio, for example.  I am still healing, and so I am "taking it easy."  I emerge with a newfound respect and appreciation for my body; it's the only one I have!

*Women's Tent and Dr. Valerie Turner, PT.

Seams

"As a writer and artist, I’m interested in the confluence of stories and visual art, often through the perspective of the natural world. I like to blend personal narratives and artwork together."

--Kate Brandes

 show card made by Keri Maxfield:  OPENING RECEPTION RESCHEDULED MARCH 9th.  (weather)

show card made by Keri Maxfield:  OPENING RECEPTION RESCHEDULED MARCH 9th.  (weather)

My good friend Kate is an artist, writer, and an environmental scientist.  We have collaborated on creative projects: painting side by side, giving each other feedback on our art over cups of tea, going on long walks, and sitting together with our laptops at Tucker Silk Mill, industriously writing our separate novels.  I'm proud to publish this small teaser about Kate's newest project, Seams.  The reception opens this week!

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Kate's recently been working on a project called “Seams,” which is a series of narrative paper quilts made of thread, paper, and watercolor. The Seams Project will be on display from March 2 – May 11, 2018 at Nurture Nature Center in Easton, PA.

This project was inspired by six women who, like Kate, are both artists and scientists. Kate wanted to create a visual work about the value of cross-pollinating ideas in order to expand one’s own sense of possibility. This project, at its heart, is about identity gained through breaking barriers. Each art quilt incorporates themes from nature to accentuate common experiences. There are nine different small art quilts in the series. She says she chose to work with paper because it’s a flexible medium that serves new and mature ideas equally well. The work is fragmented, patch-worked, patterned, and layered. The series draws on textile traditions of sharing life experiences. Each art quilt is hand-painted and hand-sewn.

 thread and watercolor on paper

thread and watercolor on paper

Further Reading

A link to Kate's book can be found here.  Also, there will be a few show copies at the reception to look at.

Read more about Kate's project on her website.

Chawne Kimber: Quilt Artist  (Chawne is one of the artists represented in Kate's paper quilts.)

The Promise of Pierson Orchard:  Last year Kate's first novel was published.  It's amazing!!

Jessica Bastidas

“I hope that my portraits are of people as they are.

Honest documents of a person in a frozen moment.”

-Jessica Bastidas

  “Braided Ties”, 20”x30”, oil on panel

“Braided Ties”, 20”x30”, oil on panel

Jessica Bastidas

by Lauren Kindle

This is the Artist Profile article I wrote for the Easton Irregular newspaper for the February 2018 issue.

 

Jessica Bastidas is a fine artist, illustrator, and full-time art teacher. Her exquisitely realistic portraits of men, women, and children are characterized by confident draftsmanship and a masterful application of oil paint, enhanced by elements of abstraction and unconventional surfaces, often becoming assemblages of repurposed wood and building materials.

One can sense the artist’s sincere desire to bridge society’s perceived differences, to connect the viewer and the subject, and to celebrate the common ground we all share: humanity. The subjects of the painting meet the viewer’s gaze with dignity, revealing a deep connection on a human level. Or else they turn away, absorbed by their own private thoughts, sorrows, or joys. With her art, Bastidas appeals to society’s potential for greater compassion and understanding.

“Often times,” Bastidas says of her subjects, who are people she has met during her travels, “they are of people living in incredibly challenging social and economic conditions, whether that is within the country of São Tomé and Príncipe or halfway across the world in Baltimore [Maryland] . . . the goal of the image is to not capture someone who has been defeated or degraded, but rather to illustrate resilience and defiance, the beauty of persevering. There are all types of strengths: of spirit, relationships, ingenuity, entrepreneurship . . . They are the characteristics that built our country and continue to spearhead innovation and social change across the world.”

  “Bantu Knots”, 14”x16”, oil paint on panel and assemblage

“Bantu Knots”, 14”x16”, oil paint on panel and assemblage

In her website bio, Bastidas expresses the hope that art can “ . . . combat recurring themes of cultural alienation, disenfranchisement, and racial stereotyping.” She feels that, despite being more digitally and globally connected than ever before, people today are becoming increasingly more separated and insulated. “Most individuals,” Bastidas remarks, “myself included, are much more comfortable when they aren’t being challenged, when they aren’t being pushed to think critically, to challenge their own assumptions and prejudices that, often times, they aren’t even aware they have. It is a difficult and painful task to hold oneself accountable, to admit one’s weaknesses, flaws, and myopic perspectives. But as cliché as it is, you have to greet hate and bigotry with love . . . not a passive love, but an aggressively strong, blindingly visible, all-encompassing love…”

Bastidas herself admits that it is pretty ambitious to hope that art might help bring about drastic social change, but in this current political climate, it’s certainly relevant and needed. For example, Bastidas often gets challenged by people about her choice to paint “only” people of color. “Firstly, that’s not even true,” Bastidas explains. “I paint people of all races. But my response is always, would you be asking me this question if all my pictures were of white people? And a lot of times the answer is no, they wouldn’t. Why? Because it has been normalized by hundreds of years of portraiture in the Western tradition, where people of color are relegated to the background, the periphery. People of color aren’t the subject [in traditional Western painting]; they are depicted as slaves, servants, or exotic afterthoughts. They are often caricatures . . . exoticized or eroticized. I hope that my portraits are of people as they are. Honest documents of a person in a frozen moment . . .”

  “Lafayette Avenue”, 24”x36”, oil on panel

“Lafayette Avenue”, 24”x36”, oil on panel

Bastidas grew up in the Lehigh Valley, and was encouraged to pursue her love of art at a young age. After high school (Lehigh Valley Charter High School for the Arts), Bastidas went to Maryland Institute College of Art (MICA), where she majored in illustration and humanistic studies, with a minor in art history. Through MICA, Bastidas has been able to travel abroad. She became interested in community arts and teaching at an after-school arts program in the Commonwealth of Dominica. It was then that she realized she loved teaching just as much as artmaking! She recently got her Masters in Arts and Teaching and currently teaches boys at Mount Saint Joseph High School in Baltimore.

Bastidas plans to keep learning, teaching, and, of course, painting. She describes her vision with simple clarity: “I just want to continue making and showing work that speaks to people, that sparks a conversation, and that reflects individuals that aren’t normally visible or valued.”

  “Hustle”, 16”x20”, oil on panel

“Hustle”, 16”x20”, oil on panel

 

Jessica Bastidas will have a solo show at Brick + Mortar Gallery in Easton sometime this summer, 2018. brickandmortargallery.com

 

Valentines

"You and I
Have so much love..."

--Guan Daosheng (artist and poet, Yuan Dyansty)

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A decade ago (back when I had small babies), I had a greeting card company called "Kindle Arts and Cards," which is now no longer in operation.  My husband and I did all our own printing from our house, using artwork I had created.  (I actually still have the originals of most of these, available for purchase.)

Here are some Valentine images; I thought it would be appropriate to share them today. 

Happy Valentine's Day!

 "Amor" collage 5x7"

"Amor" collage 5x7"

 "Belle Etoile" collage, 5x7"  The text in this collage comes from a letter my friend Arista gave to me, when we were in college together.

"Belle Etoile" collage, 5x7"

The text in this collage comes from a letter my friend Arista gave to me, when we were in college together.

 "I wanted to crawl inside the blossoms..." collage, 5x7"

"I wanted to crawl inside the blossoms..." collage, 5x7"

 "My Love" collage, 5x7"

"My Love" collage, 5x7"

 "Ladybug Love" watercolor and acrylic, 5x7"

"Ladybug Love" watercolor and acrylic, 5x7"

Married Love

by Guan Daosheng

 

You and I
Have so much love,
That it
Burns like a fire,
In which we bake a lump of clay
Molded into a figure of you
And a figure of me.
Then we take both of them,
And break them into pieces,
And mix the pieces with water,
And mold again a figure of you,
And a figure of me.
I am in your clay.
In life we share a single quilt.
In death we will share a single coffin.

 "The Kiss" watercolor on paper 5x7"   The inspiration for this watercolor came from an advertisement photograph in a magazine.  I wish I could remember where, so I could give it credit.

"The Kiss" watercolor on paper 5x7"

The inspiration for this watercolor came from an advertisement photograph in a magazine.  I wish I could remember where, so I could give it credit.

 

This poem, Married Love, was written by the artist-poet Guan Daosheng from the Yuan Dynasty (1262-1319).  You can see one of her paintings, plus a portrait painted of her, in my blog post "The Artist: A Tale from Old China."

Other Related Blog Posts:

Solace: thoughts on marriage

Strange Love Letters: envelopes as art

 

Snow Day

"Yay!  There's no school!"

--my kids

 "Crowscall" painting by  Stephen Dinsmore

"Crowscall" painting by Stephen Dinsmore

So...it's another snow day!!  I thought I would share a few of my favorite snow-paintings with you.  The kids are home from school, jumping all around on the furniture and quarreling with each other.  I told them I would be "nice" today if they just let me get this blog post published... and that's sort of working.  This winter, we have had so many snow days and two hour delays and early dismissals due to weather!  I'm forced to accept more chaos into my life; I'm just not in control of my days. 

 "Snow Bank" oil on canvas, 11x14" by  Kristen Peyton  (my  roommate from Italy !)

"Snow Bank" oil on canvas, 11x14" by Kristen Peyton (my roommate from Italy!)

I subscribe to the Savvy Painter newsletter by Antrese Wood, and yesterday I read an old email with good advice.  Antrese explains that it's unhelpful to see our studio time as all-or-nothing.  She writes:

"Instead of thinking, 'I can't get anything done in an hour,' try thinking, 'What can I get done in the next 20-30 minutes?'...In the same way that small choices that take you away from your painting add up, the same is true for making small choices that bring you towards your painting.  It adds up.  Don't underestimate it."
 "Winter Shadows" by  Jennifer Irvine  30x30" oilpainting

"Winter Shadows" by Jennifer Irvine 30x30" oilpainting

In a way, losing my illusion of control is a good thing,  It makes me take myself less seriously.  It also encourages me to figure out ways to make art in a variety of circumstances.  Today this might mean some small, quick studies, or some time playing around with collage with gouache and paper. 

 "Christmas Shadows" 30x24" by  David Langevin

"Christmas Shadows" 30x24" by David Langevin

The kids actually like messing around with paint too, so it might be a win-win.  But, first I'm going to get them outside to burn off some energy playing in the snow!

 Paysage by  Nicolas de Staël,  , 1952

Paysage by Nicolas de Staël, , 1952

Related reading: 

"Winter Musings" my blog post from a year ago, February.

"Studio Practice" my blog from last week, where I describe my ideal studio day (which doesn't always happen, as you can see!)

Studio Practice

"...it is the everyday-ness of the studio practice that yields work that has significance and a life that has meaning."

--Julie Langsam, from Living and Sustaining a Creative Life

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This fall I read a book, Living and Sustaining a Creative Life, by Sharon Louden.  A friend I met in Italy, the artist Christina Renfer Vogel, recommended this book to me, and it was exactly what I needed to read!  Among other things, the book made me aware that most artists need a regular studio practice.  It's definitely something I need.  With regular, consistent studio time built into my life, I am better able to meet my other responsibilities and relationships with a graceful, loving presence.

  Sometimes my "Studio time" is at home, if the kids are home sick or something.  It's challenging to do art when there are dirty dishes or laundry sitting around, but I make an effort.  I also have to watch out for naughty cats who want to jump on my paint palette!

Sometimes my "Studio time" is at home, if the kids are home sick or something.  It's challenging to do art when there are dirty dishes or laundry sitting around, but I make an effort.  I also have to watch out for naughty cats who want to jump on my paint palette!

My Routine

6 am yoga and meditation

7 am make breakfast for family

8:30 kids leave for school

9-10 exercise (usually a walk)

10-3 Studio

3 pm cup of strong tea

3:30 kids come home.  chores and make dinner etc.

evening: family time

I also spend some time each evening practicing the piano and working on my novel.  I often do my website stuff and blogging in the evenings as well, or else I find time on the weekends. 

I'll be honest, not every day is like this.  Once in awhile I have to take a day off and stay home getting caught up on a bunch of important stuff like housework or finances that are out of control.  It's not a "perfect" system, and it's not carved in stone, but it's a dependable routine that suits me very well.  

  Radishes  oil on canvas 9x12"  (this is the painting my cat helped me with!)

Radishes oil on canvas 9x12"  (this is the painting my cat helped me with!)

I hope this was interesting or inspiring in some way!  Good luck to everyone in figuring out their own helpful routines, incorporating the things they value most into their daily lives.

I happen to find this sort of thing fascinating, so please share your own creative routine in the comments if you wish!

Interview with Allan Anderson

This interview with the artist Allan Anderson was contributed by Laura Vahlberg.  Laura is an artist from Alabama, whom I met last summer when I was painting in ItalyEnjoy!

 "Edisto" 9.5x13.5" oil on board

"Edisto" 9.5x13.5" oil on board

Interview with Allan Anderson

by Laura Vahlberg

I am honored that Allan Anderson agreed to this email interview and thank him greatly for being so generous with his time and attention, sharing thoughts about his art and process.

Allan Anderson is a landscape painter living in Columbia, SC. His work in the landscape was most recently shown at the 2017 National Juried Painting Exhibition at the University of Southern Mississippi, juried by painter Peter Van Dyck where he won Best in Show. He is also an art teacher at a local high school in Lexington, SC.

 "View from the Carport at Night" 16x20" oil on panel

"View from the Carport at Night" 16x20" oil on panel

Laura Vahlberg: Hi Allan, Thanks for agreeing to this interview! So how did you get started with becoming a painter?

Allan Anderson: Hi Laura, Thanks for asking. I decided to become a painter after my first landscape class at the University of South Carolina. Before that, I had never painted. I always loved art and always drew but never thought I could do anything with it. I actually discovered painting while I was in the Art Education program at USC. It was during the landscape class that I decided to change my major. At first, I think it was the challenge of painting that attracted me. The more I painted, the more it became about something much bigger and I knew that it was something that I needed in my life. I was consumed by painting and made it a priority to learn as much as I could about it. Once I was committed, the rest was laid out for me and I had wonderful mentors to help me along the way. 

LV: I really like what you said about painting becoming about something much bigger. Can you tell me more about that? Also, can you tell me more about your mentors?

AA: 1st question: 

During my second year of painting I was very fortunate to get a scholarship to the International School of Painting, Drawing, and Sculpture in Monte Castello, Italy. I was immersed in the classical landscapes that were painted by the same master painters I had been studying. There is something special about the landscape in Italy. It teaches you to paint. It was there where I began seeing differently and thinking differently about nature and the landscape around me. As I painted and studied painting constantly, I developed a painter’s lens. I look at everything differently now. My brain is always finding connections of shapes and color. I am always painting in my mind throughout the day, even when I can’t find time to actually paint.

So I guess when I say painting became much bigger, I mean that it became an integral part of my life. It became something I needed. Painting represents peace and solidarity to me. It is hard to explain, but when I am painting, I feel a sense of happiness and wholeness, like everything is full and perfectly satisfied in my world. The things that make me most happy in life, such as my family, fuel my passion for painting. I always say that without those parts of my life I wouldn’t be able to paint at my highest level. Having that solidarity allows me to paint in a very natural way. It is a very sincere and profound experience.  

 "Mountain Morning" 5x8" acrylic on paper

"Mountain Morning" 5x8" acrylic on paper

AA: 2nd question: 

As far as my mentors, I contribute much of my growth as a painter to Blake Morgan and Brian Rego. They both taught at the University of South Carolina during my undergraduate studies. I met Blake when I took his Intro to Painting course. At that time, I was taking a foundations course with Brian. I didn’t realize then that they would have such a large influence on me. Both are good friends of mine now and will laugh when they read this, but I think it is understood that if it weren’t for them, I most likely wouldn’t be painting.

Blake was the reason I started painting. He taught me the basics and encouraged me to keep going. He introduced me to many things, such as materials and processes, as well as painters to study. He introduced me to Stanley Lewis, who I still study often. That guy knows painting! Brian gave me my first easel. He had a lot of influence on me in the landscape and how I handle my paint application. I was very fortunate to spend a lot of one on one time just painting and having critiques with them. Looking back, it is pretty incredible how much time I was able to have with both of them. There were many sessions where we would set up right beside each other and paint the same subject. I did a lot of figure painting with Blake and landscape painting with Brian. As intimidating as it was to work directly beside them, it was very constructive to my growth. I feel like those sessions helped me develop faster.

There is so much more that can be said about what I learned from both of them and what I am still learning from them today. I have been painting for six years. As far as I’m concerned I am still a young painter. I don’t really know what I am doing half the time. I just know that I enjoy it. I try not to over think it and to paint as naturally as I possibly can. 

 "Gray House in New Brookland" 11x19" oil on board

"Gray House in New Brookland" 11x19" oil on board

 

LV: Can you talk about your process? How do you go about making a picture? 

AA: I tend to paint ordinary places that I see often; typically somewhere I pass daily. You can find beauty in anything. When I said that I am always painting, I really am always looking at everything in relation to painting. I see good paintings everywhere. I don’t have much of a planning process anymore, but I look for places that are appealing to me. It usually involves the way the light affects something at a certain time of day, or the way objects line up with one another. I am very interested in the relationships between shapes in my paintings and how they share the space within the picture plane. Often times I paint in places that I pass daily on my commute. If I see it enough and think about it enough, I eventually stop for a closer look.

I can’t remember the last time I sketched or planned a painting beforehand. I used to draw things out first, but now I just go for it. I may use a viewfinder for a few minutes while I look at composition, but after that I begin blocking in color. This led me to using more paint, which brought up new discoveries and new obstacles. I have learned the value of a palette knife and the ability to scrape. I focus a lot of attention on paint application and mark making. I try to have at least two to three colors and various brush sizes going at one time so I can maintain sincerity to my edges. These things are important to me but in the end I honestly just do my best to paint what I see in front of me. The things I leave out or invent just sort of happen naturally.

Recently, I am trying out another approach. My studio has always been more of a place to store my paintings and materials than a place to paint. One of my many goals is to find ways to work in my studio more. I discovered digital painting around the time my son was born and I have been working from them in the studio. I think I got the idea from painter John Dubrow while I was browsing some of his posts. I started experimenting with it on my phone. At first it was an attempt to keep my painting needs met during such a hectic time but I quickly discovered the possibilities it allowed and moved to an iPad. I am still new to painting from them in the studio but I think it will serve as a useful tool while working on my larger paintings, especially those that involve figures. 

 "Morning in the Park on C Avenue" 8x15" oil on board

"Morning in the Park on C Avenue" 8x15" oil on board

LV: Do you use photo reference in your work? 

AA: I don’t use photographic references but I am not against it. It doesn’t work for what I want to do with my paintings. A lot of what I am attracted to involves natural light or the way something looks in its own space. That is why it has been a struggle for me to paint in the studio. Working from digital paintings is slightly different because it is still painting from observation with my iPad. With those, I have noticed more intensity in color to some degree because it is digital, but it is still more natural than a photograph. I believe skilled painters can use photographic references; I am just not there yet. Ideally, I would like to take photos of places when I travel and be able to paint them back home. I sometimes paint small studies when we travel and take many photos while I paint in plans of working in the studio. When I try to do so, I can never get the color that I want. So I guess the best answer is, I would if I could. I think that is why I talk so much about being in nature and painting in a way that feels most natural to me. I am most comfortable out there, and it just kind of happens for me. 

I would add that I believe it is fundamental to paint from life and direct observation if you ever plan to work from photographs. There are certain skills that can only be obtained when working from life and there is too much to understand about space and color that can't be found in a 2 dimensional photograph. 

 "Old Mill Creek After the Flood" 5x7" gouache on paper

"Old Mill Creek After the Flood" 5x7" gouache on paper

LV: You mentioned Stanley Lewis, do you ever piece canvases or paper together the way he does?

AA: I have. Piecing things together is always an option. My surface choice has a lot to do with it. For me, paper is much easier to piece together than anything else. I believe Stanley is able to piece things together effectively because he has refined such a personal approach to painting and how he treats the surface. Something so personal can only be developed through time. He also uses an abundant amount of paint. I would love to be that confident and vigorous with my application. I always think about working that way, but never do completely. Piecing things together for me works occasionally and is always an option that I keep in my back pocket. I’ve also cropped paintings down. The painting that placed in the Mississippi show was actually twice the size but I wasn’t happy with the right side. Sometimes you have to know when to let go. Ultimately you have to make decisions for the better of the painting. If adding or removing something will help the painting, I believe it is necessary.

LV: How do you respond to changing light and changing seasons while making a painting?

AA: Part of the thrill is chasing the light each session. Every time you set up to paint is different than the next. You have to be willing to paint over everything if the painting needs it. Painting over something you like is such a challenging lesson to grasp but is essential for learning to paint the landscape. You have to keep it fresh. A great aspect of painting from life in these situations is that things do change. When they do, you find new connections of shapes and color that may make for more intriguing compositions. The downfall of painting from life is when seasons change; you may have to put a painting away for a while. I believe this is beneficial in a way because it gives you a lot of time to look and reflect on what works in the painting. I do have one very large painting of my backyard that has been around for two years. It is late summer just before fall. I am excited to work on it again now that my son is walking. I plan to paint him in there this summer.

 "View from Park in New Brookland" 12x16" oil on board

"View from Park in New Brookland" 12x16" oil on board

LV: How long do you typically spend on a painting?

AA: It varies. My one-shot paintings often work out better than my longer, thought-out paintings. One session is usually three hours. I work four hours if I am lucky. The light changes a great deal within four hours, especially during the times that I paint; usually the mornings or evenings. On average, my multiple- session paintings usually accumulate around thirty hours. I tend to slow down with lengthier paintings.

LV: Do you have any reading recommendations for the practicing painter?

AA: Absolutely! I have a ton but here are some that I always keep close by:

 

  • Dunning, William V. Changing Images of Pictorial Space: a History of Spatial Illusion in Painting. Syracuse University Press, 2010.

 

  • Hawthorne, Charles Webster. Hawthorne on Painting: from Students' Notes Collected by Mrs. Charles W. Hawthorne ; with an Introduction by Edwin Dickinson and an Appreciation by Hans Hofmann. Dover Publications, 1960.

 

  • Loran, E. CeÌ Zanne's Composition: Analysis of His Form with Diagrams and Photographs of His Motifs. University of California Press, 1970.

 

  • Pissarro, Camille, and John Rewald. Letters: to His Son Lucian, by Camille Pissarro. Kegan Paul, Trench, Trubner, 1943.

 

Thank you so much for inviting me to do this interview! I always enjoy discussing painting.

 "Red Roof in New Brookland" 19x14.5" oil on canvas

"Red Roof in New Brookland" 19x14.5" oil on canvas

Further reading includes "Ten Tips on Painting," another guest blog post by Laura Vahlberg.

 

My Dad

A good day for making effortless artwork.

Easeful and light.

Doing, "not doing."

Allowing the flower to bloom all by itself.

--a note my dad left for me in my studio one day

 a quick pencil sketch of my dad and my son cuddling on the couch

a quick pencil sketch of my dad and my son cuddling on the couch

A few supportive words can make such a difference, especially words spoken by a loving parent.   I will give you an example from my own life.  Eleven years ago, I was at a holiday party with my dad and a lot of people I didn't know very well.  I was a brand-new mother, and I think I spent most of the party sitting in a chair in the corner, nursing my infant daughter.  But at one point I remember overhearing my dad's voice rise slightly above the conversations and the music, and I heard him saying proudly to someone:

"My daughter is a painter."

I never heard the rest of the conversation, but it didn't matter.  I couldn't believe it!!  Did he really think I was a painter?  Even though I was someone who made paintings, I never would have called myself a painter at that time.  And yet, in that moment, I began to entertain the idea.  Hearing him describe me that way filled my heart with gratitude.  I don't think I ever told him how  happy his words made me, but afterwards, I always kept that memory with me.  Anytime I needed to, I could close my eyes and hear them again.  Those five words have given me support whenever I felt like I needed external validation.

And I still can hear them, to this day.

 another quick pencil sketch of my dad

another quick pencil sketch of my dad

Not everyone has a supportive dad, and I feel very lucky!  One of my favorite artists from the eighteenth century, Élisabeth Louise Vigée Le Brun, also had an encouraging dad.  Her dad, Louis Vigée, was a fan painter, and he was his daughter's first art teacher, as well as her staunch supporter.  When she was about seven or eight, she made a drawing of a man.  She wrote about his reaction:

"When my father saw it he went into transports of joy, exclaiming,

'You will be a painter, child, if ever there was one!'" 

 Drawing, 36.4 x 24.2 cm. Pushkin Museum, Moscow This may be a self portrait by Vigée Le Brun.    (See my blog post "  Divine Passion " for more about Le Brun.)

Drawing, 36.4 x 24.2 cm. Pushkin Museum, Moscow This may be a self portrait by Vigée Le Brun. 

(See my blog post "Divine Passion" for more about Le Brun.)

So... thank you to all the dads in the world who are loving and supportive!

And thanks especially to my dad, who left me this note recently in my studio, which I discovered with delight!

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Dear Lauren, 

A good day for making effortless artwork.  Easeful and light. 

Doing "not doing."  Allowing the flower to bloom all by itself.  

 My dad and I, playing Scottish music on the electric bagpipes and pennywhistle.

My dad and I, playing Scottish music on the electric bagpipes and pennywhistle.

Anne Truitt: Daybook

"One of the fascinations of being an artist is living in all the dimensions of life with an artist inside you.  An intractable and always mysterious companion..."   --Anne Truitt

 I found this photo at  annetruitt.org

I found this photo at annetruitt.org

I just read Daybook: the Journal of an Artist by Anne Truitt.  It was so amazing.  I underlined so many passages, a few of which I have retyped here in my blog post.  I hope this will inspire you to read the whole book!  (Some of the quotations may be from Turn, her second book.)

"My work is coming steadily along...I thrive in the repetitive routine."

 This photo is from  artcritical , an online magazine.  More beautiful photographs can be found in this blog post from the Joanne Mattera Art Blog:   Motherlode: Anne Truitt at Matthew Marks

This photo is from artcritical, an online magazine.  More beautiful photographs can be found in this blog post from the Joanne Mattera Art Blog:  Motherlode: Anne Truitt at Matthew Marks

"Artists who wish to set the light free; which is what I also wish to do, to make it visible for its own sake."

--on her experience at the "American Luminist" exhibit at the National Gallery in 1980

 This photograph of Anne Truitt in front of one of her sculptures came from this fantastic  Brain Picking's article :   Anne Truitt on Resisting the Label “Artist” and the Difference Between Doing Art and Being an Artist.  

This photograph of Anne Truitt in front of one of her sculptures came from this fantastic Brain Picking's article:  Anne Truitt on Resisting the Label “Artist” and the Difference Between Doing Art and Being an Artist.  

"But the essential struggle is private and bears no relation to anyone else's.  It is of necessity a solitary and lonely endeavor to explore one's own sensibility, to discover how it works and to implement honestly its manifestations.  It is ultimately character that underwrites art.  The quality of art can only reflect the quality and range of a person's sensitivity, intellect, perception, and experience."

  Rice-Paper Drawing [17],  1965,   ink on Japanese rice paper, 12 1/4 x 9 in.     (I found this image on the very-awesome-blog " Studio and Garden " by Altoon Sultan.)

Rice-Paper Drawing [17], 1965, ink on Japanese rice paper, 12 1/4 x 9 in.   

(I found this image on the very-awesome-blog "Studio and Garden" by Altoon Sultan.)

"My sculptures live in my mind.  I can rebuff them only at some psychic peril too deep for articulation.  Also, I have a loyalty to my work that owes nothing to any opinion any other person might have of it.  I have faith in it, virtual trust."  -- (actually this is from Turn, the sequel to Daybook)

"The sun interpenetrates the earth; they have business with each other.  Air and I are somewhere in between." 

--also from Turn

 Anne Truitt's Landfall, 1970, in Matthew Marks Gallery, picture from dayoutlast blog. Anne Truitt describes beautifully in her Daybook how this sculpture came to her, shamefully too long to place here.

Anne Truitt's Landfall, 1970, in Matthew Marks Gallery, picture from dayoutlast blog. Anne Truitt describes beautifully in her Daybook how this sculpture came to her, shamefully too long to place here.

"Love is fixed, instantly accessible to memory,

somehow stained into my body as color into cloth."

 

Truitt's work is now at the National Gallery of Art in Washington DC.  "In the Tower" is up until April 1st, 2018.

New Years, New Days

"Every day is the same...wiping down yesterday's work and beginning again..."

--Scott Smith, artist

 painting by  Scott Smith  (one of my favorite artists)

painting by Scott Smith (one of my favorite artists)

My friend Rachel gave me a book for Christmas: Art & Fear.  It's really good!  Here's a quotation:

"The hardest part of artmaking is living your life in such a way that your work gets done, over and over--and that means, among other things, finding a host of practices that are just plain useful.  A piece of art is the surface expression of a life lived within productive patterns."

So this is something I have been struggling with, trying to figure out what my productive patterns are, what works best for me (and my family as a whole.)  I have learned over the past few years that it's best for me work from 10 am-3 pm most weekdays, and then be totally present for my family when the kids get off the bus at 3:30.  It's ideal for me to have several days in a row: nice, steady blocks of time to allow for "art" to happen.  That's why I made this New Year's Resolution:

my New Year's Resolution:

Paint Four Hours a Day, Monday-Friday*

*or Five Hours a Day, four days a week, if one day gets compromised by Life

 a page from Scott's notebook

a page from Scott's notebook

Yesterday was my kids' first full day of school in weeks, and I thought I might finally be able to get into the studio.  However, after returning home from a long road trip on Monday, I realized there were just too many pressing household needs.  (For example, we needed food...)  Consequently... I've already failed my New Year's Resolution...

I was feeling bad about myself for failing on only the second day of 2018, but then I was scrolling around aimlessly on facebook (breaking yet another resolution to stop scrolling around aimlessly on facebook) and I read this encouraging message by Scott Smith:

"every day is the same...wiping down yesterday's work and beginning again, looking again....sometimes it's with hope, sometimes in anger, occasionally it's honest....new years, new days, all the same..."

 Sketch-in-progress by Scott Smith 

Sketch-in-progress by Scott Smith 

Scott's simple words made me relax.  I realized I needed to stop taking myself so seriously.  The important thing is to just do the work with quiet humility and a certain amount of grace when encountering Life's inevitable chaos.  It's not about perfection, or achieving a whole bunch of goals, or even creating finished paintings.  It's just about living life, and doing the work.  So, here I come New Year!   Here I come, my beautiful Studio!  A new day has begun!

New Years, new days, all the same...

 another sketch by Scott Smith

another sketch by Scott Smith

Thanks for reading my blog!  Happy New Year!  Happy New Day!

 My New Year's Eve Fortune cookie! 

My New Year's Eve Fortune cookie! 

Let the horizon take you gently into the brightness..

"The only way I knew to love you, was to cut the cord and watch you float away."

--The Devil's Plea

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Almost two weeks ago, on November 24, we had the opening reception of Graham Preston's art show, The Devil's Plea, which included a musical performance by John Beacher, who helped write the song with Graham: a ballad about the devil's fall retold as a sad tale of lost love. There was also a beautiful dance performance by John's sister, Ixeeya Beacher.  As I explained in a previous blog post, the artwork was an expansion of the song, inspired by it.  The paintings are not literal translations, but dreamlike allusions.  

 These two paintings mirror each other.

These two paintings mirror each other.

Graham and John have been working on this project for a couple of years, and it was a real honor to be able to participate in this collaboration by providing a space for it to see fruition.  

 Ixeeya dancing while John sings!  My studio turned into a forest-scene, the floor covered in fallen leaves...  Photo Credit: Lauralee Longname

Ixeeya dancing while John sings!  My studio turned into a forest-scene, the floor covered in fallen leaves...

Photo Credit: Lauralee Longname

At the end, there were several beautiful songs, and a poem.  The entire audio can be found here:

Graham describes it this way:  The project began as paintings of contemporary illuminations that operate almost as illustrations, telling a reinvented cultural myth of how Lucifer fell in love with Eve, that John Beacher and I developed through music. As time progressed, the imagery fell into the complexity of complete abstraction.

All of the paintings are for sale and are 14”x 17“ acrylic on paper, mounted on gilded, hand made panels by Graham. They are $425 each.  Here are images of the paintings (untitled):

This is one of a set of three abstracts, some of my favorites in the show.  

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Here you can see these three paintings together.  (These must be purchased as a set of three.)  What you can't see on your screen is the gold leaf flecked over their surfaces, so come check them out in person!

Here are five more paintings that I included in my previous blog post, The Devil's Plea.  

Some Personal Reflexions

So, the whole thing was so intense, so emotional, and so exhausting yet wonderful.  Sitting in my studio-gallery for nine hours the next day, I became overwhelmed and I began to cry.  I couldn't understand why nobody had bought a painting; I felt so emotionally and physically invested in the whole thing.  But, in addition to feeling my emotions, I had a lot of time to think about why it's important to do art: to connect with people!  And I was amazed how a collaboration can produce something so much greater than the sum of its parts.  How we measure success is so strange, if we limit it to financial success.  As far as making connections with the community and tapping into the larger spirit of cosmic creativity, and making an event which brought all those amazing paintings and people together, it was a HUGE success!  

I wrote to Graham about my feelings, and he responded with his own personal thoughts, which I have found very helpful, so I'm sharing them with you:

I never in my life have made anything of value that revolved around selling it.  I feel that generally when we make real art, it's never received well in the way most people traditionally measure things... especially financially.  We live in a world where most people need something to be a popularized trend before they even consider trying it, none the less buy it.  They need to feel like it's legitimized by someone or something.  To sell those paintings we need real collectors who realize the philanthropic importance of supporting artists... and of those people, they also have to like the paintings and believe in the mission... all that doesn't really matter.  What we made was truly beautiful and it's just a a starting point!  We gave people an experience and a truly special one and that alone was worth every second of exhaustion and stress it took to pull it off.

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Thanks for reading my blog and following my adventures as I try and figure out my place in the art world as an artist and "gallery" owner.  I'm new at this, so there will be a lot of heart-felt fumbling, but also excitement and joy.

Anyway, come see these pieces in person before the show comes down.  They really are amazing experienced in a group, it's like standing in a room of stained-glass windows!

Last day to see the show: Dec. 24th!  I'll be open weekends through Christmas Eve, Saturdays 10-3, Sundays 12-4

Lauren Kindle Studio

7B North Bank St., Easton, PA 18042

And by appointment: lauren@laurenkindle.com

 Ixeeya, John, me, and Graham!  photo credit: Lauralee Longname

Ixeeya, John, me, and Graham!

photo credit: Lauralee Longname

The Devil's Plea

"How could I not grow to love you?" -- the Devil's Plea

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Today's blog post is a poem and paintings by Graham Preston, in anticipation for the opening reception on Friday! Graham wrote the lyrics for a ballad which inspired the paintings, and John Beacher put it to music.  Live performance Friday at 7 pm!

a poem by graham preston

From out the forest grew Eden,

From out the holy graves of silent fox holes and the ancient homes of velociraptors walked Adam.  And they say, from that simple man, God cut a rib.  Like a tusk of ivory, like a sacred pearl, blood was rinsed from bone, and the Lord's holy golden fingers held that piece of Adam to the sky, when all of a sudden, calcium lit up like the reflection of crude oil, whose colors sprayed through the corners of space in such glory that all the black holes went blind.  You walked out from rays, from where God's hands were, your toes stepping over earth, over the tombs of things that never knew they were alive, and from out of them grew flowers.  With each step came daisies, and tulips, and orchids, and soon the forest and the hills were covered in color.

From your mouth you would make sounds, and for those sounds God made beasts to house them, so every time you spoke came new life.  And then you sang, oh my did you sing, how beautiful your song, your breath in decibels, so glorious that God filled the oceans with His tears.  Within His hysterics and by the power of your music, the undulations of His gasp turned the waves, and their crashing created atmosphere.  By then, even the moon bent to you, its sights glued open just to watch you, with intermittent blinking, pulling the draw of the tides as its eye opened and closed just so.

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The void from Adam's chest kept him whimpering for days.  Days at a time, when time was new, when time was not yet time.  For the hours were days, the days years, and through those years your flowers grew, your beasts called you, and your ocean rolled. 

Adam was yet to  love you.  The pain was too great, the wound too fresh.  The cut so deep, God's first try laid upon the ground, yet to put his feet back under his weight, yet to open his eyes even to see you.  

I was the only one.  Perched in the branches, inside the eyes of your beasts.  Days upon days, years upon years... How could I not grow to Love you?  You ask me if God is cruel.

I ask you, how cruel is it to be conscious, to be present, to be of mind, to be before you and sworn not to touch you, to swim in your streams, move through your flowers, and hide behind the eyes of your beasts?  You, the most beautiful thing, my most sacred admiration, the wonder of my existence?

I knew God's laws.

I was made a part of you, before you,

Made to be of Him, for Him, for you

In you, a part of you, to care for you,

I was set here before to govern, to chaperone the exchange of life into death.

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Where fuel burns into fuel, teeth into flesh over life-gasps.  I was assigned the needs between sleep.  I was made to uphold the rule over the destruction of what you made in order to support the making of new life.  You and I were destined. 

Fuck Adam.  You are so much more than his absence of bone.  I felt your fields, I sang back to you as your beasts, I worshiped you, swimming in the movements of your waves.  Even God didn't know what that was like.  Days into years, Adam on the ground.  You Naked.  Temptation wasn't born with me, temptation was born in us.  Trust me when I say that there has never been emptiness like the forsaken absence of your presence.  And Trust me when I say that it was worth it.

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I am the apple,

I am the snake,

I am the tree and 

Your hands touched,

Your teeth gripped,

your lips sucked, and your tongue turned 

juices and such.

Fuel burned into fuel and so on 

and so on...

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The Devil's Plea

Opening Reception: Friday, November 24th, 6-9 pm

Music performance by John Beacher 7 pm

Paintings by Graham Preston

Note from Lauren:  I have known John and Graham for decades; we were in school together growing up.  I recently reconnected with Graham (in 2014) and I credit him with inspiring me to be an artist.  Or, at least, he made me realize what was already alive within my own heart, and encouraged me to pursue it.  Read about this experience in my blog post: "Housewife on Fire."  Through Graham, I have since reconnected with John, and I'm very excited to collaborate with these old friends, who have grown into such talented, kind, and wonderful men.  

Additional Reading: my blog post "Eve" from two years ago.

And finally, here's the intro to another song that will be performed Friday.  Come here the whole thing in person!