Laura Vahlberg

Ten Tips on Painting: 

Lessons Learned in Civita Castellana, Italy

I met Laura when I was in Italy this summer, when we shared the same apartment building.  She is an incredible artist and I enjoyed having long conversations with her about art and life.  Today on my blog, she shares ten important painting tips she learned after a month of painting in Italy.  I've included the tips with eight of her stunning paintings. 

Check out more of her work at lauravahlberg.com !

"Path" 14.5x11", $450

"Path" 14.5x11", $450

1. Composition wins over content

2. Reality begins after 3 large simple masses are the correct value, chroma, and temperature. 

"Farm," 12"x7 7/8", $350

"Farm," 12"x7 7/8", $350

3. Ask the motif.

4. A painting is a radical commitment to an idea

"Old Civita," 12 1/8"x 16 1/4", $500

"Old Civita," 12 1/8"x 16 1/4", $500

5. All colors must either be in the light world or the shadow world.

"Blue Car", 16"x12" $500

"Blue Car", 16"x12" $500

6. Humans have hunters' eyes to see in the dark. When we look into a color our eyes automatically lighten the color. Squinty peripheral vision shows us a more accurate color read.

"Bench". 15 1/8"x 11 7/8", $500

"Bench". 15 1/8"x 11 7/8", $500

7. A painting is a box of light and air

"Balcony View" , 16"x 12 1/8", $500

"Balcony View" , 16"x 12 1/8", $500

8. Color relationships are the most exciting

"Cypress" 11 1/8x 11 1/8", $400

"Cypress" 11 1/8x 11 1/8", $400

 

9. A lifetime of motifs are in my backyard

"Rooftops" 6 3/4x 6 7/8, $1,000

"Rooftops" 6 3/4x 6 7/8, $1,000

10. Allow for accidents.

"Olive Grove" 17x14" $650

"Olive Grove" 17x14" $650

Nancy Bossert: Artist

“If you expect one thing from me, you will not advance with me.” -Nancy Bossert

"Submerge" 28x30" mixed media painting on archival paper by Nancy Bossert

"Submerge" 28x30" mixed media painting on archival paper by Nancy Bossert

 

my recent October Artist Profile article in the Easton Irregular newspaper

Ever since I moved to Easton 10 years ago, I have admired Nancy Bossert’s work. I frequently saw her art at Connexions, one of the galleries that represents her locally.

Recently, I had the opportunity to sit down and have coffee with Nancy, and we had a lovely conversation about art. She is an energetic and confident person, and as we drank our coffee together, she talked candidly about her work.

Almost everything inspires her to create art. “It’s a constant barrage,” she says. “Everywhere, I see the lines, the angels, the compositions…” Since she was very young, she has always known she wanted to be an artist. She describes her desire to create as a strong and intimate force in her life. “It’s so innate. It’s so passionate.

This passion manifests itself in a seemingly diverse body of work, encompassing representative figurative paintings, abstract pieces, fiber arts, stoneware, and jewelry, to name just a few elements. But there always is a common thread, and it’s not just the unity in value, composition, and palette, but also that more nebulous characteristic of art, which can’t be put into words exactly. This is what I might call the artist’s spirit, which shines clearly out of everything she makes.  

"Mother May I" oil on canvas, 24x18"

"Mother May I" oil on canvas, 24x18"

Some artists might find it daunting to have so many options available to them, but Nancy obviously thrives in this freedom. She doesn’t see her different styles and mediums as vastly separate things; they inspire and influence each other in a seamless interconnectivity. “For example,” she explains, “The abstract informs my figurative pieces. And vice versa.”

For her paintings, she again embraces a multitude of options: oil, acrylic, watercolor, gesso, and more. She likes to explore the combination of mass and linear elements in the same piece, juxtaposing the volume of a figure, for instance, and the roundness of the form, with the two-dimensional qualities of line and abstract shapes, reminding people that it’s a painting!

I personally find her pieces very evocative and narrative provoking. For example, her series of female figures submerging, or rising from the water, leads me to reflect on what it means to be a woman, to be hidden, invisible, or else to emerge, to reveal oneself to a public gaze. It seems to me that as a group, women have been silenced for various reasons, and that many have hidden stories which have not yet been told. Through her painting, Nancy begins to tell these stories. At least, that is some of my interpretation.

"Lowering into the Pool" 28x20" mixed media painting on archival paper by Nancy Bossert

"Lowering into the Pool" 28x20" mixed media painting on archival paper by Nancy Bossert

Bossert works constantly. She describes a disciplined studio practice: she gets up early, checks her computer, and then gets to work in her studio where she lives in Nazareth, PA. Sometimes she knows exactly what she wants to do from the beginning, and she works straight through the day. She values good craftsmanship, whether it’s abstract or figurative, or something else. Integrity is a top value.

In addition to being an artist, Nancy is also a teacher. For the past 40 years, she has taught all ages, publicly and privately. It’s clear that she enjoys teaching; her experience as a teacher generates inspiration for her studio work. “I’m not creating artists, but creative thought,” she remarks, describing her teaching philosophy. She wants to teach people how to create a different way of looking at a situation.

On her website, Nancy clearly sums up her enthusiasm for what she does:

“The excitement is to love what you do with such a passion, and creating fine art and teaching is just that. I find that I am eager to learn and experiment everyday and equally as passionate to educate others.”

"White Robe" 19x12" mixed media painting on archival paper by Nancy Bossert

"White Robe" 19x12" mixed media painting on archival paper by Nancy Bossert

Nancy Bossert has her annual Open Studio on October 15, 11am-6pm at 245 Schindler Drive, Bethlehem, PA 18020. Visit Nancy online at www.nancybossert.com, Facebook: Nancy Bossert, and Instagram: bossertnancy. Contact Nancy at nancybossert@gmail.com.

Loveliest of What I Leave Behind... (paintings by Susan Jane Walp)

Not “Revelation”—’tis—that waits,

But our unfurnished eyes—

 --Emily Dickinson

Melon with Two Xeroxes, Cork and Knife 1999 oil on linen 9x9.5"

Melon with Two Xeroxes, Cork and Knife
1999
oil on linen
9x9.5"

I met the artist Susan Jane Walp when I went to the Italy this summer.  She was a special guest teacher in the JSS program, and I was lucky to attend her lecture, during which she showed us many of her paintings.  My favorite part was when she read us some of her favorite poems.  Here are the poems, along with some of my favorite Susan Jane Walp paintings and drawings.  My favorite painting advice she gave during the lecture is this:

"There's a time for everything in painting: a time to begin, a time to end."

--Susan Jane Walp

Late Winter Beet and Spring-Dug Burdock 2010 oil on linen 8 x 8"

Late Winter Beet and Spring-Dug Burdock
2010
oil on linen
8 x 8"

Loveliest of what I leave behind is the sunlight,

and loveliest after that the shining stars,

and the moon's face,

but also cucumbers that are ripe,

and pears,

and apples.

--Praxilla of Sicyon, fragment 747

Three Zinnias in a Glass of Water oil on gessoed paper_9.75x9.375inches 2012 oil on gessoed paper 9.75 x 9.375"

Three Zinnias in a Glass of Water

oil on gessoed paper_9.75x9.375inches
2012
oil on gessoed paper
9.75 x 9.375"

No bone-chilling 

autumn wind

could pierce me

like this spring storm

scattering blossoms.

--Izumi Shikibu, translated by Jane Hirshfield and Mariko Aratani

Study for Papaya with Bowl of Walnuts 1994 graphite/colored pencil/gouache on hand-toned paper 11 x 15"

Study for Papaya with Bowl of Walnuts
1994
graphite/colored pencil/gouache on hand-toned paper
11 x 15"

Although the wind

blows terribly here

the moonlight also leaks

between the roof planks

of this ruined house.

--Izumi Shikibu

Four Figs, Two Swans, and Pair of Scissors 2017 oil on linen 10.125 x 10"

Four Figs, Two Swans, and Pair of Scissors
2017
oil on linen
10.125 x 10"

Surgeons must be very careful

When they take the knife!

Underneath their fine incisions

Stirs the Culprit—Life!

 

Emily Dickinson (c.1859)

Study for Blueberries wih Wax Paper Bag, Cork and Shell 2003 graphite/egg tempera on hand-toned paper 10 x 12 3/4"

Study for Blueberries wih Wax Paper Bag, Cork and Shell
2003
graphite/egg tempera on hand-toned paper
10 x 12 3/4"

By Chivalries as tiny,

A Blossom, or a Book,

The seeds of smiles are planted—

Which blossom in the dark.

 

Emily Dickinson (c.1858)

Olive Branch in a White Plastic Cup 2007 oil on paper 9 1/8 x 8 15/16"

Olive Branch in a White Plastic Cup
2007
oil on paper
9 1/8 x 8 15/16"

As I dig for wild orchids

in the autumn fields,

it is the deeply-bedded root

that I desire,

not the flower.

--Izumi Shikibu

 

Study for 'Succulent in a White Plastic Cup' 2007 graphite, felt tip pen, and gouache on hand-toned paper Sheet: 16 3/8 x 18 1/4" Image: 13 11/16 x 13 5/8"

Study for 'Succulent in a White Plastic Cup'
2007
graphite, felt tip pen, and gouache on hand-toned paper
Sheet: 16 3/8 x 18 1/4" Image: 13 11/16 x 13 5/8"

You can see some of Susan Jane Walp's work this Friday, October 6:

Art at King Oaks

a Bucks County pop-up exhibiton

 

opening reception 6-9 pm

 

756 Worthington Mill Road, Newtown, Bucks County, Pennsylvania

Story of My Trip to Italy: Part 1

"...having always that strange brightness of an essential flame that is caught, meshed, contravened.."

--D.H. Lawrence, Women in Love

In case you don't know, earlier this year I received a two-week partial scholarship to do an artist-residency in Civita Castellana, Italy, part of the JSS program.  It was a huge deal for me!  My first time going overseas, my first time living in a community of artists, my first time being away from my husband and children for more than a night...in over a decade!  I was soooooo excited.  My flight was July 9th.  I missed the bus to Newark, so my husband drove me to the airport.  Here is my luggage:

My easel was in my backpack, clothes and oil paints in my suitcase, and novels in my purse.

My easel was in my backpack, clothes and oil paints in my suitcase, and novels in my purse.

I tried to cool my heels in the Newark airport.  I wrote frantically in my diary:

I'm so excited to be in Italy soon!  I'm nervous about getting on the plane.  I'm anxious about flying.  I'm scared of crossing the ocean.  And then I'll be in Italy!! Wow! I can't believe it.
So happy I almost floated up into outer space.  Luckily my luggage kept me grounded.

So happy I almost floated up into outer space.  Luckily my luggage kept me grounded.

To pass time in the airport, I made myself some goals... 

I met all the goals except #3. Because I was at a very fun dinner party and didn't want to leave.  Oh, and #1 didn't happen because there was no thunderstorm, but I did write a lot of poems...

I met all the goals except #3. Because I was at a very fun dinner party and didn't want to leave.  Oh, and #1 didn't happen because there was no thunderstorm, but I did write a lot of poems...

I flew over the ocean in the night.  I could see the full moon resting on the wing of the airplane, as we sped through the darkness.  I couldn't sleep at all.  In the morning, I looked down to see Italy!  It looked so beautiful, just like I dreamed it would.

Italy out the window of the plane!

Italy out the window of the plane!

I met some other artists at the airport in Rome, and there was a bus waiting to shuttle us to our apartment in Civita, a small town one hour north of Rome.  The drive was amazing; rolling hills and vineyards and mountains that looked like they were right out of paintings, and old buildings that looked sort of like castles, and cypress trees and miles of sunflowers.  The bus was filled with artists from different countries, and it was so exciting to get to know each other on that drive.

The deck of my apartment, the scene of many cups of espresso, conversations about art, and glasses of wine.

The deck of my apartment, the scene of many cups of espresso, conversations about art, and glasses of wine.

We arrived at our apartment.  It was a beautiful big house that had five separate apartments in it, and yet it was laid out in such a way that it felt private and spacious.  The house was owned by a wonderful couple, Patrizia and Fabrizio, who were so warm and welcoming to me during my stay.  

Fabrizio and Patrizia...and me in the middle!

Fabrizio and Patrizia...and me in the middle!

My room was so beautiful!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

The view from my bedroom window.  Sigh...

The view from my bedroom window.  Sigh...

I shared a room with the Best Roommate Ever.  Her name is Kristen Peyton, and she is an AMAZING artist and wonderful person.  I plan to write a blog post all about her soon.  But why wait?  Check out her website now!

My roommate Kristen, sitting by our window.  xoxoxoxoxoxoxoxoxoxoxo

My roommate Kristen, sitting by our window.  xoxoxoxoxoxoxoxoxoxoxo

Here is a painting Kristen did of the Duomo, the lovely church in the center of Civita.  

Here is a painting Kristen did of the Duomo, the lovely church in the center of Civita.  

Kristen taught me a lot about being an artist, mostly by example.  Her work ethic was admirable; together we got up and watched the sunrise with our espressos, before going out for a day of painting.  But, whereas I would come home and flop into my bed, exhausted, after a few hours of painting, Kristen managed to soldier on for several additional painting sessions.  She also put a lot of time into doing drawings with charcoal and pencil, and it was apparent that this practice supported her painting work, and it's something I would like to imitate.  

one of Kristen's drawings: "Civita Castellana", charcoal on paper, 9.5"x13" 

one of Kristen's drawings: "Civita Castellana", charcoal on paper, 9.5"x13" 

Kristen exposed me to new artists and ways of mixing colors, and she gave me valuable critique and encouragement.  She also inspired me to be a better human being just by being herself: a good person of humor, integrity, and compassion.

Also...we ate a lot of divine pasta together.  Mangiamo!!!

roommates.jpg

I have so much more to tell you about, including more photographs of the town of the Civita, stories about people I met, and food I ate, and trying to paint, and learning about making art, and learning about myself.  Not to mention our field trips to Florence and Urbino and other places, as well as my own solo-trip to Florence at the end.  But I'll try to tell my story slowly, over several blog posts, so that I can just savor the memory of it all beginning again.

Monte Soratte, the most painted mountain in art history, or so the story goes...  I walked past it every day when I went into town.

Monte Soratte, the most painted mountain in art history, or so the story goes...  I walked past it every day when I went into town.

My Paintings and Sketches from Italy

"It's such a lovely feeling, to know what I want to do with my life!  Paint!!!"

--excerpt from my diary from this July, when I was in Italy

"View from the New Town" 6x8" oil on linen mounted on board, with light-colored wooden floater frame,  $150

"View from the New Town" 6x8" oil on linen mounted on board, with light-colored wooden floater frame,  $150

I ate so much pasta in Italy, insane amounts of scrumptious carbs.  Luckily, all of this gluttony was balanced out by lots and lots of walking, carrying my 20+ pound easel.  One day I wandered across the bridge over the ravine that led to the new part of town.  Another, seasoned artist had suggested I try a certain terrace that had a good overlook.  I found it, and I painted this small study, "View from the New Town."  Just as I finished painting it, and had cleaned up my brushes, a bird flew over me and pooped on the painting.  I wondered if the bird was expressing some harsh critique, or if perhaps, in Italy, this was a sign of appreciation (for birds, anyway.)  Either way, I didn't feel like I wanted to get my brushes dirty again, so I just rubbed the poop in with my finger.  So, that makes it extra-special.

"Mattina" oil on board, 4x7" SOLD

"Mattina" oil on board, 4x7" SOLD

Even though I wasn't taking a class, (my artist residency resembled an independent study) I learned so much!  I can't stress enough how much I owe to the other artists I encountered in the JSS program.  It was humbling and awe-inspiring to be in their presence, and I was constantly absorbing new ideas, techniques, and perspectives from them.  I the  wrote about this painting [above] the day I painted it: 

I'm so grateful to be surrounded by amazing artists every I go, who are generous with their time and knowledge.  Yesterday, a young woman named Marsal gave me so many helpful little tips.  At her suggestion I tried this "premier coup," a small, one-shot sketch of the motif I was working on in a larger, slower way.  It was very cool doing the same thing at different speeds.  This is the little fast one.
"Montagne del mattino" 8x13.5" linen mounted on board in a light-colored wooden floater frame, $250

"Montagne del mattino" 8x13.5" linen mounted on board in a light-colored wooden floater frame, $250

The heat in Italy was so extreme!  It was nearly impossible for me to paint between noon and five pm.  I decided to get up at dawn every morning and paint when it was cooler.  My amazing roommate, Kristen Peyton, would get up with me.  Together, we made our espresso and simple breakfast of yogurt, nutella, and fruit, enjoying it out on the porch while we watched the sunrise.  Then, together, we shouldered our heavy easels (Kristen actually had a wagon that she used to drag all her painting gear around town!) and we headed out together for a morning of painting.  I spent three mornings on the painting above, trying to get that special misty green in the shadows of the ravine.  My new friend Marsal was painting nearby, and once again she gave me quite a bit of encouragement and helpful feedback.

"Cliff Shadows" oil on linen mounted on board, 5x6" (I think)  SOLD

"Cliff Shadows" oil on linen mounted on board, 5x6" (I think)  SOLD

While I painted this scene of cliff shadows and distant mountains [above], three little Italian kittens were watching me!  During my painting session, several local people approached the kittens, giving them food.  One little old woman came and scattered dry cat food in the corner, calling the kittens by name.  Later, a man came and brought some fresh meat for them.  Even though they were obviously alley-cats, they were loved and cared-for.

Gattini!  (Italian kittens...watching me paint!)

Gattini!  (Italian kittens...watching me paint!)

"Evening Light Across the Ravine" oil on linen mounted on board, 6x6" (unframed) $100

"Evening Light Across the Ravine" oil on linen mounted on board, 6x6" (unframed) $100

Every day I walked into town, sometimes several times a day.  I found a slightly longer route that took me along the ravine, and in the evening it was a quiet place to paint.  Hardly anyone was there, except for the occasional lovers trysting...

marker sketch for my first painting in Italy, 4x6" framed, $20

marker sketch for my first painting in Italy, 4x6" framed, $20

"My First Painting in Italy" oil on linen mounted on board, 4x6"  $75

"My First Painting in Italy" oil on linen mounted on board, 4x6"  $75

Painting makes me feel like I am flying!  I can't describe the joy that fills my heart.  After spending more than a day wandering around being jet-lagged and overwhelmed by beauty, I finally painted this sunny cliff-face [above].  It's my first time touching my paintbrush to linen in Italy.

I asked a man who lived nearby if he would take my picture, and he was happy to oblige.  And, can you believe it, I asked it in Italian!  I couldn't believe that I was able to have conversations with people who didn't speak English.  Of course, everyone was very patient with my mistakes and my asking them to repeat themselves and speak slower...

I asked a man who lived nearby if he would take my picture, and he was happy to oblige.  And, can you believe it, I asked it in Italian!  I couldn't believe that I was able to have conversations with people who didn't speak English.  Of course, everyone was very patient with my mistakes and my asking them to repeat themselves and speak slower...

"Iera Sera" (yesterday evening) oil on linen mounted on board, 4x6" unframed  $50  

"Iera Sera" (yesterday evening) oil on linen mounted on board, 4x6" unframed  $50  

On my sixth day in Italy, I had my first critique from the teacher of the JSS program, Israel Hershberg.  He suggested I pay attention to "where paint meets paint."  So, with that in mind, I set up my easel on an incredibly windy day and tried this motif.  Eventually the wind won.  I couldn't keep my easel from blowing over, so I called it finished.

Sketch for View of Civita, 3x5" framed $20

Sketch for View of Civita, 3x5" framed $20

"View of Civita" oil on linen mounted on board, 3x5" sketch  (Not for sale.  I gave this to my first grade teacher who has continued to give me encouragement and support even though I'm all grown up now!  Thank you Chris!)

"View of Civita" oil on linen mounted on board, 3x5" sketch  (Not for sale.  I gave this to my first grade teacher who has continued to give me encouragement and support even though I'm all grown up now!  Thank you Chris!)

While I was painting this [above], a group of Italian teenagers came up to me, and shyly offered me some fresh slices of watermelon.  It was so refreshing and delicious on a hot day!  What a sweet gift!

A photograph I took of Italian laundry!

A photograph I took of Italian laundry!

This is the last painting I did in Italy [below].  I was fascinated by all the laundry hanging everywhere in this tiny old town.  It struck me as so poetic, fascinating, and colorful.  Every little alley had its flags and streamers of colorful laundry, and I believe if I could have stayed another week or to, I would have done a whole series of laundry-paintings.  

When I was painting this, Yael Scalia happened to walk by.  She is an artist I have long admired, and it was partly my desire to meet her in person which inspired me to apply for this artist residency in the first place.  So of course I felt very glad when she came by twice and gave me some critique.  One helpful idea was to scrape away layers of paint with my palette knife, and sort of "start over" with the ghost of the painting remaining as a guide.  You can see scrapings pretty clearly in this, my first attempt at trying it.

"Signora, per favore, non lavora!" oil on linen mounted on board, 8x8" with wooden floater frame.  SOLD.

"Signora, per favore, non lavora!" oil on linen mounted on board, 8x8" with wooden floater frame.  SOLD.

The old woman pictured in the window of my painting tried to bring her laundry in while I was halfway through, and I cried up to her from the courtyard below: "Signora, per favore, non lavora!" which means (I think) "Ma'am, please don't work."  (Because I wasn't sure how to say "please don't do take your laundry in.")  Anyway, she thought I was hilarious, and laughed quite a bit.  Then she smiled indulgently, and allowed me to finish.  Every so often, she would poke her head out and ask how it was going.  Finally I called up, "Signora, ho finito!"

I'm finished.

But... I'm not finished with you, my dear Italy.  More blog posts to come.

photograph I took of some buildings in Civita

photograph I took of some buildings in Civita

Italia...

James Gloria (and the Riverside Arts Festival this weekend!)

“I don’t care about the finished painting as much as I care about painting.  
The process is what motivates me.”  

--James Gloria, artist

DelawareRiver.jpg

Here is my most recent Easton Irregular article, an artist profile about local artist, James Gloria.  Meet James this weekend at the Riverside Arts Festival in Easton!

James Gloria is a prolific, exuberant painter living and working in the lush Pennsylvania countryside near Bangor.  Currently, he is drawn to the immediacy of plein air painting, and his style is fluid, painterly, and confident.  He is interested in the process of painting, including the materials and techniques used by 16th century fresco painters, especially the technique of Scagliola.  James is persistent and patient in his work, and his curiosity about the materials and process has added depth and interest to what he does.  


In his artist statement, he says: “By developing a familiarity with the component parts of the materials and techniques of painting, I engage in a dialogue. Inconsistencies in materials are, in fact, opportunities to explore the dynamics  and properties of raw materials. Expectations are modified, new paths are opened, and new ideas are stimulated. A focus on the process becomes as meaningful as the product.”
James Gloria has led a very creative life, having studied Scenic and Costume Design at the Mason Gross School of the Arts at Rutgers University.  For a while he worked as an apprentice designer and painter, and later on he started his own decorative arts business, painting murals and faux finishes.  In 2006, James and his wife, a former professional modern dancer, opened the Totts Gap Arts Institute.  They offer workshops, classes, and events in the fine and performing arts for all ages.  He also set up a weekly figure drawing session at Totts Gap, which meets every Wednesday and Thursday evening, and helps him to keep practicing the figure.

oughoughtoncreek.jpg


In his current plein air oil paintings, he often makes use of heavy impasto and large brush strokes, and he finds inspiration outdoors.  He greatly admires Sargent, Corot, and Sorolla.  When painting outdoors, James likes to remember these three goals given to him by his figure painting teacher Lloyd McNeill from Rutgers.  A good plein air painting should:
 Resemble the scene
Look like light
Look like paint
James makes a point to never abandon a painting.  “Even if you screw it up, you follow it through, and try to make it work,” he says.  “ Try to figure out why it’s not working.”  He compares painting to storytelling, in the sense that he doesn’t spell out every little thing.  Instead, he tries to describe the essence of the scene.  He also compares painting to music.  A musician himself, James plays improvisational jazz on the guitar.   
Whether it is storytelling, music, or painting, one doesn’t force emotion into the creative work, it just comes naturally.  James quotes another one of his teachers from Rutgers, Ilya Shevel, a Russian painter:  “I don’t know why you Americans are worried about putting emotions into your paintings, as if you had a choice.”  When you are an artist, there is no choice, there is just making the work, and allowing it to happen.
James explains his dedication to the artist path in his artist statement:  “For me, making art is a way of connecting with the essence of being, by living in the moment of the creative process.”

viewfromMtTammany.jpg


James Gloria will be at the Easton Riverside Festival of the Arts in Easton, PA, entering the Plein Air painting competition on September 16th and 17th.  More about the Riverside Arts Festival,  James Gloria, and the Totts Gap Art Institute, where James will be teaching several painting workshops, can be found on these websites:


www.jamesgloria.com
www.tottsgap.org
eastonriversidefest.org

Intentional Loitering

 

"...to stand or wait around with the intention of committing an offense."

--Oxford Dictionary of Phrase and Fable, a legal phrase from 1891

("offense" meaning Art, in my case)

IMG_5287.JPG

I can't seem to write about Italy in a linear way; it's going to come out over the next few months in fragments.  I feel much like a deep pond which reveals its hidden world slowly, as the mud settles to the bottom, and the light shines down into it.  If only I could stop thrashing about and stirring up more mud!  But when I sit quietly by myself, sipping a tiny cup of espresso (my new, Italy-induced addiction), I start to have a strong feeling, like I can almost see something really important, something that perhaps may have been within me all along, but has been roused during my time in Italy, and is now trying to make itself known.  

What could it be?

Blissfully lost in an old alleyway in Civita Castella...

Blissfully lost in an old alleyway in Civita Castella...

Shortly after I returned from Italy, in early August, I met up with the artist Jennifer Griffin.  I tried to describe to my experiences to her, including the unseen, internal changes I felt deeply.  Something about the culture of Italy had influenced me.  

I found that in Italy, there didn't seem to be the same intense focus on production, efficiency, and money, at least not what I was used to in America.  Instead, I felt I was in a different, slow, sensual sort of culture.  Wherever I wandered, I encountered an enthusiasm for really good food, fresh and delicious ingredients, a deep regard for the quality and beauty of the experiences and interactions, and a respect for leisure as a regular part of life.  

(Example: siestas... necessary after eating tons of pasta, as I did daily. See image below.)

Gnocchi and wine... one of my many divine meals in Civita Castellana!

Gnocchi and wine... one of my many divine meals in Civita Castellana!

I wanted to take some of that mindset, and bring it back home with me into my life.  I felt restless and agitated.

"I'm just not ready to go back to the way I used to work," I told my artist friend Jennifer.  "All those rigid goals....I used to just set a bunch of goals for myself each week and struggle arduously to check them off my to-do list."

I remember having a calendar in my studio with exactly what kind of painting I was going to do each day of the month.  I felt like I had to work this way, to prove to the world that I was a real artist and that I could make money and pay my rent.  But now, I no longer have an urge to work that way.  It just doesn't feel right any longer.

Me, painting in Civita Castellana, Italy.

Me, painting in Civita Castellana, Italy.

Jennifer suggested that I invite a different method of working into my studio practice.  She described something she called "intentional loitering."  I would go into the studio regularly (that's the intentional part) but once there, I would loiter, putter around, and see what kind art wanted to manifest.  It's a little frightening to let go of control like that!  

But I knew I had to try it because as she spoke, it was just like all these wonderful bells started to ring in my soul.  So that's just what I intend to do!

my palette in Italy

my palette in Italy

After spending time with Jennifer, I went home and wrote in my journal:

I feel deep in my heart that there is something inside of me-- there are paintings inside of me, that won't come out..they won't respond to that sort of dominating, controlling energy I used to have.  They need space, and quiet.  They are curious but shy.

This brings to mind these little black kittens in Italy that used to come onto the cobbled alley street and watch me while I painted, if I was quiet for a while. 

Curious, but shy.  

And yet...so wonderful, and so worth waiting for!

Gattini (Italian kittens)

Gattini (Italian kittens)

Roman Moon

"You know I'm lost/ and I don't want to be found."

--my poem (excerpt)

I have returned to America, and I'm ready to resume my weekly blogging.  Expect to hear a lot about my trip to Italy for the next few months!  To start it off this week, here are five poems I wrote in Italy.

Roman Moon

 

Young moon floating

in a Roman sky

You know I’m lost

and I don’t want to be found.

Ancient, twisting, and dangerous,

something about these dark streets

leads me back

to myself.

Train to Florence

 

Reckless and violent,

the train speeds over slick

wet tracks, through gray

olive groves and fields of sunflowers

shimmering in the misty rain,

fading into nonexistence.

My heart is in my throat,

my train ticket, crumpled and hot

crushed in my fist.

Writing Poems in the Uffizi

 

There is room for infinity in my heart.

 

I’m so hungry,

but not for you;

It’s this painful beauty I desire.

I’m writing poems in the Uffizi Gallery in Florence,

writhing on an old carved bench, grasped tightly

by the moment, and by my own anguish;

Will I endure this hell forever?

I can’t bear it, yet I can’t turn away.

I feel the greatness within me,

but not my own greatness;

inside my soul are ancient rooms,

and gilded hallways with painted ceilings,

and hanging on those ornate walls

are all the paintings I love,

and all the paintings yet waiting

for my trembling brush…

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Drunk in Urbino

To Christina

 

Women lost and laughing,

racing up and down the steep and cobbled streets

of ancient Urbino.

My heart is so full,

it bears the expansive unfolding of beauty,

the old bookshops and gelaterias,

the vistas opening up behind hidden alleyways…

I’m so full of poems, and art, and life,

a divine intoxication,

so perfectly drunk with you, my friend,

and that strong negroni, illuminated

by the evening light,

dark amber liquid, clear and strong,

pouring down the roof of the Duke’s palace.

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Shattered Vessel

 

I stumble about, dazed,

ravished by sunlight…

My soul is a shattered vessel;

each day it breaks,

many times each day,

again and again it cracks open,

and is reformed, remade,

and filled again with beauty,

unbearable,

unendurable,

beauty.

 

 

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Charles Stonewall: Artist

"See with fresh eyes!"

---Charles Stonewall, artist

I'm interrupting my summer-blog-break with this necessary blog post: my recent Easton Irregular article (July-August 2017) featuring the local artist, Charles Stonewall.  You can pick up copies around town, at Just Around the Corner, and the Public Market.  Or, read it here on my blog!

"Infinite Evaluation" photograph by Charles Stonewall

"Infinite Evaluation" photograph by Charles Stonewall

The photographs of Charles Stonewall are striking, sensitive, and brimming with suggested narrative. Whether the photos are portraits, photojournalism, or performance-inspired scenes, they all share a powerful emotional element and a strong composition, making use of exaggerated contrasts of light and shadow.

"Martha, the Salt of the Earth," photograph by Charles Stonewall

"Martha, the Salt of the Earth," photograph by Charles Stonewall

Stonewall was born and raised in South Side, Easton, in an impoverished environment. Despite the many challenges of his childhood, he was lucky to have a loving ally, his grandmother. She bought him his first camera when he was 14. This started him on his life’s journey as a photographer, and he has enjoyed many successes along the way, not the least of which includes one of his photographs in an exhibit at the Louvre, in Paris! Stonewall is a strong advocate of the power of possibilities, perseverance, and resilience.

In 1980 and 1981, Stonewall was responsible for the first ever black artist exhibitions in the Lehigh Valley. He and other artists formed a group called the Cultural Enrichment Committee, the intent of which was to provide a voice for those who were underrepresented and often ignored. The exhibitions took place in what is now the Wells Fargo Bank in the Centre Square in downtown Easton.

The poster for the 1981 art exhibit entitled "Black Art" featuring photography by Charles Stonewall; the Cultural Enrichment Committee that Stonewall had formed with other artists to provide a voice for underrepresented artists sponsored the exhibit.

The poster for the 1981 art exhibit entitled "Black Art" featuring photography by Charles Stonewall; the Cultural Enrichment Committee that Stonewall had formed with other artists to provide a voice for underrepresented artists sponsored the exhibit.

Stonewall moved to the Midwest in 1998 and attended the Kansas City Art Institute, which helped him to be able to “see with fresh eyes”. Traveling to the Midwest taught him about the benefits of being daring enough to step outside of one’s comfort zone and to believe in oneself.

He returned to the Lehigh Valley in 2013, where he lives and works today.

"Life's Opera," photograph by Charles Stonewall

"Life's Opera," photograph by Charles Stonewall

Currently, Stonewall is working on a series that he describes as conceptual art. These are photographs of organic forms, like flowers and leaves, and can be interpreted as inner landscapes. “What do I look like inside?” he asks, as part of his motivation for this series. “I believe there is great beauty inside. Hopefully it triggers a thought with the viewer, and they can start to discover their own inner beauty…We are complicated people!”

Pick up your July-August copy of the Easton Irregular at the Easton Public Market!

Pick up your July-August copy of the Easton Irregular at the Easton Public Market!

 

Charles Stonewall’s work can be viewed this summer at the an exhibition in Bethlehem, PA:

The Bethlehem Fine Arts Commission is pleased to present the Fourth Biennial Self-Portrait Exhibition entitled “Expressions: A Self-Portrait Show" featuring known artists, as well as prominent citizens in the local community who have agreed to take on the challenge of a self-portrait. The portraits will be on display from July 12 through August 29 at the Rotunda Gallery at Town Hall, 10 East Church Street, Bethlehem, PA 18018.

I'm going to paint in Italy!

Last blog post for the summer...

a painting of Civita Castellana by Corot, 1826

a painting of Civita Castellana by Corot, 1826

A year ago I wrote this blog post: "Dreaming of Italy."  And ever since then, I have been fantasizing about it, without really believing that it would happen.  I was swept up by a fierce longing to travel to Italy, and I was particularly excited about this program for artists: the JSS in Civita Summer Art School and Residency in Italy, which I learned about from the Savvy Painter Podcast.  (The residency is in Civita Castellana, the countryside where Corot painted.)  So, a few months ago I applied for their annual merit-based scholarship.  Although I didn't get that scholarship, I did get a partial-scholarship to the residency program, which was enough to make my dream a reality!  Two weeks painting in Italy!  

So...I bought my plane ticket!  I will leave on July 9th and stay for two weeks.

I have a new passport!  Il mio passaporto nuovo.

passaporto.jpg

I'm so excited!!!  I've never been to Europe!  I haven't been on an airplane in maybe 12 years or so.  Actually, I'm feeling a little scared.  Sto cercando di imparare l'italiano.  I'm using the duolingo app on my phone, which is pretty helpful.  I'm getting pretty good about saying things about elephants: L'elefante non scrive il libro.  (The elephant doesn't write the book.)  Will I use this knowledge in Civita?  Io non so.

L'elefante vuole bere il caffè.

L'elefante vuole bere il caffè.

Also, I have been labeling things around the house to help learn some Italian.  Il gatto, i fiori, la buca delle lettere...

The JSS team strongly recommends a French easel, and mine was in sad condition.  I was anxious about spending money on a new easel after buying the expensive plane ticket.  Luckily my neighbor, the artist Ken Kewley, loaned me his easel.  I took it out for a test-drive a couple weeks ago at Clear Spring Farm.  And I love it!  I'm so excited to use it in Italy.  I'm sooooooooooooooooooo excited to go to Italy!!!!

“We all have the colors needed to make beautiful paintings.”  --Ken Kewley

“We all have the colors needed to make beautiful paintings.”  --Ken Kewley

The easel comes with an adorable little wooden palette that folds up perfectly inside it.  However, Ken's palette had too much old paint on it for me to use.  I looked everywhere online to order a replacement and couldn't find one.  So.... my husband made me one!  He used a regular wooden palette from amazon.com and cut it down to size, and put little hinges on it.  I gave it a few coats of linseed oil, so it should be ready to use soon.  It's perfect!

I love this folding palette!  Thank you Ian for making it for me!  And Happy Anniversary!  (13 years yesterday!)  Mio marito è meraviglioso.

I love this folding palette!  Thank you Ian for making it for me!  And Happy Anniversary!  (13 years yesterday!)  Mio marito è meraviglioso.

After my residency ends on the 24th of July, I'm going to take myself to Florence for a couple of days.  I think I'm just going to sit on a bench by the Arno and sigh romantically at Italian pigeons...  

But, perhaps some of my blog readers have experienced Florence and wish to offer me some advice or suggestions about what to see?  If so, please do so in the comments below!

Random photograph of Florence I found on the internet.  Sigh...

Random photograph of Florence I found on the internet.  Sigh...

I'm so excited to go to Italy!!!!!! I can barely hold myself together and act normal... I'm not sure I'm pulling it off.  Anyway, this is my last blog post for awhile because I'm taking a break for the summer.  I'm posting this on Tuesday instead of Wednesday because I'm about to go camping for the rest of the week and won't have access to a computer.  I hope you have enjoyed my blog so far, and have a happy summer.  

My blog will resume in September!

 

Ciao!

Helping Patti

"Kindness is gladdening the hearts of those who are traveling the dark journey with us."

--Henri Frédéric Amiel, 19th century Swiss moral philosopher and poet

Beautiful charcoal sketch of Patti Bloss by artist Paul McGinn, 18x24"  $30.00  

(All prices are suggested; make an offer!)

I really love this charcoal portrait of Patti Bloss.  I have known Patti for ten years, ever since I moved to Easton.  She frequently modeled at the Thursday Night Figure Drawing community sessions at Lafayette College.  (I wrote a little more about my early experiences drawing there in my blog post "Letters to a Young Artist.")  Patti was also the art monitor for the group, and now, many years later, I am her "assistant!"  Patti also modeled at the Baum School of Art where I took figure drawing classes with Adriano Farinella.  

"Nude Drawing" Lovely figure sketch by Mary Millan Klunk $50  (from a Baum figure class)

Patti is a gentle, graceful, and sweet soul.  She is well-known and much loved in the Lehigh Valley art community, since she has modeled for decades for artists and classes at local colleges in the area.  So last year, when we found out she had liver cancer, everyone was very sad.  Over the past year, Patti has struggled with this cancer and the additional financial burdens it imposed.  So, I thought I would rally the art community together (I created a facebook group, "Helping Patti," and I worked to organize an "Art Fundraiser for Patti Bloss."  The reception was last week, and it was a huge success!  

Patti holding two donated paintings: "A Pocketful of Roses" oil on board by Li-hsien Price $200 and also a figure painting by Donna Needs (sold).  

Over fifty artists generously donated work to sell, and 100% of the money went to Patti to help with medical and living expenses.  That night, we raised about $3,000 for Patti!  I couldn't believe it!  I had never done anything like this before, and I was very anxious that people wouldn't come, but happily, I was wrong!  In fact, I was so overwhelmed by how happy I felt the next day, when I had time to reflect on the event.  It feels so wonderful to be able to make a difference for someone, and to be part of a community effort like this.  

Over the past few days, I have continued to receive checks for Patti, with kind notes and anecdotes about her early modeling days, and how she influenced many artists.  No matter what happens, the best part of all of this is that Patti will know she is loved and appreciated by her many friends in the art community!

Patti gives me a hug at the end of the night!

Patti gives me a hug at the end of the night!

There are still many amazing pieces of art for sale.  I put some of my favorites here in this blog post, and you can see the rest in my facebook album: "Art Fund Raiser for Patti Bloss."  To buy one, just email: lauren@laurenkindle.com.  Payment can be made through Patti's Paypal account:  pattibloss@aol.com, or checks written out to Patti Bloss and mailed to Lauren Kindle Studio, 7B North Bank Street, Easton, PA, 18042.   You must pay for your own shipping if necessary.  Thank you!!

"Blue Clouds" 24x35" oil painting by Gina Piazza  $200

Here is my painting from the show.  "Sketch of the Delaware River", 4x5" SOLD Read about my process in this blog post: Summer Landscapes.

Here is my painting from the show.  "Sketch of the Delaware River", 4x5" SOLD

Read about my process in this blog post: Summer Landscapes.

"Untitled" by Ed Kerns, 2 feet by 7 feet!

Read my blog post about Ed Kerns: "Synchronicity and Art."

Devyn Leonor-Briggs: Artist

There's still a place for beauty in art.”

- Devyn Leonor-Briggs

"La Colomba", acrylic, oil and pastel on canvas, 48x60, 2016

 “I want to surround myself with color, beauty, culture, and pattern, creating a world for myself,” Devyn explains, gesturing excitedly, her dark eyes shining. We are sitting together in Terra Café, a coffee shop near my studio, talking about art. I’m mesmerized by this young woman’s energy and obvious love for what she does.

Devyn is a painter and also a ceramic and fiber artist. She has a studio at the Banana Factory in Bethlehem, the city where she has lived most of her life. Currently, Devyn is in a place of transition in her life, having just gotten married and bought a house. But ideally, her studio schedule would involve a morning routine, with 5-6 hours of uninterrupted solitude. A lot of her work is “self-conscious” in its early stages, so it’s important that she has privacy when she works.

Devyn’s paintings are large, bright, and saturated with color. Some paintings are abstract, while others are representational, with mythic and sacred themes. The subject matter and the jeweled tones and patterns remind me of stained-glass windows or ancient Byzantine mosaics. All of her paintings are lush, layered, glowing objects of beauty.

“I’ve been warned that beauty is a ‘bad word’ in the art world,” I say, sipping my kombucha tea. It is true that ever since I started pursuing art seriously, I have been cautioned against “Beauty” many times by well-meaning, more-experienced artists.

Devyn just laughs at this idea. “I know what resonates with me,” she says with confidence. “I’m informed by those things…but it’s not about making it pretty, it’s about making it my own. It’s about telling my story.”

Devyn’s story is that of a rich cultural heritage. She is American, her mother is Colombian, and her father is both African American and Jamaican. These cultures provide an endless source of inspiration to Devyn, and she uses fabric and textiles as a “doorway” into them. You can see these colorful fabrics collaged onto the paintings as well as added onto the ceramic vessels that she makes.

"Adorned Vessel in Yellow", ceramic, yarn and beads, 2015

Devyn explains that her love of textiles was instilled early in life, by her Colombian grandmother, with whom she spent a lot of quality time. Her grandmother was always very crafty and especially proficient in needlepoint.

“Whatever she could get her hands on to make beautiful, she did,” Devyn says proudly, sipping her own kombucha tea. I close my eyes and try to imagine the older woman sewing with her granddaughter, and slowly decorating the world…

“Art to me is a vehicle that elevates,” Devyn insists. “It makes you step out of those dark places. It all comes down to the space I surround myself with. I create a space you can dwell in.”

"Eva”, oil pastel and acrylic on canvas, 24x36, 2015

I look at her painting, “Eva”, which is oil pastel and acrylic on canvas, 24x36 inches. A young Latina woman stands solemnly beneath a crimson dome, surrounded by a deep blue sky. She stands in an abundant garden of green plants, white calla lilies, and bird-of-paradise flowers. An earthen vessel occupies the bottom of the painting near the woman’s stomach, perhaps alluding to her womb. A white dove perches on the rim of the vessel, and both the dove and the woman have golden halos. The painting overflows with life and beauty, and to me, it’s an assertion of the sacredness of life and creativity, and the dignity of womankind. Perhaps this woman is Devyn herself, and the garden around her is the art that she creates, those dwelling spaces decorated with the patterns and colors she loves.

"Jester”, collage, painted paper and acrylic on canvas, 12x12, 2016

Her artist statement says it perfectly:

For me, my art is who I am. It's a natural extension of my personality. And it tells my story. It's the conglomeration of everything that resonates in my spirit: the colors, flavors, rhythms, textures, and stories that make my heart swell, that allow me sit back with my eyes closed and thank God for the ability to sense beauty in the world around me. I hope that the joy I get from making is contagious enough that it touches you; that the hours I spend in the studio don't just feed my soul, but yours too. There's still a place for beauty in art. There's still a place for objects that remind us of where we came from, that challenge us to understand who we are and why we are, that help us step outside the everyday and breathe deeply of the grace that is our every day.

I wrote this blog post for the "Artist Profile" article for the June 2017 issue of The Easton Irregular.

I wrote this blog post for the "Artist Profile" article for the June 2017 issue of The Easton Irregular.

 Learn more about Devyn at devynleonorbriggs.com.

 

Paintings of Beautiful Men: A Beginner's Guide

There are so many images of beautiful men in art.  Motivated, of course, by a lofty, pure, and noble respect for Art, I set forth to compile a good selection of beautiful men for today's blog post.  It may be overwhelming at first, so I have helpfully sorted the men into categories.  You're welcome.

1.  Beautiful Men Who Dance, Sing, and Row Boats

"Narcissus," painting by Gyula Benczúr, 1880

"The Impassioned Singer" by Giorgione, Oil on canvas, 102 x 78 cm Galleria Borghese, Rome 1510

Self portrait by Jeremy Lipking

2.  Beautiful Men Who Don't Like to Wear Shirts

"Man Putting On His Shirt" painting by John Koch

"Vincent" oil painting by Jacob Collins, 1998

detail of an oil painting by Kate Lehman

3.  Bearded, Brooding, Beautiful Men*

*Many of these can be cross-referenced in category #5, "Artist Men."

"Introspect" oil on linen, by Aaron Westerberg

Khari 2011 - painting by Sean Cheetham

Self Portrait by Leon Bonnat 1885

Self Portrait by Leon Bonnat 1885

painting by Ilia Efimovich Repin, 1884 (painting of his friend, the author Garshin)

Self portrait by Travis Schlaht

3B. (subcategory of 3) Bearded, Brooding, Beautiful Men With Dogs

"Gina and Cristiano" by Isabella Watling

"Me and Lu" painting by Aaron Westerberg (Self portrait, oil on canvas)

4.  Men Being Beautiful Amidst Flowers

4B. (subcategory of 4): Men Who Try (Unsuccessfully) to Hide Their Beauty Behind Cacti

painting by Robin F. Williams

"The Gardeners," painting by Robin F. Williams  (sorry I know I'm repeating this painting from a previous post--I just really love it!)

5.  Artist Men*

*Often these can be cross-referenced with #3, the Brooding, Bearded Type

Self portrait by Warren Chang, oil on canvas

Self Portrait by Eliseu Visconti, 1902

Self Portrait with Palette, by Jacob Collins, Oil on canvas

Well, that about wraps it up for today.  Thanks for reading this week's blog post.  I certainly enjoyed writing it.

Now I'm going to go take a cold shower.

 

detail of a painting by Gustave Courbet #swoon

(he definitely used himself as a model)

Further Reading:

Men: Beautiful Objects or Humans With Feelings?: an old blog post of mine

My Pinterest Board: Beautiful Men:  many more paintings along this theme

Men In Western Art Who Are So Beautiful It Has Made Them Sleepy: I Loooove this!

In Tall Cotton, Bitch

"Who I think you think I am..."

a three minute conversation with quilt artist, Chawne Kimber

Work-in-progress on the "Bitch" quilt... 

Work-in-progress on the "Bitch" quilt... 

Yesterday afternoon, I met Chawne at a local cafe to ask her to explain the title of her show.  I also asked her about the word "Bitch."  You can listen to it, or read the transcription below.

LAUREN KINDLE:  Hello, Chawne Kimber.

CHAWNE KIMBER:  Hello, Lauren Kindle.  How are you?

LK:  I'm having coffee with you at Cosmic Cup.

CK:  Uh huh.  I've got a "Dirty Chai" here.

LK:  I've got an espresso.  So, tell me about the title of our show, "In Tall Cotton."

CK:  "In Tall Cotton..."  Well it's a phrase that was used back in the day when you talked about where you were in the harvest season of your farm.  And you're "in tall cotton" when it's about time to go out there and start picking.  And it's typically interpreted as a happy moment in time.  It wasn't really happy for my ancestors since it was a heavy work time.  So it's that sort of dual notion that I'm going after here.

LK:  So nowadays, like what would be an appropriate time to say "we're in tall cotton."   How would you use that?

CK:  Well, if you just won the lottery you're "in tall cotton."

LK:  Ok.

CK:  It's a huge, lucky time.  You're about to reap what you sowed before, in a positive way.

LK:  Right, ok.  so that's an expression we don't use a lot up in the North.

CK:  Not really, no

LK:  Why did you choose to use that as the title for this show?

CK:  Um, well, 'cause it has the word cotton in it, if we want to be really dumb.  But, no really, so...I explore these dual notions of identity in the work that I do, and I think I kind of touch upon both pieces in terms of my identity as a person, my ancestry is on one side, but then I live a privileged life.

LK:  All right...and let's quick segue into your other quilt, with the word "Bitch" on it.  tell me about that word.

CK:  Oh awesome.  So "bitch" is one of those terms that we're trying to reclaim as women, and keep the power to ourselves.  So recently someone told me online that "bitch" is actually "Babe in total control of herself" and I've never heard that before, and it isn't quite my definition of what a bitch is.  And I just think that a bitch can be a really positive thing where you're strong and you stand up for yourself in the right moments of time, doing exactly the right thing, not hurting too many people too much.  But it also can be an extremely negative thing.  Again, it's sort of this spectrum and a dual notion that comes from that word.  So, it's part of my series of "Who I think you think I am." And I do think that some people think I'm a postive bitch and a negative bitch.  And it's all good.

LK:  Thank you so much for your time.  I hope that a lot of people will come on Friday night.

CK:  Yay!

LK:  So, I'll see you then!

CK:  See ya!

Chawne and me, being silly outside the cafe.

Chawne and me, being silly outside the cafe.

 

"In Tall Cotton: Expressions of My Self" will be open to the public this Memorial Day Weekend.  Opening reception Friday night, 6-10 pm, at Lauren Kindle Studio, 7B North Bank Street, Easton, PA.  The show will also be open Saturday, Sunday, and Monday, 10-3.  Don't miss it!!

For further reading, check out my recent blog post: Chawne Kimber, Quilt Artist.

Paintings of Mothers

 "I love you. You're the best mommy (and artist) ever in the universe. Xoxo xoxo Love, Nell.

P.S. Hug me next time you see me."

--recent love note from my 10-year old daughter

"Mère et son bébé," painting by Eugène Carrière

Happy Belated Mother's Day!  To celebrate, I am sharing some of my favorite mother-and-child paintings from my pinterest board, Mother and Child.  I didn't include the famous ones (notably, Mary Cassatt) because I wanted to highlight some less-familiar paintings.

"Rest," painting by Anna Nordgren

Honestly, I didn't really have a great mother's day myself.  I spent most of the weekend working on cleaning out my mother-in-law's house (she passed away 3 months ago) and it was emotionally difficult.  I tried to empty out the clothes in her closet, but I spent a lot of the time just sitting in the closet and crying.

"The Laundress," painting by Honoré Daumier

"The Laundress," painting by Honoré Daumier

Being a mom is hard.  I'm really struggling right now, trying to keep all my "balls in the air," and often forgetting important things, and getting overwhelmed.  I recently had a conversation with a local artist about being a parent, and I found myself wondering why I had chosen to become a mother in the first place.  It's just so hard.  I'm not sure I put all that much thought into it at the time; I was young and eager to participate in life, and I guess that's why...

"Street Crossing," painting by Zoey Frank

Maybe it's not all that important why I became a mom.  The fact is, I get a lot of pleasure from the experience.  It's basically chaos-saturated-in-love.  Plus, my family gives me a lot of ideas for themes for paintings.  (Like my storytime sketches.)  And also, I get a lot of cuddles...

"Madonna of the Cotton Fields," painting by Dame Laura Knight

I'm grateful that I have had such loving mothers in my life.  My mother-in-law fiercely encouraged my dream to be an artist and she modeled a low-stress, hands-off parenting approach.  And my own mother continues to support me every day.  She is truly the Queen of Unconditional Love.  So, I feel very lucky.

"La Mère," a painting by Loïs Mailou Jones

Plus, my kids really love me.  I mean, it's hard to believe how much they love me!  It's so wonderful.  I'm often humbled when I find little love notes like this one:

Thank you to the mothers and grandmothers in my life.  My debt of gratitude has no end!

For further reading/ art-viewing:

Mother and Child, my Pinterest Board filled with my favorite paintings on this theme

Finding Balance, my attempts to reconcile art and motherhood from a blog post last year

Thoughts on Perfection and Motherhood, one of my first blog posts

Baby Sketches

A Weekend of Art

"There is nothing more important in painting now than standing in our landscape with strength and honesty."

--Sean Mount

Epochal Violence #6. Oil on canvas. 50x36. 2017, by Sean Mount.

As a confirmed introvert, it has taken me a few days to recover from a very social and exciting weekend!  I was invited by my old and dear friend, the artist Graham Preston, to participate in a group art show called "This'n'That," at the Prallsville Mills in Stockton, New Jersey.  (You can read more extensively about my connection with Graham in this blog post from last year: "Housewife on Fire.")

Here is a photo of Graham and me, in front of my paintings.  We have been friends since high school!  #oldfriends #artfriends

Here is a photo of Graham and me, in front of my paintings.  We have been friends since high school!  #oldfriends #artfriends

One of the best parts about participating was getting to meet so many fantastic and interesting artists.  There were more than I can describe here, but I'll mention a few that I really connected with.  First, the wonderful Pat Lambe helped me hang my art on Wednesday.  What a nice guy!  

Then I met very cool, spunky lady named Lauren (what a great name!) and after we were talking for a little while I realized she was The Lauren.  Lauren Rosenthal, the one my good friend and art-collaborator, Kate Brandes, has interviewed, and is part of our Intersections project.  (read awesome interview)  She has a piece my local friends might recognize at the Nurture Nature Center in Easton.  I pretty much flipped out when I realized who she was!  Later that night there was a dance party, and Lauren and I danced a lot.  A LOT.  Like, my body was in pain the next morning.  We danced with another artist-Lauren, Lauren Johnson.  #laurenartists #somanylaurens

Here's my favorite Lauren Johnson painting:

"Pulling Together Your Paintings with Underwear'" #sillytitles #underwear #laurenjohnson

I also made friends with artists Megan Moriarty and Andrew Wilkinson and Cayley Plutnick and Sean Mount.  I hope to feature some of their art and thoughts about the art-making process in future blog posts, as well as some of the other artists that I may not have gotten a chance to meet.  The event was so busy!

So...I was just dancing my butt of with a bunch of Laurens late on Saturday night when... (trumpet music)...I sold a painting!  Hooray!  An elegant woman named Michele bought it, and it turned out her husband is an artist I have been admiring for awhile: Rye Tippet.  So, I got to meet him in real-life, which felt thrilling!  Here is the painting I sold:

"Woman, Control Yourself!" oil on board, 8x10"   (I put all my oyster paintings here.)

I'm going to end this blog post with another painting by Sean Mount.  When I looked at this portrait, I felt very emotional, and sort of sad.  It's so tender and full of love.

"Mother" oil painting by Sean Mount

"Mother" oil painting by Sean Mount

I will leave you with this quotation from Sean Mount's artist statement, which I really loved, and copied into my sketchbook:

"I hope to meet the gaze of America and affirm that it is coyly enthralled by atavism amidst the static of technology and globalism.  There is nothing more important in painting now than standing in our landscape with strength and honesty."

Chawne Kimber: Quilt Artist

"It has to be timeless." 

--Chawne Kimber

May 2017 Artist Profile in the Easton Irregular

"Cotton Sophisticate" by Chawne Kimber.  This and others will be in the upcoming show: In Tall Cotton: Expressions of My Self

“In Essence, I Am A Sophisticated Cotton Picker.”

These words are sewn in large block letters across the bottom of the super-colorful quilt, “Cotton Sophisticate”, created by Easton quilt artist, Chawne Kimber. The quotation comes from Eartha Kitt’s autobiography—a summation of her life growing up in south Georgia. Kimber’s own southern roots influence the quilts she makes. “All of my work in cotton is a call-back to my ancestry in slavery,” Kimber says. “Through the cultivation of cotton in rural Alabama, some of my ancestors (unwillingly) participated in the building of the United States,” Kimber writes in her artist statement. “Cotton has been central in the lives of the women of my family—from picking to ginning to sewing, with quilting emerging as the main mode of self-expression available.”

Like many of Kimber’s quilts, “Cotton Sophisticate” interprets traditional quilting forms in a fresh, improvisational style. It is united by color, full of life, and thought provoking. Kimber wants the viewer to think about how cotton is manufactured today, mostly under terrible working conditions. When making “Cotton Sophisticate”, Kimber actively chose to use US-made fabric, where there is some guarantee of fair labor conditions.

"Stop"

“Almost everything I do is in reaction to something going on in the world or in my life,” Kimber remarks. Sometimes she uses the medium to respond to current race-related social justice issues, such as “The One for Eric G”. This quilt is mostly black, constructed of various black-patterned fabrics, with the words “I can’t breathe” sewn in large block letters down its length. Those were the last words of Eric Garner, the African American man who was killed by a police officer in 2014 after being put in a chokehold. “I can’t breathe” has since become a chilling slogan, protesting the deaths of many unarmed African Americans.

"The One for Eric G"

Responding to social issues is crucial, but Kimber stresses the importance of working slowly. Responding too quickly to an incident can result in appropriation. “It has to be timeless,” she insists. “What are the things that can be separated from a moment in time?” Of course, the requirements of making a quilt naturally impose this slowness, as a typical quilt can take about two years to complete!

"Autumn Is Wistful"

“Autumn Is Wistful” is a more personal quilt than some. This quilt is an example of a technique preceding an idea. Reverse appliqué is a technique that involves cutting away at a fabric to reveal a shape appliquéd underneath. In this case, the shapes are words that form a sort of wistful poem, an ode to an idyllic memory of the South, which cannot be retrieved—

“...and I want the sweet glances and I want the sun on my face and I want the grass on my skin…”

Sadly, along with all those comforting things described in the quilt, there is a close-mindedness and intolerance in the culture of the South that keeps it forever unattainable. At least, that is the experience of Autumn, Kimber’s transgendered friend who finds that she cannot return to the home of her childhood and be accepted for who she is.

When you look at many of Kimber’s quilts, you see some “self portraits”, and they can be brutal, often incorporating an insulting or upsetting word, such as bitch. “I’m giving you who I think you think I am,” Kimber explains. In a sense, she takes away the power of the insult by claiming it first, and stitching it into her quilt. “My intent is to start a conversation,” Kimber adds. “What are you willing to engage in when looking at a piece of art?”

 

"Bitch"

Chawne Kimber’s quilts are powerful. They can start uncomfortable conversations, challenge stereotypes, and question social norms. You might even find yourself wondering what exactly is the nature of a quilt, anyway? But Kimber insists that, despite everything, her quilts are still utilitarian.

“They’re warm,” she says, with a mischievous smile.

 

You can see more quilts on Kimber’s blog, “Completely Cauchy.”  Cauchycomplete.wordpress.com

Coming soon:

In Tall Cotton: Expressions of My Self, a show featuring some of Chawne Kimber’s quilts, will take place over the Memorial Day Weekend at Lauren Kindle Studio: 7 N. Bank Street, Easton, PA. Opening reception will be Friday, May 26 from 6-8pm, in conjunction with the new Easton Fourth Friday event: Easton Out Loud. Hours to view the show Saturday, May 27 thru Monday, May 29 are 10am-3pm. Visit laurenkindle.com for more information.

Coming soon:

“In Tall Cotton,: Expressions of My Self” a show featuring some of Chawne Kimber’s quilts.  They will be on display over the Memorial Day Weekend at Lauren Kindle Studio: 7 N. Bank Street, Easton PA.  Opening reception will be Friday May 26, 6-8 pm, in conjunction with “Easton Fourth Friday.”  The Studio-Gallery will be open to the public 10-3 Saturday 27-Monday 29th.  www.laurenkindle.com

Further Reading:

My friend and fellow artist, Kate Brandes, published this interview with Chawne Kimber on her blog.

Other blogs have written about Chawne.  Check them out!

Hunter's Design Studio, "Important Quilts: Meeting Chawne Kimber"

Women Arts, "The Colorful, Radical Quilts of Chawne Kimber"

Modern Quilt Guild, "The Beautiful Mind of Chawne Kimber"

Baby Sketches

"Heaven lies about us in our infancy!"

--William Wordsworth

Today I was going through an old sketchbook of drawings I did when my children were babies.  I remember sitting blissfully on the couch for hours, content to have a pencil and sketchbook at hand while my baby slept on my lap.  Of course, there are more drawings of Nell, because she is the oldest.  When Morgan was a baby, I also had an energetic three-year-old watching me draw!  But I'm still surprised at the quantity of drawings I made back then, and of course, deeply moved by these precious memories.  When I look at these drawings, I can't believe my children have grown so much!  It really does feel as if life is too short, and the passage of time far too relentless.  Sketching is one small way to hold onto a moment and keep it forever.

FullSizeRender (9).jpg

note: This is definitely dated incorrectly in the sketch.  She didn't have curls in 2007.  I think I just forgot the year changed to 2008.

Our birth is but a sleep and a forgetting:

The Soul that rises with us, our life's Star,

Hath had elsewhere its setting,

And cometh from afar:

Not in entire forgetfulness,

And not in utter nakedness,

But trailing clouds of glory do we come

From God, who is our home:

Heaven lies about us in our infancy!

 

--William Wordsworth

Intimations of Immortality 

excerpt

The Lady, or the Tiger?

"...with all the intensity of the savage blood transmitted to her through long lines of wholly barbaric ancestors..."

--The Lady, or the Tiger?  a short story by Frank R. Stockton

tiger.jpg

For the past year, I have been dreaming about tigers.  Or perhaps it's only one tiger, the same one that comes into each dream...?  As a result, I've been cultivating a painting in my mind, or perhaps a series of paintings.  Using Pinterest, I have been collecting other artists' work that strikes me as touching the spirit of my dreams.  At some point, I realized I was going to have to do a self-portrait, possibly because I had such a strong resistance towards the idea, as described in "Intersections," my collaborative art project with fellow artist, Kate Brandes.  

My resistance was so strong, it had to be explored.  I looked at a lot of self portraits by Julie Heffernan.  I found them to be brave: not only were they nudes, but there was a deeper nakedness going on here, a nakedness of the soul, of the rich, complex jungle of a woman's heart.  "Self Portrait as a Bird Feeder" was the one I kept returning to.

"Self Portrait as Bird Feeder," oil painting by Julie Heffernan

"Self Portrait as Bird Feeder," oil painting by Julie Heffernan

I also kept thinking about jungles, especially the fantastical, made-up jungles of Henri Rousseau, and the dreamy lush gardens of ancient Roman frescoes.

Fresco Painted Garden Villa of Livia Palazzo Italy

Fresco Painted Garden Villa of Livia Palazzo Italy

The tiger wasn't a real tiger, either, but something made up from stories and imagination, and converted into dream-essence.  Again, I used Rousseau as an inspiration, but even more, I felt drawn to these old Korean paintings from hundreds of years ago.  

fantastical Korean tiger painting (possibly 17th century?)  More images can be found on my Pinterest board: "Ideas for Tiger Painting."

fantastical Korean tiger painting (possibly 17th century?)  More images can be found on my Pinterest board: "Ideas for Tiger Painting."

Finally, a few weeks ago, I started my self portrait.  I locked the door of my studio and put a "Do Not Disturb" sign on it.  I finished it two days ago, and I'm pleased with the result, even though it has a lot of shortcomings, and it's  a pretty clumsy attempt at manifesting the vision in my mind.  But, it's where I am at the moment, and it makes me feel powerful and fierce.

"The Lady, or The Tiger?" oil on canvas, 18x24"  

"The Lady, or The Tiger?" oil on canvas, 18x24"  

I named my painting after the famous short story we all had to read in middle school.  Although I don't find the writing to be particularly good, the haunting cliffhanger at the end of the story has remained with me all my life.  What was behind the door that the young man opened?  Was it the lady, or the tiger?  And are they really so different?  Is one better, or worse, than the other?  

All I know is that the tiger is a part of me, alive and well in the jungles of my dreams.

Finding Alignment

"Sometimes I'm homesick for that one time in that one place in Easton when I felt beautiful and known."

--Rachel Engh

"These Are Things We Made Together" Collage by Rachel Engh

"These Are Things We Made Together" Collage by Rachel Engh

A guest blog post by Easton artist and friend, Rachel Engh!

I made some art.  It's about trying to find alignment.

Guys, the only reason I'm writing this is because my friend, Lauren (totally talented painter and artist and mom), is going to write about me and I thought I needed to write about me first. Well, okay, she's actually going to write about some art that I've been making.

Note from Lauren:  Actually, Rachel's style of writing is perfect.  I'm going to let her writing stand, with a little of my own italicized commentary. 

Another Note from Lauren: My friend Rachel and I  have a lot of fun looking at art together.  This is one of my favorite photos (credit: Ray DiCecco) of Rachel and me looking at art during a Tiffany Calvert show at Brick and Mortar Gallery last May.

Another Note from Lauren: My friend Rachel and I  have a lot of fun looking at art together.  This is one of my favorite photos (credit: Ray DiCecco) of Rachel and me looking at art during a Tiffany Calvert show at Brick and Mortar Gallery last May.

(back to Rachel)

Here's the story:

Several months ago the Arts Community of Easton was looking for space downtown for artists to show their work for the annual Arts Tour. My office (Metris Arts Consulting in the Karl Stirner Arts Building at 230 Ferry Street, Easton) is downtown so we offered up our wall space. Turns out, not enough artists came forward for the spaces so when I ran into Marya, the organizer, outside the Post Office, she asked if I was an artist. It took me a long time to say "yes, kind of." Then she asked me about my medium.

"I glue stuff on paper."

"Then you do mixed media."

detail of "Island Bangles" collage by Rachel Engh

Ok, so remember how this was months ago? One of the reasons I said yes was because I thought this deadline would actually motivate me to get the things swimming inside my head out of my head. Well, the Art Tour is a week and a half away and I will proudly say that I have indeed pasted some stuff on paper. It might not be good but it feels good to dust off the ol' scissors and glue.

What is this art about? Well, for a long time I was telling myself I needed to make art in order to try and make sense of, or work though, a set of confusing moments. The problem, through, was that I had an idea for the what the finished product would look like but the ideas never left my head. I was putting too much pressure on trying to move through these confusing moments with an end already envisioned.

I should have remembered that the process is the art. So, anyway, my wise friend Lauren, helped me realize that my art is about me, more so than the confusing moments in and of themselves, which was a freeing realization.

"Beats 1" collage by Rachel Engh

"Beats 1" collage by Rachel Engh

So, yes, I've been thinking about home and my search for comfort (and home) here in Easton. But, I also know that as I'm searching for comfort, feeling discomfort means that I'm learning, right? Sometimes learning (and growing!) is uncomfortable.

I think more than comfort, I'm searching for alignment.  A search for alignment of what my heart says it wants and what my head knows is true. Or what my head says it wants and what my heart knows is true. I also feel like my heart sometimes lately wants to be in a different place than where it physically is. I mean, sometimes I'm homesick for Minneapolis -- my family and friends, the bike trails and drivers who stop for pedestrians.

"Beats 2" collage by Rachel Engh

Sometimes I'm homesick for that one time in that one place in Easton when I felt beautiful and known.

I made these things and now perhaps I think they're about aligning the heart (heart beats) with the outside world (animals).... Or maybe not, maybe I just liked how they looked together.

"Beats 3" collage by Rachel Engh

"Beats 3" collage by Rachel Engh

I'm also interested by the German word "fernweh," which means, I think, feeling homesick for a place one has never been to before. 

I cut up an old atlas into bathtub shapes. It's called:

Bathing Off the Coasts of Places I've Never Been To.

"Bathing off the coast of places I've never been to" collage by Rachel Engh

"Bathing off the coast of places I've never been to" collage by Rachel Engh

Ok, well, stay tuned for more. Or just show up in Easton on April 22 and 23 to say "hi."

Note from Lauren:  My studio will also be open that weekend!  It's possible to see both of us in the same day!

"Island Bangles" collage by Rachel Engh