HoHoHoHoHo…Merry Christmas, Happy Hanukkah, and all that jazz…
I realize that my animal sculptures are the most popular of my works. They bring smiles to peoples faces which is my main goal. But quite honestly, my abstract work is my favorite stuff to make. I can really dig down inside of me and create feelings and stories that resonate in a purely non-verbal way.
It is difficult, though, to be an abstract artist these days without having an ulterior motive for creating something. It seems there has to be a deeper meaning, an underlying reason for making something. Environmentalism, sexual identity, politics, family values…the list is endless. I get so frustrated because, while I have subjects that are close to my heart, I don’t always think about them when I am creating. My focus tends to be more simple, a shape, a color, a pattern, a texture, an emotion, a story. I sometimes feel that the art world has forgotten about these words, has declared them too easy, too “surfacey” to talk about.
I ran across this quote in a book called “Identity Unknown: Rediscovering Seven American Women Artists” by Donna Seaman. The first chapter is about Louise Nevelson, a Grand Dame of Abstract Collage. One paragraph caught my eye and caused an “AHA!” moment for me. I felt vindicated, that perhaps there is, after all, an ulterior motive for what I do. It just doesn’t always have to be put into words.
“Abstract art is an invitation to imagine, to interpret, to reflect. Abstract art induces reverie. It liberates us from the literal and the everyday, and provides a bridge to the realm of the collective unconscious. Like jazz musicians–who begin with a deep knowledge of song and traditional composition, then venture out into new territory, making fresh connections and creating unforeseen variations on a theme–abstract artists improvise on line and form, light and dark, emptiness and presence. Abstract art is about mass and energy, being and nothingness, moods and correspondences. We absorb its emotional valence, its action or stillness, cacophony or silence. Our busy minds instinctively seek patterns and images in abstract art, just as we do when we gaze at clouds fire, rain, and falling, whirling snow.”
Photos taken at two different junkyards in the past couple of weeks. I am still having so much fun with this photography stuff!!!
I don’t have a lot of time to write but I have been having so much fun photographing stuff at the local junkyards and I wanted to share some of them with you. After taking the class at ICP this summer, I think I have found my new oeuvre: abstract photos of metal, rust and other stuff. I am in love with the colors, textures and stories that I find hiding in the rows and rows of dead cars. I will be putting more of them on my website within the next few days, but here is a sample of what I have been finding!
Here is the final project that I submitted for my online photography class at the International Center for Photography. I was unable to “attend” the last two classes as I was traveling, but the teacher taped them, so I learned everything I needed to.
All of these pictures were taken in or around the bottom floor of my barn. There is an old horse stable and a milking parlor that have not been used for decades. I spent some time, at different parts of the day, peering through windows and getting down on the ground to see this barn from different views. I am interested in recording images of objects that are past their sell by date. In other words, I look for objects and scenes that are no longer used for their original purpose.
I also ran across this house one day last month. It was not part of my final project, but it is definitely part of my extended project. I can only surmise what happened to it.
I am taking an online photography class with the International Center of Photography (ICP) in NYC. Photography has always been a wonderful outlet for me, it provides me with a serenity that I don’t see in the rest of my life. When I’m behind the camera, time stops. No that’s not right, it doesn’t stop, it just doesn’t matter.
However, I have always had a difficult time learning about f-stops and ISO and all of that technical stuff. The mechanics of a camera remain a mystery to me…they make absolutely no sense to my brain. For some reason, though, during my trip to Namibia, something started to creep through the fog and I started to figure out a way to understand it. This class is cementing that understanding and I feel like I have stepped into a new area of my photographic life. I hope that photography will always be a part of my creativity.
Here are the eight pictures I chose for our first assignment. It was a basic assignment, taking pictures with various shutter speeds and apertures, at various times of the day and of various subjects. We have not gotten to the post production editing section of the course but I am pretty pleased with how these came out without even changing anything.
Click on an image to start a slide show…Enjoy!
the ability to see, hear, or become aware of something through the senses.
the state of being or process of becoming aware of something through the senses.
a way of regarding, understanding, or interpreting something; a mental impression.
intuitive understanding and insight.
PSYCHOLOGY/ZOOLOGYthe neurophysiological processes, including memory, by which an organism becomes aware of and interprets external stimuli.
(For the purposes of this blog post, I am concentrating on the second part of this definition, the mental impressions we have of ourselves and the world around us.)
I have been pondering this term perception for quite some time. It crept into my brain during the elections, most specifically to explain the outcome. I began to realize that it didn’t matter what Hillary Clinton did or did not do, the perception that she did something wrong (or even illegal) was strong enough to stop people from voting for her.
Perception is much different than reality or truth. Perception is based on all sorts of factors, some of which have nothing to do with the truth and everything to do with our backgrounds, our experiences, our morals, our wishes and our desires. It is not quantifiable, nor is it something that can be predicted on an individual level.
There are many ways that perception has been wandering around my thoughts lately. I had actually planned several other posts about it, but I think they will have to wait. This morning there was an image on facebook that hit me squarely in the gut.
The image was of a lion lying dead among the rocks.
Considering how many images flash before my eyes as I scroll through facebook, it is fair to ask, why did this one catch my eye? I don’t have a pet lion, I don’t go to the zoo often enough to get to know the lions personally. I can’t say I have even seen this lion.
Here’s the thing. Tullamore was a part of a (now) rare group of lions. Most of the time we see lions living in the savannah, moving through the grass, showing up around waterholes and hunting the plentiful game. The lions of the west coast of Namibia are desert lions. They live in some of the harshest conditions, little water, little vegetation and little game. They have lived in this area for a very long time and once were pretty plentiful. Then came man. And cows. And other livestock.
In an area that is short on game, it makes sense that a herd of cows would be seen as a gift to a predator. It would also make sense that the owners of the cows would take great offense at having their livelihood eaten by a big cat. Here is where the perception thing comes in.
I am a rich American. I take a trip to Africa, stay in a lodge in the middle of a dessert for three days. I hear about these animals and I see the beauty of them. That is, after all, why I am there. I am a woman from the east coast of the US where there are no predators and I get to stand in front of a cheetah, or a rhinoceros, or to get close enough to practically touch an elephant and it seems like a dream. In the safety of my vehicle or standing beside the tracker with his gun, I am allowed the luxury of “being with” the animals, seeing them walk, run, play and hunt. I come home to watch countless videos of animals in the wild or Planet Earth or read books about how many species are going extinct. I view, from afar, the devastation of man around the world. And I judge. And I grieve. My perception of the death of a lion is based on my need to pet the fox when I was three (my mother nixed that idea quickly). My heartache comes from knowing that “Tullamore” was the last of a group of five male lions in the area (they were called the Five Musketeers). His four compadres were shot or poisoned over the last few years by farmers. I grieve because I met the guy who has has been studying these proud animals, a man who spends much of his life in isolation, and loves it. Unless someone kills an animal.
So what would be my perception if I were a Namibian farmer who does not see any monetary gain and many deficits with the lion population? What if I wanted to send my children to a good school, or build new fences, or dig a new well and a lion started to eat my profits? What if I am of a generation that grew up killing predators without judgement, in fact was rewarded with a pat on the back from my fellow farmers? How would I perceive lions then?
I don’t know. That is the thing about perception. You can’t always tell how you would react if you were in someone else’s shoes. I can only hope to feel compassion for this person. It is tough, it is a stretch for me, at least until I stop feeling so very angry and sad. Until I stop feeling. But right now, my perception of the person who poisoned this lion is that they are not a good person. I don’t know them, I will never meet them, but at this moment I hate them.
I will end by showing three photos. The first two are of cubs in the sand dunes. The last is of Dr. “Flip” Stander monitoring the lions. Despite the setbacks of the last couple of years, he continues to work with the growing population of lions, as well as finding ways of connecting with the surrounding human population. Looking at these pictures makes me smile. Life includes death, even if it doesn’t feel good. But for now, I want to concentrate on the living…
“Where do you get your inspiration from?”
I was asked this question this past week. It is a question I hear pretty often. My answer is usually “What doesn’t inspire me?” A bit snide perhaps. But honest.
The person who asked the question was a teenager and in some ways I feel like I dropped the ball on the answer. There was a lot going on, I had a group from one of the local high schools visiting the sculpture gardens and studio. We were on our way from one place to another and he quietly asked the question while the others were occupied with the kangaroo. It has been a while since I led a group of teens and I had forgotten how shy and quiet they can be with new experiences. If I had it to do over again, I would have talked about it differently. I might have brought the question up later when we were all gathered, and answered it seriously and at length. Because I think that it is the crux of being an artist.
Here’s what I would have answered:
“I am inspired by everything I take in sensorily. Patterns, rhythms, smells, colors, animals, plants, tastes, weather, books, music, textures, life experiences, feelings, sports, politics, psychology, philosophy, religions, interactions, how things work, how things don’t work, theater, film, dreams…okay, you get the picture. I hope. The fact is that when you are an artist, not a day goes by where nothing happens. Every day, something registers in my brain, either consciously or sub-consciously. Some artists like to take photos of these moments, others like to sketch. Journaling is a very effective way of processing these daily vignettes. I like to simply experience them. Because I know that at some point the experience will come out in my artwork. It could be days, weeks or months later. I might not even be aware of it until after it has appeared. But there will be that moment when I think ‘Oh, I know what this piece is about now.’ So my advice to you is to always look, listen, smell, hear and touch, write, draw, photograph…but most of all…live.”
The exhibit at the new gallery in Taneytown, MD starts this week. I will be exhibiting there along with an amazing photographer, Alyssha Eve Csük. You are invited to join us on this Thursday (the 20th) from 5 to 7 for an opening reception. (Address: 107 E. Baltimore St., Taneytown, MD) I am super excited about it, the guys have been bending over backwards to get the space finished and to accommodate us for this show. It promises to be a wild event! For more info, click here or go to Buickster Gallery on Facebook.
I was able to spend an entire day in the studio today, something that has not happened for a while. Spent some time just playing…and in one day I finished this study with masonry nails. I really like the shadows!
Have a wonderful Easter/Passover/whatever and I hope to see you on Thursday!