1) “Things don’t get tough in the studio. Sometimes things get tough outside
the studio and going in the studio is a relief, a sanctuary, therapy.”
2) “I hate studio. For me, studio is a trap to overproduce and repeat yourself. It is a habit that leads to art pollution.”
I agree with #1, though the artist who said it is not one of my favorites.
There is truth in #2, but given who said it, no surprise here.
Find answers to who said these things all the way down at the end of this post…
Under the radar and east of Main Street, amid the
birch trees and balconies, artists are at work. Residents of this part of the
Artspace community have affectionately referred to this hub as the “Bauhaus
Bungalows.” Step inside the live-work lofts of four
Buffalo painters, each with a storied history of work, art, and life.
Visiting an open art studio is almost the
exact opposite of the online sharing that we have become accustomed to. Instead
of the curated version seen through filters, this is the natural habitat of the
art and the artist.
Stop by the look around, have a glass of wine or cider…
In addition to paintings…
Loft 203 (me) will also have a table of other kinds of
creations for sale–flags, neckties, books, and prints ($20-$40)…
Artist quotes at top of page by: (1) Mark Kostabi (2) Marina Abramovic
When did the trend of “challenges” begin? The ones associated with social media are the ones I am talking about. There was that bucket challenge a couple years ago when people were allowing themselves to have cold water dumped over their head for the sake of some charity.
Then artists began joining in to post a nature photo every day for a week and every other imaginable variation on a theme. I have participated in a few, though I usually lose interest pretty fast, but last Winter a podcast I listen to (artistshelpingartsists) hosted one called 30 paintings in 30 days so I joined in “casually” as a way to get myself painting consistently in preparation for a show that was coming up for me in the Spring.
I found myself painting stripes, a process that energized me in a new direction.The show came together well and I spent time this summer creating a catalog of it after the fact…
knowing that I would be ready to paint again by August or September so I used the Fall 30 in 30 to jump-start things once again. This time, I found myself adding to stripes–making them more gridlike and windowish–only completed 6 in 30 days, but new things are happening.
Copies of this catalog will be available, as well as new paintings (and old). Stop by the studio 10/28/17 to say hello and take a look….
I had put them aside for awhile, but when a friend asked to buy a set as a gift, I became re-inspired. I began sewing these five or six years ago.
Inspired by Tibetan Prayer Flags and Party Flags, mostly they are made from various cotton fabrics…a mix of commercially printed patterns, vintage, and some printed from original designs.
Each set is different…
7 inch reversible triangles on a 6 foot twill line
8 inch reversible squares on 8 foot twill line
~ Hang in the breeze on a patio.
~ String across a room interior.
~ Tack onto a wall.
~ Awaken any place you wish with a touch of color and pattern is desired.
C e l e b r a t e !
C e l e b r a t e !
About the original fabric designs…
Last year, I began converting some of my painted designs to printed fabric on Spoonflower.
Although I have temporarily discontinued the line of neckties made from this original fabric, shown here are a couple handsome models wearing my ties…
person born in the 1800s recently died. Having known people who were born in that century keeps the era alive. A woman
born in 1879 is featured now at Burchfield Penney Art Center.
Mabel Dodge Luhan started out in Buffalo, but she had the means to travel about the world and experience the depths. She says:
“If we are part of the color or tempo or rhythm the world is in at any time, we are alive and there is nothing of any greater significance than that…”
After reading about her bohemian community in the southwest, I went there to visit and stayed a couple time
at the Taos lodge in her name, the place where she seemed to thrive best.
She inspired me to write this…
Most people may associate The J. Peterman Company
“Owner’s Manual” with the Seinfeld show, but way before that in 1987, I began receiving their catalogs. The tagline read…
Traveling the world to
find uncommonly good stuff.
A joy to receive, this bit
of ephemera was nothing like the ordinary catalogs of LL Bean or JC Penney. The
Peterman pages displayed clothing and accessories with a classic flair reminiscent
of great novels and film. Instead of photographs, the items are rendered in
lush inks–displayed next to poetic narratives. I looked longingly at the
collection of items found in each new arrival, but never ordered the pricey
goods. The Holiday 1990 issue featured The Mabel Hat.
The content read…
“The banker’s daughter from
Buffalo boarded the gleaming White Star Line passenger ship to London in 1905.
Mabel wore this stylish top hat made of the finest crushed cotton velvet and
lined in indigo silk satin. Victorian elegance blended with a dash of modernity
defines this playful collapsible model. Discreet wires are sewn into the seams
so that it flattens into a circle and pops open with a snap of the wrist. Ideal
for travel–the brim shields rain, wind, sleet, or snow. Mabel wore the hat
tilted to one side as she roamed the streets of Paris–-drank wine with Gertrude
Stein and Pablo Picasso. A few years later, she was seen wearing the hat on the
streets of Greenwich Village–often carrying bags of baguettes, brie, and
burgundy in preparation for her famous artist salons. A true pioneer, never
content in any one place for too long, Mabel ventured out west in a Model T.
She settled in the sage and sand of the Taos desert, opened her home to
artists, and married a Pueblo man. That’s when she traded her notable velvet
for a straw sombrero. The Mabel Hat. Thirty-nine ninety-nine. Available in
chocolate brown or licorice black.”
I’m sure that my
grandmother Evelyn wore a similar hat in 1915 as she ferried back and forth
from the boarding house in Hackensack, New Jersey to her job as an English
teacher on Ellis Island. And didn’t the suffragettes march about wearing
substantial hats such as this one?
Mabel’s top hat captured my
imagination in 1990. I even pointed it out to my friend who shared my
appreciation for the humorous literary text of the J. Peterman brand. One
evening during that festive season, I walked up First Avenue to his Stuyvesant
Town apartment for a bit of holiday cheer. We drank cognac and listened to
Sinead O’Connor. I was handed a flat white box. Inside was a circle of black velvet…The
It opened with a flick of
the wrist. I felt a surge of “anything is possible” as I walked back down First
Avenue in the lightly falling snow.
Remember the grade school Science lesson about making fire
with a magnifying glass and the sun? I had not thought about that in a long time until yesterday.
As the seasonal turns bring the sun closer to
us, even mid-April Buffalo offers an intensely blazing late afternoon sun from the West. After a
visit to Burchfield Penney
and a late lunch fish fry at Nye Park on that glorious Spring day, I was relaxing on the sofa listening to the Dear Sugar podcast when I smelled a vague burning
odor, the kind that is fairly common. Perhaps someone was firing up their grill
The sound of sirens is also common in this neighborhood, but when loud voices and pounding appeared to be right outside my window, I opened the door to see a team of firemen spraying water from their hoses on items pulled from the downstairs apartment, as black billowing smoke choked the air.
“Please step out, Ma’am,” I was told. I always imagined tossing important items into a bag—purse, laptop, notebook of passwords and other important papers–if confronted with an actual fire. I complied with the request and stepped outside, wearing my slippers, to join neighbors who had assembled.
We speculated on possible cause—stove, appliance, wiring?
Thankfully, the fire
fighters had been called by a neighbor who noticed the smoke as she happened to
Retreating inside, I had pulled down the shades to soften the blinding rays of the sun, as that sun was busy burning through the window glass in the apartment below me onto a simple table–a smoldering fire was underway.
Thank you concrete floors
Nobody was hurt and the fire was extinguished. As it
turned out, no electrical items had been left turned on. My neighbor returned
to a soot-covered ceiling and a puddle of water on the floor. A screen had been
removed to open a window without breaking glass. A charred table was leaning
against a wall outside.
The mystery culprit turned out to be a magnifying glass set on a tray of papers that sparked in the intensity of the late afternoon sun.
This really happened!
You may want to look around your environment to be sure that no
magnifying glass device is casually placed in line with direct sunlight.
Curiously, the event took place on Easter weekend, a time marked by biblical lore about holy fire and miracles. My Good Friday miracle was not being burned out of my home–not losing the art that will comprise half of The Future of Something, a show to be opening in two weeks
resident-generated DIY exhibition space and venue for an eclectic array
of creative endeavors, ABG is a work-in-progress, with a history of
revolving resident curators hosting more than a hundred exhibitions and events (poetry readings, fashion shows, performance) during the near-ten years of activity. Contact firstname.lastname@example.org
Coming up this
month on April 21st at 6pm is Triggered Snowflakes: Digital
Assemblage and Protest Embroidery by Gabrielle Goldstein and April 29th
from 4 to 6 is an opening reception for The Future of Something: Recent Painting
by Pat Pendleton and J. Tim Raymond.
A Little History…The Artspace
community of artists reside in sixty live-work loft apartments completed in
2007. Located across from the Delta Sonic Plaza in the five-floor brick
building at 1219 Main Street (corner of Coe Street), along with several
two-story units off Northampton in the back of the main building.
Since 2014 the Buffalo
Center for Arts & Technology has shared the ground level of the historic structure built in 1911 to house the Buffalo Electric Vehicle Company. It was
later repurposed as the Breitweiser Building, a print shop with office space
leased to various other businesses (including Decca Records) until the early 1990s. After standing vacant
for fifteen years, Belmont Housing (716-8872963) partnered with Artspace
to rehab the building into affordable live-work apartments
for artists with a large amount of common space to be used as the residents wish, including an outdoor grassy lawn and community garden…and of course, the art gallery.
Reminiscent of flags, fun, summer, 1950s beatniks, Edie Sedgwick, Jean Seberg, Andy Warhol, Pablo Picasso, Patti Smith, and Debbie Harry, and anything French.
I have an assortment of striped shirts…
When it seems we swim in a sea of content, imagery, and idea…how refreshing it was to put all that aside and paint striations of color, line, and texture.
As I was painting stripes, I happened to read in an article by art critic, Jerry Saltz where he was anticipating a deluge of predictable political art in response to the heated public climate of the last few months. This remark caught my attention …
“All art is political because within every contemporary artist is the deep content of this time and all of that is in their work–even if it is just stripes or squiggles, done unoriginally, in a fever with insight.”
I agree, as I had recently come upon an earlier statement by artist Paul Klee from more than a hundred years ago that expressed a similar sentiment …
“The more horrifying this world becomes, the more our art becomes abstract.”
A few year ago, I painted words onto an old suitcase…
The phrase “curious evidence” became the theme for my 2012 exhibition at Artspace Buffalo Gallery. The words refer to my view that visual art is form of evidence in the art practice of an individual artist.
There is a long history of language in art…
This is not a pipe, the painting from 1929 by Belgian surrealist Rene Magritte was an early example of the 20th Century movement to use words with picture, a form that was later popularized by the pop artists of the 1960s.
Yoko Ono presented her conceptual approach to contemporary artmaking with five remedies:
1) Remove all classic fine art materials.
2) Remove the need for imagery.
3) Reduce the scale of the work.
4) Require audience participation.
5) Reinvest in language.
I became interested by the reinvestment in language enacted by post-modern and neo-expressionist artists of the 1980s, such as Jenny Holzer, Barbara Kruger, Julian Schnabel, and Jean-Michel Basquiat.
Although I appreciate painting for its nonverbal impact, I am also drawn to poetic language, stories, picture books, and advertising so words and
text enter into my art practice fairly often. I recall using some text in a lithograph that I
made in a college printmaking class, but it was another ten or fifteen years
before I began intentionally playing around with found images and words from print media and painted words while working in Manhattan during the 1980s…
1990s while working in Denver…
Others from the early 2000s while still residing in Denver….
Back in Buffalo, I made work for an exhibition and event called Not Just Words…
I have continued to incorporate words into paintings during the last couple years…
Weight of Words I and II seemed to urged me to disband with text altogether…
And I have had less interest in that until these these doodles emerged…
I made this version for the Hallwalls Contemporary Art Center Mid-Winter Drawing Rally…
The fireworks and ball drop are weeks behind us now, but a reason to mark another new year is here. This is a time to leave the problems of the previous year behind, clean the house, and wear new clothing. The Chinese decorate with banners, red paper cutouts and wishes of happiness, wealth, and longevity—festive meals are consumed, firecrackers lit, and money gifts offered. Enjoy dumplings, saki, and longevity peaches (pastries representative of the mythical celestial peach).
And what about the red monkey? The one illustrated above (click link to order print) has a generous heart with an offering of a freshly-picked juicy peach.
Chinese astrology features a zodiac of twelve animals and five elements (wood, metal, earth, water, fire) that combine in an elaborate system to designate qualities to those born in each new year. For example, babies born during this past year of the Wood Goat may express a peaceful harmonious nature, while those arriving after February 8th in 2016, a Fire Monkey year, will likely be entertaining and mischievous. Another translation indicates something for everyone about this new year: “monkey climbing the mountain” (good description of the election process we are up against). The last fire monkey year was between February 12, 1956 and January 30, 1957. Anyone turning sixty this year?
The Lunar New Year is an important annual East Asian festival recognized in accordance with the Lunisolar calendar that generally occurs on the second new moon after Winter Solstice. The Chinese call it Spring Festival and conclude their festivities with Lantern Festival. The timing and customs vary among different groups. The Japanese Risshun Setsubun is recognized on a fixed date (February 3rd). The Burmese celebrate Thingyan later on in April. Tibet, Nepal, and India have Losar, during the time of the flowering apricot trees in Tibet.
The Cantonese and Mandarin New Year’s greeting communicates
Congratulations and Prosperity:
GONG XI FA CAI
XINNIAN KUAI LE
Here in Buffalo, some of us at Shambhala Meditation Group celebrate Shambhala Day that coincides with the Tibetan Losar. Our greeting says this:
May all auspiciousness be heaped upon you…TASHI DELEK!
I recently saw a post about a curious little book that I immediately ordered on eBay (not likely found at any local bookseller). We Go to The Gallery raised a storm of interest when it was first published a few months ago. I suspect the backstory is fairly compelling–artist gets her big break, but is quickly squelched by a corporate copyright issue. Big artists such as Jeff Koons get sued for millions and carry on. What about the others? Any documentary filmmakers looking for a good story–Michael Moore?
UK Artist, author, and illustrator Miriam Elia had a brilliant concept when she launched her book after raising 5000 pounds on Kickstarter. Modeled after the Peter and Jane children’s reading series from the 1960s and 70s, her Dung Beetle LTD publication is a 46-page hardcover book that is no bigger that a greeting card, but the ideas inside are large. She addresses some of questions that arise when children (and adults) encounter contemporary art–part spoof and part truth. These are some of my favorite pages…
When the book created a buzz of interest online, Penguin (publisher of the original Ladybird Books series that had inspired Elia) pulled out their copyright agreement and sued the artist.
The Guardian reports on it here. The artist explains in a post on her Learning with Miriam blog that she authors with her collaborator/husband, Ezra Elia…
”I write from inside a paper bag where I have been living for these last three months.”
Miriam Elia responded artfully with more art–another publication free from any potential copyright infringement issues called We Sue An Artist: Guide to Corporate Intimidation, along with the tagline “and then they rip her off.”
Indeed they have. Penguin has run with Elia’s idea and published their own series of visually retro “kidult” books with titles such as Mindfulness, The Hipster, The Mid-Life Crisis, The Hangover, The Shed, Dating, The Wife, andThe Husband.
The notion of six degrees of separation is commonplace in a smallish city like Buffalo, but even in a place as massive as New York City, the idea holds up. Everyone and everything is likely to be six or fewer steps away (through associations) from any other person in the world, so that a chain of people can connect any two people in a maximum of six steps (degrees).
A recent article from The Weeklingsparked a flood of recollection about an era when a certain creative buzz drew so many of us to lower Manhattan and what follows here is just a small piece of East Village Story.
Actor/Musician Richard Edson tells about his days as the first drummer for Sonic Youth while also working with another band named Konk during the transition of Punk to New Wave and beyond. He writes about the late 1970s early 1980s lower Manhattan art and music scene that has become mythologized and often glorified.
There seems to be a mass unleashing of stories by all sorts of people, not only high-profile book memoirs, but social media has become a storied ground for blog posts and memoirish status updates. In the last couple years, Richard Hell, Cindy Lauper, Patti Smith, and Kim Gordon have brought to life in their books the last gasps of the downtown Manhattan in the late 20th century before cultural and economic shifts scattered us about. I especialIy go for the New York stories, as I was there from 1979 to 1992 and now view that time now as a kind of alternative graduate school for endurance as an artist (and person).
A memoir a largely a narrative composed from personal experience, not the same as an autobiography (an accounting of historical details), but a recollection of a particular point of view about that personal history–a truth that is apart from fact or fiction. Gloria Steinem’s memoir is about how her life has revolved around travel, though she does not drive. Memory is slippery in its association with remembrance and nostalgia and some notion of grabbing for what is long gone, but it is also a lens for clear-seeing and wisdom that comes in roundabout ways.
Back to Edson’s article…I met him during the Summer of 1980 at the new club called Danceteria. Either Devo or Tuxedo Moon (maybe both) were playing that night and I was wearing a dark green one-piece work suit from the army navy store on Canal Street. He was a drummer and freelance photographer for the Soho Weekly News.
The Soho weekly paper was the go-to source for bands and arts events downtown–even more so than the Village Voice. Lena Lovich and Roland Barthes made the cover of this one–her song Lucky Number received a lot of airplay at the time. I actually had a copy of his book, A Lover’s Discourse, but reading it was not easy. I had been in the city just about a year–worked in Soho (for Gretzinger Design) at Broadway and Broom. Mostly, I tried to absorb as much as I could to find my direction. I had a Pentex K-1000 camera, Sanyo boombox, 13-inch black and white RCA television, and $225 a month rent-stabilized apartment.
Edson’s article mentions Konk’s Austrian guitar player named Florian and a
dancer named Judith–when they broke up, Edson dated her for brief time. So I perked up when I read this bit of social history and recognized a slice of my own story—evidence of the
tangle of intersecting people, places, and scenarios that often make
little sense. I went to Judith’s apartment one evening with Edson—it was across the street from the Indian restaurants on Sixth Street, just down the block from where I lived.
A few people were gathered there and she served us drinks before heading out to art openings. I do not recall exactly where we went, but I do recall the turn of events. By the end of the evening, Florian and I had lost track of Richard and Judith—or maybe the boys planned it that way. Who knows? Enjoyed hanging out with Florian just fine. That was an exceptionally casual time. I saw Richard and Judith around town a little after that, but it was easy in those days for people to drift away and ever see them–or simply notice them from afar and wonder a bit with no need for hellos or small talk. There was a highly cultivated culture of “cool” that preserved anonymity and privacy and allowed for mystery–almost opposite of the sharing culture of overexposure we have now.
That Fall, Reagan was elected and John Lennon was shot. Sigh.
A few years later Edson turned up in Jim Jarmusch’s early film, Stranger Than Paradise. Other movie and television roles followed as various eccentric characters.
So many were on the verge of the next thing. I used to see Vincent Gallo at art openings back then when he was painter (before Buffalo ’66) standing off by himself in a trim shiny suit. Edson also wore suits–the look of another trendy band of the moment,The Lounge Lizards. The East Village was like a campus where I saw a lot of the same people on the streets without actually being acquainted. There was and no way to look up personal info about anyone. It was all word of mouth, unless someone happened to get written up in one of the local papers (East Village Eye or Bomb). A sense of being part of a common creative experience was felt–even just walking down the street. Edson captures some of that in his article.
The six degrees of separation law applied to most of us who had no particular notoriety. We went to our jobs and we made things, and generally tried to stay attuned to what was happening. People aspired to more without talking about “goals,” the mark of the soon-to-come self-improvement 1990s era.
I would see Jean-Michel Basquiat and David Byrne in the Laundromat around the corner. A girl I knew was staying in Cindy Sherman’s loft before her photography was known much and I was there with her one afternoon when she pointed out “Cindy’s art,” the now-famous doctor and nurse self-portraits propped on a desk in cheesy dime-store frames. Lauren Hutton and Malcolm McLaren sat at the table next to me one night at Kismoth, my favorite Indian place down the street. Such moments were common and the energy that fueled the creative scene came from the way so many parallel paths crossed over to intersect and connect–even if briefly.
When I saw the small map printed in The New Yorker recently, I scanned it immediately and expanded the picture to show the long span over the ocean between Buffalo and Paris to Syria and beyond (just imagine land under those add-ons). Having a mental sense of where things are helps (me).
My grandmother had a large map of the world tacked to her dining room wall. She began mapping as a girl tracing the long distance traveled by her parents from Germany to North Tonawanda and again during World War II when her four sons were dispersed to different locations and she made it her job to track their whereabouts. During Viet Nam, she kept watch on war activities in relation to where her oldest grandson was stationed. I observed how her curiosity and engagement with faraway places brought those places closer and more intimate. I regularly ponder maps and draw my own diagrams for getting around unknown areas even though map apps and GPS are commonly used now.
Recent online commentary criticizes westerners for their “empathy gap” during violent attacks in Syria and Paris, as the outpouring of support has been directed mostly to France. Many of us cannot locate Beirut or Damascus on a map, but we more likely have experienced a Paris visit to gaze at the Mona Lisa in the Louvre, drink bowls of coffee at a sidewalk café, and snap photos at The Eiffel Tower. Others know Paris through books and movies only. Then there are those who have little interest in Paris or any travel to new terrains.
Connection breeds empathy.
I visited for a few days years ago and I was lucky enough to stay with actual Parisians, but the time was less than ideal as I was somewhat ill with a cold. I remember a lot of wandering in the cold of early December while my friend worked. My ability to decipher a menu in French the was limited so I ended up eating a lot ofomelettes. And…the Louvre Museum was closed that week due to a workers strike. Much of my appreciation for the place comes from the writings of Simone de Beauvoir and Anais Nin, Joni Mitchell’s lyrics, and Jean-Luc Godard’s film, Breathless–Jean Seberg in her striped boat shirt and cropped hair. Drinking coffee from a bowl still makes me feel French.
Last Summer, Toby brought me this souvenir from her trip…
Both fans of cheesy vintage tourist shop items, such as snow globes and pens; this red, white, and blue tower is even more iconic and meaningful than even just a couple months ago.
The attack on culture, modernity, and the western world is heartbreaking. At a time when we have never had more people engaged in the new ideas, expression, creativity, and compassionate living; the terrorists who act out to destroy all that have no place in a global society. As people displaced from their homes in Syria must find refuge in places not entirely welcoming, I wonder how that will work.
What will happen next?
The words of poet Diana di Prima speak well to this situation…
Just as the calendar turned over to November, the weighty push of holiday marketing descended like clockwork. As someone who makes things, I am reminded that this is a good time to promote my own work. In post DIY times, there is an abundance of art and other handmade items
for gifting in stores, online, and at the weekly art fairs that crop up
this time of year. Although I am not doing that, I am reflecting on my history in this arena.
My collage painting of the last few years breaks into themed categories on my website: Mindscapes, Rorschachs, Horses, Tumbleweeds, and Buddhas…
Since 2010, I have also created four small books (and an additional two for artist J. Tim Raymond) at Blurb Books. All are available to preview and order through the Blurb Bookstore.
Back to making things…
Like most kids, my own making history began with coloring and drawing. That led to sewing, ceramics, and batik-dyed fabrics for wall hangings, t-shirts, scarves, and other items. I sold these at an outdoor art market located on the Embarcadaro Plaza in San Francisco.
I discontinued the wax-resist dying process for designing with fabric paint on cotton that I sewed into blouses and kimono robes.
I studied art in college in the early 1970s, a renaissance for the utilitarian handmade item, more ready to sell than a painting–an appealing idea for those of us wondering how we would make a living. Once photography and painting stole my attention, a different kind of “making” entered the picture.
During a visit to Mexico in 1981, I discovered the colorful mesh bags carried by everyone in the market and I returned to New York with inspiration to create my own version of an urban tote. I began sewing an army green mesh bag with black strap and marketed this one bag under the business name, Spare Product. I advertised it for mail order in a trendy short-lived magazine called WET. I do not have the bag or even a photo of it now, but many of these totes are still in use by people I know.
A few years later, I made a line of painted t-shirts for kids. The Birthday Shirt featured a number noting a child’s age and some were personalized with a name. Family photos show my nieces and nephews wearing their birthday shirts, my standard gift during that time.
A few year ago, I created Box of Haiku as a fundraising project, a series of self-made theme books, and my version of prayer flags.
A couple weeks ago, a woman at a brunch told me she wants to be an artist when she retires in a year or two and asked me what that is like. Plan to invest a lot of time, but it’s a long story…to be continued.
The author writes: “Latvia is a country of women. The old gods and
goddesses had run the world in a much different way before Christianity.
The daughters of the sun always played an important role as did fate in
that old world. Even the sun was a female deity.” The Birch tree is
often regarded as a goddess tree, a symbol of renewal and protection—a
tree of inception and new beginnings.
Terez Peipins paints a picture of a
silver birch that casts a sweeping storied shadow around the life of
one Latvian man as the generations before and after him scatter in the
wake of Russian-occupied Riga. This work of literary fiction is inspired
by the memory of the author’s mother, grandmother, aunts, and uncles in
a saga that spans the decades leading up to WWII and through the later
years of that century after the Berlin Wall was removed.
Told in the third person point-of-view, the reader is
delivered a complete exploration of the human drama of birth, joy,
suffering, and death that shape individual lives. A multitude of
characters come alive with the details of daily life and disruptive
events. At a time when “the reach of Stalin’s government was felt
everywhere,” Juris and Mara had lived a quiet life raising daughters,
Olga and Laura, until changes are imposed upon them. The fall of their
hometown disperses Juris to a camp in Sweden. Later on, he lands in a
Siberian prison. The girls end up in Spain and Canada. The unfolding
story follows them all through chapters of happenings in their various
locations. The heritage of country, culture and language are felt as
each forms new bonds through place, work, marriage, parenthood, illness,
and aging—a tangle of complex relationships, love, and struggle.
slice of Eastern European history is told with humanity and heart
through the richness of Latvian experience, complete with frequent
mention of traditional foods. Included is a selection of recipes, such
as potato pancakes, applesauce cake, and other favorites.
Years ago, I created this mixed media art of a particular dress had muselike qualities for me back in 1981.
Fancy dresses of earlier-era dances and dating continue to hold the residue of romance often missing in contemporary life. Afterall…women fought for the right wear pants.
I have always adored Wayne Thiebald’s dress painting after seeing it on a New Yorker cover.
Items of clothing as subjects in art often interest me more than the clothing that happens to be worn by a person in a portrait…such as Van Gogh’s boots shown in this selection from my 2012 series, Postcards to Myself.
Although this dress is not shown alone, the photograph emphasizes the graphic dots and the body underneath is barely there–from another series, Postcards to Toby.
Another one that I found online in the spirit of the fancy dress is this frilly Party Dress, by Cynthia Reed.
The J. Peterman Catalog continues to advertise their wares as they always have…with beautifully painted and drawn illustrations, such as a simple dress all alone, floating without model, mannequin, or hanger.
A few years ago, I made a project from some of the postcards I had collected from years of museum visits. I addressed each one to myself, wrote a brief note, and signed off with the name of the artist featured on the card. I showed the eighteen postmarked cards tied to a line during my show, Curious Evidence, at Artspace Buffalo Gallery in 2012.
Do you have a problem with art? Buffalo artists were recently invited to participate in Artists Anonymous groups facilitated by Karen Finley. Known for her performances, visual and conceptual works, the New York-based artist has appropriated the self-help model of 12-step programs to create this new work. She had just completed hosting a series of such groups during the NYC Makers Biennial at Manhattan Art & Design Museum when she visited town last month to join the 40th anniversary celebration for Hallwalls.
An Artists Anonymous meeting is open to those who feel that their lives have been affected by artmaking, the art world, and the troubles of maintaining a creative life and career. Finley began offering these groups after a difficult time when she was looking to rekindle her own sense of joy as an artist. Modeled after the well-known Alcoholics Anonymous 12-step program (AA) developed in 1935 by Bill Wilson, the steps for recovery from alcoholism were outlined in his handbook, referred to as “The Big Book.” People maintain anonymity at these meetings by using first names only with one another. The AA format helps people to connect with others facing similar struggles.
“Find your tribe,” encourages Finley. One of the foundations of the original AA is the act of turning one’s life over to a higher power. While Finley’s version does not require this, many artists view their pursuit of art as a kind of religion or an alternative to it. Often an obsession, artmaking can veer off into the territory of addiction, a term that is casually tossed around to define any out-of-balance activity. Traditionally, addiction implies powerlessness. Most 12-step groups guide a person into their individual story to ask “How did you arrive at this place of powerlessness? While recovery in the original AA model implies “giving up” the use of alcohol or other harmful substance, Artists Anonymous is not asking anyone to give up as artists. Instead, recovery is more a case of recharging and rediscovering the passion for creating and engaging with art.
Finley suggests that artists find the joy in what they do. She has reimagined the twelve steps as thirteen thought-provoking ideas to ponder: 1) We are powerless over art; 2) The power of art is greater than ourselves; 3) Turn our will and our lives over to the care of art; 4) Admit we are artists; 5) We are addicted to art; 6) Ready to make more art; 7) Get out of the way–we are making art; 8) Whatever it takes–make the art; 9) Art is all around us–we make art available to others; 10) Continue to make art despite the consequences; 11) Give of ourselves with our art to others whether they like it or not; 12) Hope to provide a spiritual awakening with art and maybe some cash; 13) Life is more important than art but life is meaningless without art.
I gathered on a Sunday morning with thirty artists in chairs circling the main gallery. Anticipating the event to be part spoof, part performance, and not entirely serious, I discovered a fairly no-frills support group.The meeting began with introductions and small group discussions to arrive at personal additions to Finley’s list of thirteen steps. Some of these were shared with larger group: 1) I express, therefore I am; 2) Don’t rush it–art tells you when it’s ready; 3) People do not have to understand your work; 4) Fake it ‘til you make it; 5) Make art from your personal struggles; 6) Art is a process; 7) Lack of time or funds for materials should not be a deterrent; 8) Be sure to play; 9) Fail and fail again.
A second round of small group discussions addressed how the spiritual enters into art as a maker and a viewer. Many recalled the first time a work of art impacted them. More than one person mentioned influential moments that occurred at Albright Knox during childhood visits. Books, teachers, wilderness adventures, travel, foreign places, meeting experienced artists—all translate into fuel for the creative fire. Experience the largeness of the world. Find connections.
Someone asked the question that comes up over and over again in conversations about art: “Hasn’t everything already been done?” Always a good conversation starter that always come to yes and no. It hasn’t been done by you in your voice through the filter of this particular time and place in history. The need to make and express is much like an itch that must be scratched. Artmaking offers a therapeutic aspect that can have an immediate reward. Finding that connection can keep an artist from drifting away. Harnessing the gods and goddesses of creativity is fraught with possible troubles, as well as joy. Getting snagged in the angst of the process is the affliction of the artistic. Only the addicted stick around.
Observations on the perils and gifts of an art practice are plentiful in the book, Art & Fear, by David Bayles and Ted Orland. They demystify the pursuit and arrive at the realization that those who continue to make art over time are simply those who have learned not to quit. “Making art is dangerous and revealing,” they explain. Therefore, the artist will face doubt and failure repeatedly, but finding a way back into the work takes it to the next level. Each of us is living out a modern-day heroic journey. We may not be slaying dragons and walking through fire, but our complex world is no easier. Making art is chancy and it does not mix well with predictability. Those who cannot tolerate the uncertainty will not endure. Artists Anonymous is a place to address these kinds of concerns in community with others.
The original AA group model includes a testimonial presentation by a group member who stands at the podium to tell their tale. Every artist has a story. One painter bravely stepped up to the front to speak. The two-hour session was just enough time to uncover a small slice of story from all who attended, but it was a worthwhile experiment. While the meeting did not conclude with the traditional AA Serenity Prayer, we were asked to stand in our circle holding hands for a good length of time—a powerful moment for an artist group not inclined to touchy-feely gestures.
Artists are often introverts who express themselves best through their art. Some may not find the appeal of an interactive group, yet the mood upon leaving was energetic and people seemed generally pleased. Thank you Karen Finley (and Hallwalls). Watch for future “Friends of Karen” Artists Anonymous groups at www.hallwalls.org.
Have you seen the slogan “You are Beautiful” on billboards around the county? The words are also printed on small metallic stickers that are turning up around town. I picked up a few at a local gallery and stuck them in a couple strategic spots places that were well received by unsuspecting others. Who does not feel just a little happier to read those three words?
Reminiscent of the Dove soap campaign last year with the tagline “You are more beautiful than you think,” this one is an art project initiated by Chicago artist, Matthew Hoffman. Sponsored by Albright Knox in partnership with Lamar Advertising, the immersive presentation here in Buffalo is underway as part of a series of public artworks intended to “enrich” the lives of people who live here.
The Shark Girl (Casey Riordan Millard) sculpture at Canalside has quickly become the go-to location for pics. The curious girl sits on a rock with just enough room for you to sit beside her (and pose for the camera). A temporary mural of Buffalo caverns was installed outside the downtown library in August by the Tape Art Collective. Although it was up for only a week, the artwork created with painter’s tape was an attempt to engage the community through art. Just as nutrients and fortification are added to foods to make us healthier and stronger, public art aims to add a bit of stimulation and joy to the street life experience. Art appreciation can be introduced outside the arena of academics. Enrichment is one of the trending words that have surfaced in recent years. Becoming rich in resources or love may be unlikely for many, but enrichment is available for all. Hoffman’s message is just the right salve to soothe the exhausting pursuits of our insecure time.
Down the road, another public display has turned up at the site of the 100-foot grain silos. Initially, this appeared as a surprising artful enhancement of the skyline. The silos have been wrapped in vinyl to appear as Labatt Blue beer cans—possibly the largest six-pack in the entire world. This clever concept publicizes the coming of a new development project to transform the historic area into a brewery, entertainment and recreation complex. Revitalization began a couple years ago when artists staged performances and exhibitions in the silos, events that wove Buffalo’s industrial past into the credibility of our growing arts community.
While the RiverWorks project will add to the harbor’s tourism potential, the blatant advertising coloring the historic vista stirred online discussions buzzing earlier this Fall. Walk into any bar and you will see people drinking Labatt Blue beer. It’s cheap and contains no preservatives. Do they really need over-the-top advertising? Many feel that the public should have been involved in the decision. Some are simply offended to see a beloved historic site altered. Others welcome the entertainment value–they call it Pop Art. Why not? Blinking neon and commercial signage of all kind mark all the major high-rise skylines of the world. The financial arrangements are not hard to understand.
I first heard about the concept of visual pollution years ago by a teacher who warned that some art production may be toxic to the environment. Living with others requires a certain amount of tolerance for barking dogs, loud music, and poor taste. We learn to endure these annoyances as part of getting along. What about pollution of the visual field? Access to spacious views may be suddenly cut off as a taller building is constructed nearby. This happens in cities all the time. Now the view of the historic silos has been altered. The idea of transforming the can-like silos must have been an exciting moment for those involved, but the rest of us are left with commercial influence rather than enrichment.
Last year, I saw a photo of wall art on the side of a west coast building–a shadowy figure with scrawled words: “Make something or be forgotten.” This thought-provoking phrase stuck with me. I later learned that the artful wall was an ad campaign for Levi, minus a visible logo or corporate identity. It simply added to (enriched) the skyline and the minds of those who looked. Refreshing!
Matthew Hoffman’s encouraging words (You are beautiful) are the flipside of more challenging phrases from sign art projects popular decades ago. One of Barbara Kruger’s memorable statements, “I shop therefore I am,” might be adapted for today by replacing the word “shop” with “consume.” Consumers need not enter a store.
Nothing represents consumption better than toxic vinyl. Vinyl wrapping reminds me of the over-sized inflatable holiday yard decorations that are more like commercial promotions that twinkly festive beauty. This is the season for the turkeys, reindeer, and snowmen that totter in the wind of residential neighborhoods inevitably lose air and become droopy and depressing. The well-meaning people who decorate with inflatables seem to selling us the holidays. Consumption is a way of life. Individuals brand themelves with personal logos, identities, and avatars. You can even get paid every month to allow your own vehicle to be vinyl wrapped with advertising. Product placement in movies and television is routine. Hundreds of ads on social media are scrolled over every week and moviegoers are willing to endure fifteen commercials as we sit at the movie theater before the previews begin. Advertising and entertainment are almost indistinguishable these days. Art as enrichment lurks nearby at a careful distance.
The wrapped silos sets a precedent for more advertising creeping into architectural projects. Anyone who questions this may be viewed as a party pooper, but why not inspire something beyond mindless logo recognition and the influence that follows? The answer is easy for Labatt. To all those faithful patrons at the checkout counter or bar paying for Blue: “You are Beautiful.”