Thursday, October 27, 2011

Installation, Performance and Video

"Photography is not an art. Neither is painting, nor sculpture, literature or music. They are only different media for the individual to express his aesthetic feelings… You do not have to be a painter or a sculptor to be an artist. You may be a shoemaker. You may be creative as such. And, if so, you are a greater artist than the majority of the painters whose work is shown in the art galleries of today." - Alfred Stieglitz

I have had somewhat of a bias attitude toward installation, performance and video art. There are a few antecedents  to this bias. Being exposed to conceptual art in my early twenties, all through the 70s at NSCAD was a major influence, due to the fact that much of it I thought, was crap, and narcissistic indulgence. That's just my opinion and I am not saying it is correct or that any one need agree with it. I am far from an expert and am certainly not an art critic, nor do I aspire to be.

Much of the genre today is very tame compared to the 70s where anything and everything seemed to be the accepted discourse. 
In my opinion, when I consider noteworthy performance, installation and video artists, who's work I find compelling, the artists often share comparatively similar elements . They stand test of time, enable me to look at the world from a different perspective that challenges my thinking, and there is a continuity to them that contextualizes, transcends and possibly redefines  the past, present and future. I am reminded of artists such as Ai Wei Wei, Kevin Yates, Adam Goddard, Andy Goldsworthy, Krzystof Wodiczko, Joyce Wieland, to name a few. 

What I most appreciate about contemporary Installation, Performance  and Video art, like that of  Bill Viola, and Louise Bourgeois, is how it is utilized as a poignant and powerful tool, enabling socio- political commentary and change. Preconceived notions of what art is, are pushed beyond  confining boundaries, through the mindfulness of the present moment and process.

I am most interested in the spirituality of art work, and this is why Bill Viola appeals to me. Artists that invite and engage the personal into the public forum, can convict the conscience and nurture the soul. I am drawn to artists who lives become a large part of their art and art becomes an even larger part of life.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Blue Beard

The story of Blue Beard, that Clarissa Pinkola Estes tells in her book, Women The Run With The Wolves, is for me one of the most ominous, and warns of destructive, unhealthy relationships, and entering the forbidden rooms of our psyche. It is a powerful story of warning and trusting our intuition.

I am reminded of the many John Bradshaw books I read many years ago, when I was at the beginnings of my own self-discovery. These books discuss impaired family relationships and how they affect us. It's as if there existed a dysfunctional relationship antenna, where with  closed eyes, walking into a room of two hundred people, finds the most dysfunctional person, to have a relationship ship with, among the group.  It also makes me think of the book, Women Who Love Too Much, and all the other written material surrounding this topic.

There is much more I could say about this relating to my own experience without getting into psychobabble however I'd rather just post my new painting, entitled, Blue Beard.  That said, I will add, thank goodness for 12 Step Recovery. 

This fifth painting in my series, I feel is quite successful for me. I consciously worked at my coloured ink under painting, more so than the previous pieces. My layered application of the egg tempera was a concerted effort to involve myself with the painting process. I think this is a rather vague attempt to describe my process this time but what I am trying to say is I am learning more as I go. 

Friday, October 21, 2011

William Kurelek

During my forth year critique first thing at 8:30 a.m. on Thursday morning past, I was anxiously anticipating my half hour and the response to my recent art work, I was presenting to the Fine Art Faculty and my fellow co-students. 

One of the faculty, the Head of the Department mentioned William Kurelek, in relation to my work, and asked me if I had ever seen the Van Halen album cover, which features William Kurelek's powerful painting, The Maze. I said no, I wasn't familiar with it.

 I hadn't thought or heard about this artist for many years, that I have so loved and appreciated dating back to the late 70s. I can't remember when I'd first knew of William Kurelek, but I was always so struck and moved by his work. 

I had written a paper on him for my Canadian Art History course, when I attended the University of Prince Edward Island, in 1975-76. I deeply admired his spiritual conviction to the Christian faith, and his subject matter completely captivated me. I was compelled by his own personal story and struggle with mental illness and hardship. He had overcome so much and not just survived, but thrived. Tragically he left this world far too soon, dying from cancer at the young age of fifty in 1977.

In 1980 when I'd gone to Toronto to study, had no idea how I myself would be affected by the ravages of mental illness, when I married my husband, also a William, who also suffered greatly from paranoid schizophrenia, and diabetes, and in a very short period of time, he would also loose his battle, and died four months after we had been married.

Today, I revisited the life of William Kurelek and perused the book I bought in the 80s entitled, Kurelek - A Biography by Patricia Morley.  I spent this afternoon searching online and found a few comprehensive sites about the artist. Two sites in particular, feature a couple of films about him and I have posted the links. I was excited to learn that this month, there has been a newly released film called, The Maze , which has been many years in the making. The NFB also has a documentary that was done several years ago by William Pettigrew in 1967.

I guess I must have missed this remarkable painting because I wasn't a Van Halen fan!

Thursday, October 20, 2011

A Monument and Memorial

In  my Advanced Art Seminar class we were asked to consider the idea of the monument and if we were to make a monument for whom and what kind of form would it take. 

My brother Ralph, died at the age of 59 years from having Multiple Sclerosis in 2002. He was my big brother as we were 10 years apart in our ages. Doing a monument to honour him would  be for me expressed through painting, which I intend to complete between 2011 -2012.

Considering the subject matter, there are three photographs I have of him, one alone and two others of us both together. The first photo is of him at 15 years of age in 1958, just before he got sick, holding a battery operated model airplane he'd put together. He is holding it very proudly and standing out front of our house, in Toronto, on Boultbee Avenue. He was wearing a striped t-shirt, blue jeans with Converse running shoes. He has a full head of black curls. He looked very happy.

The other photographs are of Ralph and I in Niagara Falls on a family trip. I am sitting on his lap with my orange crush pop, which was always my favourite. I couldn't have been any older than 2 years old, and he would be 12 years of age.

I completed an egg tempera a portrait painting last year, of my mother and father when they were very young and courting, as a kind of memorial monument to them and I have wanted to do another painting, honoring my brother Ralph. I had also painted a portrait of my late husband Bill. This kind of exercise is very healing and being an artist often enables you to provide yourself the opportunity to work through our personal pain and the struggles along the road of life.

My Ideal Critique

We were asked in our Advanced Art Seminar class to write our thoughts on what would be our ideal critique.

I spontaneously wrote this in class which is what we usually do, and so I didn't have a lot of time to think and so it was written a little tongue in cheek.

Considering Winter is fast approaching, my critique would take place in sunny California, where the film, The Big Lebowski was made, because I recently watched it again and it makes me laugh. I also loved the character of the "Dude ", and I am a huge Jeff Bridges fan. The warm California sun, the ocean and the "Dude" would make for a very relaxed environment.

The art exhibit would be outside under a canvas canopy, with each art piece placed upon a number of easels. Some people would be lounging on comfortable chairs with the ocean waves lapping gently to shore, as we listen to the Buena Vista Social Club, with Ry Cooder playing soft and low, in the back ground. Others would be mingling about, looking at the art work, while sipping girly drinks and good imported Canadian beer. Then the band would refrain from playing, followed by the curators introduction to me and my work.

After everyone had a good gawk I'd open the floor for comments and questions.Once those doins were all over we'd clear out the art work, get the band fired up and have ourselves a beach party and watch the movie, The Big Lebowski. Every one would be wearing "The Dude Abides" T-shirts

I know it's all just a fantasy. Honestly though after having an actual 4th year critique today in school with all of the Fine Art Faculty and students, I couldn't have asked for a better critique. It was truly inspiring, instructive and informative. There were no girly drinks or Canadian beers but lots of coffee, donuts, and great conversation.

Monday, October 17, 2011

The Fly Tale

I have made a miniature hand bound book, called A Fly Tale. The book consists of eight pages with
my simple ink drawings of named commonly tied flies, used for fly fishing in Nova Scotia. 
In the past three years I have taken up the art of fly tying. I am always amused by the given
names of the flies, how they obtained their name, and I find the history of fly tying fascinating. Some of my favourite fly names are Zug Bug, Yuk Bug and Wolly Bugger, and great for catching fish.
Though fly fishing and fly tying is often seen as a sport and art primarily enjoyed by men, fly tying 

dates  back to 1496, when the first book was written by an notable English woman , Juliana 

Bemers, a Benedictine Prioress, who loved heraldry, hunting, hawking and fishing. She wrote, A 
Treatyse of  Fysshying Wyth An Angle.  There was also another acclaimed woman, Orvis Marbury, 

who was considered “ the most famous but one female angling author”, according to the English
Fishing Gazette at the time of her death.

The exploration of the miniature in my Contemporary Art History class has lead me back
to my recent interest in book binding, my long time love for story and fly tying.
The combination of these three disciplines may seem unrelated and I am challenged to
understand why I chose to put them together and to articulate why I am drawn to them. I do not
completely comprehend the connection, however I believe there is a strong correlation with the
traditional handmade process.
As well, I have an ongoing interest in fine needle work, which I find both meditative and
therapeutic, and most satisfying.                                                                   

I am convinced that there is some kind of neurological positive change that occurs when we
engage in tactile, repetitive and detailed hand work, whether it be long handwriting, fine needle
work and creating detailed pattern that is both beautiful and functional.
This past year I had the opportunity to involve myself in learning about book binding and I
produced a book, telling a personal story through poetry, journaling and photographs.
I love the element of story that comes from making your own book that you can share with
I think fishing always involves story and sometimes there are interesting stories behind the
individual tied flies themselves.  A person who ties flies can make up their own names for each 
individually designed fly they’ve made, and you can always accompany it with a good story,
about that big fish you caught or the one that got away. Thus, " The Fly Tale".                                                     

Monday, October 10, 2011

New Versions of Painting Series - Women That Run With The Wolves

When I first started this series of paintings, I considered them be studies for me, as they were my major hands on introduction to the process of using egg tempera medium. I am learning as I go and it is a rewarding  creative journey involving my subject matter and the painting process.

I have posting three of the paintings I have recently done, that are not studies, but are updated versions similar to my original studies but are now new completed pieces.

After having my first 4th class group critique , I found very helpful which lead me to change a number of elements. 

I purchased a variety of coloured inks that I am using along with India ink for my under drawing. As well the wood panels are 1/2 inch 12"x12, larger than the previous studies and the application of the egg tempera is more detailed and involved. I have added to and changed my mark making and subtracted some aspects of the imagery. The above piece is entitled, Wolf Woman, below, The Handless Maiden,, Wild Woman and of Vasilisa The Wise.

Friday, October 7, 2011

The Miniature in Art/Graeme Patterson

Today in my Contemporary Art History Class we had another guest artist lecture. This time is was with  Graeme Patterson. Last year in my Open Media class we had the opportunity to visit Graeme at his studio in Sackville New Brunswick.

Before I knew any thing about Graeme Patterson I did see an exhibition he had a few years back at the Nova Scotia Art Gallery. He had his Grudge Match installation piece exhibited and I can remember my initial reaction was thinking, wow kids would love this, and adults that would be  thinking back to their childhood memory of playing with miniature toys they either found around the house or perhaps made themselves, to create a world of their own imaginations. These are very magical times I think for children, and often lie dormant until someone or something  awakens those memories for us. I think perhaps this is creativity in it's purist expression and form.

Some of the most memorable times as a child were, when I would return to my grandparents home, where  in her living room  full of nic-nacs, that I would bring down to the floor, spending hours arranging glass animals and the like, into scenarios that would be played out in my mind.

Much of Graeme's work and art practice is about memory, breathing new life into days gone by, perhaps holding on to people, places and things precious to us, recreating and tracing moments in time and place, always with an invitation to the viewer, to participate in his world of life memories, that we all can relate to.

The second time I saw Graeme's art work for whatever reason, I was not that interested in his work. After hearing him today and learning about his development as an artist, and getting to know more about Graeme , the man, I must say, I was very struck and touched but his work and the passion and dedication to and for his art work and practice. His work and personality are both delightful, and insightful and a lot of fun.

Eva Hesse, Sol Lewitt, Ideas, Great Art, Artists & Stories

I found a wonderful video today on line, concerning a letter from conceptual artist, Sol LeWitt,  which he wrote to his good artist friend, Eva Hesse. It employs a great sense of fun, play, and humour, considering the benefits of giving ourselves permission to have artistic expression, free from boundaries and preconceived notion or preoccupation with, what great art is, and what defines a great artist.

I am not a conceptual artist, though I attended one of the foremost Universities where conceptual art was the modus operandi. That said, I am always fascinated by the idea behind art work and the lives of artists themselves and how their ideas and lives inform their art practice.

One of my young Professors is a story teller and a visual artist. We sat down over the past week and we discussed his experiences with story telling. He serendipitously shared with me his opportunity to take some training with Gioia Timpnellia  who has been called, the Dean of American Story Telling. Gioia told him Eva Hesse was her best friend in art school. My Professor stated that he has also been a great fan of Eva Hesse. I first became a fan of  Eva Hesse,  in my Sculpture and Open Media classes and found her work and life very compelling. Tragically she died far too young

Sunday, October 2, 2011

War Is A Force That Gives Us Meaning?

I 've been trying to stay ahead of my History Through Film class by watching many pre and post war black and white Japanese films. I am always on the look out for information on and off line and of course CBC often provides a great scope of resources, that in turn leads me to writers, artists, books, and video, etc.,  usually broadening  my educational horizon.

Presently I am engrossed in gathering such material for my research paper involving historical Feminism in Japan. I am not at all surprised to see how many women are more often than not, at the forefront of protest against war, particularly in Japanese society. The antinuclear movement was initiated by Japanese house wives in 1954. These women soon collected 30 million signatures against nuclear development of war weapons. I am not surprised by this fact, because war is a man's world, that is life taking, and women as mothers, are life givers, and so it makes sense women would be involved in fighting non-violently for peace.

No where else in the world has a country experienced so profoundly, a change and fracturing of identity and what has been described as the "meaning of time" because of the atomic bomb. Yesterday I spent the day watching I think, one of my all time favourite entertaining films, The Big Lebowski and then, watched a required film for our History Through Film class entitled, Fire On The Plain, based on the 1951 novel,  Nobi, by Shokei Ooka.

These two films might seem diametrically opposed but the common link and theme, being anti-war, though, the presentation and context expressed, is extremely different. Today I happened to hear Chris Hedges on CBC radio, talk about his most recent book, " The World As It Is. " I'd never heard his name until today. He is a senior fellow at The Nation Institute, a writer, past war correspondent, turned war philosopher. I was riveted to the radio and listened intently until the interview concluded. I then went on the usual Google search to learn more about him. I found a lecture he'd given in 2004, based on his book, "War Is A Force That Gives Us Meaning", in 2002. His writing and thoughts are, I would dare say visionary, prophetic like and I think profoundly insightful.

Interestingly he has an English degree and often quotes  and cross references historical poems and writings about war from  Keats, Greek poets and mythology. I found this very engaging because of my brief exposure to these themes while taking my Romantic Poetry class this Spring. We read many poems on the topic concerning war. It was both enlightening, and depressing.

While watching his video, I made correlations between abuse, which is about power and control and war as being about the same . Chris Hedges also makes a comparison with war and addiction, stating,

" The rush of battle is often a potent and lethal addiction, for war is a drug. " The correlation and connection he makes between violence and communication is disturbing.
" Violence has become the primary form of communication".
In our western world we naively believe our primary form of communication is the cell phone, online and through social media.

The implications of what he says is profound I believe, and causes me to think deeply about many of the  the statements he makes.

" Human beings become a commodity."

" Euphoria of the crowd propels society over a cliff."

" In the rise of power we always become smaller, it absorbs us and we become pawns."

" Remaining human is the only anecdote and victory."