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Sky Song


This poem appeared as part of the Black Earth Institute’s “30 Days Hath September” Project

Sky Song
Hear the sound of the age changing—
it is the refrain of yes
shaping new constellations
from the old stories
that scroll through our days.
Hear the galaxy hum of love—
the quantum is of the unseen
singing our names (when we
only know to say them) and scheming
sweet rhymes in the forth dimension.
Let’s get invisible.
Let’s kiss elisions.
Let’s get spirit naked
and play in the river of give
and good and mmmm.
Let’s dabble in destiny
and possibility
until we turn into songsters
who heal the holes
in skies and hearts.
Let’s hum in the night.
Let’s ring in the day.
Let’s write a new chorus
across the sky with contrails
of stubborn joy.
Let’s sing it even when it hurts—
even when the blood runs,
even when the fire burns,
even when.
Let’s.

Sky Song


This poem appeared as part of the Black Earth Institute’s “30 Days Hath September” Project

Sky Song
Hear the sound of the age changing—
it is the refrain of yes
shaping new constellations
from the old stories
that scroll through our days.
Hear the galaxy hum of love—
the quantum is of the unseen
singing our names (when we
only know to say them) and scheming
sweet rhymes in the forth dimension.
Let’s get invisible.
Let’s kiss elisions.
Let’s get spirit naked
and play in the river of give
and good and mmmm.
Let’s dabble in destiny
and possibility
until we turn into songsters
who heal the holes
in skies and hearts.
Let’s hum in the night.
Let’s ring in the day.
Let’s write a new chorus
across the sky with contrails
of stubborn joy.
Let’s sing it even when it hurts—
even when the blood runs,
even when the fire burns,
even when.
Let’s.

The sublime uselessness of art

 

fish

If art works to change the world in any way, it does so subliminally, uncontrollably, and by means that usually aren’t summarized in an artist’s purposes when making a poem, or song, or painting. In other words, art is life, as much as it’s a reflection of it, and only diminishes itself by becoming some instrument used to achieve a particular end in the world. I didn’t realize Stanley Fish had quit writing his columns for The New York Times until several months had gone by, and I suddenly identified the feeling of something lacking from my visits to the Times online. I realized it was his voice. So I ordered a compilation of his columns: “Think Again: Contrarian Reflections on Life, Culture, Politics, Religion, Law, and Education.” It’s such a relief to hear him say things like this again:

These columns are written under the shadow of the (perennial) “crisis of the humanities,”a crisis to which humanists have responded by mounting ever more elaborate (and unconvincing) justifications of the humanities as a practice that will save democracy, if not the world. These justifications, wittingly or unwittingly, have the effect of implying that the humanities have nothing to say for themselves, that any defense of them can only be instrumental. An instrumental defense of the humanities is a defense that rests everything on the humanities’ usefulness to some other project—a robust economy, the realization of democratic principles, a peaceful world. The question posed to the humanities is “What are you good for?,”and the answer is assumed to issue from a measure of “good”that the humanities do not contain. The answer given in the columns reprinted here is that the humanities are good for nothing, for that is the only answer that preserves the humanities’ distinctiveness. If humanistic work is valued because of what it does politically or economically or therapeutically, it becomes an appendage to these other projects, and in a pinch it will always be marginalized and perhaps discarded when its instrumental payoff fails to arrive, as it always will. The paradox is that the stronger the case made for the utility of the humanities, the weaker the case for their support. In order to be truly healthy, at least in an internal way, the humanities must be entirely disassociated from the larger world of political/ social/ economic consequences, must, that is, be appreciated for their own sake and for no other reason.

Get to the Morgan by Sunday

Judas Returning the Thirty Pieces of Silver, Rembrandt, oil on panel, detail

Judas Returning the Thirty Pieces of Silver, Rembrandt, oil on panel, detail

I rarely go out of my way to see a Rembrandt. He’s one of those painters you assume you know inside and out. What more is there to know? Yet, every time I spend time with one of his paintings, I walk away almost in disbelief at his genius and his flawless skill. Nothing about Rembrandt’s approach to painting appeals to me, personally: the staging and use of darkness to create cinematic effects, the way in which his chiaroscuro banishes most color from his palette, except in subtle concentrations, and even then it’s usually a world of brown and gray. I don’t live in a world that looks this way unless I’m glancing around a room lit only by the glow of a flat-screen TV. Yet when you stand before one of his great paintings, it’s jaw-dropping and almost dumbfounding. I felt that way in 2014 at The Frick, when I saw Simeon’s Song of Praise, a small canvas depicting a scene that feels enormous, and I had an even more intense reaction last week to Judas Returning the Thirty Pieces of Silver, on view until Sunday at The Morgan Library. The two paintings were completed two years apart, the latter when Rembrandt was only 23. How does a kid paint something this masterful, not only in technical skill but in its depth of understanding and empathy? When I saw this painting, it finally struck me that Rembrandt belongs in that cohort of rare, black swans who achieved effortless perfection at the earliest ages: Mozart, Rimbaud, Hendrix, Keats. In the case of both paintings I was astonished, the way I was six years ago when I saw how El Greco rendered the faces in The Coronation of the Virgin in a show at Onassis Cultural Center–overwhelming emotion and thought conveyed in faces that required, at best, a couple square inches of painted surface.

This show is built around only one painting, as the Frick show was primarily a way to offer the public a view of  Vermeer’s Girl with a Pearl Earring, and the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s show in 2009 offered access to his Milkmaid. In all three instances, the exhibitions were devoted to work on loan from European collections, and they all gave a single painting its own stage supplemented by collateral work that helped put it into historical perspective. Of the three, the Morgan’s is the most effectively curated. More than two dozen drawings and prints line the walls around the central painting, and they are equally exhilarating. It’s one thing to know that Rembrandt was a masterful draftsman, but it’s another to see evidence of his preternatural facility repeatedly, in one drawing and print after another.

In conversation with Lawrence Weschler, for a catalog that accompanied his 2005 watercolor show at LA Louver in 2005, David Hockney rhapsodized about the irrevocable brushwork, the once-and-done, Asian quality of a single Rembrandt drawing,  A Child Being Taught to Walk:

Look at the speed, the way he wields that reed pen, drawing very fast, with gestures that are masterly, virtuoso, not calling attention to themselves but rather to the very tender subject at hand, a family teaching its youngest member to walk. The face of the baby: how even though you can’t see it, you can tell he is beaming. This mountain of figures, and then to balance it all, the passing milkmaid, how you can feel the weight of the bucket she carries in the extension of the opposite arm. All of it conveyed, magically. But look at the speed, the sheer mastery. The Chinese would have recognized a fellow master.

Hockney called it “the single greatest drawing ever made.” This show will evoke the same kind of superlatives over and over, as you move from one drawing and print to the next. One technique Rembrandt file_0001used consistently was to drench a focal point in bright light by doing nothing but line drawings of the figures–outlines, almost cartoons, while rendering everything in shadow with a grisaille of light and dark. At first glance, you think, it’s unfinished, but then you realize that it simply indicates that the shaft of light is so intense that it washes away nearly all the detail in the spotlit figures. The contrast it creates makes the drawing seem even more spontaneous and alive. Ironically, Rembrandt had to fall back on only his unerring sense of line, without modeling, to show all he needed to show when it came to the most crucial individuals in the depicted event.

Colin Bailey, the Morgan’s director, in an interview with Leonard Lopate, pointed out that Judas Returning the Thirty Pieces of Silver went through many revisions as Rembrandt painted. Xray studies of the painting have shown how he changed his mind about the composition even in the advanced stages of his work on it. The intense light streaming into the scene from the left, which is fundamental to the entire image–the light source is what visually unifies most representational images, after all–was a late modification, at least in the way it makes the open Bible the brightest object in the painting and highlights the coins strewn on the floor. Everything in the painting is rendered with magical skill, from the faces of the participants–somehow the likeness of Judas is so distinctly individuated that the tiny features reminded me of Ezra Pound’s profile–to the little bits of glinting chain link dangling from the bottom of the mounted shield or breastplate overhead.

In reference to the fact that this painting has rarely been available to the public, having belonged for years in a private European collection, Lopate asked: “How does someone like you respond to some pretty great paintings hidden away in warehouses? It seems to me to go against our whole idea of what art is about–if people buy it as an investment and keep it in a warehouse as a way of avoiding taxes–Van Gogh, Picasso, Leonardo, works that should be seen. That has to cause pain for someone whose life is devoted to exhibiting.”

Bailey said: “Whatever we think of these warehouses, the works are safe and are not deteriorating, but from the museum’s perspective, public access is something we’re committed to. The depth, vitality of the Morgan is interdisciplinary. It’s an encyclopedic institution in miniature.”

I’m drawn more and more to The Morgan when I come into the city, on the strength of the shows I’ve seen there: William Blake’s work in A New Heaven is Begun, in 2009, the sui generis Emmett Gowin show last year, Hidden Likeness, and now this exhibition. If you want to see the outcome of concentrated curatorial passion combined with deep insight and archival resources, The Morgan is the place to go. From these shows, I come away feeling as if I’ve connected more deeply, not simply with great art, but with myself.

Showing Peggy’s Ladies At Rogue Gallery

Announcement

Greetings!  I’m happy to announce that I am showing three of my ladies at the Rogue Gallery and Art Center in Medford, OR.

Showing: Peggy's Three Ladies

The Members Gallery will hang the ladies through January 10th, 2017 and the paintings are available for purchase.

About The Ladies

Ladies: I Can't Hear You

I Can’t Hear You,  Watercolor, Image Size 15×12

This painting was based on my ninth drawing in the “Just Sayin’…” series.  I am fascinated by how the use of a cell phone has effected our culture.  One of the more amusing gestures I notice is the finger put to the ear in order to hear better.   In this painting, my thoroughly modern lady is talking on her cell phone, using the thoroughly modern gesture of finger to her ear.

Ladies: Just Sayin'...V8

Just Sayin’…V8, Watercolor, Image Size 10.5×7

The “Just Sayin’…” series of paintings is inspired by the ubiquitous cell phone.  One can scarcely be in public without noticing someone talking on the cell phone and overhearing the conversation.  In this variation, my subject is an “upscale” lady, perhaps dressed for a special occasion like afternoon tea.  Even she has a finger to her ear as she talks on her cell phone.

 

Ladies: Irish Maiden

Irish Maiden, Watercolor, Image Size 10×7

With Irish Maiden, I wanted to combine symbols of Ireland in a Cubist-inspired designed.  The maiden’s crown eludes to the triple spiral and triskel, symbolizing unity of mind, spirit and body.  Naturally, I included shamrocks, the easily recognised symbol of luck.  The shamrocks and the color green together remind me of every St. Patty’s Day in elementary school.  Green was my favorite color and I made sure to wear plenty of green clothing.  Add a shamrock pin and I was ready not to get “pinched”.

Third Friday

If you are in the southern Oregon area, I hope you will stop by the Rogue Gallery and view the paintings.  Every third Friday of the month, the gallery holds a reception.  This is a particularly festive time to visit the gallery.

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The post Showing Peggy’s Ladies At Rogue Gallery appeared first on Margaret Stermer-Cox.

Wildland Creatures, New Stencil Designs

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I am excited to announce the Release of my New Stencil Designs…for StencilGirl!

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Let me tell you a little about them…

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My Wildland Creatures are a part of a new series that include the birds, fish and animals that I love to watch and include in my artwork. I hope that you will love to use my new designs in your art as well!

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These animals are a part of my life in the Pacific Northwest.

Each stencil design represents an animal that I love. I have even written legends to go with them to inspire you in your art making. You can read more about my Wildland Creatures on StencilGirlTalk 

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I have walked the fields where the horses and cattle roam, climbed over rocky cliffs where the rams once thrived, waded in the ocean water with the fish and watched the hawks fly.

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These stencil designs can be used as a focal point or a background… or both.

They are wonderful in a painting or collage or a page in your art journal. Pan pastels, distress inks, permanent inks and gesso are my favorite tools for stenciling.

The emblems that go with each creature symbolize their characteristics and the passage of time. I really enjoy mix and matching them with other stencils.

Please visit here to read more about them and visit here to see them in the StencilGirl Products Shop 

 

 

After Action Review (AAR) of Watercolor & Ink Demonstration

Review Time!

Greetings!  Yes, it is time I did a review.  It has been about two weeks since I did my watercolor and ink demonstration (demo) for the Southern Oregon Society of Artists (SOSA) in Medford.  I had a wonderful time!  The organization treated me well and I had an enthusiastic audience.   It was an exciting and memorable event for me.  So much to think about!

Review of Watercolor & Ink Demo

Here I am in mid sentence; all set up and ready to go! Southern Oregon Society of Artists; August 2016

Thank You!

First, I’d like to extend a huge THANK YOU to the following:

  • Lori Garfield for all the coordination before hand; it was great and most helpful! Thanks for the introduction.
  • Marilyn Foreman, for inviting me to do the demo; what an honor!
  • To the members of SOSA for their warm and enthusiastic welcome.

After Action Review

My purpose for conducting this after action review is to put down on paper all those things I am thinking about (so much to think!)  The great thing is that next time I need to do a demonstration, I can review what happened this time.  Remembering what went well and where I might improve is important to me.  I hope to do more demos in the future!

After Action Review Format

This is the AAR format I used. Feel free to copy if you like.

What Was Supposed To Happen

  • The Society of Southern Oregon Artists SOSA) invited me to give a demonstration on watercolor and ink techniques. My audience represented artists of different media and different skill levels. I had roughly an hour and a half to show how I work with watercolor and ink.
  • My intention was to show how I create a watercolor & ink painting from start to finish. I divided my work process into three phases based on the media I use: graphite, ink and watercolor. Each phase was to take twenty minutes.
  • Throughout the demo, I planned to talk and explain the development of the painting. Talking points were to include ideas, materials, working with the media, etc.

What Happened

  • I was able to follow my plan of roughly 20 minutes per medium: graphite, ink then watercolor.
  • After a nervous start, I dove in and did my best. By mentally diving in, I was able to relax and get down to the task of drawing and painting!
  • Artist members asked questions as I worked.  I was pleased to answer questions as I worked, and even more pleased that I was able to keep my focus!
  • The audience was so warm and attentive that I had a great time!  So much fun to be with a wonderful group of fellow artists!
Review - Organic Grind Demo Painting WIP

First state:  Organic Grind Coffee at the end of the SOSA demo session; August 2016

What Went Well

  • I had prepared; I had a plan and it worked.
  • Having a time line set for the demo worked well for me. I had a watch with a timer so that when 20 minutes was up I could move on to the next stage of the painting development. This method of chunks of time ensured I didn’t get bogged down in one task.
  • To my surprise, I worked on one painting throughout the demonstration. I had “work-in-progress” type paintings prepared in case I became stuck or had problems. However, I was able to work on one painting throughout.
  • Having multiple “work-in-progress” type paintings prepared facilitated the flow of the demo. I used the “work-in-progress” pieces to emphasize points about the development of a painting using watercolor and ink.
  • I was able to adjust on the spot. For example, I started the drawing phase of my demo painting using an HB pencil, true to my normal practice. Unfortunately, I draw too lightly with an HB. Once the audience told me they couldn’t see, I was able to pull out an 8B pencil which was much easier to see.
  • Having prepared and rehearsed talking out loud while painting, I was able to speak without referring to my talking points, at least after the first few minutes.
  • Another surprise was that the audience appreciated seeing me go through the drawing phase with graphite.  I had almost decided to cut out the drawing, but the audience was glad I did the drawing.
SOSA Demo Review. Final state of demo painting - Organic Grind Coffee

“Organic Grind Coffee S”; final state. Completed after the demo. 2016

What I Might Want To Do Better*

  • Get more of the plan on paper ahead of time.  I had a checklist and a narrative typed out.  But, I could have been more detailed on paper; I relied on too many things being in my head.  It might have been a disaster if I had stage fright!
  • I still get nervous when asked to do a demonstration. Practice, practice practice!
  • I might want to consider something like adding a simple PowerPoint presentation to keep the audience and me focused on key points. This is a “nice to do”; equipment will be the limiting factor.
  • Timing. I kept to my timeline, though I did not plan for a question period at the end. I think next time I might want to allow a period for questions. Could it be I was a bit nervous about questions?

*Note: My husband video recorded the demo session. He is preparing it for my review. I may identify a few more things I want to do next time around!  I hope to post a link to the video soon

After Action Review Conclusion

Review - Keys to success

For me, reviewing my preparation for and conduct of a watercolor and ink demonstration was important.  By evaluating where I am now, I can see what I might want to do to improve.  Its also good to stop and acknowledge what a grand time I had thanks to the members of SOSA.

Your Input

Your insight and opinion is valuable to me!  If you would like, please share your experiences!

Review of SOSA Demo

Thanks!

Update

My husband video recorded my demo and it can be seen online.  Please see below!

SOSA Part 1

 

SOSA Part 2

Sit back with a cup of coffee, tea or… and enjoy!  ?

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The post After Action Review (AAR) of Watercolor & Ink Demonstration appeared first on Margaret Stermer-Cox.

Henry Coupe at Viridian

Child at Sunset, Henry Coupe, oil on linen, 10" x 10"

Child at Sunset, Henry Coupe, oil on linen, 10″ x 10″

I’m driving into the city on Thursday to attend the opening of Henry Coupe’s posthumous solo exhibition at Viridian Artists. His wife, Ann, will be there in his stead, since Coupe died in December at a Utica nursing home. I visited with Ann in 2014 at their home and was able to see all or most of the work in this show. She was a gracious host, talking about her husband and his work with great affection and respect. She had arranged all his paintings on the floor of their living room, standing them upright in their floater frames, as if they were our audience rather than the other way around. I sat cross-legged and spent time studying them as she sat on the couch, talking about her life with Henry.

I was a member at Viridian when, shortly after Couple joined the gallery, I first spotted The Letter, one of his small paintings on the shelf behind the greeter’s desk. I immediately asked who’d painted it and learned what little was available about him: that he had studied at the Munson Williams Proctor Institute under Oscar Weissbuch, a student of Hans Hoffman, at the end of WWII, and he had gone on to exhibit his work in New York City during the 60s, while teaching in Utica. He retired from teaching in that city’s public school system in 1976 and continued to paint until he was no longer able to do it.

Viridian offers a lovely description of his work on its website:

Henry Coupe spent his life creating small paintings, most under 24”, executed in strong, simple strokes, of people in landscapes. His people are shown both alone and in small groups. Tiny in scale, his delicate oils are filled with feeling and speak of love, portraying life’s simplest and most important moments, shared with others or experienced in solitude. With simple and direct titles like Girl Wearing Orange Sash or Man Reading, the people in his works are known by nothing more than what they are wearing or what they are doing. We don’t know them, but then we realize perhaps we do, for we’ve experienced that moment of “Listening to Father” or read “The Letter,” while lying on the grass.

It’s difficult to capture why these paintings, which at first glance you’re tempted to think of as roughly executed examples of art brut, are so haunting and arresting. Partly it’s because his sense of color is both bold and yet delicate, with blocks of reds and greens juxtaposed in skillful ways that might jar the viewer, but in Coupe’s work, the colors are so subdued that red conveys a subtle mix of nameless wistful emotions. His use of color and his dramatic simplification of form reminded me immediately of Louisa Matthiasdottir, who studied directly with Hoffman. Matthiasdottir is far more polished and her range and color sense are much more encompassing, but the intense restraint and confined scale of Coupe’s work makes it more personal, more suggestive of a narrative: there are stories here that you will never learn, a letter you can’t read, a bride with a future neither you nor she can discern. Yet many of these paintings are simply miniature portraits, the figures and faces almost unrecognizable, the circumstances irrelevant, because in all the pictures, Coupe evokes a sense of polarity, a tension between human isolation and the comfort of family and friends, with the world of nature offering both beauty and in some ways an intensification of the figure’s solitude.

Ann said that once Coupe discovered German Expressionism, he continued to think of himself a belated member of that group, but his paintings don’t convey the sort of agitation and inner conflict common to that movement. He did begin painting during WWII, yet his work doesn’t seem to sublimate the sort of violent, wartime emotions suggested by the distortions of that earlier work. His paintings are much quieter and in many ways more balanced and carefully constructed. I think Coupe, at one remove, learned more from Hoffman than he gave himself credit for; if you enlarged his tiny paintings to a more heroic scale—in other words to the sort of dimensions a mid-century American abstract painter would have employed—the images seem more at home alongside the work of Milton Avery, or even Rothko. The scale is what distracts you from the abstract expressionist sensibility at Two People in the Country 2work here. Two People in the Country is composed as a stack of three distinct rectangles, two of equal size at top and bottom with one narrow one bisecting them. The two faces of the figures at the left extend the facade of the house—three faces in a row, as it were—together forming one bright trailer-shaped block of white, Naples yellow and pink. Even the house seems to have eyes and an open mouth—but the feeling here couldn’t be further from an architectural homage to The Scream. The darkest area, on the left, is distinctly defined and curls around that bright middle rectangle to form one head of hair for the two figures. The color is extremely subdued, but in the way he juxtaposes the Indian red, which seems to have been the ground color for the whole painting, against the dull green and purple of the sky and trees, everything comes alive in an unstable and yet tranquil way.

My two favorite paintings in the show, The Letter, and Girl at Sunset, are perfectly done, instances where he found just the right balance between the human figure and its environment. In both, his arrangement of color becomes just as gratifying and expressive as the way he renders the figure. In Girl at Sunset, everything works in perfect harmony, the color, the composition, the brushwork, and even the tiny slivers of pale yellow, at the top of the girl’s head and behind her at the crest of the forest, suggesting the last ray of the setting sun giving her hair a backlit glow before it disappears. There are many paintings here that aren’t as satisfying as his best, but once you’ve seen all the work, you recognize in every painting a passion to honor how paint can make you see and, at the same time, awaken you to so much more than is visible.

This may be the only place you hear about this show, but it’s one worth visiting if you’re in Chelsea before it ends on Sept. 24.

Roof lines

Christopher Burke, Roof Line Studios

Christopher Burke, Roof Line Studios

From Columbus, Ohio artist, Christopher Burke’s, Instagram feed. I like where he’s going with the simplification of the image, and wondering what he might do with color using this kind of format with cropped images of houses. He could render these structures with any colors he likes, even if the sky remains relatively constant. The simplicity of this one is part of what gives it such impact. I had that same reaction to the potential for color at the last Hirschl & Adler show of John Moore’s latest images of the studio where he paints, which appears to be a former industrial site. There’s room for personal improvisation with color in the work of both artists, representing architectural structure in ways that echo geometric abstraction. It appears Burke will have a solo show next year at George Billis Gallery in NYC.

Roof lines

Christopher Burke, Roof Line Studios

Christopher Burke, Roof Line Studios

From Columbus, Ohio artist, Christopher Burke’s, Instagram feed. I like where he’s going with the simplification of the image, and wondering what he might do with color using this kind of format with cropped images of houses. He could render these structures with any colors he likes, even if the sky remains relatively constant. The simplicity of this one is part of what gives it such impact. I had that same reaction to the potential for color at the last Hirschl & Adler show of John Moore’s latest images of the studio where he paints, which appears to be a former industrial site. There’s room for personal improvisation with color in the work of both artists, representing architectural structure in ways that echo geometric abstraction. It appears Burke will have a solo show next year at George Billis Gallery in NYC.