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Susan Jane Walp

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

Matt Klos invited me to sit in on a group Zoom last week with Susan Jane Walp, hosted by Klos and Candice Hill, who teaches in the English Department at Anne Arundel Community College, where Matt teaches painting. Walp has a quiet, distinguished career, living in Vermont, studying Tibetan Buddhism and painting and doing little else, having moved there from Soho where she worked in the 80s. It was a long, interesting conversation partly because so much of it felt attenuated by Walp’s difficulty in putting the most essential elements of what she does into words. That’s refreshing, a person of few words in an era where we live under a tsunami of social media inanity. A lot of the discussion was about a series of improvisational paintings she’s done as a meditation on the loss of her husband six years ago, paintings that somehow remind me of Jung’s The Red Book images, not in form but in spirit—as if she has been sketching emotional and spiritual archetypes drawn from her own subconscious. These are quite different from her core work in still life. What I found most useful was the discussion of these still lifes on linen.

The most interesting questions and answers were on how her work in oil resolves itself into something she considers finished; how she manages to keep the process feeling alive and risky after investing long days and weeks or months into a given painting; and what her primary considerations are, the core values, she tries to observe in the process of making a painting.

This last issue was very appropriate to this particular conversation, because Candice Hill specializes in lyric poetry with a focus on Emily Dickinson and found many parallels between Dickinson’s sidelong, elliptical poetry and Walp’s spare, improvisational watercolors. Walp has said she draws inspiration from Dickinson’s poems, their paradoxical sense of scale, particularly in Dickinson’s ability to evoke cosmic truth through such a tiny pillar of words on the page. That use of scale links her with Dickinson: the leverage involved in using something small to evoke something big. Walp’s paintings feel in some ways even smaller than Dickinson’s gnomic lines. Walp said: “Even in these paintings that are quite small, eight inches by eight inches, if that relationship becomes accurate (between the precise detail and the more indefinite lines of larger areas), I feel there’s something big about the painting.” Given this indebtedness to poetry, it wasn’t shocking that Walp cited Elizabeth Bishop, who was a serious painter as well as a uniquely great poet, as someone who perfectly articulated the three qualities creative work must have. Bishop said every poem needs to be accurate, spontaneous, and mysterious. Walp wants her paintings to hew to those rules.

There is a tremendous tension implicit in those first two qualities. How to be both improvisational and accurate seems to be a core competency for perceptual painters in general and a difficult tightrope to walk for any painter. (Fairfield Porter managed to balance accuracy and spontaneity perfectly again and again toward the end of his career, but Walp’s work doesn’t owe much to the way Porter handled paint, except in a few instances.)

Walp said: “In Dickinson the thing that has struck me in my non-scholarly reading of her work is the way that she can go from some very almost microcosmic detail to just the macrocosm. This idea of scale; how there can be an infinite space in such a physically small poem. That’s something I aspire to certainly in the still lifes . . . Bishop’s . . . three criteria for evaluating poems: accuracy, spontaneity and mystery. I’ve spent a lot of time working on the spontaneity. The mystery is divine grace. It’s given to you in certain work.”

Matt asked about how a painting arrives at a state she considers complete and didn’t get a direct answer, but more of a meditation on her process, especially the symbiotic counterpoint of going from watercolor to oil and back again. Specifically, she touched on a struggle all painters endure: having the courage to do what you don’t know how to do with a painting after having spent many days or weeks or months on it, plus the simple investment in materials, the monetary cost, all of the selfish concerns that work against creativity—how the prospect of loss in time and money can kill the courage required for spontaneity.

I’m a painter so in love with working toward articulating detail and the danger can often be that things kind of tighten up, so working on paper is a way to work more quickly. It has to do with the support I’m using. On paper, there’s a freedom in working on paper. If it doesn’t work out you can just toss it. It doesn’t really matter. Once you have this stretched linen that has been prepared with white lead and the stretchers are ordered custom-made, so there’s a certain pressure to actually bring the painting to completion. On paper it’s a much freer kind of endeavor. I always have worked on the paintings on paper, and I often work on two pieces on paper as I work on something on linen, and it becomes almost like a horse race. In the morning I’ll pick the piece that is the least good, and it’s very freeing because there are two that are better, so it frees you up to be courageous with it.

Klos asked her if the assiduous rendering of a little town on the side of a cork in one of her paintings was the byproduct of the same process that produced the rest of the much less minutely detailed surface. Her answer demonstrated how difficult it can be to describe the impetus of a painter’s quest—the inarticulate imperatives that govern how somebody applies paint in a certain way. Braque is without parallel in this regard, and there is much in her work that reminds me of Braque. His mid-career gueridons all look perfectly realized, and cosmically monumental, but their accuracy and grandeur has little to do with anything Braque could have captured with a photograph. There is nothing but the painting: no familiar source for the image against which to compare it. It has to have its own “inner necessity” as Kandinsky put it. It’s all pushed toward an intricate, decorative flatness, and yet you feel you’re almost looking at a life form he’s evolved in his studio lab rather than an image of anything outside the painting. Every centimeter of a Braque oil from that period is alive and proper in a way that can’t really be arrived at through a reasoned process. Walp talks about working from what she sees but the heart of her process is about “keeping it alive” which is when the representation of what she sees fails to be enough. Like Braque, but in a less radical way than his neo-Cubism.

Walp said, “I’m someone who believes that technique should follow the seeing because I’m working from observation and looking at the motif for a long, long period of time, so the technique just follows and serves the observation. (The question is) how do you keep the surface of the painting alive for as long as it takes to bring the painting to resolution. Every painter finds their own way to work with the surface of the painting so it can continue to receive however many layers are required to take the observation and see where it needs to go.”

She said that she’s reluctant to teach or critique another’s esthetic, and avoids value judgements about work her students have done, preferring to stick with technical tips, matters of craft or motivation and she especially avoids delving into a painter’s internal relationship with the work.

I haven’t taught for a while, but . . . I’ve always admired Morandi, who gave so few interviews. He said the reason he taught only etching is that he only wanted to teach technique, his knowledge of print-making technique. He wouldn’t presume to pass esthetic judgement on his students’ work. That’s always been my favorite way of teaching, someone who wants to know the limited knowledge I have. I’m much more comfortable teaching technique than talking about students’ inner lives.

Matt said, “If spontaneity is the muscle you are trying to work on and accuracy is your home base, maybe using the different substrates is a way to cut against that, and you can remember when you are working on linen the spontaneity (of watercolor and wonder) how can I do that on linen?” She answered:

I start the linen paintings very freely, they start the same way as the paintings on paper. Technically this is something I probably learned from Lennart (Anderson). What you do the first thing in the morning sets the tone for the entire day; what you do first on canvas sets the tone for the rest of the painting. You have that memory of the beginning being very free and spontaneous. It’s important to keep the edges open and not prematurely define those edges. In nature edges are porous, they’re different.

With her watercolors she tries to recapture the tone and mood of a dream she has had. With her still lifes on linen, it’s more about arranging objects without a pre-determined motif in mind, and discovering the right arrangement for a particular painting. It’s a process of discovering the motif rather than re-excavating the dream. This is something I would imagine most painters would recognize, the sense of connection and “rightness” with something seen or imagined.

The set up becomes very important. I take a lot of time to set up the motif. I’m really waiting for this image to appear and it comes with a very strong feeling, and I’m waiting for this feeling of the rightness of it and my connection with it. I do a lot of measuring, and so I’m constantly redrawing, but generally I’m not moving the objects in the motif. At some point I’ll dismantle the motif and it goes on the wall and the painting takes over. That often happens. It’s usually nothing that dramatic. (It’s) important, but nothing very radical at that point. Sometimes it involves bringing out the more abstract properties or a simplification.

Near the end of the Zoom, Matt Klos brought up a particular work, Walp’s simple painting of a luminous greenish-yellow compote she has used in many paintings—she goes back to a certain set of objects again and again as Chardin and many other still life painters have done—and he marveled at the value of the dish in comparison with the background, which is of almost the same value, so that the dish pops toward the viewer only because of its hue, the tone of that vibrant yellow and not because it’s lighter or darker than the ground. It contains a few figs, and is accompanied only by a pair of scissors and a greeting card, maybe, showing a pair of facing, symmetrical swans. (Maybe a callback to the days of her marriage.) It’s probably my favorite of all her oils, probably because of the almost neon intensity of that hybrid yellow-green—a sort of pickle-juice color—that seems to glow in a rambunctious way that oil paint almost never can, alongside the incredibly beautiful and much more typical muted blue-green of the patterned swans below it. That brilliant compote brings the image to life in a unique way, full of a spring-like affirmation of the present moment. And yet if you squint you can hardly see it. It’s a rare technical achievement and an image of rebirth, full of restrained energy.

“The thing that’s so remarkable is that the green is so invisible if you squint,” Klos remarked.

“It’s the same value, yeah.”

“They are just kissing values, and you always talk about the need for experimentation and constant change and people might look at the still lifes and say, oh that’s a Susan Jane Walp. But in this painting and in your work there’s a quality of risk-taking from one show to the next,” he said.

“Yes, this was in the last show. That object, one of my friends in New York alerted me to the fact that it’s Depression-ware and a lot of it is radioactive and I’ve done a lot of research and I’ve decided I’m just to attached to it. At my age, what does it matter. . . “

“Just don’t eat the figs,” he joked.

Bird in Lemon Tree

Happy Monday! Painting lots of birds and branches, butterflies and blossoms and it feels quite lovely to look outside at 6:30pm and see…daylight-ish sky! It feels literally and figuratively like spring. These flora and fauna inspired pieces are making me happy. They’re part play, color exploration, memory from my years working with vintage natural history ephemera and lots of obsession with chinoisserie wallpaper.

Just a short update today. I’ll refer to the wise words of John Muir and get back to the easel.

“Spring work is going on with joyful enthusiasm.” John Muir

Wishing everyone a great week! xo

“Bird in Lemon Tree” 12×12″ this and new series is available at elizabethW Carmel

Lydia, oh Lydia

The Garden of Earthly Delights, Agnieszka Nienartowicz

The ultimate tramp stamp. Amazing work from a young Polish artist, evoking both Bosch and Richter, with a cautionary twist to the allure it conveys.

Get Excited About Art This Spring!

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1,264 Reasons To Get Excited
About Art This Spring!


Well, there’s probably a lot more reasons than that, but if we’re going to put a number on it, it’s probably because we’re so excited about the newest thing to hit our shelves here at Central Art: Fabriano’s “1264” art pads! Fabriano has been at the foundation of the fine art papers industry for 750 years, and their latest line of pads is a testament to that long tradition of quality. Featuring a full line of papers for just about every medium (including watercolor and mixed media), you’re sure to find a surface that will suit whatever type of drawing or painting medium you love.

But that’s not all we’re buzzing about this season – for the first time ever, we’re pleased to formally announce the debut of Central Art Gallery, a new art exhibition space housed within our newly-remodeled and beautifully updated creative workspace. In addition to hosting several classes and workshops by local talented instructors, this space now will also serve as a premier gallery space for local shows and art-related venues featuring the works of Southern Oregon’s wide array of creative talent!

We’re also keeping things “lively” with our virtual presence – join us for Central Art’s Facebook Live stream Fridays at 1:00pm every other week, and keep up-to-date on everything new happening in our store – from brand new products and mini-demos to special online events and announcements – you’ll hear about it here first! New in 2021, we’ve teamed up with some of our product reps to go live with us and lend their expertise, tips and answer your questions about art materials!

If Facebook isn’t your thing, be sure to keep an eye on the “Events & Classes” page on our website for upcoming in-person and virtual lectures, workshops, demos and more! It’s time to get excited!

Check Out What’s New & On Sale
This Spring At Central Art:

  


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Vision Quilt Images for Atlanta and Boulder Mass Shootings

Dear Friends of Vision Quilt, I imagine your hearts are heavy with the tragedies of the last two weeks.
My nephew taught and coached one of the Boulder young women and my son’s friend lost her sister in the same shooting. Vision Quilt is determined to honor these blessed loved ones and to continue to do our part to amplify the Call For Change. Let us know if you want to be involved in any way.

Thanks to a new wonderful volunteer in Oakland, Janine Grossman, I am sharing the blog Janine has written about Nancy Bardos’ commitment to honor these lives. 

Feel free to share these images on social media.

Ever onward, Cathy DeForest, Vision Quilt

Nancy Bardos is a dear friend and a long-time supporter of Vision Quilt. Ever since the Charleston shootings, Nancy felt a strong inner calling to express her grief and pain in a creative way, much like many of our young people who make the quilts. She uses her iPad and the image of hands to memorialize and honor the names of the victims. The number of hands corresponds with the names. 

Before COVID, we printed Nancy’s images on canvas and now we show them digitally. In 2019, we were invited by Moms Demand Action to showcase these panels in Sacramento, at California’s State Capitol. When the pandemic is over, we look forward to showing these panels live. In the meantime, check them out at https://www.visionquilt.org/view-quilt.html

Thank you Nancy, and together with you, we reach out our hands and hearts to those who are left with the pain of the aftermath.


TOGETHER WE CAN PREVENT GUN VIOLENCE

Vision Quilt empowers communities to create solutions to gun violence through the power of art and inclusive dialogue.www.visionquilt.orgInstagram, Twitter, Facebook Pinterest.
DONATIONS made here are tax deductible.

More from Nancy Bardos:

You may recall when Cathy DeForest operated her lovely gallery in the Railroad District years ago.  She has stepped aside from all that and for the past 6 years or so has devoted herself to the cause of gun violence and gun safety measures through the 501C3 she started, Vision Quilt.  I was part of one of the first teams formed but eventually stepped away because of the time commitment.  However, I could not step away from the cause itself…and when the shooting occurred at the church in Charleston I knew what I wanted to do.  I have made 24 of these banners since then…way too many for a civilized nation…and I am sure I have missed some.  I recall the banners I made for Orlando and Las Vegas had so many victims I didn’t have room to add the names…though, as in all the others, there is a hand for every single victim filling those banners.

I guess the point of my writing is to let you know that this is an instance of an artist’s artmaking for the sake of acknowledging and documenting important and shattering events as well as a recognition and honoring of the innocent people who became the victims. Perhaps there is a healing of sorts, too.

I did NOT create the original art of the hand silhouettes.  I saw it in a blog post years ago and ended up emailing the author (a woman Episcopal priest as I recall) on the East Coast.  She had used it and I knew I wanted to use it so she gave me the name of the artist……who happened to live in England.  The artist had offered it upon one of those sites artists and photographers use to post things that people can use without attribution and can “buy them a cup of coffee” as payment if one wants to.  Which I did.  I also emailed her and told her how they were going to be used and she was quite touched I think.

I can’t recall how many hands were in the original piece I downloaded from the site but I adapted it over and over and over again as every massacre consisted of a different number of victims.  It has been a sad task to do.  And a small task to do…..but I still feel this is a quiet and meaningful and powerful way for VISION QUILT, as people as well as an organization fighting for change, to honor them.

Register for the 2021 Haystack Online Programming

Announcing 2021 Online Program Presenters!
Beginning in April and running through October, Haystack’s online programming will feature 70 presentations across 10 program threads led by an innovative group of artists, designers, writers, curators, and historians. Through our commitment to increasing access to the School, each of these online programs will be presented as free and open to the public.

What developed out of necessity due to the pandemic has now become an exciting new direction which will deepen our work and expand the communities we engage with. These offerings have been designed to highlight what takes place at Haystack, without attempting to replicate the experience of being together on campus or the type of learning that takes place in a workshop setting. Much of what we present this season will be added to our program offerings moving forward, allowing us to meet our mission in new ways.

Haystack’s 2021 online programming will take place on Zoom and each session will last for one hour followed by questions and discussion with the audience. Nearly every event is open to an unlimited audience size with the exception of Writing Workshops and Mentorship and Collaboration. These programs will not be recorded for public distribution and are only available in real time. Pre-registration is required to attend these free events, and will open at the beginning of each month for events scheduled in the subsequent weeks.  

Haystack is committed to equity through our digital platforms, and each of our online programs will feature closed captioning, with the option of letting us know additional accommodations that might be needed at the time of registration.
Registration opens on Thursday, April 1 for the first month of programs – along with the full schedule and expanded website.
ARTIST TALKS
Panels of three different artists share images of their work and discuss the process and inspiration behind it
Victoria Ahmadizadeh Melendez Vivian Beer Lenka Clayton Sara Clugage Liz Collins Annet Couwenberg Tanya Crane Chandra DeBuse Lauren Fensterstock Erin Furimsky Matthew Hebert Beth Ireland Phillip Andrew Lewis Kathleen Kennedy Matt Mitros Nash Quinn Ellie Richards LJ Roberts Hope Rovelto Marissa Saneholtz David Schnuckel Keith Simpson Demitra Thomloudis
DEMONSTRATIONS
Artists take us into their studios for a glimpse into the materials, techniques, and process they use to make their work
Cynthia Alberto Thomas Campbell Deborah Czeresko Chandra DeBuse Mi-Sook Hur Mike Lagg Radha Pandey George Sawyer Paula Wilson Joe Wood
PROFESSIONAL PRACTICES
Practical advice and skills about grant writing, artists statements, studio safety, and more
Ginger Aldrich CERF+ GEEX Salvador Jiménez-Flores Lauren Kalman Norman Teague
CRAFT OF CRITIQUE
Panel discussions with educators focused on the purpose of critiques and how the process can help with inventing new models for exploring ideas
Victoria Ahmadizadeh Melendez Namita Gupta Wiggers Matthew Hinçman Katie Hudnall Billie Lee Judith Leemann Roberto Lugo Ian McDonald Jeremy Scidmore Rosanne Somerson Chris Staley Demitra Thomloudis
MENTORSHIP & COLLABORATION
Through mentorship, collaboration, and critique, groups come together to discuss ideas about their work over a period of six meetings
Lenka Clayton Lauren Fensterstock Phillip Andrew Lewis SIOSI Design Caroline Woolard
PANEL DISCUSSIONS
Questions and discussions with working artists about their creative lives and studio practices
M. Rachael Arauz Tanya Crane Matthew Hinçman Ayumi Horie Lissa Hunter Erin Hutton Sarah Khurshid Khan Jane Lackey Linda Lopez Martha McDonald Kristin Mitsu Shiga Valpuri Remling Sylvie Rosenthal Marissa Saneholtz Claire Sanford Matthew Shlian Chris Staley Ellen Wieske
CONVERSATIONS
Sit in on a series of conversations with invited speakers and three guests, for a focused look into a wide range of diverse topics
Liz Collins Fabio J. Fernández Wendy Jacob Kathleen Kennedy Sarah Khurshid Khan Christy Matson Márçia Minter Folayemi Wilson
CRAFT HISTORY & THEORY
A deep dive by leading writers, artists, and curators about craft, materials, techniques, or processes and new ways of understanding the field
Glenn Adamson M. Rachael Arauz Myron M. Beasley Sonya Clark Sara Clugage Andres P. Estrada Denise Markonish Tiffany Momon Jovencio de la Paz Jenni Sorkin
CRAFT & TECHNOLOGY
Tours of international Fab Labs, presentations by innovative thinkers, and conversations about the ways technology is helping us think about craft in new ways
Edwige Charlot Lily Gabaree Saul Griffith Jonathan Grinham Sean Hickey Taylor Levy Amon Millner Nadya Peek James Rutter Rachael Vroman Che-Wei Wang Sophia Zelov
WRITING WORKSHOPS
Groups come together for three meetings to explore the written word from a variety of perspectives—from poetry and narrative to expanded ways of writing about craft
melissa christine goodrum Stuart Kestenbaum Helen Lee Anna Moschovakis Bill Roorbach David Schnuckel Matthew Shenoda
Thanks to the generosity of our donors, Haystack’s online programming is free and open to the public.
ABOUT HAYSTACK
Haystack Mountain School of Crafts is an international craft school located on the Atlantic Ocean in Deer Isle, Maine. Founded in 1950 as a research and studio program in the arts, Haystack offers one and two-week studio workshops to participants of all skill levels as well as the two-week, Open Studio Residency program, exhibitions, tours, auctions, artist lectures, and shorter workshops for Maine residents and local students. We also support visiting artists and scholars from a variety of fields including science, literature, music, and the visual arts, who are invited to spend two weeks at the school focusing on their work. Additionally, Haystack functions as a ʻthink-tankʼ in looking at craft, by publishing annual monographs and organizing a variety of conferences and symposia that examine the field in broader contexts. These include collaborations with other institutions like the Center for Craft, Center for Bits and Atoms at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and the Cooper-Hewitt National Design Museum, Smithsonian Institution, among others.
MISSION
Haystack connects people through craft. Located on the coast of Maine, Haystack provides the freedom to engage with materials and develop new ideas in a supportive and inclusive community. Serving an ever-changing group of makers and thinkers, we are dedicated to working and learning alongside one another, while exploring the intersections of craft, art, and design in broad and expansive ways. 
You can help support these programs by donating to the Haystack Annual Fund today.

2021 Oregon Fringe Festival International Artists!

2021 Oregon Fringe Festival Includes International Artists!

WHEN:
Thursday, April 29 – Saturday, May 1, 2021

WHERE:
This year’s festival will take place online and feature outdoor art installations located on the SOU campus.
https://oregonfringefestival.org/2021-off

This is a free, virtual, and in-person event. Submission fees do not apply.

(Ashland, Ore.) Each spring, the Oregon Center for the Arts produces the Oregon Fringe Festival (OFF), a multi-day event bringing together emerging creators and real-world artistic practitioners to share their respective experiences and to engage with each other’s work. The festival’s mission is simple: to provide a boundary-breaking platform for free expression and to celebrate unconventional art and unconventional spaces.

This year, we are excited to announce that the OFF will feature over 50 acts from over 40 different artists. From live virtual performances to artist lectures/workshops, an extensive virtual gallery, and outdoor art installations, viewers will have the opportunity to interact with a variety of creative work.

Even more exciting, and as a result of incorporating virtual platforms more, the OFF will also include the work of international artists.

Carlos Fernandez Gianni and Manisha Sondhi (Theatre), London

Carlos Fernandez Gianni, London

Carlos Fernandez (they/them) is a London-based actor and writer from Paraguay. They’re currently studying a B.A. in Acting at St. Mary’s University. They have worked with theatres such as Theatre Royal Stratford East and Soho Theatre.


Manisha Sondhi, London

Manisha Sondhi (she/her) is a director currently studying her M.A. She is the Artistic Director of the City Lighthouse Theatre Company. City Lighthouse Company was established in 2020 and is committed to providing a platform for underrepresented voices.


Teatro Patalò (Theatre), Italy

Teatro Patalò is an independent group of theatre artists based in Italy and founded by Isadora Angelini and Luca Serrani, both actors, playwrights, and directors. The group has created and produced performances that have toured at festivals and programs around the country. Specifically in this production, both artists collaborated with Dorin Mihai, a documentary and stage photographer, and Luca Fusconi, a sound engineer, electronic composer, and sound designer.

GayInnocentHeartless Theatrics (Theatre), United Kingdom

GayInnocentHeartless Theatrics is a theatre company based in Oregon, California, and the U.K., focusing on new writing and devised works about adventure, delight, and the uncanny. From fringe festivals to youth theatre, the company’s work ranges from interactive experiences to devised vignettes and traditional plays. Their most recent COVID-era work has been digital, including PANOPTICON and Telegraphy; Or, the Fastest Way to Communicate in the Modern Age.

FMG Productions (Theatre), Italy

FMG Productions is an independent theatre company based in Italy, whose main goal is to bring economically accessible theatre to young individuals while continuing to provide contemporary language. The company was founded in 2017 by Federico Maria Giansanti, an author and director, his brother Francesco Maria Giansanti, and his best friend, Gabriele Grassi.

Malena Pennycook and Evangeline Cullingworth (Theatre), United Kingdom

Malena Pennycook is a theatre artist and educator based in Brooklyn, NY, who makes work about women with unusual impulses. Malena has performed in, and developed new plays with The Public’s Under the Radar, Santa Cruz Shakespeare, The Flea, New Georges, Fresh Ground Pepper, Dixon Place, Queer|Art, The Brick and more. She is a recipient of the Richie Jackson Artistic Fellowship and received her BFA from New York University/Tisch Experimental Theatre Wing.

Evangeline Cullingworth is a director and dramaturg based in the UK, who is passionate about collaborative and adventurous theatre. Her work has been seen at The Hampstead Theatre, Orange Tree Theatre, and the Lyric Theatre Hammersmith. Evangeline is an alumni artist of the Gate Theatre and her training includes a Master of Arts in Directing from St. Mary’s University and a BFA from New York University Tisch/Berlin.

Individuals with disabilities are encouraged to attend our events. If you are a person with a disability who requires accommodation(s) in order to participate in this festival, then please contact Disability Resources at [email protected] in advance.

The OFF is committed to providing a boundary-breaking platform for free expression that amplifies the voices of those who are all too unrepresented in the creative arts industry. A lens focusing on equity, diversity, and inclusion will filter our selection process for all projects submitted.

OCA at SOU –

About the Oregon Center for the Arts:

The Oregon Center for the Arts at Southern Oregon University serves as a creative catalyst for the mixture of students, educators, and artists from the state, the nation and the world. The beautiful Southern Oregon mountain setting provides a special place to learn, explore and train in all of the arts disciplines.

Visit: oca.sou.edu

About Southern Oregon University:

Southern Oregon University is 175 acres of beautifully maintained campus with outstanding facilities, occupied by a committed and well-respected faculty and talented students. SOU’s vision is to be an inclusive, sustainable university for the future. Faculty, staff and leadership collaborate to achieve those ideals, and are united in their dedication to the students who will create lives of purpose and fulfill our region’s promise. SOU enhances the economic, cultural and social well-being of southern Oregon, and helps its students learn the skills to work both independently and collaboratively, be adaptable and embrace creativity. Its diversity gives SOU both texture and strength. Students’ thoughtfully shared points of view are valued and respected.

Visit: sou.edu

ART BEYOND: Saturday in the Park – Invitation from Sarah F Burns to participate

I’m working with the Schneider Museum of Art organizing a couple of plein air events this summer as part of their exhibition ART BEYOND.  Please consider participating in the Lithia Park Painting Event Saturday, June 19th.  There is no limit to the number of artists who would like to go out and paint, but we can exhibit the work of the first 30 to register. The show is called ART BEYOND: Saturday in the Park  – it’s a snapshot of a day in the park.  Exhibition at ScienceWorks in partnership with SMA. Also – it says painting, but of course any media that you like is welcome! 
Please register right away! I want you in the show! 

Lithia Park Plein Air Painting Event

Date: Saturday, June 19th
Time: 9am-7pm

Open to all. Sign up to join fellow Plein Air artists in Lithia Park on Saturday, June 19th. Artists can come and go throughout the day. The general public will be encouraged to engage with the artists between 10am-5pm where you can talk about your work and process. This event is part of Art Beyond, a new initiative from the Schneider Museum of Art to promote the visual arts in outdoor spaces.

Artists will be invited to show one piece created at this event at Scienceworks Hands-On Museum from June 21 – September 16. Art will be sold at by Scienceworks with 50% of sales price going to the artist and 50% to Scienceworks.

Please register here to be a participating artist by June 1, 2021.

sarahfburns.com

The famous little patch of yellow

Vermeer’s “View of Delft”

I find it encouraging that the greatest philosopher and the greatest novelist of the 20th century agreed about some fundamental, crucial things, at about the same time, early in the century. It seems everyone else except maybe T.S. Eliot were heading in the opposite direction—Nietzsche a bit earlier, the modernists in art, Einstein in physics, Freud in his field, Marx in economics and politics–all of them striving to destabilize the values and norms of the Western world. Meanwhile, Wittgenstein and Proust were suggesting that the most fundamental realities hadn’t changed at all and would never change, even though many didn’t understand this about the philosopher, and it this isn’t immediately obvious in Proust, given the structure of his virtually plotless novel, a tapestry of interwoven stories that evolve almost imperceptibly toward his majestic renunciation of society in favor of art.

Wittgenstein, whose efforts have been camouflaged by his role as the patron saint of analytical 20th century philosophy, asserted that human values can’t be derived from our experience in the world. They exist outside the world, and thus, in a sense, can’t be analyzed or deduced, but are simply a given, transcendent and immune to rational justification or questioning. They have no utility. They just are. You don’t “adopt” them to make the world a better place (on what grounds would one chose a set of values that give you the rules for calculating which values are best?). Goodness is an unassailable framework within which human purposes evolve and can be understood. Goodness and truth and beauty govern human behavior, as the essential structure of human experience, whether or not an individual is conscious of them or not. In other words, Wittgenstein actually had a metaphysics, about which he forbade himself to talk, because its truth was impossible to prove, hence the famous last line of the Tractatus: “Whereof one cannot speak, one must remain silent.” However, he meditated quite a bit on these values during that silence. He carried around a copy of Tolstoy’s The Gospel in Brief all through his service in World War I, and he relinquished one of the largest inheritances in Europe. He seriously considered becoming a monk at one point. These transcendent values he lived, rather than asserted, because he appeared to consider them impossible to justify through reason or philosophical language. His silence about everything that actually mattered seems, in retrospect, almost uniquely noble and honest.

One finds a similar point of view, an even more Platonic one, from Marcel Proust in A La Recherche du Temps Perdu, written during the years Wittgenstein wrote his Tractatus, about the death of Proust’s fictional novelist, Bergotte. In The Captive, he talks about the role of the creative imagination, in painting and fiction and music. These thoughts precede one of the great revelatory moments in the story, when Morel’s musical performance triggers for the narrator a crucial moment of enlightenment about the nature of art. (It is typical of Proust that Morel is one of his few genuinely evil characters, the embodiment of sadistic cruelty, yet he is also, despite his depravity, a rare musical genius, one of God’s messengers, as it were, through the medium of the violin.) This passage makes Proust’s narrator sound a bit like a Cathar or a Buddhist, but his essential point is that human beings don’t pick and choose their “values;” those values precede and ground all human choices and behavior, and people spend their lives struggling to simply see them and exemplify them as directly as possible, to live “beneath the sway of those unknown laws”—an achievement that is, like a great golf swing or a sumi-e painting—both unconscious and ego-less, almost automatic, when done perfectly, and yet immensely difficult to “get right”:

He was dead. Dead forever? Who can say? . . . All that we can say is that everything is arranged in this life as though we entered it carrying a burden of obligations contracted in a former life; there is no reason inherent in the conditions of life on this earth that can make us consider ourselves obliged to do good, to be kind and thoughtful, even to be polite, nor for an atheist artist to consider himself obliged to begin over again a score of times a piece of work the admiration aroused by which will matter little to his worm-eaten body, like the patch of yellow wall painted with so much skill and refinement by an artist destined to be forever unknown and barely identified under the name Vermeer. All these obligations, which have no sanction in our present life, seem to belong to a different world, a world based on kindness, scrupulousness, self-sacrifice, a world entirely different from this one and which we leave in order to be born on this earth, before perhaps returning there to live once again beneath the sway of those unknown laws which we obeyed because we bore their precepts in our hearts, not knowing whose hand had traced them there—those laws to which every profound work of the intellect brings us nearer and which are invisible only—if then!—to fools. So the idea that Bergotte was not permanently dead is by no means improbable.

–The Captive

 

The Personality of Process: On the Enneagram, the house we built, and marriage

The house foundations last August


Blobs, spots, specks, smudges, cracks, defects, mistakes, accidents, exceptions, and irregularities are the windows to other worlds.—Bob Miller

 

Part One: In Which I Vent About the Enneagram (Though I Love It, Too)

 

If you know a bit about the Enneagram, you know that you are likely one of nine types—and that each type has specific fears and desires and motivations. Learning about this framework helps us understand ourselves and others. 

 

However…I’ve also learned that you can come into this world as one type but can learn to adapt into another type that appears to serve you or others better. And then you can be very confused.

 

There are various schools of the Enneagram, and many of the types have different names according to which one you study. I believe I came into this world a Four—the Romantic or Individualist. But the world rewarded my ability to be a One: the Perfectionist or Reformer. I joke that I’m either a Perfecting Romantic or Romanic Perfectionist.

 

From my school years through the first months of my marriage, I lived pretty well as a Perfectionist-Reformer One. Even my creativity was highly structured; I’d embark on a series of 100 portraits, 30 days of painting-poems, et cetera, et-orderly-cetera. It didn’t help that most organized religion and education love achievers—and boy could I achieve. In grade school, I memorized whole chapters of Corinthians for our church version of the Girl Scouts, The Missionettes. (Somewhere, there exists a photo of myself wearing a turquoise polyester sash with all of my badges). I worked to be high school valedictorian. Then I worked even harder to be undergraduate summa cum laude. By grad school, I let myself breathe and settled for magna cum laude. And that was probably because, while I shaped my poetry thesis, I rediscovered a wild creativity longing to play free—uncaged by a rigid grid of quantification.   

 

And then, decades later, I got married. Funny thing about marriage: your True Self emerges in a way it never did before. True union eventually squeezes out anything false. And when two become one, a lot of shit has got to go. (I could make a terrible pun here about two each becoming the most annoying parts of the Enneagram’s Reformer One, but I shall not!) 

 

Suffice it to say, that whatever façade we’ve built basically gets shaken off, and whatever’s underneath probably has some black mold and maybe a rat or two, despite however many years we think we’ve done our spirit excavation. 

 

And also, I married an Eight: the Challenger. Challengers can call your bluff pretty darn well. 

 

Part Two: In Which I Vent About Building a House (Though I Love It, Too)

 

This all leads me, most indirectly, to the process of building a house—before we’d been married a year. (In fact, as I write this, we are just about to reach our nine-month anniversary). 

 

But before I get to that, I should also mention that it took me until my forties to see an obvious life pattern. During my college years, I worked as a housecleaner—for residential and professional buildings. And then I worked as an editor in some capacity for longer than most starting editors have been alive. Cleaning and editing. Basically, I trained myself to see the mess and the misspelled and to perfect them all. But such tasks, though they felt good when done, didn’t feel good in the process; they felt exhausting and never-ending. I wouldn’t so much celebrate as check off the completion of each round of “perfecting,” even as I braced myself for the next round of trash and typos. Versus celebrating the process—mud ‘n’ all. 

 

And let’s just say that pointing out all the dirt and dialogue flaws is not a beneficial marriage skill. But the long-entrenched One in me—the Perfectionist-Reformer—was so used to doing this, that it was hard to stop. It took me a while to be grateful for the fact that my husband doesn’t really care if things are clean or if every T is crossed. “But these are my strengths!” a part of me kept shouting. 

 

Meanwhile, behind the scenes, the truer part of myself kept saying she loved going off on muddy river adventures and not needing to analyze the etymology of the kayak term “boof.” 

 

One book on the Enneagram is called The Road Back to You. The One-Me never understood that title. The Four-Me is jumping up and down for childlike joy, saying, “Yes! We’re back!”

 

Marriage has invited me to return to my creative being: my True Self, the Self who loves paint splatters and rough-edged canvas and impromptu word play for pure fun; the Four who knows that all of life is poetry, not just words on a page—or a specific page count. That Self has risen up alongside our house.

 

Yes, finally, I get to the house. It has become my metaphor for building a more authentic self and marriage. 

 

Last summer, I took a photo of the foundations—surrounded by heaps of displaced earth. Where wild grass had grown in beautiful abandon, the hillside looked like a jagged scar. But we wanted to build something, and so we had to tear into what was there. We had to make a mess.

 

Now, a brick home stands on that site, finished, after months of trucks and lumber. But nothing is ever finished, is it? The wake of construction rubble and ruts surrounding the house remind me how ongoing building really is.

 

Our first day in the house

So that Miller quote I opened with; I am still struggling to love the messy process. But now that I’ve been building a life with someone and building a house with someone—I am beginning to get it. 

 

I am also beginning to embrace both the Reformer and the Romantic in myself—and I consciously choose those two labels for the One and the Four. The drive for excellence in the former helped ground the often formless creative sensitivities of the latter. Maybe I’ll call myself a Romantic Reformer—head in the clouds but feet on the ground. Imperfectly trying to bring Heaven to Earth.

 

The two types in me have finally become one.

 

Union starts in our very own hearts. 

 

Part Three: In Which I Don’t Vent About Marriage, But Instead Write A Poem About It

 

O this strange bliss—

brimming with

mess & misspellings 

mud & wonder—

I embrace all 

your stains & stars.

 

Two become 

one house 

uniting 

divided hearts

 

We build

a mystery.


Right after the land became ours last spring