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What will we send out?

When I created the Word-Painting Project, the idea was to do something that could encourage others…and cover my grocery bill while chalet-sitting for friends in Switzerland (I’m a practical poet!). 

Though I thought I was making time for the project, the project made time for me. It gave me time to watch the light on the Alps and the clouds catch on their peaks. It gave me time to listen to the symphony of cowbells on the Holsteins munching wildflowers on the slope of the next-door chalet. And it was a joy to share that time in words and images by creating a word-painting every day for ten days. 

Back home, the prints of those originals already arrived, and I’ve hand-addressed the first of ten batches to go out over the summer. This week, a stack of Word-Painting No. 1 prints began their stamped way through the postal system to their recipients, and I blessed them as I dropped them into the post-office slot.  

This was the last image I created for the Word-Painting Project. It seemed appropriate to end with a question: What will we send out into the bright world beyond us? Some days, the world is bright, as in sunny and good—like this summer solstice day. And some days, the world is bright, as in the harsh glare of a world in need. Regardless of the natural or emotional weather, I choose to send out something encouraging. And with it, a big dose of gratitude. 

So, in each of Switzerland’s three, official languages, thank you for being part of the Word-Painting journey: danke, merci, grazie.

The sorrows and joys of taffy

Here I am with a taffy painting I started in February, but have been deterred from finishing because of multiple family obligations. Nevertheless, slow but steady.

I embarked on a series of enlarged images of salt-water taffy last year, unable to reach cruising speed for the work because of a slow flood of continuous family obligations. Over the past year, I’ve had to keep halting my painting (and writing) every two or three weeks for multiple reasons, including several trips to Florida to prepare my parents’ condo for rental or sale, since they’re no longer able to get down there—as well as flights to L.A. to spend a welcome week with my kids and grandkids, after long absences. Having just gotten back from one of those weeks in L.A., my mother fell and broke her hip and then amazed the Highland Hospital staff with her rapid ability to get moving again after a partial hip replacement at the age of 94. So, with my time devoted to helping both parents adapt to all of this at home, my work has been on hold for yet another week as of today. 

Caring for aged parents has provided an energizing counterpoint to work at the easel, especially because I’ve been focused on such what seems at first such a trivial subject, dollops of salt-water taffy veiled behind twists of waxed paper, in contrast to the somber, chastening experience of advanced age. Lauren Purje, after she saw my paintings of candy jars seven or eight years ago, remarked, “There’s sadness in them.” It was undoubtedly what charmed her about the paintings, though at the time I was nonplussed by the comment, unconscious of everything about those paintings other than my formal intentions. Sad candy seemed like an oxymoron. They offered me a way to bring more color to a still life—giving me a softened geometric image, a grid, and the format let me choose the colors I could put down. It also offered a balance between flatness and representational depth. The emotional pull of the image wasn’t even on my radar—I was too aware of my formal goals to be alert to what the act of painting had smuggled into the image on its own, while my attention was diverted to the paint itself. In other words, the candy jars were a reminder of how I think art actually operates, embodying a world of feeling and imagination despite an artist’s conscious intentions, conveying more than the artist is, or can ever be, aware of.

I chose taffy for formal reasons as well: the way in which it enabled me to pick and choose different color harmonies and presented loosely abstract properties in the shapes of the paper and the molded nougat-like candy full of supple curves with a few sharp edges. Each bit of wrapped taffy, when the image is enlarged, looks sculptural, muscular, but also ethereal and vulnerable to me—like the contrast between the modeled wax and fabric of Degas’ sculpture of an adolescent dancer. The spirals and tiers and spots of color in the candy itself feel—to me—like wistful, sotto voce references to color field painting, translated into three dimensions. Stacking them and setting them near a window for the shadows cast by a single source of natural light, I’m fascinated by how much drama the images can evoke, like glimpses of rare birds. Their shapes and lines, and the variation in opacity and transparency, give them an almost psychological resonance when I look at the finished work. They seem full of personality. And, simply in their shape and the way they catch the light, a stacked pair of these treats evokes for me a dozen different things: insect wings, tropical fish, rock faces, raptors, carved marble, Elizabethan portraits, skulls, and flesh clothed in sheer fabric. There is a slightly erotic allure in the way these little chunks of sugar present themselves for viewing though the lumpy quality of their form makes this sort of reflection amusing. All of it is amusing. It’s a little funny simply to find oneself painting images of candy and talking at any length about it. Thiebaud kept having to fight the notion that he was crazy to pick his sweet subject matter in the beginning. 

Whether or not anyone else has an inkling about any of this while looking at these paintings, it’s what makes me want to stick with it for quite a while: all of these associations give the act of painting these images a luxuriant feel of being immersed in an encouraging certainty that this is exactly what I should be painting right here and now. That’s a rare feeling, because it’s so easy to get away from the feel of settling into exactly what you most want to do with paintings that answer to what you want to see when you are done. I forget about how slowly the work proceeds and delight in the process itself, in the feel of the paint as I apply it. When you are in that zone, it hardly matters what you are depicting or how, because there’s a sense of perfection in the process that justifies itself anc conveys something essential about painting to a viewer. Again, this is ironic. I’m representing objects riddled with imperfections, wrinkles, crimps, dimples, and cracks, squeezed, smudged, torn here and there, and yet by painting all of that a certain way, they look exactly right and they evoke for me the perfection of any and all imperfections in a subject when they are subsumed into a good painting.  

Lately, too, these paintings feel like an intersection between life and art for me. I’ve been surprised at how the light itself, the way it falls on these punished-looking yet stubbornly cheery servings of empty calories reminds me of the slow, suffering decline my parents are enduring. A sentinel of mortality hovers in my peripheral vision every day now, the sense of impending surrender that skulks around the emotional family campfire, waiting for the flames to gutter.  They aren’t going anywhere. Their health is comparatively good, broken bones notwithstanding. But the erosion of age is relentless. The perky quality of this candy, seemingly eager to be unwrapped and enjoyed, reminds me inevitably of how my parents continue to crack jokes despite the indignities and disorders of advanced age and how they delight in the simplest things, the company of nearly anyone—how they still revel in the color of new leaves in the spring, the beauty of their grandchildren (as hard to make out through the distortions of macular degeneration as it is to see edges of candy behind waxed paper), the weary smile of a son showing up every other day to help. The nurses and techs who came to my mother’s room loved her after three days. She and my father still live independently at home, but it’s a cluttered place now, full of devices to help my father move around, countless pill bottles, machines to magnify whatever my mother needs to read, and lingering smells that wouldn’t have been there ten years ago. They are at the age when they still want to live, and be with the ones they love, though they are ready for whatever might follow the encroaching squalor of a struggle that gets harder from one month to the next.  I could try painting portraits of my parents, but in an oblique way, for me, these taffy paintings are representations of their lives, their struggle, their spirit.

So the sadness of jelly beans may be in the process of being upstaged by the brave tristesse of taffy. Whether the work conveys joy or sadness, life or death, if they turn out the way I want, the images this subject gives me will—I hope—hint at a larger beauty that encompasses all of those polarities. One thing that hasn’t changed and doesn’t fluctuate is love and much of this work is a celebration and direct expression of it. I love my family. I love my work. I may be painting taffy for quite a while, and all those wings that will never fly. I hope I can find time to paint other things as well, though maybe I shouldn’t worry about that just yet. 

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Lyda Rose
June 2014
Oil on Panel
7.5″ x 10″

David Smith’s material magic

Lakeside-sunglare, oil on birch ply, 8×10 inches, 2019

I recently received my copies of INPA 8, from Manifest Creative Research Gallery, and I’ve been finding much to admire in its pages. I’m going to post some of the work over the next few weeks. It was especially pleasant to see David Smith represented yet again. He’s pitching almost a perfect game since Manifest started publishing INPA: getting his work into, I believe, all but one of the annual compilations of great contemporary painting. He used to have his studio in Hong Kong, which was appropriate, since in most of his work there’s a very Asian sense of unoccupied space, a philosophical void. As in the work of Clifford Still and Sam Francis, that sense of vacancy has as much to do with the effect of his images as whatever emerges from the emptiness. It links his work as well with sumiye painting and Chinese scrolls. It’s a Taoist esthetic that he doesn’t address candidly in his own statements about his work, though what he does say about his process echoes the principles of gutai, which finds new forms of creative expression by exploring the effects and properties of physical materials, again an Asian tradition, but out of Japan, rather than China.

From his website:

These paintings depict natural forms and spaces on solid, wood panels. They use the chemical qualities of oil washes to disrupt, dissolve or decay the image surface. Light, space, time and environmental decay play against natural elements. The images exist in a state of flux; location and time are not always apparent. The light, space and forms are shifting, living and dying, displaying a fragile and temporary nature. Influenced by ink painting, abstraction and photography, they aim for a sense of the mysterious and the elemental.

I recall the earliest work of his I saw in some of the initial INPA publications, work from nine or ten years ago. It showed a helicopter or jet suspended in fog, giving me the sense of being an entomologist discovering an unclassified caddis fly, with human technology seemingly as evanescent as a newly hatched insect. Having moved back to Ireland, he has evolved a process that, more than ever, prompts me to ask a question I emailed to Jason Franz years ago, knowing there would be no answer on the other end: “How in the world does he do that?”

I suspect there may be some originating step using the transfer of a photographic image onto his support, which is then worked by hand, the way R.H. Quaytman begins by silkscreening a Polaroid image onto a surface and then improvising on it with other materials. It’s possible, but the evidence of his brush is often so distinct that he doesn’t seem to be working from a transferred photographic template. Whatever he’s doing, I’ll bet he doesn’t want to talk about it in detail. I wouldn’t. He should consider his techniques proprietary. Like Quaytman, Smith reduces his image to the simplest possible interlocking layers of differing values—usually eliminating almost all color other than dark-to-light grays. The effect is wondrous: it’s as if he creates an astonishingly convincing landscape that recedes into a more and more atomized haze, each tier of earth or trees or water inhabiting its own particular distance from the eye. In some of the most recent work this year, he shows land masses rising from a remote lake, and these forms could be rock or trees or both, it’s hard to tell, and yet without being able to actually identify what you are seeing, the image looks perfectly real, even with the long parallel lines clawed into the paint, as if with a comb, on the shining surface of the lake. The effect is to make you feel a sense of convincing verisimilitude, true to dawn landscapes you’ve seen in the past, while at the same time introducing you to an entirely imaginary world, an almost abstract collage of shapes, where the scraped and squeegeed-looking ridges of paint somehow magically are both an inert substance disrupting a flat surface and yet exactly what the eye needs in order to seize on a perfectly-rendered, natural vista.

Ch-ch-ch-changes

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Hands and Feet
2019
Oil on Linen
18″ x 24″

Serene solitudes

In Her Mirror II, detail, Shawn Downey, oil on panel, 2018

I visited Arcadia, in Pasadena, after Shawn Downey’s solo show closed nearly half a year ago now, yet some of his work was still hanging in the rear gallery and I was able to get a close look at half a dozen paintings, which was a great treat—including this one hanging above its shipping crate, ready for its trip home to Canada. Downey’s minimalist interiors, with a single contemplative woman, with the occasional tattoo, in stripped-down, geometric spaces, were a marvel. It felt like a contemporary fusion of Vermeer’s light and Hopper’s sympathetic eavesdropping on urban solitude, but with a brighter, more serene glow. I wish I’d been there to see all of the work.

June 2019 Oregon Arts Commission News & Updates

June 2019

News & Updates

G. Lewis Clevenger honored with Governor’s Office exhibition, NEA spring grants announced and upcoming grant deadlines!

Beaverton student wins Congressional Art Competition

Congratulations to Jennie Cho, a freshman at Westview High School in Beaverton, on winning the Congressional Art Competition for Northwest Oregon – Congresswoman Susan Bonamici’s district.
Her winning entry, “Suffocating,” was selected by a panel of artists including Brian Rogers, executive director of the Arts Commission. Jennie and her work will be recognized along with other national winners at a ceremony in Washington, DC, and will be displayed for one year at the U.S. Capitol.
“I was very impressed by the many beautiful and provocative entries,” says Congresswoman Bonamici. “The arts have a bright future in Oregon!”

(left to right) Competition judges Brian Rogers and Lani Faith, Executive Director of the Beaverton Arts Foundation, pose by “Suffocating” with artist Jennie Cho and Congresswoman Susan Bonamici.

G. Lewis Clevenger exhibits “Moving On” in the Governor’s Office at state Capitol

Portland artist G. Lewis Clevenger exhibits “Moving On” in the Governor’s Office of the Capitol Building in Salem through July 25. Clevenger paints abstract compositions with bold colors and overlapping, softly geometric forms.
To him, painting each piece is a give-and-take process that takes time:
“The paintings develop as I ‘push’ the mark making and the canvas pushes back in response,” he says. “The colors and composition shift and settle in as the painting progresses. My paintings develop and change daily.”
The final works both reveal and hide these storied layers, inviting the viewer’s eye to return to the lines and colors again and again, searching for a meaning that is just out of reach.

G. Lewis Clevenger, “Copa,” 2018. Acrylic on canvas, 24 x 30 inches. Photo Aaron Johanson.

NEA awards 17 spring grants

to Oregon arts organizations

Congratulations to the 17 Oregon arts groups sharing $1,219,200 in spring funding from the National Endowment for the Arts​!
The amount includes $732,200 in partnership funding for the Oregon Arts Commission.
Grant also were awarded to:
High Desert Museum; Confederated Tribes of Coos, Lower Umpqua and Siuslaw Indians; Eugene Ballet; Eugene Symphony; Caldera;
Cappella Romana; Disjecta; Literary Arts; Network of Ensemble Theaters; Oregon Children’s Theatre Company; Oregon Folklife Network; Oregon Bach Festival; Portland Community Media; Regional Arts & Culture Council; Western Arts Alliance; and Wisdom of the Elders.

Oregon Bach Festival received a spring grant from the NEA to support its “Bach in Motion” collaboration with DanceAbility International, to be performed July 5 at the Hult Center.

Percent for Art enhances new OSU-Cascades campus

Visit the new OSU-Cascades campus in Bend, and you’ll undoubtedly encounter many of close to two dozen artworks installed as part of Oregon’s Percent for Art program. Managed by the Arts Commission, Percent for Art funds the integration of new and existing works as part of public construction projects.
The OSU-Cascades art joins more than 2,400 other pieces of art currently in Oregon’s Percent for Art Collection.
Read a Bend Bulletin story about stone sculptor Masayuki “Yuki” Nagase’s contributions to the OSU-Cascades art.

“Along the Columbia,” 2018. Snavely, Gary. Oil paint on board. Installed at OSU-Cascades’ Tykeson Hall through Oregon’s Percent for Art program.

Four Rivers Cultural Center honored for stewardship

Congratulations to Four Rivers Cultural Center and Museum​ and its Executive Director, Arts Commissioner Matt Stringer, on receiving The Museum of Natural and Cultural History​’s annual Stewardship Award!
The award honors the Center’s Tradition Keepers Folklife Festival, a daylong public celebration of traditional arts and artists in eastern Oregon.
The Festival is supported by the National Endowment for the Arts​, Oregon Folklife Network​ and Starseed Foundation.

Mildred Quaempts (left), dentalium work, Confederated Tribes of Umatilla, and Wilson Wewa (right), storyteller, Warm Springs. Both will participate in the 2019 Tradition Keepers Folklife Festival at Four Rivers Cultural Center on Saturday, June 29. Photo by Riki Saltzman,©Oregon Folklife Network.

Upcoming grant deadlines

Oregon Arts Commission | Phone 503-986-0082 | www.oregonartscommission.org

STAY CONNECTED
Oregon Arts Commission | Oregon Cultural Trust | 775 Summer Street NE #200Salem, OR 97301

Woman Made Gallery in Chicago Presents “Dear Earth”

Dear Earth

June 29 – July 20, 2019
Dear Earth…
Juried by Catherine Game
June 29–July 20, 2019
Opening Reception: Saturday Afternoon, June 29 | 2–4 p.m.
CHICAGO –– Woman Made Gallery (WMG) is proud to present “Dear Earth,” a group exhibition in partnership with Openlands and Brushwood Center at Ryerson Woods. The exhibition was inspired by Sibylle Szaggars Redford, whose performance “The Way of the Rain” was created as a “love letter to Mother Earth.” Sibylle Szaggars Redford and Robert Redford were Brushwood Center’s 2018 Environmental Leadership Award recipients.

Exhibiting Artists: Lynn Anderson, Beverly Behrens, Leticia Bernaus, Elizabeth Busey, Kathy Chambers, Shaina Craft, Patricia Darif, Hollie Davis, Emily Donovan, Stephanie Doty, Debora Ewing, Lea Goldman, Cynthia Hellyer Heinz, Carol Hinote, Shilin Hora, Candace Knapp, Nora Moore Lloyd, Christina Lovering, Mackenzie Madison, Xanthe Miller, Carol Neiger, Corinne Peterson, CV Peterson, Teri Power, Ann Quinn, Laurie Rousseau, Anna Segner, Kathie Shaw, Jennifer Sperry Steinorth, Vicky Tesmer, Vivian Visser, Kathleen Warren, and Cynthia Weiss.

“‘Dear Earth . . .’ illuminates the critical voices of women in this moment of environmental crisis. Now, more than ever, we need bold action for our planet. Counter to the common doom-and-gloom narrative, ‘Dear Earth . . .’ inspires our hearts and minds through celebration, hope, and empowerment as we face the challenges of the Anthropocene.”    — Catherine Game

Catherine Game, Executive Director of Brushwood Center at Ryerson Woods, ensures that the legacy of Brushwood Center thrives through strong partnerships and inspiring programs that connect art, nature, and wellness. Prior to joining Brushwood Center, Catherine served as Director of Communications and Engagement for Chicago Wilderness, where she oversaw the organization’s communications, member engagement, and efforts to cultivate a diverse conservation constituency. Catherine has held previous positions in communications, program evaluation, and education with conservation groups in Michigan and Illinois. She holds a Master’s degree in Natural Resources and Environment from the University of Michigan and a Bachelor’s degree in Biology and Art from Albion College. Catherine is the recipient of the Doris Duke Conservation Fellowship and was a Morris K. Udall Scholar. As an artist, Catherine Game explores the role of art in cultivating human relationships with the natural environment.

To learn more about the partners for this exhibition visit their websites:https://openlands.org and https://www.brushwoodcenter.org

CLICK HERE TO VIEW EXHIBITION ONLINE

  • Please join us at the opening reception for “Dear Earth . . .” on Saturday, June 29, 2019, from 2 to 4 p.m.
  • All events are free and open to the public. Donations are always welcome and appreciated at http://womanmade.org/donate.
Woman Made Gallery
2150 S. Canalport #4A-3
Chicago, IL 60608
312-738-0400 | [email protected] | www.womanmade.org
Enter through parking lot at north entrance on 21st Street.
Dial 271 on callbox and press “Call.”

Gallery hours: Thurs–Fri noon–6 p.m. | Sat–Sun noon–4 p.m. | Admission: free

2019 Rules of the Road Presentation

See the presentation here from the 2019 Annual Convention.

Fractured literacy

Ben Tankard’s kids posing with some of his book cover paintings.

It always cheers me when Ben Tankard posts something new on Instagram. The Australian painter works in several modes, one being his surreal landscapes where ordinary people confront things they can’t quite comprehend—if we’re honest with ourselves, we are those people, all the time, aren’t we?—and in another series he does Monopoly board images that have been slightly modified, as well as classic Penguin paperback covers. It’s all done with an ebullient wit. My favorites are his simple, uniformly produced fractures of Penguin covers, where everything has been slightly scrambled, as if the books are slowly becoming illegible as a result of macular degeneration. For me, the fragmentation of vision is cultural and his Pop version of those paperbacks speaks to our fragmented literacy in an age of inane social media telegraphy and knee-jerk rants. It’s refreshing to see a painter posing his two youngsters in front of images he’s completed of Robert Louis Stevenson’s and Hunter S. Thompson’s work. Just putting those books side by side feels tolerant, appreciative, and encouraging. Just painting the covers of great books, period, is a nice, humble way to class up the joint.