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BLM vs. MLK, spiritual art, apple fritters

Jim Mott’s painting of a mailbox, after arriving at this spot in his Landscape Lottery.

Jim Mott came by this weekend for a conversation after a long absence, and we picked up more or less where we’d left off last time, talking partly about spirituality, art and God, BLM vs. MLK, his new art project, and some other things I ordinarily don’t talk about, like apple fritters. Though Jim is deeply political, in a way that goes back more to the Sixties than what’s happening now, he’s the least confrontational and least angry political person I know. Many people obsessed with politics seem to have embraced it as a substitute for religion. Jim already has a faith, so politics is simply a way of thinking about how to put that faith into action. What I like about his politics and his religion are the way in which they get submerged into his paint, in a sub-rosa way, neither overt nor strident, producing work that embodies his spirituality rather than illustrates it, if that makes sense. Most of the artists I’m close to are deeply spiritual, but each one in a very different way from the others. Here’s a good portion of our long conversation:

Dave: I went through this spiritual crisis in my teens and it was discovering Van Gogh who got me into it.

Jim: The crisis?

No, he got me into painting. He was so screwed up, but he responded to it by painting. He started by preaching and then went from that to painting, so it was kind of the way he dealt with there being something wrong with the world, or with him.

There’s that romantic notion or tradition that the world doesn’t get it and the individual poet does, so you’re at odds with the world.

It was just the opposite of that with me. I didn’t get it. Life was absurd and I didn’t get it, but that was repugnant to me, so at some level I knew I wasn’t right to have that perception. That was my dilemma. The idea that meaning seemed impossible and this was a crisis, a problem. It seemed the world was pointless and amounted to nothing, and this was horrifying because I couldn’t see out of that mental trap. But there’s a contradiction I didn’t see in this. Camus based The Rebel on a recognition of this contradiction: that people inwardly rebel against nihilism. If nothing matters, then there’s no reason to be dissatisfied with that, just enjoy what you can and that’s that. Why is it horrifying that life seems to amount to nothing? There’s some context in which the absurdity of life is unacceptable but if everything is genuinely pointless how can anything be unacceptable? I couldn’t get to that state of “there’s no way any of any of this can really matter, including my anguish over the impossibility of meaning, so I might as well enjoy life while it lasts.” I couldn’t reconcile myself to this nihilistic certainty I had. So I looked at Van Gogh because I assumed he had to have gone through something like that and responded to it by painting. I’d already been painting pictures of my favorite guitarists, Hendrix, Clapton, Bloomfield. I was in a band, I loved playing my Telecaster. I did the paintings just to have them on my walls. Enlarged copies of album covers. Then I read about Van Gogh and thought, hm, painting is an activity that’s interesting in itself, partly because Van Gogh, this incredibly discontented guy, was so devoted to it. Van Gogh got me to that point. My reading later gave me a way to understand this crisis I’d gone through in a spiritual perspective. So the painting and the spiritual perspective merged.

When you’re doing a good painting you feel like you’re participating in something larger than yourself, at some level it’s about ego-lessness and service. Given all that, the way the art world is all about ego competition and material symbols of success, what would happen if, I don’t know, what happens to you when you buy into that at all. You’re doing what you need to do to advance yourself but, as a result of that, cutting yourself off from your deepest, most authentic sense of what it’s all about – and that awareness of doing something in service to something larger, that awareness and how it imprints itself on the painting, that might be as important to the viewer as all the other qualities that would make a painting conventionally successful.

You mean given the art world’s definition of success. Should you fight it or resist it? That’s always a question.

You’re working to show this . . .

Mystery . . 

Right. The art world wants someone who’s world-famous. If someone had handed me world fame, I’m not sure I’d turn it down, but . . .

If it does amount to something, a painting, then if you aren’t known, how do you get it out there? Something essential to your life, how do you connect it to other people?

Even with the significant but moderately narrow level of recognition we get, is it worthwhile to generate a counter-narrative about what it’s all about? As an alternative to the pursuit of the material rewards or even critical recognition. I don’t know. Just to have a small audience to tell that to, you’re still having an impact. Integration is the mission now for me: art and spirit, left and right.

<Behind him on the little end table, I always display his night painting of the Memorial Art Gallery and nearby Tom Insalaco’s painting of an eclair. We have a sidebar discussion of eclairs vs. apple fritters and where to find the best fritters, which was possibly the most impactful part of the entire conversation, but not worth transcribing.)

So what are you painting?

Well, I find I’m not very motivated unless I have a project. So I’m doing this project with my wife’s niece. During the protests, my wife was saying the protestors were destroying the neighborhood where she’d grown up here in Rochester. She said, “My friends in the suburbs were cheering them on, but the people who live there, the ones the protests are supposedly helping, don’t have anywhere to get groceries now. She said, “Defund the police? What are the victims of domestic violence going to do when they’re getting beaten? So she was thinking of writing an essay. She knows the inner city. Her family comes in all colors.  She’s keenly aware of racism and poverty. She was writing an essay about how your lawn sign isn’t helping anyone. She had just visited her niece. Her niece’s son, whose father is Black, doesn’t see those signs.  What he does see is poverty and chaos and a school system that’s failing. He’s in third-grade at a school where the majority of students can’t pass state exams for their grade in math and English – on a good year. During Covid he’s been doing his schoolwork, doing all his classes on a smartphone with a smashed screen.

What a year.

So I was thinking, she went around looking for Black Lives Matter signs in her nephew’s neighborhood, where the message might reach him and make some difference, and there was just one in this area of several blocks. She was saying the people in those neighborhoods don’t need people in the suburbs to put up signs; they need people to go in and connect with them and understand poverty, start to make a larger sense of community a reality. So I decided to work with her niece. The project was to get together once a month and go sketching at a series of places that are meaningful to her. I’ll make paintings to go with the sketches. Ideally we’d have our sketches and the painting and a story about a place that meant something to both of us. But mainly we both sketch. It’s a model for how to reach out and connect with someone, using art – which has the benefit of being visible – show-able. It’s the next project after the Itinerant Artist series and the Landscape Lottery.

All of these projects encourage me to go out of my way to pay attention to parts of the world I otherwise would overlook or not see.  There’s a forced getting past my own interests in order to connect with something more (which I suppose is a deeper interest). Art is inherently spiritual, and this sort of builds on that, makes art practice a spiritual practice. I found what I painted in Ferguson, when I went there a year after those riots, it felt like a vigil or prayer, just being there doing a painting.

Did you see the Simone Weil quote I sent you in that material from Matthew Crawford. She said basically . . . Crawford wrote these books . . .

The World Beyond Your Head.

Right. Shop Class is Soul Craft was the first one. 

Which one did you like better?

The first one because it was so out of the blue. The second one is sort of the sequel, extending his philosophy beyond craftsmanship and the trades. His way of doing philosophy was to repair motorcycles. It’s analogous to painting in the way it connects physical skill and physical awareness. Iris Murdoch was one of the most powerful references in the first book. She wrote about how art is a way of simply paying attention to something else but yourself. That’s what you were saying: egolessness, just redirecting your attention to anything but yourself. That alone is ameliorative or just a way of approaching the Good. She calls it unselfing. 

Not just attending to it, but identifying with something greater.

The whole surround, the world you are in. You a part of this wholeness you’re inhabiting and just trying to be aware of it. Weil was saying that any moment of intense awareness is akin to prayer. That’s all prayer is, surrendering to something bigger. I thought that was interesting that you made that connection too.

I went through some of her stuff in my thirties and was really impressed.

Crawford talks about skilled physical labor. He talks about how, in motorcycle repair, it becomes intuitive because you get so familiar with the machine, the sounds it makes, the way it moves, whatever, that you diagnose what needs to be done, sometimes, subconsciously, by attending to physical cues without even being conscious of it. It’s partly a physical learning. Like muscle memory. It all derives from intense periods of just paying attention with care, even love.  

That reminds me of one of my hates. At Mendon park, one of the workers cut down some bushes that work as habitat for certain birds and put one of these carved benches with a little awning over – it doesn’t work as shade, the bench is crudely made, and it all looks horrible. He’s crafting but there’s no aesthetics and no knowledge of the environment. I complain, but who’s to say what’s bad. I am, I guess, . . . but you know . .

These days nobody hesitates to say what’s bad. Everyone is constantly passing judgement on someone else.

Right, and that doesn’t dissolve the ego. I realize I can be very judgmental.  There was this show in NYC in the 80s that was called Concerning the Spiritual in Art.

Wasn’t that Kandinsky’s title?

Yes. I was excited. But it was such bad art – well, a lot of it was weak. More to the point, the curators seemed clueless, and the writing in the review… it was clear the person didn’t know what spiritual was.  It was just something theoretically defined, satisfied by certain prescribed “spiritual” criteria.

Kandinsky’s art was spiritual, but it wasn’t overtly religious. If you asked someone to do a spiritual painting, you might get an illustration of a story from the Bible. Of course that could be a genuinely spiritual painting, but not necessarily

Someone who goes to a church I sometimes go to tried to get me to paint a picture of a holy mountain in India, but he wanted saints faces floating around it and I told him I didn’t do that kind of work. I tried to persuade him that a painting of an everyday landscape could be spiritual. He just got mad and found somebody else to do the painting. The guy just wanted that and nothing else would do. That’s one end of the spectrum, but the NYC end is that spirituality is one small sub-category of abstract painting, and nothing else was.

Kandinsky didn’t mean a particular kind of painting, but that painting itself is an attempt to show what’s there in the world unseen that might become more visible through the imaginative struggle with paint.

And for him it was mainly abstract – although he did leave room for “Landscapes with Spirit”. There were no landscapes in that NYC show.

With the surrealists and the heart of abstract expressionism there was an attempt to channel spiritual energy, not just a formal innovation.

They painted as if their lives depended on it. So I met with my niece once and did some sketches and tried to get some paintings done from them. She sketched a tree and it was good. She isn’t being artistically ambitious – at least not yet –  it’s mainly a chance to focus on something good or benign – in this case a tree – that she doesn’t make time for otherwise. It was just a way to get her out there sketching. She said she missed that. The first location was a church where she said she’d been baptized. And then, more recently, when her life was getting too crazy and she needed to get away, she’d slept on the back steps of this church one night.

So she got something out of the sketch that others wouldn’t. We did a sketch of houses with shadows on the roofs and the sketches were exciting, but the painting didn’t have life of the sketches. I got this photograph from that setting and I was blowing it up and just to focus I blocked off a panoramic strip of it and that strip got really interesting so now I may have this little thin painting that has nothing to do with poverty.

If you’re drawn to it, do it. Don’t stick with the plan.

<Then I contradict myself, talking about how I’m sticking to my plan, despite resistance. We talk about my marathon of taffy paintings and the way I have to postpone other things I’d just as soon be painting. I do small sections every day, a very laborious and long process but I don’t want to drop it and move on until I get the project done. A painting takes six weeks generally and when I get to week five, that’s the test in terms of energy and focus. They aren’t hyper-realistic but also not overly rough in a painterly way. You know it’s paint but you don’t see all the execution, the mark making. I’m surprised that this is what I want. I thought I wanted something else in the handling of the paint when I began this series.>

I don’t do much plein air anymore. I sketch and do photographs and work from them in the studio. I miss working from life. It’s different. You might change the image in ways that are poetic.

Yes. I think the people who are opposed to working from photographs, they are looking for variations you can’t help but make in the way you render what you see. Like Van Gogh’s marks. There’s no way he could get away from those marks. There’s no way a photograph could tell him to make them.

I have a selfish question. I feel I should try to do a Landscape Lottery somewhere else. I’ve done it here with good results. You get public interest. I’m trying to think of where to go next. It should be a city.

You randomize the GPS to come up with the locations.

Yes, for the Landscape Lottery the idea is to define an area – say Greater Rochester – then generate random points within that area to determine where I’ll go to paint.  The first time I did it – in Tucson – I used a computer to generate random GPS points. For Rochester I used a pair of dice and six by six grids superimposed on a map of the metropolitan area, nested grids. Roll dice three times and you end up with a fairly precise location. With randomized locations you find something demanding that you might not have picked voluntarily. It challenges my preconceptions about what’s worthy of being painted, my ability to feel a sense of connection. I like the idea that “there is significance in all things waiting to be attended to.” But it can be hard to tune into.

It’s just you and the device. Not someone else saying or giving you a suggestion. The itinerant project as you and the other people you stayed with.

One of the rules I give myself for the Lottery is that at any painting stop I have to try to meet people. Particularly, if I meet a stranger, I will ask them to roll the dice – determining my next painting destination. Someone in the inner city rolls and I get sent to farmland in Hilton. The farmer I meet there “sends” me to the next stop (it happened to be the airport). And so on.  It’s a way of getting to know people I wouldn’t meet otherwise and weaving these invisible connections through the community. (These people from very different backgrounds are sort of collaborating.) I would need to do it probably in a metro area with a gallery that would want to show the results.

Try Cincinnati. It’s a big art town. Manifest might be interested in a project like that.

That’s good. The heartland.

They’re non-profit. It’s a research center. They’re always looking for new ideas. They aren’t going to turn it down because it isn’t a money-maker.

I’m not really sure why I’ve made enforced randomness such a big part of my practice. Initially, with the Itinerant Artist Project, the focus was more on a way of sharing life – typically with strangers – that art made possible, especially getting outside the gallery and into their homes. The unpredictability was just a byproduct of relying on volunteer hosts. But I was drawn to the challenge of making art anywhere and being able to connect with anyone. And I’ve noticed the hosts for the IAP are self-selecting – I’ve gone all over the country, but it’s mostly been the world of middle-class white people who can afford to put me up for a night or two. When I do the Landscape Lottery, it’s different. I end up interacting with people from all walks of life. In both Tucson and even more here.  One of the memorable stops was – I think I told you this – the random point was in Gates and there were all these things on the way I really wanted to paint. But I had to keep driving to get to my spot. No, not the quarry, not the railroad. . . oh it’s just a residential street. And the light’s nice. But there were a bunch of American flags and odd little houses and nothing picturesque at all. It was a Republican street. That’s not bad, but there was a vibe that I was in a place . . .

That’s funny. Democrats don’t put out flags.

There was a certain feel. I knocked on the door of the house I parked in front of to explain why I was there. I was very uncomfortable, but I told them about the project and this nice old lady and her daughter living there, we had a great time. They rolled the dice and sent me to the next place, which turned out to be Mount Hope Cemetery where her husband was buried. <Along with Frederick Douglass and Susan B. Anthony> But then the scene I actually chose was just a mailbox on that Republican street with some old Fifties ranch house, and it ended up being a really popular image for the show. The woman who lived there came out to get the mail, and I apologized for being in the way and I said, ˜You know any artists around that I can give a sketch pad to?’ She said “my husband sketches all the time.’ Sure enough, he was coming down the road, and he looked suspicious, kind of unpleasant, but it turned out that he sketched everything, all the time. I got him to talk a little. He’d done a painting in high school, in Manhattan, which the school kept and he once went back to try to look at it and someone from the board of MOMA had bought it.

I remember that story.  

I like being on my own and withdrawn but I actually enjoy making these connections. Extending who I can identify with. I can be very very left on some things and my whole family, my grandfather was a socialist who helped set up Canada’s healthcare system and my parents were activists. Everyone was so enthused about the BLM movement but Sonja and I were horrified that they were demonizing the police.

Now you have this “insurrection” and the police are heroes.

It’s just, I’ve had bad interactions with lots of police. They’re often power-hungry jerks but . . .

But you have to have them.

Try to be on good terms, at least keep open the potential to interact with them as human beings, reach their humanity.

There aren’t that many serious anarchists anymore. Where is Bakunin these days? 

<Jim read from his phone Obama’s chastening comments about how unwise it is politically simply to talk about defunding police.>

As soon as someone’s camping on your lawn, you will call the police. The new District Attorney in L.A. says he isn’t going to enforce trespassing laws. As soon as someone pitches a tent on a front lawn in Brentwood, that will change. Compton too, probably, for that matter.

Strategically, when the protests started, I remember the news. Police all over the country were taking a knee. Yes, some are very racist. L.A. and St. Louis, but a lot weren’t that way. After a few months of demonizing police, that changed.

If I’m just a racist copy why should I answer the 911 call? With social media you feel as if you have to respond to stupidity with stupidity. It’s like the Goya painting of those two giants just bludgeoning each other with cudgels. That’s social media.

Almost all I watched of the Washington protests were these moderate Republican senators who had just lost Georgia and were talking about just getting along. They looked as if they’d had a conversion experience. Some of them really meant it.

Of course, they did. What happened to Martin Luther King Jr? Who is out there calling for the sit-in rather than the riot?

I have a friend, also named Dave Chappell, who is a student of Christopher Lasch and he’s now considered one of the top scholars on the civil rights movement. He’s white, but he’s . . .

But he’s really Black, like Bill Clinton?

He has an inside pass. He works so hard on that stuff. One of his books was about what made civil rights work. His argument was that it was prophetic religion that really had force and the leaders were willing to die for it. They had these high principles. The segregationists used church to reinforce their convictions but they didn’t have the same energy because they didn’t have the moral foundation.

It was the New Testament. Resist not evil. Love your enemy. It all comes from Tolstoy’s later writing when he embraced his own form of Christianity. He inspired Gandhi. They corresponded. MLK followed the example. Don’t answer evil with evil. Give love in response to evil.

Which is hard.

It’s seriously hard. But anyone can realize that if you’re sitting there in the photograph being attacked by police dogs and offering no violence in return, you’ve won. You don’t win against evil by being evil.

The movement now doesn’t have religious conviction.

It’s postmodern. It’s completely abandoned the absolute values that were undergirding the civil rights movement. Values are whatever works to seize and sustain power. Now it’s just power against power with no underlying absolute value. We have narratives, not values.

The push for justice and not being treated with bias is good but when you start pushing the police lines because you have demands based on what the people did who rioted last week and treating people like animals to get what you want – that’s not the moral high ground.

It’s Saul Alinsky not Martin Luther King, Jr. If the conservatives could wake up the same way. A hundred thousand people show up and sit down on the steps of the Capitol and refuse to leave, demand an investigation of the election. That’s a sit-in with a clear objective. Just sit peacefully and force the troops to carry them away. How would the media condemn them? That would be a way to ask for an investigation to find out whatever actually happened and move on. Everyone turns it into a struggle to the death because they want to turn the opposition into the enemy.

Well art can still save the world, Dave, right?

It’s certainly a way of sitting still and refusing to move. Wasn’t it Dostoevsky who said beauty will save the world? It’s worth a try. 

Artist Calls January-April Deadlines

January 31, 2021 – FISH PUBLISHING |SHORT MEMOIR PRIZE 2021 Ten memoirs will be selected for publication in the Fish Anthology 2021. Judge: Blake Morrison Word Limit: 4,000 Entry Fee. Details: http://bitly.com/2NOBgv8

January 31, 2021 – CALL FOR WOMXN ARTISTS: INTERNATIONAL PRINT ISSUE #25 Create! Magazine Is Pleased To Announce An International Open Call For The Print Issue #25 Juried By Danielle Krysa. Have your work seen by our 200,000+ readers and followers around the world, including leading galleries, art fairs, collectors, curators, writers, art consultants, and more. A portion of all submission fees will go to the Tessera Arts Collective and Black Girls Who Paint. Application Fee. Details: http://bitly.com/3gjdxj6 OR [email protected]

January 31, 2021 – 2021 CAINE PRIZE FOR AFRICAN WRITING The Caine Prize for African Writing is an annual literary award for the best original short story by an African writer, whether in Africa or elsewhere, published in the English language. Unpublished and self-published work is not eligible for the Caine Prize. Only fictional work is eligible. Indicative length is between 3,000 and 10,000 words. No Entry Fee. Details: http://bitly.com/31vGuSG

January 31, 2021 – KOSCHATZKY ART AWARD 2021 The competition is organised by the Rotary Club Wien-Albertina and Rotaract Club Wien-Albertina. Each artist may submit a maximum of three art works on paper, on any theme. The maximum dimensions are 100 x 140 cm without frame and 110 x 150 cm with frame. Only online submissions will be accepted. No Entry Fee. Details: http://bitly.com/34z5Hgu

February 01, 2021 – ANIMAYO 2021 POSTER CONTEST Artists around the world are invited to submit their original artwork to the annual Animayo Festival POSTER CONTEST. The poster will have as its theme the world of creativity and imagination, the world of ideas and inspiration and will represent one or several of these three aspects: animation, visual effects, virtual reality. Entries should be sent via email. No Entry Fee. Details: http://bitly.com/3dPLbf8

February 01, 2021 – RHS PHOTOGRAPHIC COMPETITION 2021 The RHS Photographic Competition is organised by the Royal Horticultural Society. The RHS Photographic Competition inspires young and old alike to get outdoors and record how enriching and inspiring gardens and plants can be. There are 10 categories: Gardens, Welcoming wildlife, Plants, Creative, Macro, Indoor gardening,Under 18s (age 11-17), Under 11s, Social Media, Portfolio. No Entry Fee. Details: http://bitly.com/2ji7e1s

February 07, 2021 – PINK LADY® FOOD PHOTOGRAPHER OF THE YEAR 2021 Pink Lady Food Photographer of the Year is the global competition celebrating the art of food photography. ⌈ Open to professional and non-professional, old and young, the Awards celebrate the very best in food photography and film from around the world. The 25 categories cover the full cultural range of the depiction of food in society – there is something for everyone. Entry Fee. Details: http://bitly.com/2gaKoX9

February 07, 2021 – NO BIGGER THAN A BREADBOX | CALL FOR SMALL WORKS A fun, biennial juried exhibition celebrating the innovation of artists who create work on a small scale (12” max in any direction) and in a broad range of media and styles. $1,000+ in cash awards, 60-70 works selected for display at The Emporium Center, April 2-30, in downtown Knoxville, TN’s Arts District. Submissions may represent any subject matter. Juror: Joan Bontempo. Entry Fee. Details: 865-523-7543 OR http://www.knoxalliance.com/breadbox OR [email protected]

February 15, 2021 – APILA’S FIRST PRINTING AWARD 2021 Apila Ediciones in collaboration with the High School of Design of Aragón, School of Arts in Zaragoza and with the support of its Town Hall, announces “Apila’s 2021 First Printing Award”. This is an international illustrated picture book contest to promote creativity and enrich children’s literature with an educational scope. No Entry Fee. Details: http://bitly.com/2TcNVtd

February 15, 2021 – NIKON PHOTO CONTEST 2020 2021 The 2020-2021 Nikon Photo Contest is comprised of two competitions with varying deadlines : • Photo Competition – Entrants may submit single images and photo stories (2-5 images per story); • Short Film Competition – videos 3-5 min. Open category theme in both competitions is “Connect”. Next Generation category theme, open to artists aged 25 years old and younger, is “Passion”. No Entry Fee. Details: http://bitly.com/3jnGolX

February 19, 2021 – CANCER UNWRAPPED WRITING CONTEST The Cancer Unwrapped Teen Writing Contest invites students to submit essays about their experiences with cancer for the opportunity to win one of several $1,000 cash prizes. Every winning essay has been honest, heartfelt, and unique. Open to students in the United States in grades 9-12. Essay length must range between 500 and 1,000 words. No Entry Fee. Details: http://bitly.com/38tnBT5

February 28, 2021 – SLOWART PRODUCTIONS | ARTE NATURA Arte Natura is a thematic exhibition based on art inspired by the natural world. The exhibition will be held at the Limner Gallery, May 13 – June 5, 2021 and is open to all artists working in any media. All interpretations of the theme are acceptable, including landscape, fruits, vegetables, flowers and fauna and human figuration as part of the natural environment. Entry Fee. Details: http://www.slowart.com/prospectus/natura21.htm

March 02, 2021 – JACKSON’S PAINTING PRIZE 2021 The competition is organised annually by the Jackson’s Art Supplies. Artists may submit artworks in any painting or drawing media. The competition has the following categories: • Animal • Portrait / Figure • Landscape / Cityscape / Seascape • Still Life / Botanical • Abstract / Non-representational • Scenes of Everyday Life You can submit up to a total of 5 artworks. Entry Fee. Details: http://bitly.com/35EmRIe

March 12, 2021 – THE BIENNIAL OF POSTER BOLIVIA BICEBé® 2021 The Biennial of the Poster Bolivia BICeBé® is the most important international event of design and visual arts in Bolivia and the Southern Cone. More than 15,000 student and professional designers have participated of the activities and from more than 76 countries around the world has been part of the exhibitions. No Entry Fee. Details: http://bitly.com/3jkCB9h

March 13, 2021 – ACADEMIC ARTISTS ASSOC. 71ST EXHIB. OF TRADITIONAL REALISM Online show. Up to $7500 in awards. Open to any living artist in the USA or abroad. Work submitted must have been created no more than five years prior to January 1, 2021. Any original representational art in the categories of Oils, Acrylics, Watercolors, Graphics, Pastels and Sculpture – Casein and Egg Tempera will be judged with Acrylics. Two submissions allowed per artist. Entry Fee. Details: http://academicartistsassociation.org

March 18, 2021 – 2021 ISTANBUL PHOTO AWARDS Istanbul Photo Awards is an international news photography competition organised by Anadolu Agency, Turkey. There are six categories: Single News, Single Sports, Story News, Story Sports, Story Daily Life, Story Portrait. Photographers may submit both published and unpublished photos. Photos must be taken in the year 2020. No Entry Fee. Details: http://bitly.com/2EwgfPZ

March 26, 2021 – 2021 WORLD OF WEARABLEART DESIGN COMPETITION The World of WearableArt Awards is an annual international wearable art competition. ⌈ World of WearableArt (WOW) is an internationally renowned design competition that attracts entries from over 40 countries. Anything that is wearable art can find a place on the stage, as long as it is original, innovative and well executed.⌋ No Entry Fee. Details: http://bitly.com/2BiO0QW

April 01, 2021 – 2021 WERGLE FLOMP HUMOR POETRY CONTEST The contest is organised by Winning Writers. You may submit one humor poem, in English. Your poem should not exceed 250 lines in length. You may submit published or unpublished work. No Entry Fee. Details: http://bitly.com/2l8f0zu

April 04, 2021 – EARTH.ORG GLOBAL WILDLIFE & NATURAL WORLD PHOTOGRAPHY 2021 Earth.Org invites explorers, professional photographers and photographers working on the front line of wildlife conservation across the world to submit their photographs for the following categories: • Overall Best Environmental Photo • Wildlife in Peril • Human Impacts on the Environment No Entry Fee. Details: http://bitly.com/3dLrcOw

Santelli’s stream of consciousness

Minstream 17, Bill Santelli, colored pencil on paper

A three-person exhibition, Constellations, featuring paintings, drawings, and installation works by Sara Baker Michalak, Bill Santelli, and Mizin Shin will open shortly at Main Street Arts. It’s curated around the commonality of their work. Each, in different ways, builds a patterned image—loosely or with gridded regularity—that aims for the cosmic. As with every painting, the particulars matter because of their unity within the whole work, but in this case the particulars are mostly effaced within the flow of what’s happening everywhere else.

I’ve known Bill for years and was pleased to hear that he’d been invited into this show, having seen these new drawings on Instagram over the past year. Like his Prismacolor drawings in the Path series, these explorations of thought—the honeycomb of ovals suggestive of thinking’s fragmented flow—represent a patient, repetitive and extremely disciplined practice using the simplest combinations of tone and line. In the Path series, he creates long, languid and pliant streaks of color that evoke tall grass bending in a breeze, where each line creates cells of pale monochrome. They are like leaded panes of stained glass, but also look surprisingly like glimpses of dawn breaking over wetlands.

In these newer drawings, his colors are even simpler and richer, and the minimalism of the Path drawings has been reduced to a grid of loops with less reference to nature. When I asked him to describe what went into the drawings, he wrote “I began these drawings after reading about the concept of ‘mindstream’ in Buddhist philosophy, which is described as . . . the moment-to-moment flow of sense impressions and mental phenomena.”

He offered some background on his preoccupations in this work. He’s been reading a lot about Krishnamurti—a long-standing source of inspiration for his work—and watching videos of his talks. Krishnamurti’s focus consistently returned to a mindfulness that pulls back from the conscious mind’s endless jabber, the flow of that in-the-head narrator. He urged his listeners to impartially observe the operation of their own minds in an attempt to disengage from the grip of reactive thought and action. (Isn’t that a good phrase for our current national disease?) These drawings, for Santelli, grapple with his awareness of his own thought bubbles, as it were, floating past as he meditates or walks—pulling him away from being fully present and aware. Krishnamurti’s central point is to get his practitioner to disengage and become an observer of everything the mind is doing–to simply be aware of it all, and that awareness alone will awaken a kind of intelligence that isn’t simply conscious reasoning. It’s a bit like the Greeks referred to as nous. If you see yourself clearly, down to the roots of your behavior and thinking, both of those are changed as a result of that clarity.

Not that this is necessarily what Santelli is attempting to represent here. But it’s related. As he puts it in his statement for the show: “As with all my work, the drawings are an introspective process – I find myself reflecting on the inner journey, about letting go of old forms and opening to new ones, of balancing the path inward with the pathway outward. The choreography of shapes and colors creates a motion across the paper, a fluid yet gently turbulent “mindstream” that arises and passes away in each moment.”

As with the Path series, these drawings are in colored pencil—mostly Prismacolors in the ultramarine and dark gold images. He’s also working with Caran d’ache Luminance pencils in the brighter work for “a palette shift.”  He says, “The Caran d’ache colors are really nice, but each pencil costs almost $5!” he joked. When I asked about his shift from the Path series to this new mode, he said he continues to do the Path work, but they take much longer to complete.

He’ll be showing one 22 x 30 inch drawing in this Mindstream series and the rest are much smaller.  For those he worked with strips of paper cut from larger sheets used with the bigger work. “I had these strips laying around and I was able to get the most individual paintings by cutting the strips down to 5.75” x 8”. I’m happy with what I’m doing in the Mindstream work.”

I asked why the ovals? “I have used geometric shapes (circles, squares, triangles, rectangles) in other series of drawings I’ve done.  But the oval, hardly ever.  Visually, I think of the oval more as a form for these considering drawings (inspired by forms and shapes I was seeing on my morning walks), and also what I was trying to convey – which was (and here he quoted his statement in progress) “a choreography of shape/form moving across the paper – each individual shape/form representing a separate thought, that would arise and fall away as I worked.”

Call for Art: Reciprocity

C A L L   F O R   A R T

Woman Made Gallery, Chicago, Illinois



Reciprocity
An exhibition of photography and image-based artist pairs
 
ON VIEW: March 4 – April 3, 2021

SUBMISSIONS DEADLINE:  January 31, 2021

  Exhibition Description:
Reciprocity is a relation of mutual dependence, action or influence. In photography, reciprocity refers to the relationship between the aperture (f-stop) and shutter speed, which work dependently and inversely to capture light. It is the key to the perfect exposure.

In reciprocal relationships, like in any collaborative act, ideas and conversations are exchanged, enriching participants intellectually and emotionally. Whether through aesthetic bond, mentor/mentee relationships, friendship, photographer/subject or teacher to student, our pursuits are sustained by these relationships.

To celebrate the reciprocal bonds that enrich our photographic practices, Woman Made Gallery invites women-identified and non-binary artists from the local, national, and international communities to pair their photograph or image-based work with that of another practicing photographer or image maker with whom they are in conversation.  

2 and 3 dimensional forms, plus video will be considered. 
  Juried by Collaborators Barbara Ciurej + Lindsay Lochman   $45 total application fee covers both artists in one submission. The artist pair may submit up to two pairs of work (four works total, two from each artist). Detail images may be submitted per each work if necessary.

Fee Waiver Available: A limited number of artists who experience financial hardship may be exempt from paying the entry fee; please send us an email to request a fee waiver: [email protected].

  One joint statement: Applicants are required to submit one statement explaining the role reciprocity plays in the joint submission, as well as a artist bio for each artist.  We encourage entries of recent works, but there is no restriction in the creation date. Accepted artworks must not exceed 72″ horizontally and must not have been previously shown at WMG. 
CLICK HERE TO SUBMIT WORK | https://womanmadegallery.submittable.com/submit
_________________________________________________________________________

YOUR DONATIONS HELP MAKE WMG’S EXHIBITIONS AND PROGRAMS POSSIBLE!
Woman Made Gallery is supported in part by grants from The Chicago Department of Cultural Affairs and Special Events; The Gaylord and Dorothy Donnelley Foundation; The Illinois Arts Council Agency; a major anonymous donor; and the generosity of its members and contributors.

Love for the Win

“Heart Wins,” from the Take Heart series

Once upon a time, I spent the week between Christmas and New Year’s reviewing the previous year, evaluating it, and forecasting/goalcasting the year ahead. You might say I was an overachiever with  resolutions.

Some years, I was bullet-point specific. Like when I determined to go on an archaeological dig, learn salsa dancing, and take up archery: check, check, check. (I discovered that I hated the heat and dirt of the dig, I wasn’t a fan of prescribed dance steps, but I was a decent aim.)

 

Other years, I was more open-ended, listing four to five feelings I wanted to cultivate. Once, I painted a four-point compass with harmony at its center and joy, peace, prosperity, and grace as its north, south, east, and west.

 

At the end of December 2019, while housesitting at a lovely home, high on a hill—as I had for many years—I sat in front of the fire and started my review and projection. 

 

Or I tried to. 

 

I even had a fancy calendar that led you through all the steps with lots of questions to answer and blanks to fill in. (I should note that I am very good about answering all the questions and filling in all the blanks.) And yet, as I flipped through the pages I usually looked forward to filling, I found myself completely uninspired by all the specificity. 


For once, I didn’t want to grip the steering wheel of my life so hard and beeline for the next goal. And believe me: I can beeline! From putting myself through undergraduate and graduate school on scholarships to getting a grant to write poetry in Germany for a year to all manner of less scholastic but equally daunting goals since: I. Get. It. Done. 

 

But those last days before 2020, I didn’t want to get it all done. Because I had a hunch that there were things waiting to happen if I were willing to let go of my limited ideas of what I could achieve and maintain in my own strength. And so, to my surprise, I found myself writing the word “Love” in big, loose cursive across all those usually inviting blanks I was “supposed” to fill in.

 

Fun facts: Just over a month into 2020, I began dating an old friend. Then he proposed. Then we got married. And we have spent the last half year learning the intricacies of love—and I could not have forecast any of them!

 

So, for 2021, I didn’t buy the fancy, fill-in-the-blank calendar. In fact, I’m using one of those free company calendars. I’m keeping it simple. And I’m metaphorically writing love across every month. 

 

And on this Day of Epiphany—a feast day celebrating the manifestation of the One who is Love—I invite the continual manifestation of Love to us all…in all its unpredictable forms, across all the days of this year.  

Monastic. Cheap. Admirable.

Does anyone still remember those skits on Conan from more than two decades ago where President Clinton would appear as a digital mask worn by Robert Smigel? The writer did a ludicrous, but hilarious, impersonation of Bubba as a Southern party boy living it up and getting away with everything and anything. “I gotsta gotsta have my snacks,” he crowed. And he was talking as much about Monica Lewinski as a side of French fries. A still shot of Clinton’s face on the monitor was lowered into the guest position beside Conan’s desk and within that motionless and grinning face, Smigel’s real-time mouth displaced Clinton’s lips—the writer’s mouth speaking his lines while the President’s face was still frozen into that vote-getting, Teflon grin. It was very funny and outrageous, and it would probably be impossible to perform these days, given much of what was being said, for many reasons. It was so over-the-top and explicit that it took on a reality all its own. (Come to think of it, that would be a good way to describe much of the art world over the last century.)

Those Smigel skits were the first thing that struck me when I saw these $100 portraits of women at The New York Times. The eyes in some of them look as if it were somehow possible to have Photoshopped them into the paintings, like Smigel’s good-old-boy accent. Could the paintings have been done on top of the photographs used as a support? Regardless, they’re good. I loved those boundary-testing skits on Conan, because they simply pointed out that when someone is doing what you want him to do, he can get away with nearly everything else in his life. Again, like the rules that once obtained in the art world. (Rewatching the first season of The Wire this week confirmed that lesson as well in terms of Baltimore politics and law enforcement as observed by David Simon.) In my view, the ends are never enough to justify the means, and integrity matters, but I may be in the minority these days.

In these one painting-per-day style portraits, Jean Smith conveys a subject’s eyes with an eerie photographic precision about how the cornea and iris reflect light, but the eyes are framed by a gesturally primitive mask. These souls are looking out at you from behind their own almost graffiti faces. A few of them I wish I’d bought: I mean, why not, for $100? But I like them. Yet her point is to undermine the economy that continues to push the ownership of visual art into an elite economic ghetto of the uber wealthy.

I shouldn’t be talking this way. The work I’m doing now takes weeks without it’s done without interruptions, usually a minimum of four weeks per painting, but also as long as two months with the sort of interruptions that you face when you actually have a life outside the studio, as I still do. No one can afford to put in four to six to eight weeks on a painting that sells for $100. But the point Nick Marino makes in his piece for the Times is that artists aren’t even reaping the actual profits of what has become an extension of the stock market—paintings are now purchased for high prices at the start and then their value is repeatedly inflated through resale or auction, simply as some corollary to day trading Silicon Valley stocks or investing in Bitcoin. (This can’t last. Our financially leveraged economic boom will not continue forever. The art world bubble will burst along with the others, but it may go on for quite a while.)

I love the idea of doing paintings quickly and selling them for unusually low prices. Jim Mott and Harry Stooshinoff are making wonderful, even remarkable paintings in this mode, along with many others. These quick portraits of women offer a continuous experimentation in ways of seeing and representing nothing more than how light lands on an individual face and how the eyes look out from the prison that personhood can seem—when in fact human individuality is the greatest miracle of life.

Excerpts from Marino’s piece:

I can appreciate that beauty has monetary value, particularly for the one and only example of a particular exquisiteness. Someone spent time making it, and that person should be compensated. But even modest artworks can be out of reach for almost anyone who’s not a real estate mogul, shipping magnate, stockbroker or oil baron. Under the sanctimonious cover of “arts patronage,” these plutocrats use art to launder their money, trading up the value of young artists and enriching one another in the process. The artists, meanwhile, get paid only once, on the initial sale. The end result is (artwork) that costs as much as a Honda Civic.

Opting not to use a gallery, Smith listed each of her works on Facebook for the ludicrously low price of $100. She could certainly charge more, but the egalitarian price is the point. It’s her version of the $5 tickets Fugazi used to sell to its all-ages shows — and anyway, she has never needed much to survive. For the past quarter-century, she has lived alone and monastically in an apartment without a sofa or kitchen table (she eats off a filing cabinet), and her monthly expenses, including rent and utilities, total about $1,000. She only needs to sell 10 pieces per month to break even — though that has never been her problem.

Well, that’s all she needs to make if she doesn’t pay taxes. But at that level of income, she wouldn’t need to pay taxes. He points out that having created an insatiable demand for her low-budget art, she can’t keep up with it. The question is, does she keep her prices low or do what the free market naturally does when demand far exceeds supply: let prices rise as far as demand will lift them. I’m guessing it will depend on whether she ever gets a mortgage. I hope she continues to live monastically, as Marino describes her lifestyle. Monastic is almost always unimpeachable as a way to live, especially for an artist. Thoreau, or “Pond Scum” as The New Yorker referred to him once (at the link, you’ll see a note at the bottom of the essay pointing out the original headline), proved that monastic individuality isn’t such a bad way to live until people come in the winter and start cutting up your pond and selling it as blocks of ice.

The other takeaway here: hey, Facebook is still good for something.

GPMA News January 2021


January 2021 eNews

Happy New Year. We hope to connect with all of you soon. Keep checking the museum website for any updates regarding exhibits, events, and more.
Enjoy! Hyla Executive Director
Click here to visit our website
Current Exhibition The membership exhibit will remain in the museum through January 22. Currently the museum is closed – but you can view each entry in the exhibit by watching the video (see below). GPMA 2020 Membership Exhibit Video What’s Next? The Exhibition Department has been very busy keeping up with the many changes in schedules. Following is a preview of a preliminary list of exhibits for 2021. This list is totally subject to change due to circumstances that the museum cannot control. Vince Carl Kristen O’Neill Rogue Valley Biennial Ilene Gienger-Stanfield 2021 Membership Exhibit Sakaya Ganz Reclaimed Creations

Save These Dates
Black, White, & the Blues will be virtual this year.
MARCH 25 – stay tuned for more information! We are almost positive that Art in the Garden will be live because it is an outdoor activity and it is not until June 12 & 13. Virtual Classes SIGN UP HERE Happenings If you would like to have a private shopping experience – we are happy to open the gallery just for you. We are offering private shopping for customers limiting going out in public. They may make an appointment by calling, 541 476 3220.

Help keep the museum free for all! The museum does not receive government funding (other than grants from the Josephine County Cultural Coalition and the Oregon Cultural Trust via JCCC). So keeping the doors open depends on grants, donations, memberships, sponsorships, and rent from the street level businesses (Shoefly and Gallery One). You can do one time donations and you can also do monthly donations. It’s easy – and we appreciate you very much! On additional side benefit – the foundations who offer grants are very pleased to see community involvement. Your donations show your support!
You can DONATE by clicking here

Monthly donations are so amazing. They add up quickly. Just $10 a month means a donation to the museum of $120 for the year. That’s fabulous. Please consider this option. The payments safely charged to your credit card.
Be a “Monthly Sustainer” and click here!

You can also call us at 541-479-3290 or send mail to us at Grants Pass Museum of Art, P.O. Box 966, Grants Pass, OR 97528

Do you shop on Amazon? This quarter, we received $24.29. Every little bit helps a lot. Thank you! Did you know that if you go to a special link called Amazon Smile you can choose a nonprofit to benefit from your purchase. Each nonprofit has a unique link. Here’s the portal you can use for the museum. Every little bit helps! CLICK HERE or click the picture to shop and benefit the museum.The best part is that it doesn’t cost you any extra!



THANK YOU! If you get this far….here’s a wonderful hand painted 2021 calendar to enjoy.

Mannerly, Bannerly

This little poem is my wish & my wonder for the New Year:  


Mannerly, Bannerly

 

When all manner of bad 

lands in our laps, 

and the mean things 

land in our news feed,

what if, 

instead of responding 

in kind,

we respond in kindness?

What if 

we invite the other to dinner,

polish our best manners,

and serve goodness?

What if

we lift a banner of love,

lifting each other up,

until there is no other?  



*The illustration above is from Blessings: A Children’s Book for Grown-ups, cowritten with my dear mom, Jan Elkins         

 

Building New Muscles – Figure Drawing Class

For me, learning these days is all about “building new muscles”. Hi!  Let me explain what I mean.  You see, I have been taking a drawing class titled “Elements of Figuring Drawing, Anatomy for Artists” for the past few months.   It is an online class through The Art Students League of New York.  And, …

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The post Building New Muscles – Figure Drawing Class appeared first on Margaret Stermer-Cox.

FELLOWSHIP FOR OREGON VISUAL ARTISTS

THE STUDIOS AT MASS MoCA FELLOWSHIP FOR OREGON VISUAL ARTISTS

The Studios at MASS MoCA is the Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Arts’ artist residency program at the largest contemporary arts center in the US. We are currently accepting applications for our Summer/Fall 2021 residency season.

Thanks to a partnership with The Ford Family Foundation, we will be offering a fully-funded 2- or 4-week residencies to two visual artists who have resided in Oregon for at least 3 years. As part of this award, fellows will receive:

  • A travel stipend and all residency fees waived
  • Private, furnished studio space at MASS MoCA, available 24/7
  • Housing in newly renovated, shared apartments directly across the street from the museum.
  • One communal meal per day in the company of fellow artists-in-residence.
  • MASS MoCA member benefits for the duration of the residency, including free access to the museum’s galleries, The Clark, and discounts on performing arts events and museum store purchases.
  • Access to basic printmaking presses and two weaving looms.
  • An optional one-on-one artist-focused financial and business coaching session with the Assets for Artists staff.

More details about the residency, facilities, and this fellowship in particular are on our website: www.massmoca.org/Studios

There is no application fee. Deadline is January 8, 2021.