Friday, July 23, 2010

44,000 Friends!

So many new shows and art events are happening around our county, but alas, I will not be able to review them for several weeks. Visit Artwach for his commentary while I take a break and do my part for the youth of America and our nation’s future generation of leaders. This is my last post until August 5th. With that in mind, I wanted to take a moment to explain where I am going and why.

Fort A.P Hill Virginia, one of our US Army bases, will become the 5th largest city in the State of Virginia within the next 48 hours. This is the last time our BSA National Jamboree will be held here so it is with some sadness that I realize I may not do this job ever again. The 2005 Jamboree was a life altering experience for me and many in our Scouting family. 4 adult leaders died in a tragic and gruesome accident witnessed by their sons and other youth from the state of Alaska. As prepared as we are, trained in first aid and other such needs, no one was able to save them, only to save the lives of those who tried to come to their aid and would have died as well in the process. The details are not necessary. A few short days later, more than 3000 people, mostly youth, were overcome by heat in yet another tragic situation. No one died from a direct result of the circumstances, but lives were forever changed, mine in particular. I was on adjunct security duty that day. What I saw will never leave me. I was finally moved to tears when I saw soldiers carrying young boys in their arms, loading them onto the Secret Service staff bus that has been commandeered as a giant ambulance. Medivac helicopters dropped to the ground one after the other scooping up people on makeshift stretchers, their ground blades barely touching the earth before flying away. I allowed myself one “mom” moment before clicking back into leadership mode and helping scoutmasters locate their missing youth. In the mass evacuation process, groups and gotten separated and all 44,000 needed to be accounted for.

Earlier in the Jamboree itself, a major storm ripped apart our Merit Badge Midway where my Art Merit Badge booth was located. Supplies, displays, equipment and so forth were scattered and soaked. I tried to help in the wind and rain to capture and secure what I could from other booths but at some point was literally put into an SUV and told to go back to my barracks. Later, one of the old scouters brought me some photos of my space. I cried again, all that work destroyed so I thought. But no, scouts are natural helpers. The next day he and his crew helped me make it all right again. But he had cried too, right along with me the night before in order to make a point to me that everything is a matter of perspective. On a stoop, in the soggy misty humid remnants of the storm, he told me about his three days in a raft in the Pacific Ocean watching his buddies die one after the other. He told me about the military guy who came down from a helicopter on a rope with supplies and such until a proper rescue could be orchestrated. He told the young man to get back on that rope and save himself as were his orders. But the young soldier refused and he stayed with my injured friend, saving his life in the long run. The rest of the story is not mine to tell but his point to me was well made.

I could go on and on with such stories from that 2005 Jamboree. As I head out to the 2010 Jamboree in 101 degree heat, this time with my own staff along for the ride, I keep in my heart the advice that was given to me last time when I was a lone staffer. I am about to join 44,000 of my closest friends, I just have not met them yet.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

News to Share...

I posted this on my Website too but who knows if anybody really goes over there to look at it.Below is a listing of all the good things that are coming up as far as my art career is concerned. Remember my earlier posting about it being like a roller coaster?

Before I head out to Fort A.P. Hill in a few days for a nice stint in the women's cell block (aka barracks), I hope to do one more posting on this coming Friday. The next one will be right before the August First Friday.

3 pieces in Richeson 75 Figure and Portrait 2010 (Pastels) Book due out Fall of 2010

Included as one of 69 artists in Stark Arthology by Indigo Press (Acrylic) Book due out Nov 2010

5 pieces at Gallery 6000 – “Women Eclectic” (Pastels) Group Show

Solo Show at MassMu Studio M – Jan 14 – Feb 20, 2011 (Pastels) Solo Show

Solo Show at Old Stone Gallery in Cleveland – Feb to April 2011 (Acrylics) Solo Show

Piece in the Uncensored National Juried Show at Anderson Creative, Oct 2010 (Collage) Juried Show

Guest speaker for the Westlake-Westshore Arts Council, Sept 2010

and....a float in the Hall of Fame Parade for the BSA 100th Anniversary (Design only, construction by dedicated engineers - not artists.)

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Me, Myself and I

If you are a follower (or a lurker), you may have noticed that I changed my profile picture. Seems the family voted that I looked too old and not at all like me in the pastel self portrait which I drew a months ago. Okay, so I have never been able to really see my own image in a mirror or any place else for that matter. I truly have no idea what I look like. Pictures are one thing, but how we see ourselves is not like what is seen by others.

Coming in August at Snarky Art…the Studio, will be my two self portraits done at 40 and 45. I need to work on the Artist at 50 painting because that date is fast approaching! Neither the “at 40” or “at 45” paintings show my face. The self portraits I paint are about my life, not my image. The paintings done every 5 years are not about me, they are about “me”. Can I explain that any further? Not really, one will understand when they see the actual paintings. The stories contained in them are probably known only to me and those who were a part of them. Self portraits are so hard!

At the latest Folk Friday, the sparse crowd made it a bit difficult to find “victims” for the portrait chair, so I ended using an image of Lynn D’s just for practice, and Marti JD did a painting of me while I drew my only real person, Craig. He later said he had been “Krewed” which I found hilarious.

To get to my point, our own image is a strange and mysterious thing. We will never see our own face unless an identical twin, and even then, personalities intervene. So who are we really? Are we a measure of the company we keep? Are we a product of our environment? Both questions can be topics of dissertations at the highest levels of education, but I have a question that has yet to be answered….if you can give me a true and proven answer, I would truly appreciate it!!

Assume a person is born deaf, totally and completely deaf, never having heard a human voice. If so, then what is the “voice” that is heard inside their own head when “thinking to themselves?” You as a hearing person would “hear” words, phrases and voices, but if you are born with no ability to know what is the human voice, then what do you “hear” in your own “thoughts” when talking to yourself? How are thoughts processed? Does a stone deaf from birth person use imagery, color and concept of touch to make thoughts? This idea has always fascinated me. How does one explain it to a deaf person who cannot process the concept of vocalization? If sound is not a part of brain function and processing of information, then what replaces it? Who is the person or self within their own body and mind?

Okay, so it was more than one question, but I would still like a viable answer.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

FAO's and A's

Human behavior is quite fascinating. From my floor (I sit down to paint due to a longstanding back injury), I have observed some interesting reactions over just the past couple of days. For example….

People will not come into a space when I am sitting there working, even when spoken to and invited in, they will back away and pretend to find something interesting elsewhere. Even the obvious observation that I don’t bite and you won’t bother me does nothing to alleviate their zoo tour mentality. Nobody event tosses me a peanut either. Maybe I should put out a bowl of candy and a jar for quarters like other venues for feeding the carp at the park.

People who have never been into the gallery before will ask if “we” made all of this “stuff”, stuff being the work of dozens of other artists. Unspoken response…. “No, we just stole it from lots of other places to decorate this big space.”, or…”yes, Monday is glass day, Tuesday is ceramics, Wednesday is jewelry unless we feel like painting, Thursday is welding, but could also be painting and Friday is really painting but could be drawing if it is raining.”

People ask if it is for sale. Hmmm….my unspoken answer to that one was….”No, just grab something and run. We have bets going on which one of us can take you down first as it passes the time.”

I like the question….are these all yours? Okay, do I say “no, the monkeys are off on Mondays and I am filing in, or do I say “only for now, because that big one worth a grand was bought by your wife as surprise so it is really yours!”

Being on the floor, I get the innocent question, “how can you sit like that? “Nice me will say, because of my back. Snarky me wants to say, well first the hip joint flexes so as to allow the spinal column to descend towards the floor. Begin a biped; the knees flex backwards allowing me to make contact once gravity does its thing……”

How about the obvious…”so are you here working?” No, I am dressed in paint covered clothing with a bucket of water and a pallet of paints and the brush is making contact with the canvas so as to demonstrate how art is made for the benefit of those who think we really steal all this stuff.”

“How long does it take to make one of those?” Nice me… (sort of)….2 weeks or so, (but it would be faster if you’d stop interrupting me.) Snarky me….. I don’t make them, I paint them. Some factory in China probably makes them. I just decorate the surface because plain white is so over rated these days.

Do you give lessons? Nice me…not right now, maybe in the fall. Snarky me, no honey, I don’t give anything away. You want a lesson, you pay for it.

On the most recent First Friday, I sat outside the door, across the aisle so as to allow for the maximum number of people in the studio space. I heard laughter and some snorts of disgust, much finger pointing and elbowing of companions. Many flipped through the stacks of prints and then the usual would happen….they walk out the door, look at me with a moment of hesitation, point and say…”you did this! You’re the artist!!” I’d smile and nod, but in my mind were a multitude of snarky comments not fit for print, but perhaps will be for paint. So stop by and please do step from carpet to flooring, it is not electrified…..yet.

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Come on down!

I attended the awards ceremony for the Canton Luminaries Photography Competition at the Saxton Gallery on Friday night. As each winning entry was projected on the wall, only a handful were ones I had picked out during the voting process, which goes to prove that we all have different tastes and that I don’t know what goes into the making of a good photo. I only know if I like it or not. An extensive list of what to look for had been provided at the initial public voting event, but I am not one to follow directions if there are too many (hence my lack of creative cooking). I considered entering the contest until I read the long list of requirements as to how to enlarge, mat and present the images for jury. Again, that was a pretty long and complicated list if one is not a photographer by trade. The option to have the gallery handle that aspect was offered for a fee, but my Scottish heritage would not allow me to part with the money. After all, I am probably one of the few in town with a frequent shopper card from the Goodwill store.

So my point is, I am not comfortable writing about things I don’t really understand all that well. This is an opinion blog, not a paid reviewer situation. What I can talk about is the next phase of what is happening in the Arts District (note the capitalization so I can refer to it as the AD from here on out….). Maybe it is not really a phase, but an extension of what happens when people are willing to think outside the box. Case in point, 2nd April’s latest incarnation as an event location. Now that I sit right in the middle of the sandbox so to speak, I see and hear quite a bit more than I used to. Besides a lot of painting material (the cone of silence has yet to be activated), I can toss my 2 cents out the door from my spot on the floor. In case you have not seen me, I paint sitting on the floor due to a previous and long standing (no pun intended) back injury.

For four nights in a row, the main floor space was used for private events, a book signing, an anniversary party and a theater reception. Much to the angst of the owners regarding the safety of the surrounding artwork, everything turned out just fine. What a great idea to use available space for things normally held in less vibrant surroundings. On the flip side, a portion of Joseph Close’s show was recently temporarily relocated to be part of another one night event. Kinda cool that the art goes where the action is and visa versa. So what to do with this idea? Box it up and package it as a business option because otherwise the venues become in danger of being used by “friends” who ask “favors”, a rolling snowball that can get out of hand far too fast.

Because of our creativity and often accommodating nature, artists are highly susceptible to the “could you please donate, give, loan, make or otherwise do something for nothing” crowd (think of the “exposure!”). Would you ask a plumber to come do a job for nothing? How about getting one’s grass cut by the neighbor kid, even he gets paid for his special services. So my point is that the vibration has begun. Now the locations need to figure out what to charge, to whom, when and for what services. Businesses should get together and develop comprehensive packages with different options for each location that ultimately don’t compete with each other. Caterers, chair rentals, decorators, bakeries, bartenders and so forth can join forces with the arts to double dip our AD. Private parties at Anderson, Saxton, and 2nd A could become the next wave of things to do. With that, the spaces need to figure liability, contracts for clean up and all those “what if” scenarios that need to be played out so the surroundings and installations are protected as well. As I have said before, I can Captain Picard really well, but somebody else has to “make it so”. On that note of upcoming parties….

Put on your calendars the House Party at 2nd April Galerie(324 Cleveland Ave NW) to be held August 20th to celebrate the reconfiguration of their space. Hopefully we will begin to PAD the downtown even more and PAD our pockets with some sales as a result of all the exposure…..(btw, PAD stands for Party in the Arts District). Give me time and this whole blog thing may be reduced to text -like type…though I have never texted in my life. Come to think of it, I have never taken a photo with a phone or typed on a phone or surfed on a phone…..I thought they were for “phone calls”. Goodness how ancient of me!

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Brittany Steigert – Paintings – MassMu Studio M

Before I get into this specific show, let me point out that museums are air conditioned! In these hot summer days, take a cooling break to go to Mass Mu, Canton, Akron or even Cleveland to enjoy hours of free cold air and quality entertainment. No crowds, no greasy foods, no screaming kids, no telephone talkers behind you (hopefully) and no deep pockets needed. Even the local college campuses and our own arts district have spaces with air conditioning so stay inside, but not at your own house.

Okay, I broke my own rule. With this review I have included an image from the show by the artist herself, Brittany Steigert. Why? Because first of all I make the rules, second because some rules are meant to be broken, and third…..because it is not often that one is stopped in their tracks with the “gift”. The “gift” as I have said before, is the talent given to someone that is beyond their control, the natural abilities they have been blessed with upon birth just as some people can shoot a hoop or play the drums far better than others. Ms. Steigert has the artists “gift”. Being young (she graduated Malone University this past spring,) she has years to develop her talents to their fullest ability, which should not take too long, perhaps a decade or so, but she is well on her way.

A decade?! Why so long? Because youth allows for the time to experiment and explore without being slotted into a category of style or imagery as will happen once she finds her true voice. For now, she should sing every song that appeal to her in the genre she has chosen. This show focuses on oil painting with some ink added every now and then. The statement lists fibers, wax and bleach as part of her media as well, but I did not find them in evidence. Granted, the oils may be mixed with wax or bleach as I am not an oil painter (can’t handle the fumes and toxins) so how those combinations would perform is out of my realm of understanding.

The show contains 18 pieces which present a consistent and well mounted show of color, scale, and presentation that read as one body of work. Personally, I would divide it into two and focus on the stronger 10 images that deal with light and reflection, but as an up and coming artist, that will happen in time as the voice becomes clearer. Both directions are strong and have merit, but the one is …and I don’t use this word lightly….stunning. Hence the image above as that is the word I wrote in my notebook. Not only does it capture light, but the depiction of time and dust and the vantage point of the artist/viewer all come together in an effortless presentation. Well done.

Others that are among her best are “I’ll Miss Fishing at the Cabin” with its hint of rolled papers and how light catches the edges of her elements and the far left panel of “Generation of the Depression Era”. Those bits of light tell the story and create the emotions that are relayed by the title. You all know how I feel about titles! The middle and right panel of the latter painting are not needed and detract a bit from the strength of the left panel; this is where editing comes into play.

There are no frames on any of the works which I like in this case. The sense of time and space are enhanced by not stopping the images with a frame. The tones of the gallery walls work in harmony with her color pallet. I found the rough surfaces of the canvas, the soft edges of the objects and the diffused light within them to all work together to add mystery and make her story telling that much more intriguing. The surfaces are in most cases “smooth” in their layering, more staining than impasto. To do that, an artist must be confident in their mark making, know what the media will do, where it will go and how it will react. Ms. Steigert learned her lessons well but I suspect she had the ability to trust herself before she was “taught’ to do so….that is the “gift” speaking.

It was refreshing to see a show that once again focused on the basic elements and building blocks of composition as well as one that did not reach for shock value or some weirded out explanation of the time / space continuum to justify subject matter. I can hear you out there asking, okay jk, what did you not like? Well, there are a few which I did not find as strong as some others, but so what. I did find them interesting to look at and explore, like the sewing machine and manual typewriter (ah, the good old days….). As I pointed out, her voice and vision are well on their way and she will be quite successful someday, no doubt about it, if she pursues images likes the one above.

Kudos to the Studio M of Mass Mu for providing a space to see work of our next generation of artists….skip the Bravo TV show, our locals are far better than that bunch of media miscasts.

Sunday, July 4, 2010


First let me say thank you to all who sent emails and notes regarding the opening of Snarky Art…the Studio. It was a wall to wall evening last Friday. I apologize for being delinquent in responding to any of them as I was celebrating a week on independence and freedom with my Scout troop. Since this is Independence Day, and I have not been to anyplace off the reservation for the last 7 days, I have no shows to review just yet. Today I want to write a bit about freedom and independence from a different point of view, a simple one.

Freedom from ambient light is a good place to start. Nothing can compare to sitting outside in silence, looking up at the sky and pointing out the Milky Way to boys who have only heard about it or seen pictures in school. Yes, it is really out there. Pointing out actual constellations as they are surrounded by other lesser stars and imaging how our ancestors picked them out and made stories to pass along throughout the generations. With only a campfire to illuminate faces, one tends to get lost in personal thoughts or more willing to share some inner feelings. The art of chopping wood and carving fuzzy sticks with a newly earned Totn’ Chip card is way cool for kids too. Swinging an axe becomes Tom Sawyer’s white fence.

Freedom from helicopter parenting which is new for many children raised today. Yes, your kid may not shower for 3 days or find out that too many slushies really will lead to some unfortunate side effects, but neither will kill them. They will learn that consequences really do exist for not doing something, having been used to Mom or Dad picking up the slack at home. They will learn that that when we say no food in the tents, that includes the itty bitty life saver at the bottom of a pack, it is still food. Raccoons aren’t picky so it was not your bunk mate that took your stuff. Walk back about 15 feet through the poison ivy and you will find your missing items (and probably don’t want them back anymore).

Freedom from comfort is a new thing for many kids today as well. Learning that when it rains, stuff gets wet and only the sun can dry it. Clean clothes don’t magically appear on your cot. Freedom from being too over-programmed in daily life. Yes, we do have a tight schedule to get everything done at camp, make meals and flag raisings, go to vespers or qualify for the mile swim, but “down time” is not spent in front of the TV or going to yet another sports practice. A pick up Kubb game or building a fort in the woods is just as much fun. So is a rope swing until the laws of friction kick in and one too many passes means a bruised ego and an even more bruised tail bone.

Freedom from choice, which sounds rather ironic, but the lesson learned is that one is to be thankful for mystery meat and all grain cereals. No menus from which to choose, no cupboards from which to pick a favorite means one must learn to try something new or eat yet another peanut butter sandwich. One discovers that some combinations are rather good, like jello and cake, and that bartering still exists as a fine art.

Other lessons from camp include finding out that strength in numbers and team work can beat down a bully and that being different is okay. Snakes can be great entertainment and daddy long leg spiders don’t bite. Poison ivy looks a lot like other plants, 35 of which you can now identify. Birds make a better alarm clock and are harder to turn off. All adults can be your mom or your dad at anytime and can also be your teacher, your friend, your nurse and your worst nightmare. Just because you go to sleep in one tent, doesn’t mean you will wake up in that same one…..some traditions are meant to be carried on and boys will be boys. Don’t eat the raspberries behind your tent; they are growing really well for a reason. Mice can fit in really really small spaces. Tics can too and are harder to find. I could go on and on about what can come from a week in the woods.

All of this leads to independence. 40 some families loaned us their boys for a week, and we gave them back yesterday another step closer to being men. Not in height or age or testosterone, but it manners, respect, self assurance, pride, and experience. I personally give thanks to a country that allows me the freedom to guide our youth. Happy Birthday America!!