Sunday, January 25, 2015

Is painting dead?

Just at Sunrise    12 x 25 acrylic on canvas
Is painting dead? Or to be more accurate, are paintings (made entirely of paint on stretched canvas) gone by the way of the typewriter and the curly phone cord?  I pose this question for a number of reasons and based on accumulating observations of the ever evolving art world. Now to be fair, Canton is not exactly a booming mecca of artistic innovation. We tend to see what is “out there” and follow suit in our own ways. So why the question…..

My gallery neighbor recently returned from a national gathering of art marketers, suppliers and other such related artists who are in the business of making art.  One of her observations was that wall art (as in paintings made of paint on stretched canvases) were very rare. In cases where canvases were featured, they had matching accessories to make a complete “look”.  In a way, the painting had to be seen and appreciated as a grouping, not as a stand-alone image.  What does comprise the “solo canvas” category now is more mixed-media oriented, more craft content then imagery. Collage if you will.  Speaking of which, we must all get to the MassMu to see the collage exhibition, I hear it is fabulous.

“Wall craft” does seem to be dominate in the industry. “Craft” in general appears to be the direction of art for the near and most likely distant future, the trend if you will. Could it be that homes are just out of wall space? Newer homes have lots of big windows and those ginormous TV’s take up a lot of what is left. The open concept floor plan has eliminated many walls, collections of memorabilia or clusters of family photos compete for what little square footage is left. Some folks just plain hate to pound a nail in the wall for fear of getting it in the wrong spot and making a hole.

I did happen to see a very large “painting” being purchased at the local big box store last week. A good 60” on one side…and not expensive either. So too can one find very large art and very small prices in all the craft stores, accessory stores, even clothing stores, not to mention thrift shops and garage sales. Prints on demand over the internet are killing us too, the place where you send in a picture and it is blown up, perhaps manipulated like a Warhol, and put on canvas for your decorating pleasure. 

On the subject of sizes, bigger is no longer better. The small accent pieces are very much “on trend” with painters actually being able to use only paint and make little gems at reasonable prices, while still enjoying and engaging in the physical process of putting a brush onto the canvas itself. I chatted last night with an established artist who is also struggling with this transition from working on detailed and skillful pieces that could take a month or more…or more…to complete. Why are we still doing it? Nobody really appreciates the time factor (and the subsequent price) when so much art can be had quickly and cheaper. She is not the only one recently to bring up the question of when is it time to quit, or change direction, or reinvent oneself, or branch out or toss in the towel or rework the old stuff etc..?

Don’t look to me for any answers, this is a blog of questions! I am struggling with the same issues as my contemporaries….where do we go from here and why? Are we finding joy in new directions? (Yes) Do we feel a bit “guilty” for deviating from our “signatures”? (No, but it does make others oddly a bit uncomfortable)  Six canvases into my cacti and every day brings the same question from someone…why? Well…I will list a bunch and you can circle whichever one fits the narrative…

Because I can  - because I want to – to give my brain a break – to play – to experiment – life is short – I was bored – I like cacti – cactus is really a funny word to make plural – the canvas shape was cool in the store – I am getting older – they are fun – warm work in cold weather – who doesn’t’ love a botanical? – they kept getting in the way of my landscape photos – saguaros have personalities – I like big buds and I cannot lie – it is a prickly subject with me – they come in pears and barrels – I get to buy new colors – it is not easy being green – you can’t lean on one -  shall I go on?

I think I hijacked my own blog. This was supposed to be about the changing surfaces of canvas and the changing purpose of wall art. So is “painting” dead? Maybe in other parts of the country, but it takes a while for things to catch up here in the Midwest, so no. Painting is alive and well here in O-H-I-O. Check out the daily gems of Bullach and Digby….C M Adams is on to some new explorations in mixed media that is very color pallet oriented and I believe that some of us old dogs and that young pup will keep the torch burning until the rest of world cycles back and catches up. After all, typewriters are being made once again just like turntables and big headphones. And if we bring back the brick streets how far behind can the buggy whip be?

PS - The series will have its own gallery on my website. 

Sunday, January 11, 2015

When you wish upon a fish....

As I mentioned in my previous post, the results of the Jelly-wish Fish project would be tabulated and recorded. I finally found my notes, tucked into other assorted papers, hence the delay. A minor digression first to mention an observation about our young people…..during my art class this week I had 14 kids aged 12 – 14, all boys except one.

One of our activities is to discuss different types of art. I give them chalk and chalkboards to work as teams to come up with as many as they can think of in 90 seconds. The most was 7, then 6 then 4. (three teams).  Only one team spelled their words correctly. The other two boards were an exercise in deciphering assorted letters that were supposed to be real words. I asked if spelling was part of their curriculum (after I explained what a curriculum was)…no. They don’t have any spelling lessons. No need too, computers do it all.  So here are a few versions of what now passes as art terms and other words….

Arbstuck (abstract); gatar (guitar); sceting (sketching); sculptur (sculpture); bannanna (banana)… oh never mind…it was abysmal. Not to mention that they are sitting in a studio surrounded by different forms, colors, styles, images and yet nothing much came to mind.  However, after 6 hours, they had experienced pencil, patterning, watercolors, simple design and principles of composition, threading a needle and sewing on both a patch and a button among other activities in the allotted time. Somehow those last two activities are always the highlight of the day and rather difficult, but very much appreciated. So my wish for the Jellyfish is that spelling for accuracy, memorization, understanding of the basics of language structure and just plain brain engagement become part of our educational standards once again….but as I said on our Community Participation Project disclaimer, there is no guarantee that the wishes will come true.

Okay on to the statistics. Once our First Friday visitors understood the concept, tagging the Jelly became a popular activity. Only a few folks required good natured strong arming to get them to engage. My policy is that no one may exit Snarky Art through my McKinley door until one has left their mark. I guess a lady in a top hat is unnerving enough that just my disapproving glare for those who said they had not participated will cause an about face. You teachers know that “look”.

Final tally was 120 tags on the tendrils. One written in Greek and one in Japanese so I could not record their sentiments. The majority of wishes were for the usual health, happiness, peace and goodwill etc. standard beauty queen answers. A couple were obviously being snarky…like wishing to be hit by a bus (I know who you are and that was not what you really wanted….). But a fair number really gave this activity some thought and were genuinely in tune with the concept. For those who do not know about the tradition of a wishing tree here is what was posted on our board: A wish tree is an individual tree, usually distinguished by species, position or appearance, which is used as an object of wishes and offerings. Such trees are identified as possessing a special religious or spiritual value. The Lam Tsuen Wishing Trees are located in Hong Kong near the Tin Hau Temple in Lam Tsu. Two banyan trees are frequented by tourists and the locals during the Lunar New Year. Previously, they burnt joss sticks, wrote their wishes on joss paper tied to an orange, and then threw them up to hang in these trees, believing that if the paper successfully hung onto one of the tree branches, their wishes would come true. In Glasgow's Hidden Garden at Pollockshields and at the Kagyu Samye Ling Monastery in Scotland, a number of trees have been planted onto which people can tie white labels, on which they have written their wishes. In Hindu mythology, the banyan tree is also called kalpavriksha, meaning "wish- fulfilling tree", as it represents eternal life because of its seemingly ever-expanding branches.

What follows are a few of the wishes left on our “tree” (adjusted for privacy):  Open an art gallery --- life would turn around this year --- not to be afraid, stand up for myself --- never reach the limits of my own motivation --- house will sell --- remain financially secure --- be free from anxiety --- live a year of feeling good about everything I do ---I wish to marry (name) --- new adventures and new love --- a year of family as everyone grows older and moves on --- babies!! (mentioned 3 times) --- to touch a student’s life --- get back with my ex-husband --- a wish for common sense for all of us --- for people not to look at me in disgust --- to thaw a frozen heart --- to make a different ---

I will admit that I was extremely moved my many of these and I too hope their wishes come true, many of these behaviors would benefit us all.  Thank you everyone who participated or just came by to see us. Anyone who is working at their own galleries, studios, restaurants, shops, etc and are actively “on duty” on a First Friday, we are all working to fulfill our roles and make these monthly events something that brings us to the attention of the general public who will then patronize our venues the remaining days of the month. However… there are those who are intrinsically part of this process that rarely make an appearance, so please put us on your list of places to stop by and actively participate. We only request a few moments of your time and the show of support is greatly appreciated! 

Monday, January 5, 2015

Do you hear what I hear? Answers to our Question of the Month.

Imagine you could not hear this thundering rush of water!
Okay, that was not really the question of the month which I will get to in a moment. First I must mention that our participation is growing, this being the 4th time we (Snarky Art/Journey Gallery) have posed a question to our First Friday visitors. Also, this is the second month of our Community Participation Project and we were overwhelmed by how many people came by to take part. Despite not having our ice carver show up, (the resulting  “sculpture” on the pedestal thereby a dead ringer for the monolith in 2001 A Space Odyssey) we drew a large and steady crowd for music, art and hot cocoa.

Another blog post will be devoted to the Jelly-Wish-Fish project. You will be able to see all of our projects created from December through June at a special show in July…but until then, keep coming by to be part of the creative process. There are some great projects being planned that will only take a few moments of your time.

Okay, now on to the “Leave Your Mark” Question of the month…..”If you suddenly woke up completely deaf, what sound(s) –except for any related to the human voice- would you miss?”  I chose this question because my Dad (without his cochlear implant) is deaf and I wondered what sounds we all take for granted.  99 answers were offered this time! October had 25, November was 70, December 58 and now a jump to 99. Look for each month’s question in the AiS First Friday flyers.

So to best of my categorizing ability (and in some cases the deciphering of handwriting) the responses are as follows:

Birds at the feeder – birds chirping – singing birds (2 entries)

Spring peepers (2 entries)

Daytime crickets – crickets at night – cicadas

Violins (2 entries) – sexy viola – music in general (4 entries) – jazz music – guitar music – disco music (2 entries) – piano music (3 entries) – gongs - an orchestra – church bells (2 entries) – wind chimes

Feet walking (2 entries) – finger tapping – peeing – farts – clapping (2 entries)

Dogs barking (5 entries) – cat’s meow – my rooster crowing

Breaking icicles – crackling fire (2 entries) – waves crashing on the beach (8 entries) – snow falling – waterfalls – thunder – rushing water – river rapids – babbling brook – gentle rain – rain in general (2 entries) – rain on a tin roof (2 entries) – wind (2 entries) – wind in the trees (2 entries) – leaves rustling – crinkling of leaves – crunchy leaves (2 entries)

Train whistles – Harleys/loud motorcycles (2 entries) – airplanes (2 entries) – jets flying 

Coffee pot brewing – pages turning when you read – clock ticking – a baseball being hit – record player crackle – writing on a chalkboard

Everything (3 entries) – all of the above {from the bottom of a column} – silence {huh?}

The following I could not read due to the handwriting but the words look like…dubstep, welson’s, and crating

And the entries of those who did not read the entire question before answering….baby giggles – my children’s laughter – laughter (2 entries) – husband breathing – whispering – movie theater

The above are some pretty creative choices. I did observe several people not write down their idea because somebody had already listed it. Please don’t let your choice not be heard, multiples are welcome, this activity is intended to get you to think and to see how others think. The best part is watching people contemplate and discuss among themselves. The annoying part is when unattended children start scribbling on the board or writing obviously inappropriate things just to be funny. A really attentive parent would read the question to the child and ask for a thoughtful answer and also venture a dialogue on how it would make the child feel to not be able to hear.

The boards are closed for January, as is the wishing fish, because the gallery is closed for a few weeks over our winter break. Look for the energy to continue as we make our mark at the corner of 4th and McKinley when Margo Miller will be our feature artist opening Saturday, January 24th at Journey Art Gallery.

Thursday, January 1, 2015

A whole lotta happy!

We cannot escape the happy. Not that we would want to, but think about all the happy that is forced upon us by our own culture on almost a daily basis…and yet many people are not happy.  Our heaping helpings of happy start with Happy New Year, then perhaps Happy Birthday, followed by Happy Valentine’s Day.  Oops, almost forgot to toss in Happy Ground Hog Day (yes there are cards for that). We move on to Happy St. Patrick’s Day, Happy Easter, Happy Mother’s Day, Happy Father’s Day, Happy Grandparents Day, Happy Fourth of July, Happy Anniversary, …with perhaps a break in September unless one wants to wish a happy back to school day to someone, or happy Labor Day,….then back on track for Happy Halloween, Happy Thanksgiving and the bane of us all, Happy Holidays as if we need to encompass any events left off the happy train.

But somehow we are also to be merry….eat drink and be merry…. Merry Christmas (which I personally believed was supposed to be me Mary and Christ that somehow got morphed).  Nobody says happy marriage or happy wedding day, they say best wishes, good luck or congratulations as if the union was a feat accomplished and it comes with a warning label.  We say happy graduation but then wish people luck or best wishes or congrats. As if to say “Yeah, now what are you going to do with your life?”
There are lots of happy songs, one telling us not to worry, be happy. Others happy to be alive, and if you are happy and you know it….  Have you ever heard “I am happy to report…” or remember that little cartoon called “happiness is…” which went on to spawn an empire of posters, books and tchotchkes?

Don’t forget the book titles “Happy to be-----“encompassing whatever that author was identifying with at the time. Of course when patriotic moments roll around, good, bad or symbolic, we all stand up and claim to be happy to be an American, which I truly am so I am happy to be on board with that one.

So why do so many people claim to be unhappy? Do they feel some type of pressure to measure up to all this happiness being wished upon them? Are table servers really “happy” to take my order? Don’t you just wish that one time you could answer them with “are you really? Does asking me what I want to eat make you happy?”  Of course then I would probably have to happily excuse myself to the restroom and the hand blower thingy to dry my lap.  That would not be great. That would not lead to my having a great day which is what I hear a lot too. Have a great day! If I do go on to have a great day would that make you happy? Maybe I am only wished a good day by someone who is happy to get rid of me.

Almost missed our custom known happy hour…which is never just an hour… the happy is anywhere from 2 to 6 hours or so with happier prices, happier little foods and maybe happier people (or happy cops).  I guess I should just wrap this up with reminding us all to be happy to help, happy to listen, and happy to be of service which should make every day a happy one for somebody else….oh yeah, Happy New Year.