Artistic Expression

 photo courtesy of nationmultimedia.com

Ai Weiwei's latest installation has 14,000 life vests tied to the columns of a Berlin concert house.photo courtesy of CNN

“Are you jealous of the ocean’s generosity? Why would you refuse to give this joy to anyone?”

Quote by  RUMI, born 1207 in Afghanistan, whose family fled the threat of the Mongol armies and emigrated to Turkey between 1215 and 1220.

The relevance of artistic expression in today’s world is seldom more explicitly displayed than in this recent installation by the most prominent of Chinese dissident artists, Al Weiwei, on the pillars of the Konzerthaus Concert Hall in Berlin.

This artist has wrapped 14,000 life jackets around the pillars of this landmark building to bring attention to the urgency of the tide of refugees arriving on the shores of  European nations and around the world. These particular life jackets were worn by  migrants who braved the seas in flight from the Island of Lesbos in Greece.

With thanks to this artist and others who feel the pain and misery of the refugee population, who at this very moment are enduring all manner of human suffering in their attempt to simply find a better life for their children, I humbly and simply post this blog.

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Back Again With the Year Long Canvas, 10/22/2014

  

photos courtesy of travelmag.com and pinterest.com

Pearl Street Mall, Boulder – Scroll down to see YLC

Yes I have been out of the loop for a while, preoccupied and otherwise engaged. Just involved in life itself, nothing major. Enjoying fall and weekends in the mountains. Was up in Boulder on Saturday night to attend a concert, and so we wandered the legendary Pearl Street Mall. (Had some fun with a faux bronze statue guy who came to life right before my eyes. If you are familiar with that crazy scene in Boulder you are laughing right now).

The multicolored confetti of leaves was flying around, families were out in the balmy night air having fun together and watching the street buskers perform. Had a great dinner at the Boulderado Hotel. Went to a rousing Patti Griffin concert where no one in the audience was timid about speaking up and interacting with Patti and her band. Someone then commented sarcastically on that by also yelling,  “Well welcome to Boulder, Patti….” and she agreed, but she was fine with it. Boulder is just different – people there are not easily defined but if I had to try I would begin by saying that they are quite proud of themselves to be living there, considering it a lifetime achievement or something. Bucket list item #3 – live in Boulder. Become an authentic  Boulderite. You see people in Boulder don’t see themselves as subordinate to anyone. Well why should they? I have loved Boulder since I was a student of fine art there in the 60’s at a time when the campus scene was PARTY and the art professors were deliciously weird and cutting edge. The Young People’s Socialist League was active and the Viet Nam war protesting was just getting started. I was there to paint; I did my share of partying too.

Being back there again, and still painting, in the company of a person with whom I shared many of those Boulder years is always rather surreal to me. This Saturday evening was especially magical. We actually talked a lot about my YLC – the year long canvas. I have been neglecting her. In the wise words of my friend, “The Year Long Canvas is a zen lesson in sustained patience and restraint,” or something to that affect. Delayed gratification should also be mentioned; I am a person who enjoys actually finishing a painting. We decided that the assignment of one year (March, 2015) needs to be loosened a bit, to allow my tolerance and focus a little wiggle room. Maybe more than a year, maybe less. My esteemed instructor, Homare Ikeda of the Denver Art Students League, who offered me this assignment, most certainly would have many additional comments and opinions about this process I am experiencing since I last saw him. Once in a while I run into him and we talk, which is enlightening and meaningful to me. As I explained in one of my earlier posts, he believes that every painting you will ever do as an artist is already inside of you, waiting for the right time and place in your life to be set free from its “cage” – and cage is my own word, not his. You just need to uncover it by stripping away all the unnecessary layers. That is a fascinating concept. A lot of thought is required to get your mind around it. Please visit  http://www.homareikeda.com

Today when I worked on the YLC I went a bit crazy. I gathered all of my confidence in order to believe that I was always going to be able to make a great painting out of it and I was fearless. I am sure many of you will be disappointed with this step, but I am NOT FINISHED. That is the entire point. It needs to get weird before it can get better again. It needs to evolve, and after seeing it sitting around here the way it was for so long I began to yearn for a new language and a fresh message. These new strokes are either the beginning of the end, or even the end of its beginning, whichever way you prefer to interpret it. Have a look, and zoom in for details:

Busker 003

Year Long Canvas, mid-October 2014, not yet titled, copyright Jo Ann Brown-Scott

The Fourth of July Weekend and Summer Art

  

first photo courtesy of winridge.srgliving.com – second photo courtesy of artsnfood.BlogSpot.com – third from visitfortmeyers.wordpress.com

Summer in the Denver area is plentiful with outdoor opportunities for art, wine and food appreciation.  Friday we spent all afternoon walking the route of the Cherry Creek Arts Festival in the premiere gallery district of the Denver area. I had not attended in many years due to the fact that I was living in California, but now I am back where I belong and happy to have had the opportunity to be leisurely wandering around at the festival checking out the art and craft of fine artisans from all over the country. The competition at this event is always fierce and the art is nationally diverse – ceramics, photography, woodworking, mixed media, watercolor, oils, acrylics, textiles, pastels, jewelry, baskets, metalwork, glass and even more. It took about 3-4 hours to make our way around, not even stopping to inspect each and every booth, and with an hour or so lunch break. It was hot, of course, as you would expect on July 4th, but everyone was well prepared. Even I did not get all hot pink and crisp as I might have – I was wearing a wide brimmed hat and layers of SPF15.

My companion and I are both artists – experienced life-long artists, who have had deep experiences with many galleries and selling situations. We have empathy for what is required of an artist to pay for a booth, fill it with art that has been carefully packed and transported from far away places, SMILE, answer questions and talk to people all day long while roasting in the heat and also attempt to make sales so that you can do better than just breaking even. Many of the people we spoke to said that sales were slow, but of course it was only the first day. Some booth owners were sitting in chairs out behind their booths rather than standing up inside where they could meet & greet the visitors….not such a great idea, expecting customers to come and search for you behind your booth….

Several things struck us as we made the rounds. Generally speaking, the art was highly commercial – much more polished and expensive than you would find at the art fairs in the mountain communities such as Evergreen. The people who do these major festivals make a  profession of it because they have to in order to sell. They make more money in summer events and seasonal bazaars than if they tried to sell in galleries, and so the product has become rather slick and in some cases a bit trite. But that is what happens down through the years – the game keeps getting more competitive and the art has to become geared to the mass-market tastes of the people who attend the shows.

Another thing we noticed, in a big way, was the relative absence of any quality abstract art. There were feeble attempts at abstraction, but the few examples we found were soul-less and poorly done. How does this happen in such a prestigious venue and why? Of course the jury committee decides who makes the cut – and if the powers that be have no appreciation of abstract art, and/or that kind of art has no audience and just does not sell…..well than we have a sort of sad situation. If you don’t even show abstracted images how will you build an educated following? People have to see it to learn and understand it. I would rather see a bit more abstract art in the show and less furniture inlayed with thousands of bottle caps. I would rather see an abstracted landscape here and there in the show than 55 ways to paint a red barn. But that’s just me. Well hell YES it is just me! I have a right to expect a bit more intellectual stimulation from a summer art fair that has such a fine reputation and gathers such huge numbers of attendees.

Nevertheless we had a great time – the food trucks were like an art show all their own – and deciding what to eat was a 25 minute long walking and smelling crash course in gourmet food truck cuisine. So much to choose from and so many wonderful aromas – I settled on Greek. Of course the “people watching” is often better than the art – it IS THE BEST FORM OF ART, actually. I kept thinking I was seeing people I knew – from years ago when I lived here – in disguise – as older people than I remember them to be. Me included in that same type of disguise.

From there we went to a traditional dinner menu of  BBQ chicken, potato salad, etc. from my own kitchen followed by fireworks and ooo’s and aahhh’s. Then the familiar tingling feeling we get when we remember why we are celebrating and what we have to lose if we do not stay aware and alert. The older I get, disguise or not, I can barely hold back the tears that come when we celebrate the Fourth of July and I realize once again how amazed and blessed I am to have been born in a country where I am free. If I had but one wish, it would be that everyone everywhere, no matter what the circumstances and location of their births, could experience a life of free choices. It is precisely what makes a life worth living.

Year Long Canvas #12 – SheTakes a Whimsical Turn

 

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YLC #12, copyright Jo Ann Brown-Scott, not yet titled

“You breathe; new shapes appear, and the music of a desire as widespread as Spring begins to move like a great wagon. Drive slowly, some of us walking alongside are lame!”  Quote from Rumi, born in 1207, Afghanistan

Of course it has everything to do with my mood. The day was gorgeous, took a long walk, ate some great food, listened to some upbeat music and there we were – arrived at a brand new place from the scariest storm experience of my life just 2 days ago (see the previous blog about Mutha Nature).

Let the games begin….

Lots of minor changes were made, but larger ones too, such as Lady Magenta making an appearance, dancing across everything just for pure fun, and a second (or third?) sun showed up in the unexpected sun color of purple….that’s what you call artistic license, but of course you knew that. I first took artistic license when I was in kindergarten, and teacher instructed us to finger-paint a tree. My tree was purple and she had an absolute fit, being the realist that she was. Even at that young age I knew she was dead wrong – how could she know anything at all about art history and object to a purple tree!? I have been getting her back ever since, sinking at least one “artistic license” thing in painting after painting for many decades now.

I am here to tell you that abstract art does not have to be profound and serious. Since I am working on this canvas for a solid year, I felt free to be light-hearted and free spirited. I can always get dark and brooding at some future point if I so desire. The changes made in this work session were begun with an eye for balance. The upper left area needed some action to be weighed against all the color and motion in the upper right. What to do, what to do. Circles seem to be a repetitive feature, so I thought I might just capitalize on that. Another sun, in PURPLE, could get attention. Not tooooo much attention, however, or the focal point on the right side would be severely compromised. Where is Homare when I need him? I am going to have to fly by the seat of my own pants this summer.

The changes made today were accomplished in less than an hour, and I used my fingers while wearing a latex glove. I seldom use paint brushes anymore – preferring plastic palette knives and oddball kitchen tools like a plastic BBQ sauce “mop”, scrapers and other stuff I find. I often use the dried acrylic paint that has globbed around the top of the paint tube, picking it off and pushing it onto the composition for texture – you can see one of those in about dead center of this painting, sticking out almost like a button. I love bumps and wrinkles, and I like to use acrylic very thickly but I also love to thin it down with lots of water and paint like a watercolorist which is how I first learned to paint. For Homare’s classes in advanced contemporary art I used purely paint, without any exotic collage papers or mixed media techniques, or matt medium to build up a textural affect. I am a mixed media artist at heart but I wanted to go back to my roots and see what happened there. That was a good decision because I have enjoyed it and found that I am still able to paint without any of my favorite bells and whistles. The method in my madness of returning to the classroom was to see what I was made of – to rediscover my earliest training. Doing that could only be for the good, I thought.

The YLC has a journey ahead. She will be thick with paint by mid-Fall and difficult to deal with. Unruly and short-tempered from all the indecision and abuse she has endured. She will have screamed at me to leave her alone. Making anything good happen will be a huge challenge, because everything that has gone before will have been sacrificed and lost and I will mourn those versions. I will be sick and tired of re-inventng her. She will be fed up with me as well. It will be like any other relationship!

But of course you probably knew all that.

 

 

 

 

The Creative Epiphany – Exploring a New Creative Direction

attack

Let my first say that when I speak about artists, or creativity in general, and the creative gifts you received free at birth by the luck of the genes that the fates awarded you, I am addressing each and every one of you. We all receive creative gifts – in music, art, writing, photography, banking, engineering, cooking, dancing, designing, sports and I could go on and on. We all get some of the creative pie. The challenge in your life is to find your unique gift and use it well for your own satisfaction and for the greater good, as I often say.

For about six months now I have been stretching my artistic muscles – venturing forward into new territory whenever the fancy strikes me –  sometimes bravely, but more often barefoot and clueless, wearing pajamas at times – experimenting across artistic horizons. I have been attempting to find a new-ish artistic expression that will satisfy my constant need for creative adventure – thus tweaking and slightly altering my older style in that process. Since I have been painting for many decades now I do have a characteristic style, as is appropriate. It seems that no matter what I try, where I go creatively, and how much I rebel against myself, my distinguishable approach to art is a recognizable thread that runs through all. It can be maddening or it can feel comforting like an old blanket. The thought of drastic change feels rather…well…drastic. I am looking for a deep, soulful change that is a bit off-beat but still comfortable and satisfying for me. Many weeks I take two steps forward and one back, swaying back and forth into and out of my own damn self, looking hopefully for the day when I can take three steps forward and stay there.

Of course your art is a visual diary, revealing your unconscious but read-able state of mind as you paint images down through the years. If you have a body of work that goes way back, you will be able to remember what you were living through during each and every piece you painted. You will know instantly, by the level of skill and risk-taking in each historic and archival art piece, what it was in real life that prompted those mirrored emotions proudly displayed on canvas or paper. You are immensely proud of that creative record – you see it all as a timeline of your life. You are always curious to see where the bumpy and broken road will lead you next.

So when someone in your life does not understand your recent direction in art, nor does that person have the broad knowledge of art principle and history and theory with which to make an educated assessment of your new, risk-taking work, and/or does not have the self-awareness to realize that his/her critical remarks made to you are obviously built upon a house of cards that has no basis in art education – well then, that is pathetic and also hurtful. It should not be hurtful, considering the source, you think to yourself, but it is. We artists are all accustomed to criticism, of course. We are calloused and beaten up. We try to become accustomed to criticism in sheer self-defense because we get it by the boatload, not just from the art experts and the gallery owners but because everyone and their uncle has hollow remarks to make about art. Still, that particular kind of criticism spun of ignorance and innocence coming from the totally uninformed does not excuse it or render them worth polite and tolerant listening. It is not in my job description or yours to educate and inform people about art, so we need to be like Teflon and repel the unusable, unproductive critique. If push came to shove, however, I would be able to talk those people under the table – to bury them – on the subject of art. My passion and understanding of the subject knows no bounds.

Our primary job as an artist is to stretch – to grow – to continue to evolve, to whatever extent our skill level and our gift of creativity has afforded us. If we can manage to do that, then our message will always show up  in our art as freshly expressed and it will keep not just ourselves but our audience engaged and interested in our careers. People hate boredom and so do artists because we are people too. Things need some shaking up every once in a while when we get to the point where we can almost paint blindfolded because our work has become  – that dreaded word – predictable. We all know that we owe it to ourselves to keep moving forward. The people who are genuinely moved and fascinated with our art, at any stage, will continue to  be inspired enough to ask intelligent questions about what has been the catalyst for our recent evolution. They will remain our enlightened followers.

The others, the non-learners, the ones whose appreciation for creative growth and knowledge has been stunted, will eventually drop by the wayside and walk away shaking their heads in perpetual confusion. It is of no use to try and explain the whys and the wherefores of our changing art to them, and that is not our concern. People who truly care about art make it their passion and seek book-loads of information on the subject. I say, put your money where your mouth is and get thee to a library! And if they don’t care enough to research, just let them go – we do not have to ever make excuses for our art or attempt to explain its adventurous direction. That is not a good use of our time. It is no one’s business but ours.

It all boils down to the question of freedom of expression and the yearning to grow. We need to shake off the most idiotic of the inquiries and walk back into our studios and paint, smiling as we go.

The Creative Epiphany – Film Review, 12 YEARS A SLAVE

 poster image courtesy of linduslist.com

This film, directed by Steve McQueen, was difficult to watch in spite of the fact that I thought I was prepared. I had heard that it was brutal. It is beyond brutal – it is periodically and consistently horrific for almost the entire two hours and fifteen minutes. The story is beautifully filmed, gorgeously depicted, stunning in its impact – but beware the  pastoral southern scenery, moss hanging low over big oak branches and humidity you can almost taste, because something shockingly wicked this way comes.

I am a person who reads, and I read and I read. So I thought I was educated about slavery in the south. I have lived in the south, traveled through the south, toured historic plantations and seen slave cabins, and I have studied the Civil War. All that and more is what took me to see this film. For me it was a question of respect, and the fact that the film is well made. But still, I learned from this film things I had never known and I was given witness to atrocities I had never imagined.

The story is simple – Pre-Civil War, a prosperous and educated gentleman named Solomon Northrup ( played by the brilliant Chiwetel Ejiofor ) from upstate New York, once a slave, who has a family and has risen above his own early history, is re-captured, sold and enslaved again, for 12 long years, enduring and enduring, with the excuse that the papers granting his freedom do not exist. He experiences some kindness from strangers but then is sold to a slave owner ( Michael Fassbender ) who has slipped from pure and wicked malevolence into sick depravity, and who rules a plantation where even his wife, who has learned from a master, is sadistic and cruel.

Do we really need to see all the ways that a human being can be tortured in films today, returning now to even the old and basic, tried and true methods of cruelty? Is each new film – whether it is portraying battles, war, espionage, man to man conflict – attempting to one-up the ones before in regard to guts and gore? This historically accurate film is based upon a true story – and we learn in text updates at the end what happened to Solomon Northrup after he was eventually freed. Nevertheless, for me, it was a horror story. I could not watch at times, reminding myself that it is a FILM.

The acting is spectacular, the women as well as the men; and the children too. It is a Brad Pitt film, from his company PLAN B productions, and he has a cameo appearance portraying a character who sees slavery as wrong. I read that he is choosing responsible roles these days as his children grow old enough to see his work. Do his children have to see this kind of torture, I wonder? Still, there is Oscar buzz about it and I must say that I think it is an important film – a monumental film perhaps.

I saw the Oprah Winfrey film titled The Butler, in 2013, and I would place this 12 Years a Slave film about slavery, in spite of my shock in watching it, ahead of The Butler. I understand that The Butler, also based upon a true story, was so loosely based that it took liberties and exaggerated the plot to such an extent that the story was greatly altered from the truth. I do not like that, do you?

Should you see 12 Years a Slave? If you know you are lacking in information about this most disgusting period of our American history and you are responsible enough to want to learn what happened, then by all means see it. Please do not take your children who are under the age of 16 or so…and be prepared to answer their many questions in an educated way if you do invite them to see it with you. Be knowledgeable and have books to recommend, because our public school systems are lacking in time and resources to due this subject justice.

For Your Viewing Pleasure,

JABS

The Creative Epiphany – HAPPY NEW YEAR, WORLD!

    HAPPY NEW YEAR FROM THE USA!

Photo courtesy of santabanta.com

Here we are – the year had to end somewhere and today is the day. Are you ready for a NEW ONE? Up to the challenges ahead of us?

We will all be in it together, cringing at the ridiculous, saddened by the tragic, laughing at the humor of life, being disgusted by the actions of some, proud of others, and taking in the joy when something actually goes right. Those of us who are champions of humanitarianism and innocent with eternal optimism want to end world hunger, save the whales, cure cancer, clean up the planet, end terrorism once and for all, bring about peace, educate all children, and care for the homeless and those who are suffering as we love one another. That is a tall order, but we continue to do whatever we can. And that is driven by eternal HOPE.

I have no resolutions for the NEW YEAR other than to continue what I have been doing – laugh more, be grateful for every day, practice random acts of kindness, tell the people that you love how you feel about them and if there is any good that can be done, then by all means do it.

My thanks go out to all of you for caring enough to follow this humble blog, allowing me to spout off about whatever spontaneous observations cross my mind. What an honor and a privilege that is. I am fortunate to live in a country where speaking out is encouraged – and I wish the same for you. I know who you are – those of you who do not enjoy that same freedom of speech. I agonize for your loss of freedom. I wish for you a better condition.

The best to all of you! Let’s hope the New Year brings about positive change for all.

bliss

mixed media painting by Jo Ann Brown-Scott copyright 2013