Women Artists of Abstract Expressionism

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Above – Painting by Lee Krasner, titled The Seasons, oil and house paint on canvas,  approx. 92″x 203″ 1957 Whitney Museum of American Art, NY

Yesterday we attended a member preview of the highly acclaimed Denver Art Museum show titled WOMEN OF ABSTRACT EXPRESSIONISM. These brave and innovative women of the 40’s, 50’s and 60’s are my heroes, having charted the direction I would later choose to follow with my art. I did not make that phenomenal association until years later, because the emphasis and the credit was placed upon male artists.

As a dedicated student of fine art in the 60’s at the U of Colorado, Boulder I found myself artistically immersed and influenced during historically volatile times on a campus known for its politically active student body and its cutting-edge art department, among other fine attributes.  By the 60’s the world was rapidly changing, across the board, on all fronts, from religion to civil rights to politics to art, music and literature…

I was inside the momentous flux, historically, geographically, and creatively, in one of the right places to be at just the right time. The art world was evolving at an especially stunning pace; morphing; reinventing; branching off into new vocabularies of expression as art is expected to do when worldly conventions are spinning and older ideas are challenged. Those cutting-edge professors were learning and absorbing right along with students….we were all in it together, but few influential women artists were ever acknowledged or mentioned. If you were a young female artist of that time, that was the elephant in every studio and classroom. The world of art was dominated by men. I was one of less than a handful of women in the expressionistic painting classes where this stimulating, intoxicating new artistic action was happening.

I was vaguely aware of names like Helen Frankenthaler, Lee Krasner (the wife of Jackson Pollock), Elaine De Kooning (wife of William), Judith Godwin, Ethel Schwabacher and the others included in this current show. These women were already  painting their hearts out in NYC and SF, often sharing studio space with their prominent husbands. In the words of Lee Krasner, “I was always going to be Mrs. Jackson Pollock – that’s a matter of fact – but I painted before Pollock, during Pollock, after Pollock.”

Fresh approaches, bold brush stroke gestures and odd new vocabularies of expression ran rampant in these womens’ art, if one cared to look. Helen Frankenthaler said it best: “One of the first rules is NO rules.” In the words of the museum, “While individual expression is key, several themes recur in works by the women artists seen in this show. These include responses to place, the seasons, time of day, meaningful events, and literature, dance or music. These paintings are almost always quite abstract, even when referencing something real. The true subject is never the thing, but the painterly expression itself.”

Quoting now from the Curator of Modern Art, Gwen F. Chanzit, Ph. D at this Denver show:

“…they helped forge the first fully American modern art movement. While there is no one prescribed style, Abstract Expressionist canvases are known for loose brushwork all-over composition, an emphasis on surface rather than depth, and a grand sense of scale. Artists experimented with process and materials to free themselves from previous conventions.”

My love for mixed media and collage art found its origin with the experimentation of these women and the larger abstract movement to which they belonged. Bits of string, tin foil and various papers chosen for their texture or pattern can be found, worked with paint, on the canvases of this show. If I ever needed validation, and that need is by definition part of being an abstract artist, I found it in the work of these women. For them abstract expressionism was risky and unheard of; for me it is the norm. The art of these women has been underreported and undervalued, although they participated alongside men – even husbands! – in studios, art clubs, exhibitions and shows.

The art displayed in this show is so alive with the joy of painting free that it almost brings tears to your eyes. The powerful colors, the textures and the wide open gestures and brushstrokes are screaming freedom – from conventional traditional style and conformity. Seeing it all was a lesson, loud and clear, in being brave, in being a risk-taker, in being unrestrained and fully expressive as an artist. These women were gutsy broads!

If any of you have potential artists in your family or circle of friends, especially girls, remember that women of astounding talent were often ignored, brushed off, undervalued and cast aside as irrelevant. It still happens…..but less consistently.

Thanks to the Denver Art Museum for allowing photos to be taken, and for the quotes I have used here.

Jo Ann Brown-Scott – new novel titled A CANARY FLIES THE CANYON, about the life of a young woman who finds her life’s passion in art

http://www.acanaryfliesthecanyon.com   http://joannbrownscottauthor.com

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The Creativity Muscle Personified

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Best Laid Plans 18×24 mixed media by Jo Ann Brown-Scott, copyright 2015

I believe that creativity is a mind muscle that needs consistent flexing to remain active, aware and functional. People ask me sometimes what can be done for burn-out; the inevitable creative blockage that arrives without warning like an unwanted houseguest who might settle in and stay for days on end. All of a sudden you find that you are stalled in the middle of what was a great creative roll. Or perhaps you have been anticipating a new project for weeks, simmering and planning and building your creative excitement for the day when you must begin work, when you are amazed to find that you experience failure to launch! Fear of success perhaps?

Creativity is a fickle bitch, isn’t she? She comes breezing in, all colorful and witty, commanding your complete attention and getting you all jazzed up with her come-hither looks of sensuality and promise. You cannot resist her; you build your life around her, dropping all practicality and allowing yourself to get caught up in days and nights of her entertaining and stimulating tease. You produce your most inspired work – you paint, you sculpt, you write, you compose music, you cook, you photograph, you build, you design, you weave and you invent and you pull your inspiration from the vast store of fantastic ideas that creativity carries with her in her mysterious bag of tricks. She is your favorite guest. You cater to her; you feed her your best foods and give her her very own space in your home to do with what she likes.

But sometimes she is just a momentary guest, getting you all fired up and sweaty with energy and then she leaves in the dark of night and disappears for long spells of time when she is out of communication and mysteriously gone entirely off your radar. How can you lure her back?

But you see she never really left. She is always there, hovering over or behind you, watching, making comments and sometimes rude remarks about what you are doing and how you spend your time. You must realize, you must know by now that she actually does live right there, just over your shoulder of consciousness. But sometimes she time-travels – she has to – are you kidding – that is what she does best! She cannot be confined to the here and now. The universe is her playground.

She gets cranky when you fall into ruts and don’t exercise her enough. She needs daily activity, she needs sunshine and awareness to be happy. She needs stimulation, conversation, the flow of ideas and the food of thought. She needs far horizons of new places and unknown adventure. She loves humor, she gets off on sex and romance, she needs film and theater and children’s joy and the wisdom of older minds. She wants it all. Feed her often and she will come back – her brief flights of fancy when she does not answer your calls, your texts, your tweets and then your high-pitched screams for help will be less frequent. When she begins to notice that you are a serious, dedicated creator who will not be denied her attention, a person who is filled up with potential that you were given for free at birth, she will truly respect you and she will never be gone for long.

Copyright Jo Ann Brown-Scott 2015 – This post is excerpted from my upcoming novel to be published in late summer of 2015

Exciting Artistic Opportunity

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Original mixed media collage titled My Dragonfly by Jo Ann Brown-Scott, copyright 2015, $900
Have you ever seen an original painting and wished you could afford it?
I certainly have.
And I can’t tell you how many times I have done a painting that strikes a cord with dozens of people all wishing they could own it. When that happens it is both exciting and heart-wrenching because you can only sell the original once.
I am happy to announce that I have just recently become affiliated with an online website, Fine Art America that offers the service of selling quality, professional, full-color prints of my original artwork. I have wanted to do this for years and now it is simple and easy and the quality is excellent. Anyone can shop from his/her own personal computer at my Fine Art America gallery or even request that another image of mine that you have seen before be uploaded and made available for printing in less than a day.
Visit me at Fine Art America at this link – http://joann-brown-scott.fineartamerica.com
Have a look around and you will see all of the products they offer using fine art images.
Various print sizes are available, printed on either paper or canvas. You can choose framing if you wish. Greeting cards and posters are also available with any of my images. The prices are quite reasonable and I retain the copyright of course.
Soon I will be placing the YEAR LONG CANVAS, a painting I have been working on, writing about and picturing on this blog since a year ago on this Fine Art America website, for the possibility of ordering prints….see my Archives if you’d like to know what I am talking about when I mention the YLC, a challenge offered to me by my instructor for advanced abstract expressionism. It has proved to be quite a project and I am nearing its end this month of March.
This is a fun and easy way to own fine art; and since many of you have asked me about prints it is time for me to take advantage of this opportunity. This will increase my exposure nation and worldwide and allow me to offer my most popular images to people who could not buy the original, in a quality print for as little as a hundred dollars or less…..
and if you are an artist, heads up! – this is a valuable opportunity!

Being Creative

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Paintings #1 and #2, not yet titled, copyright 2015 Jo Ann Brown Scott

There is something about a snowy, extra icy day that fires up my creativity. The sidewalks are a sheet of ice, the temps have plummeted from yesterday, there is thick, cotton gauze fog and no one who has a choice would be outside. And so we paint, me and my creativity. The light is perfect – bright with the outdoor whiteness, but no sun glare, no reflections in my north facing window. I always say that my most ideal conditions in which to paint, or write, are simply a good night’s sleep and a day when I don’t have to go anywhere or do anything.

I rolled out of bed about 8 am, a little late for me, went directly to the kitchen and made my famous chicken broccoli soup, eliminating any distractions about what I am going to eat today. It’s on the stove simmering, crusty Asiago bread nearby. This must be heaven.

As any artist is bound to do from time to time, I sometimes wish that I could paint a different way. It happens to the best of us; it is born not of boredom with what we are used to doing but a challenge to ourselves to accomplish a whole new look and make it sing, as if we had been doing it forever, just to prove we can. Every once in a while I give it a try. I usually paint with a confetti riot of color, and so my reaction against that tendency is to paint with a greatly subdued palette and far less action. That does not truly represent my normal joyful state of mind, (happy!) but I do have more subdued reflective moments of silence (yawn…) when I become rather meditative (almost asleep). If I can tap into that while I am standing upright painting, occasionally I get some fine results. If I try to do it twice,  I can, but I don’t necessarily like to, and I fall back into the fun stuff of going bananas with color; it seems to be the authentic me.

The second painting is subdued, for me. My version of restraint. (perhaps you are laughing now, at my version of restraint) but I kept it simple, the colors are there but not so plentiful and/or not so in your face. I wanted to do more, but I decided to eat lunch instead and let it go for a while and see if I can live with it the way it is.

With this blog I have two photos, the first abstract painting is a new one displaying my customary  expressionistic (controlled color pattern texture chaos) type of composition, and the next a much more toned down piece where as I worked I kept a lid on it. Over the holidays when I had some fun relatives over for lunch, my six year old niece, Finley, (with whom I  sometimes paint, and who calls me Great Jo because I am her great aunt) walked into my studio, saw the toned down painting on my work table and said to me, “Great Jo, this one is not finished – can I finish it for you?” Believe me, it was tempting to see what might have happened. I will file that idea away; and another time I will start something and let her finish it. It has to be a cut above elephants who paint, right?

By the way, yes it is a new year and I have not forgotten about the YEAR LONG CANVAS – she is looking longingly in my direction as we speak, jealous of my other work. She needs a fix, another session, and I will get to her soon. She reaches her one year “time up” about March 1st, and here we are in mid-January already. I have plans for the entire month of February, so my time is becoming scarce leading into her birthday. My next post will be for her, as she nears completion.

 

 

For the Love of Art….

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Photos from my trip to Singapore, included here as a humble reference honoring my imaginary art Buddha.mantwo   photo 4 (3)

In the slaughterhouse of love they kill only the best, none of the weak or deformed. Don’t run away from this dying. Whoever’s not killed for love is dead meat. – RUMI, 12th century poet

First let me say this – HUH??? I have no idea what caused the spike in my stats yesterday and today but I like it – after 150 posts and a lot of fun, I was still not getting enough traffic. I am clueless – maybe someone else knows why I suddenly jumped the charts, but I don’t. I suspect a glitch in the record keeping of some kind….we all know that WordPress can do crazy stuff sometimes. If it is indeed a real phenomenon that increased my viewership then thanks from the bottom of my heart. I needed that. I am passionate about art – and I write for the love of my art and yours. I am so grateful for your attention.

It is almost the end of August and I am looking forward to a great Labor Day weekend. I have plans. Always flexible and always spontaneous, yes, but I do have some specific plans which can altered and enhanced along the way if need be. I do not plan to paint this weekend. I reworked 3 old paintings last week and made them sing again. I feel like that was a huge accomplishment. I totally ignored the YLC……but not really…..

I made a rogue decision about the YLC – the year long canvas. (See my archives for the whole crazy story with pictures if you have no idea what I am referring to – briefly it is an assignment from my advanced contemporary abstract painting  instructor, whom I admire very much, for me to work on one particular painting on and off for an entire year. Constantly adding new things, covering up some older things, taking it along a path of evolutionary change….and this painting of mine is just 6 months into that challenge.) As I wrote a couple blogs ago I am happy with the painting as it is right now – so happy in fact that I have decided to enter it into a large Denver gallery show. Yes I have decided to do that even though the painting is just halfway through its year and of course it will change again…. It’s a juried show, so my YLC might not be juried in, and I am gritting my teeth, putting my open self right out there with this entry and I will share the results with you – and I am not fond of rejection – so if the painting is not accepted then I will lick my wounds in front of a large audience and just take it home and continue to work on it. If it is accepted then it will be for sale, of course, and I run the risk of someone wanting to buy it. So I have to be willing to sell it and bring the entire project to a splendid, kind of fireworks-like conclusion. The price? I have not decided but it will be based upon my comparable work, in size and complexity, that I have sold before.

Why do this? Because I like to shake things up – I am an art adventurer, a risk taker, a constantly curious live-in-the-moment kind of person and I am anxious to see what happens. You know the art Buddha would be proud of this squirrely move. He would smile and nod and his eyes would twinkle with delight. He loves moves like this, but of course he makes no predictions and he is fine with whatever happens because it is all just another lesson in the life of an artist. There is no failure, there is only enlightenment. There is only the love of the doing. The enormous passion in the act of creating. And only the strong survive.

As we near the opening of the show I will keep you informed, provide some links, tell you where, etc – but I will be delivering my entries next week – yes I will be entering at least 2 pieces, maybe 3.

Wish me love and luck, OK?

 

YLC Flips and Fades to Funky Black

 

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copyright 2014 untitled,  Year Long Canvas, by Jo Ann Brown-Scott

Hello again in mid-August – I have once more done some major work on my Year Long Canvas project and it is a shocker this time. First of all I was tired of the horizontal routine so I flipped her to orient her vertically and she  immediately presented new possibilities for me. …working from all directions is a very good thing. In my humble opinion, these changes today are the most pivotal and transformative changes yet.

Could be a coincidence, the reason for the dark drama – we are going to the Denver Botanic Gardens concert tonight, picnic dinner and wine in tow, and the headliner is none other than the marvelous B B King. I am feeling all bluesy and funky and that means you must not interpret the black as a depressing twist – quite the opposite. I am feeling kinda jazzy, kinda sexy, to tell you the truth. That happens you know….and the art reveals everything if you know the code of the artist. Artists speak in tongues – difficult to decipher, but the general mood is often rather apparent, especially if you are familiar with the work of the artist. You can find clues. You know by now, if you have been following my art journey, that in my artistic language the color black is very seldom, if ever, a sign of negativity. I use it for drama, strength, focus and sometimes for the kinds of music I love. The kind that makes you want to swing and groove to the move.

The YLC is going to B B King tonight, one way or another. It is also, miraculously, the night of the SUPER MOON, and so the painting incorporates that. We hope it does not rain…but if it does we will simply get wet and linger on. B B will be under an awning, thankfully, and so the music will continue and in the words of the song, the thrill will not be gone for us……in fact it just keeps getting better.

The Abstraction Connection

construction 003 copyright Jo Ann Brown-Scott 2014 – not yet titled

Good day or evening to you – I have been painting all day and although it was not the YLC that I was working on, it has been a productive afternoon.

One of the ways to decide whether or not an abstracted image – a totally abstracted image with little or no hint of realism – is well balanced, carefully composed with lights, darks, texture, line, space etc etc etc is to view it from all 4 orientations. This is why you sometimes see people nearly standing on their heads at art museums, getting a new directional perspective on a piece of art. If the art is a well composed piece, it must “work” from any rotation. Some rotations might work better than others but they must all be successful for it to be a really good abstract.

Sooner or later the artist has to sign the painting and that generally happens at the bottom (although not always) so he/she artist must make a decision at some point. That decision might not be the most popular orientation for you. I do, personally and emphatically, believe that when you hang the painting, you really are sort of obligated to hang it in the direction the artist preferred it to hang, placing the signature side wherever that artist wanted the signature to be. If he/she signed it on the side, and it is hung that way by the artist, then please hang it that way, OK? Oh I know – it is your home and you can do whatever you want….but try to play nice and honor the work that was done and the intent of the artist. The art cops won’t storm through your door and change it on the wall but the art Buddha might frown if you hang a gorgeous painting the wrong way. You just do not want to offend the art Buddha – that is just such bad Karma. Not to mention offending the artist him/herself, even if he/she never even sees it.

Attached is a photo of the painting I finished today – and it is a perfect example of an image that can hang in any direction. Generally speaking the human eye prefers the darker areas of a painting at the bottom (seems logical – gravity), but sometimes the artist wants to give you a visual JOLT and make you re-think your reaction a little bit so he/she artist puts the darkest area at the top. Sometimes the dark is on a side, more often it is on the bottom. The focal point can be anywhere, even almost sliding off the side into oblivion. This painting seems to work in any direction for me, but I’d like to hear what you think.

There are several dots in this painting – two black and one orange and a small yellow circle as well. Using round dots is a thing I often do, and have always done. The dots in this piece have several purposes – there are many straight lines, squares, boxes and rectangles in this piece and the dots are placed to make your eye move around and to create movement and rhythm among all the geometric shapes; they are also there for roundness amid all the angles.

No title yet – that sort of depends upon the final orientation I choose.

Still have not given up on the Year Long Canvas – have faith.

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