Thursday, April 17, 2014

Art Blog: Renewal

On my 13th birthday, my father bought me my first oil painting set. He knew. My art genes came from him. Despite my Catholic upbringing, I felt this was kind of like my Bat Mitzvah. It was my coming of age. I was a true artist with a box of REAL paints. The first paintings I painted were terrible and very cliché. My first work was of a clown. I went on to paint many Jesus paintings, copied masterworks, and I remember a ballerina that was so stiff looking, she could have been made out of wood. I remember one of cat eyes. Actually, that was a cool painting. I painted the eyes very detailed, but let turpentine and linseed oil drip all over it. It was kind of progressive. I don't even like cats!!! LOL None of that mattered. I was an artist. I was a real artist.

My art life was good then. I didn't know about the trials and tribulations of being an artist. I just painted. I would paint and give all my work away to admiring friends. I have no photos because I didn't see the need for documentation. I just wanted to make art and did just that.

Then, I became a college art student. This is when it started getting complicated. Every college student needs to learn art history. I am of the era in which Janson's "History of Art" was the bible.

Even back then, I realized how sexist, racist, and ethnocentric that book was. However, it was all we had back then. Consequently, my foundation of art history knowledge was based on the work of bunches of European white men. I knew that was all wrong, but I had to go with the flow.

At least, I had that verve and energy to make my own art. Back then, I was taught art was so special and sacred. I believed that and still do. However, times have changed. I have changed. Longevity has taken a toll on me. Technology has brought on a new dynamic. It seems everyone is an "artist" now. I have changed too. I don't have that youthful enthusiasm anymore. I wish I did.

Needing to get that "feeling" back, I have thought of many things to give me a kick of art energy. I need to renew my Florida teaching certificates next year, so I have to take a class or two for credits. It dawned on me. I can do two things at once. I will get my credits, but I will hit myself up with a shot of art adrenaline too! I signed up for a basic art appreciation class. I did this on purpose. I want to go back to the time when I knew nothing. I want it all to be new again. I need a spiritual revival! I just got my textbook and it is fabulous. It seems well rounded, up to date, and inclusive. It is fresh. That is what I need, a FRESH start.

I will proceed with an open mind.
I will proceed with an open heart.
I will proceed.

Sunday, April 13, 2014

Art Blog: Melting the Wax of Nostalgia

Whenever I see an article about a person turning 100 or more, I always think about their history of memories. I think back to 1914 or earlier and wonder what went through their minds as all the decades passed. I am intrigued by what they think of the "now" compared to the "before".

Like anyone who stays alive, I am getting a taste of how my mind is filling to the brim with sights, sounds, and experiences of my own past as I age. I have lived quite a few decades. I noticed recently, my dreams at night are filled with glimpses of years long gone. In fact in one hour of trying to get to sleep, I might think about happenings in 1964; I turn over and close my eyes again, then 1975 antics fill my mind. Once again I shake my head, but suddenly land in a scene from 1999. It goes on and on. Sometimes all the imagery and memories are pleasant. Other times, I wish all my dated thoughts would just go away.

The same kind of unsettled feelings come with my memories of my art life history. If you read this blog, you already know I have been on a quest to find my true home and feeling of belonging. I have gone through all kinds of gyrations. Maybe this discomfort is due to the kind of art I make. Maybe I should move back to Detroit. Maybe I am not social enough. Maybe I have the wrong day job.

Maybe. Maybe. Maybe.

After all this indecision, I recently had a revelation. So much of the ART "world" rubs me the wrong way now. It doesn't feel familiar. All the writings about the art fairs. So much of the art is comic booky or grafittiesque. There is so much emphasis on product. So much I read is written in what they now call "International Art English" which is just a fancy way of saying "unintelligible art blah, blah, blah, B.S."

Then it hit me.

I think my feathers are ruffled because the present isn't my past. Time is moving on. Things change. It isn't 1974 or 1984 or even 2004. You can't ever go back in time. You gotta go with the flow of the years just like the centenarian blowing out a hundred candles!

The irony is I don't really want to live in the past. It is an absurd idea. This is the first house I lived in back decades and decades ago. I remember laying on the ground in front of that house when I was four years old. I would look at the clouds and think poetic thoughts. I knew I was going to be an artist even then. Yet, I wouldn't want to be still laying there now. I grew up. I started living an artist's life. I need to continue to do just that. There are times when waxing nostalgic is OK. However eventually, it is time to move on and let the past go.
You can't see the road in front of you if you are always looking in the rear view mirror!

Friday, February 21, 2014

Art Blog: Stay HUNGRY

If you live a long artist's life, there will come a time when you might feel like you have seen and done it all. At some point early on, hopefully, you have signs of success. You are on the right track. Your future is bright. Then, time starts wearing you down. You love the success you have felt, but then, you need to keep being creative. If you stray from your original ideas and work, it might be the end of success. At least, you have to find a new audience for your new and different work.

I watched a documentary about Jimi Hendrix, "Hear My Train A-Coming" , on PBS this week. It shook my bones to the core. Unfortunately, Jimi Hendrix did not live a long life, but he lived long enough to understand what being an artist means. When I watched, I was reminded about creativity at the genius level. There is nobody who can compare to Jimi. Simply, he was unique. Jimi was left handed and he used guitars making accommodations. However, he also could take at normally strung guitar, flip it upside down, and play. He had to play mentally backwards. This is like "Big Bang" genius. Can you imagine the brain cells required to do this? He was one of a kind for sure.

The thing that struck me most while I watched his story is how he had unfettered motivation during his brief, but spectacular, creative career. He had a mission. He didn't waiver. He just kept working, practicing, and stayed focused. In fact, some of the commentators in the documentary mentioned how devoted he was to his art. One said that Jimi had his guitar with him all the time. He even put it on before he left the bedroom in the morning. He was that driven. This news made me drool. I would love to be that dedicated to my own art. I can see myself making breakfast with paintbrushes in my hand.

In one scene in the video, an interviewer asks him why he changes the way he plays some early songs differently during concerts. Some fans don't like the change. He responded directly. He said artists need to create and even if they have a familiar hit, artists want to improve, improvise, and extend the original. He continued by adding
"Artist need to stay hungry." .

I agree.

Click pic for more info about this wonderful documentary.

Thursday, February 13, 2014


The other day I had a little scare. When you get to be a certain age, you are constantly aware of getting older and all the stuff that may or may not come with age. Currently, I am making art. To help make ends meet, I am working as a substitute teacher. I really like subbing because I can design my own schedule. The only downside is the pay is so low, I am still looking for a real job. Meanwhile, I walked into a school the other day. Here in St. Pete, many of the schools have recently been rebuilt. I have noticed that there is a cookie cutter look to many of the schools. The same architecture has been used for a myriad of schools in different locations.

So on this particular day, I drove up and started walking into the school. It felt familiar, but I wasn't really sure where I was. I felt this weird feeling of déjà vu all over again. Had I been there before or not? The movie title "If this is Tuesday, it must be Belgium" came to mind. I had been to 10 different schools in ten days and my head was obviously spinning. I didn't like that feeling at all. It reminded me of my childhood. We moved too much. I would come home from school and be literally told to pack my stuff. The next day, I would be in a new home and new school. It scared me. Now, I feel the same way. I have no place to call home. I don't belong anywhere.

I got set up in my sub classroom and waited for the kids to arrive. The first student walked in and said "HI Ms. Rensel!!". I turned and asked how she knew my name. She said you were our sub in another class last week! It was at that moment I realized I needed to do something different. I didn't even realize I had been at that location before, let alone subbed these same kids. This is not good.

In my mind, I started freaking out. I mean, am I getting dementia or just spacing out? Upon reflection, I realized it is none of the above. I just don't have a place to settle now and it is really doing a number on my brain. After all, I worked in the same room for 19 years. No wonder I am getting lost now. I feel the exact same way about my art life. I have spent the last two years trying to become one with the local art scene. Slowly but surely, I have realized I will never belong to the local art community. St. Pete is a medium size "small town". Everyone knows everybody. They or their parents went to the same schools. The art scene is not academic, but more product oriented. Despite my attempts to fit in, I now realize it will never happen. I am not from here. Nor are my ideas about art similar to the majority of those involved in the arts here. I am not talking better or worse. It is more like comparing apples and oranges.

So now, I am ditching all the strategies I have been using for the past 24 months. I have decided to turn off and tune into a new way of survival. First, I have to find a stable job in the educational realm. Then, I have to make my art, but think in terms of my own experiences and desires. I have had so much success in art. Now it is time to find a new place to BELONG. In order to do that, I need to think bigger. Also, I need to realize the power of my own heart. Home is right here. I just need to find the door.

I just need to find my new "house".
Then, I will feel like I belong again.
Click pic to hear CSNY sing "Our House"

Saturday, January 25, 2014

Art Blog: TIME OUT

I remember a time when I was an exhibition coordinator at an art center near Detroit. One day I went to work excited because I had just been accepted to a very prestigious exhibition. I told a coworker. Instead of congratulations, she responded by saying "You get into EVERY show! You never get rejected!". I was stunned. I did get rejected many times. I just entered a whole lot of shows. At that time, the odds were in my favor. I would enter 10 shows and get into at least 5 or 6. That was pretty good! I figured it would be this way always.

Well, that is not true. The past few years have been a roller coaster ride. I have entered so many shows and the stats do not look good. In fact, I am on the losing end of the data. This is very distressing, but valuable information. I mean, it is really something to think about and makes me want to figure out why this is happening. I try to keep my work current and relevant. However, I can't control the fads and fashion of the art world. Nor can I predict the likes and dislikes of the current jury pool. All I know for sure is that artists have to endure a roller coaster of subjective opinion regardless of time and place. It really is a crap shoot!

I am so sick of reading "We regret to inform you............" In fact, I think I have experienced the saturation point. So I decided to step back. What if I took a full year to just MAKE art? I don't want to enter any shows or try to be in this gallery or that art dump. I just want to concentrate on new work. That sounds like a good plan. It will give me time to emotionally heal from the constant pounding of rejection. I am putting myself in TIME OUT! Also at the end of this year, I will have a new body of work. Both strategies will help to promote a healthier outlook on art and my art life. This way, I will not feel like I am "Going Nowhere Fast".

"Going Nowhere Fast"
Click pic for larger view

Sunday, January 19, 2014

Art Blog: Who Are You?

Who are you? I am serious. WHO ARE YOU? Are you your job? Are you your family? Are you your friends? Are you the money you make? Are you the car you drive? Who?

There shouldn't be a person who reads this who doesn't relate in some way. The second year anniversary of quitting my long time day job is this week. I remember years ago wanting to quit, but I didn't have the nerve. It was safe. I finally got the nerve to make a move in January of 2012. It was like diving off a cliff. In fact, I am still in free fall. I don't regret leaving. I just wish I had a clearer picture of what was going to happen next. Unlike when I worked the same job every day, now, I have no idea what tomorrow or next week will bring. There is no predictable routine. There are lots of surprises.

It sure hasn't been easy. I wanted to experience other things. I wanted to spend more time with my art. I wanted to take a while to figure out what I want to do next. I wanted to really find out who I am. This 24 month experience has been interesting, but at times brutally painful. It has been like walking on an icy sidewalk. Just when I feel like I am getting traction, I fall on my behind. On the positive side, I have much more freedom. I have learned what having faith and trust in the UNIVERSE really is. Something must be working because I am still here and managing to keep my head just about the water.

My main objective has been to find out who I am without the perks and regiment of the "daily grind". Over the years, I have felt I have lost myself. This sabbatical has helped me discover things about my art life I would never have known. It has given me time to think about things in new ways. Taking away the cushions in my life has made me sit in an uncomfortable seat, but it has also given me moments of clarity. Just recently, I have had a number of experiences when I felt such joy. I felt like the real ME. In fact, I actually thought, that is SHEREE. I experienced my authentic self and most importantly, I recognized it!

At times, we all feel lost in the journey of life. We need a loud voice to wake us up. We have to do the work even if it causes discomfort. If we allow ourselves to learn to cope in new ways, it can be a great thing. Living in the now is a skill. There will always be challenges, but this is part of our life job. We have to do the work to find out who we really are.
Do you know WHO YOU ARE?

Acrylic on Wood
Click pic for larger view

Thursday, January 9, 2014

Art Blog: Your VIBE

I have never been able to figure it out. This has been happening to me for decades. I am not a traditional woman. I really don't have that maternal thing. I couldn't care less about having grandchildren. It just isn't my thing. I really love teaching though. My happiest moments are when I see a kid look at me with a "light bulb moment" expression. They finally get it. Yet, this post is more about why kids react more positively to some people.

Way back when even before I had a daughter, kids seemed to love me. I mean it was weird. I never wanted to be a mother or have a desire to be around kids. Yet, I would be walking in the mall and little kids would glom onto me like I was a cartoon character walking around Disney World. I didn't even have to have a costume. Their eyes would fix on me and then they would grab me by the leg. It happened all too often. While shaking my leg to get them off, I would ask their Mom or Dad to deal with it. I never had a clue why this was happening.

This phenomenon has never diminished. It still happens to this day. Currently, I am subbing at various schools to make money to support my art. It doesn't even matter if I have taught a kid. They still swarm me like they are bees on a field of flowers. Just today, a wonderful little special ed student who I don't even know, saw me leaving for the day. She ran so fast and hugged me so hard. Then she kept pointing at me asking "What is this?", my necklace; "What is this? That is my South American jacket; "What is this?" Those are my little, Chinese Mary Jane shoes! As I tried to move on, I wondered what is it that attracts kids to me.

It just has to be my VIBE. When I look at them I smile big. I speak to them, just like I would speak to you. Being so short in stature helps too. Kids can't figure out why an old lady is so short. I look them in the eye and they like that. All my colorful clothes and multicultural accessories are a big asset. Kids love color and feel the universal appeal of cultural artifacts. They don't have to study art history. They feel it in their bones.

Long story shorter, I have been working with the same students for the past month. Tomorrow will be my last day with them. I am more than sad. I know I will miss them. I told them I am moving on today. I saw tears. It was like a stab in the heart. We all have to do what we need to do. So why have we all bonded? It is our VIBE. They know I love them. They know I care about them. They know we can have a better life through learning, but having a fun time. They know Ms. Rensel wants the best for them because of her VIBE and because I have a wild, crazy love for their lives and their future. This is why I am a kid magnet.
What VIBE do you send out in your life?