Saturday, May 14, 2016

Art Blog: RICH People

I still have this problem. I don't feel comfortable around rich people. I was at my local museum today. I wandered the little gallery rooms. Living in a tourist town, I have learned to spot the $$$$ visitors. As I gaze across the room, I see the grey haired man speaking softly to the anorexic looking young woman dressed in the finest fashions. I am jealous (in a way).
OH, I had my time. I was cute once. I have taken rides in a Ferrari after a late night at the bar. I have been in a Jaq too. I could have had that kind of life if I wanted to pay for it. I didn't. Nothing in life is free. There is a price to pay associated with your life decisions.

I have been surrounded by rich people for the majority of my adult life. I am an artist. Rich collectors buy art. They have bought some of mine. I remember lurking at art openings watching the stylish, gilded people look at art. I was not one of them. I was an outsider.

I remember a time when a very rich woman came to my studio in the ghetto of Detroit. She drove her Jag. She walked the three stories up to my decrepit studio. I remember she had driving gloves on her hands. I just remember those gloves. All the while I kept thinking her car would be stolen in my dirt parking lot. Luckily it wasn't, but I still remember those gloves.

It is funny. I wish I had more money, but I don't wish I had to live that lifestyle. For example, the lady with the gloves had a husband who went broke a few years later. It was something about her husband and an addiction. They lost it all. I felt for her. I wondered if she sold those gloves(?).

Old money, new money, and NO money. Those are the financial classes of our America. Of course, I would like to feel or be rich just for a while. It will never happen because I don't want that kind of pressure on me. I like being poorish. It is simpler and more honest.

BTW I wrote "poorish" because I found out yesterday, that I am in the middle income for my city area. This is very scary to me because my income is very low. It says something about St. Petersburg. Despite all the mansions and pricey high rises, there are a bunch of us living here who are scraping financially to get by every day. The most frightening thing to me is that there are many who live below my own poverty line. Shoot! I am middle class according to research. This is funny in a bad way to me. Today, I debated the cost to buy sweet potatoes.

Monday, May 9, 2016

Art Blog: Full Time FREE Artist

I remember the day I bought my first truck. I bought it new, off the dealer's lot. I felt so proud of myself. I remember driving to my job. The windows were down. The radio was blasting. My hair was whipping in the wind. I remember feeling so free. I felt like I was a successful artist. I had the world by the tail.

That was years and years ago. Since then, my art life has had ups and downs. However, I have always felt successful even though I worked other jobs to support my art. This lifestyle was on purpose. I didn't want to have to worry about art sale proceeds to be able to live. I wanted to fret less. So I taught. Still, I dreamed of the day I could live the life of a "full time" artist. I use that phrase tongue in cheek. I have always worked as an artist full time along with one, two, or three day jobs. I guess a better way to say it is: "I always wondered what it would be like not to work day jobs and just be an artist". That was such a foreign concept to me.

The day has come, I have no day job. You know what? I feel guilty! It has taken me almost a year to adjust to the idea of just working on my art all the time. I have worked jobs for so many years, I am accustomed to having a full calendar of meetings, trainings, and hours to put into jobs just to pay the mortgage. I don't have to do that now and for some reason, I feel like I am doing something wrong. It is like waiting to be called to the Principal's office or expecting the other shoe to drop. It is like a nagging feeling deep in my bones. I feel like I am in trouble.

This is why I remembered the day I bought my first truck. I loved that feeling of accomplishment and FREEDOM. In fact, I have just realized being free is one of the most important attributes of my life. I am a free bird now. I need to feel and embrace that feeling. I need to learn how to fly just like "Airwolf".

Acrylic on Cotton Cloth
Sheree Rensel

Sunday, April 24, 2016


I went to my local museum today. I went specifically to hear an artist speak about her installation. Just before the talk began, I overheard someone say the artist would not be there. Instead, the resident art historian would speak on her behalf. I was so disappointed. I am sure the art historian would do an ample job of explaining the work of the artist, but I wanted to hear it from the artist. I left before the talk began.

I read so many art history books. I am very familiar with the art history take on this artist or that. Klimt said this. Monet did that. The artist's work meant blah, blah, blah. That is their interpretation. It is all subjective. I would love to hear it from the source. I am not saying art historians are wrong. I am saying their words present a different perspective. I laugh because my work has been reviewed many times. The things other people say are sometimes insightful and other times far off the mark. Regardless, I listen. However, if they had taken the time to ask me before they threw their opinions out there, I am sure their responses would be different.

I watch art documentaries almost every day or two. I search for artist interviews, talks, studio visits, and watch many professional art film documentaries. I want to hear artist's speak for their own work in their own words. I think the best example of this is the Alice Neel documentary. She is so frank and to the point. She explains why she did what she did. She even explains her life choices in this documentary. I think it is my favorite of all time. If you get a chance to view it, you should.

Even on YouTube, there are thousands of snippets which provide us all an opportunity to hear the artist's own voice. We are lucky now to live in this age of technology. There are so many artists online telling their own story. Even though Alice lived a bit before this techno surge, at least her voice has been documented. This is a great example of what I am talking about here. This little video shows Alice speaking and the critic/art historian types speaking about her. Good for them. However, her words ring truer to me. Maybe because I feel the presence of a kindred artist spirit.

CLICK pic to watch a little snippet of ALICE telling it like it really is!

Sunday, April 17, 2016


I have been spring cleaning. I have even read some old journals. It is like torture. However, I found this. It is typed! I mean like typed on a typewriter! That is how old it is. I read it and smiled.


Wednesday, April 13, 2016

Art Blog: Ch-ch-ch-ch-changes

"I watch the ripples change their size But never leave the stream Of warm impermanence and So the days float through my eyes But still the days seem the same And these children that you spit on As they try to change their worlds Are immune to your consultations They're quite aware of what they're going through Ch-ch-ch-ch-changes..."

As we get older, memories start to flood our minds. It is common to hit a certain age, start reminiscing, and become nostalgic. "Remember when..." Lately, I have been doing this a lot in regards to my life as an artist. Things have changed so much since I began this creative trip. I started showing my work in the 70's. My art world at that time didn't seem so complicated. Academia was part of my background and "art for art sake" was a common train of thought. I did sell my work in galleries, but that was icing on the cake. I had this notion that artist's were some kind of heroes and getting lots of money was not the primary purpose of living an art life.

It is so different now. Careerism is being taught in some art schools. A good majority of artist videos on YouTube sound like they have been listening to too many Zig Ziglar audio books. Everywhere you turn online, there is some new "Business of Being an Artist" marketing website. SELL! SELL! SELL! This is the mantra of the day. I suppose this is a good thing for some artists. I totally agree; artists should be paid for their art. However, sometimes it bothers me when I tune in to watch an artist's video only to feel like I am watching "Big Al trying to sell a used car on his lot." Another of my little pet peeves is when I see artist's hawking their "adult coloring books" or some other get rich quick scheme. Nor am I interested in painting with celery stalks or making art out of jello. If you want to cash in on fads and crazes, go right ahead. I just think gimmicks are silly. I am sorry. Maybe it is because I won't do just anything for a buck and my art time is too precious. If I wanted to, I could paint quaint, dreamy cottages like Thomas Kinkade. NOPE. Never going to happen. I think if I was 25 years old and had lived in the digital age my entire life, I would have a different perspective. However, I am not and I don't.

I think what I remember most about the past is more of a sense of artistic honesty and integrity in my art circles. Passion and purpose was a top priority. At least, it seemed like the art I encountered was meaningful. I recently saw this video interview with artist, Harold Garde. He is in his nineties. I am old, but not that old! LOL I thought about the changes he has seen in his art life. I loved much of what he says in this video.

"Garde refuses to paint for the galleries, collectors, shows or museums, but is instead focused on pleasing one person: himself."

As we age we notice the world changing, but so do we. Rejecting the art establishment is a hard thing to do. Nowadays, this concept seems crazy. Yet, I understand his intention. What struck me most is he too can look back at the past, but he doesn't dwell there. He has shown his work in galleries and museums for decades. Now, that isn't important to him. He moves with the flow of time. His time. I like that.

CLICK PIC to hear Harold speak.

Monday, April 11, 2016

Art Blog: Creating From Experience?

I am thinking as I type this. The first question I have for you is:

Should artists create art that is out of their realm of personal experience?

Recently, I have noticed work by artists that struck me as being dishonest. I wondered if it was because the imagery or subject matter had nothing to do with their own lives. I have thought about this for days. Does an artist have to experience their subject matter?

Hypothetical examples could include:

-A rich artist painting about poverty.
-An author who writes stories about life in Madagascar, but has never stepped out of Des Moines, Iowa.
-A male artist creating work about the struggles of women.

Then my head spins in a new direction. What about imagination? Artists use their imagination to create things imaginary or even the impossible. Without this, there wouldn't be Science Fiction or Fantasy. This contradicts one thing I learned in college. One of my writing professors told us over and over again: WRITE WHAT YOU KNOW! In some ways, I agree, but I am not sure. I guess why all this bothers me is because the art which made me think of this topic, seemed disingenuous. The lack of actual experience made me feel as if the work was more of an exercise in technique rather than a deeply felt product of familiarity or background.

Then, I start to check myself. I think of all the various bodies of work I have done over the decades. Were they from my own experiences? I started with nature: CHECK. I moved into social issues. Hmmmm. This is interesting. I did war images, but I have never been to war. I drew about death, yet I am still alive. I have done lots of gun imagery, but I don't advocate for firearms. Most recently, I have worked a lot with emotions: CHECK, CHECK, CHECK! Currently, I am doing some painting work that I don't have a clue what it is about yet. LOL Also, I have been working with photographic images about being Catholic: CHECK. So I asked myself this question and I still don't have an answer.

What do you think?

Saturday, April 9, 2016

Art Blog: The Pragmatist

I have to get back to writing. For that matter, I have to get back to everything. I will admit the last four years have been one big pile of (insert any nasty word you choose.) It has been full of frightening, yet exciting changes. It has been full of absolute nonsense, but there were moments of hope. There have been days, weeks, and even months of deep, dark times. I remember reading a quote by Lena Horne. She called them the "Dead Years". I have had a few of those too. In fact despite my gratitude and appreciation for my wonderful art life so far, this apathetic, dreary spell scared me almost to death.

Changes in day jobs, the death of a few friends, a series of art failures, etc. put me into a tailspin. Up until a few weeks ago, I was spinning so hard I heard the buzzing all around me. I have been down before. I have been really down. This time was different. The hole seemed too far down to climb out. I kept telling myself "Come on Sheree. Get up! Get up! It ain't over yet!"

I am pragmatic. It is strange for me to say this considering I am an artist. At this juncture, saying that sounds so impractical. Maybe I am thinking I am not very idealistic anymore. I know for sure, I am feeling like I have a bad case of "BEEN-THERE-DONE-THAT-itis". Nothing seems new anymore. Also for the first time in my life, I am considering all the common sense, practical things that go hand in hand with my choice to be an artist. I think of how much time, energy, and money I have spent. Yes, it has been well worth it to me, but kind of stupid (in a rational way). Until now, I never gave it a second thought. Art has always been my life. I bought supplies just like I pay any other bills. I suppose what shook me into the shock of reality was I am relatively poor now. Ironically, I have more time to make art than ever in my life. I just don't have many bucks to do it so free and easily. Yet, that is not an excuse. Back in the '80s, I didn't have a pot to piss in and made some of the best art of my life.

So what is a girl to do? I decided if nothing seemed new, I would have to do things in a different way. I am walking toward the light at the top of that hole I am stuck in and reaching for the top.

I joined an online class that has nothing to do with art at all. It is more about life management. I started eating healthy again. I am TRYING to be a little more social. (I really hate this part.) I am never lonely being alone. I love it. I hate being around or talking to people. However, this isn't good for my psyche. So I am making an attempt to socialize at least once a month. I have gone to museums, lectures, and symphonies. I have been thinking about a new body of work. I have been wondering what I want to say with my art. I have watched so many art videos, I can almost recite the transcripts of entire movies. Then, I thought more about my own art. I realized I had to be pragmatic which for me means I HAVE TO MAKE ART or I will die. Art is my purpose in life.

All of a sudden, my brain clicked back on and a flood of ideas started coming. My house and studio looks like a lunatic lives here. WELL.....LOL There are sheets of paper and pictures all over tables and walls. I have work stations everywhere. Now, I have to get started, but where do I start? Stay tuned.