Sunday, January 31, 2010

Art Blog: Mr. Wilbert

Life is so funny and strange. The longer I am alive; I laugh more and scratch my head harder. Decade after decade, I collect memories and accrue wisdom, but still find each new day surprising.

I just found out I have been included in an exhibition titled “Robert Wilbert: Teacher, Mentor, Friend” being shown at the Scarab Club in Detroit, Michigan. When I found out about this show, my first reaction was excitement. Then during the following days, a flood of memories haunted me. At any given moment, obscure, incidental visions of my life decades ago enveloped me.

You see, Robert Wilbert was one of my first painting professors. Actually, I knew him as “MR. WILBERT”. He was my teacher while attending Wayne State University. To this day, whenever I smell turpentine, the image of his face pops into my mind. I remember walking into the cavernous art studio in “Old Main”. As I hopped up the stairs, the aroma of turpentine seemed to lead the way to the door. As I entered the studio, I would see a very tall silhouette of a man. His shiny silver hair gleamed in the sun soaked room.

Mr. Wilbert is a painter’s painter. I am sure; he is the only professor during my time at the university who would do painting demonstrations. I remember how he would gather students around an easel and he would show us how to paint. I remember taking notes and trying to sponge up all his little tips and tricks. I was always in awe of his ability to teach and create art.

I had a revelation this week. One small, but significant Mr. Wilbert memory which came to me was going to one of his art exhibitions. I remember standing for a very long time in front of one of his paintings. The thing that mesmerized me was that he signed the painting right in the middle of the canvas. I thought that was so weird, but I was mesmerized by the juxtaposition of imagery and text. Then it dawned on me. Most all of my work does that same thing. My “States of Being” series are examples of how that memory influenced me and has an effect on my work even after all these years. It is the same concept. Of course, I have my own Sheree style of painting, but the image is behind the writing. Instead of using my signature, I put the title smack dab in the middle of the picture plane! When I realized this, I just giggled.

Yesterday, I received the exhibition announcement for this show. Excitement turned to awe. Not only am I honored to be a part of this show which pays tribute to Mr. Wilbert, but the show roster reads like a “Who’s Who” of Detroit art. I am overwhelmed with admiration for all the artists in the show. I am so proud to be a part of this exhibition and happy to carry all the memories associated with it.

Click pic to see exhibition announcement

Friday, January 1, 2010

Art Blog: Artist’s Responsibilities

This week, I had the honor of watching an episode of POV which featured the documentary about rocker/poet Patti Smith titled “Dream of Life” by filmmaker Steven Sebring.

Patti means a lot to me. I remember back in the late 70’s, she lived just a few miles away from me in Detroit. I would fantasize about going over to her house and crashing her gate. I never did. It was just a daydream. I remember buying her book “BABEL” and carrying it around like it was my Bible. Back then I thought, Patti was all the things I wished I could be.

It is unfortunate that when the PBS documentary came on TV it was late enough for me to be tired and watching with one eye. I kept dozing in and out of consciousness. It was one of those moments when you are trying so hard to stay awake, but just can’t. If I had known this show was going to be on, I would have prepared better. I didn’t and I didn’t.

As I watched on and off, I became frustrated because I really needed a pencil and paper by my side. It was one of those moments when you want to take notes. So many things she said during the film were so inspirational. I realized as I watched how we were such kindred spirits. She spoke of her angst, her artistic connections to artists including William Burroughs, Allen Ginsberg, Bob Dylan, Robert Mapplethorpe and Michael Stipe. I even remember a portion of the film she spoke of Jean Nicolas Arthur Rimbaud. My heart jumped because I too read the works of Rimbaud and the fact she went to France to retrace his final steps was awe inspiring.

As my eyes became heavier, I fought to watch the end of the movie. I wasn’t winning the fight. However, I think it was when she spoke of William Blake, she said something that made my brain try to fight harder against unconsciousness. She said something about artist’s responsibilities. She mentioned how artists such as Blake and Rimbaud had done the work. She (and other artists of our day) responds to their work and this propels us to do our own. This process continues and it becomes cyclical. Each generation of artists learn from the past generations. It is our artistic responsibility to keep the cycle turning.

Just as the film was ending, I stared at the ceiling realizing I had made it to the end (kind of). I remembered those words of advice. I will admit my interpretation and recollections of her words might be a bit stilted and nebulous due to my quasi-sleep induced state of mind. At least, I remembered that sentiment and it struck a chord. In fact, it hit me hard. I was reminded why it is important for me to keep being the artist I am.

Ironically, my viewing of her documentary was my own DREAM OF LIFE.
Thank you Patti for being you.
Thank you Patti for letting me be me.
Thank you Patti for keeping the wheels of art turning.

Photo credit:
Click on pic to find out more about this documentary.
It is worth it.