Thursday, December 26, 2013

Art Blog: Perfect Life

About a month ago, I put a sign up on my refrigerator. It said simply: PERFECT LIFE. I wondered what my perfect life could be. I was not thinking in terms of winning the lottery or becoming famous. I was just thinking about how my life as it stands now could become more perfect.

Just like you, I have dreams and desires. My life isn't all that bad, but it sure isn't perfect. I have been very introspective this past year of 2013. I am willing to admit, a lot of the imperfection is due to my own lack of energy. I tend to procrastinate. I also suffer from something called "Mission Drift". That is when you know what your goals are but let them go for one reason or another. For me it is like an attention deficit. I can start something (a project, painting series, or any kind of goal), then something comes along and grabs my attention. All of a sudden, I want to do THAT. All my previous goals and missions fall into the trail of dust. This is my own fault. Thankfully, I realize this now. So my new plan of action is to really concentrate on just a few goals. No matter what happens, I need to focus on just those goals. What goals? That is the question that brings us back to the desire for my PERFECT LIFE.

I can't describe in detail what I want to happen in the next year. I can't tell you because I really don't know myself. This is why I am starting a new journal on New Year's day. To prepare, I have started a list of "IMAGININGS". Imaginings are all the things I imagine myself doing to be happier, but don't do them. For example, I can see myself painting down by the bay. I can see myself riding my bicycle all around St. Petersburg. I can see myself working with kids to help them appreciate ART. Obviously, one of my new goals for 2014 is to stop SEEING and turn it into DOING.

This is a start to the perfect life I really want to live.
So what do you need to do to have your own:


Sunday, November 3, 2013

Art Blog: Horizontal Transcendence

This is an ancient representation of Buddha. This sculpture was made without the need or desire to anthropomorphize Buddha. Most representations after this piece was created, depict Buddha in a human form. We do this often. All religions create images that relate to ourselves. I love the depiction of the peach cheeked Virgin Mary which hangs over my bed. It is comforting, just like the dogma of all religions. There is something about religion that gives us a universal hug. It makes us all feel better.

I am not religious. I embrace spirituality. I believe in all religions. They are basically the same. We are all striving for life guidance. We all feel the weakness of humanity and seek to find something bigger and more powerful than ourselves. We all want unconditional love. All our Gods give us that.

When I have meditated, I have always visualized it as a kind of out of body experience. I saw my spirit rising up above and looking down on my reality. When I watched this TED video by Michael Stone, my concepts of meditation were redirected. I realized I shouldn't look down. Vertical transcendence was not the answer. I really shouldn't want to get "up and out of here". Instead, I should try to move from side to side. I need to experience life here on the ground. Instead of wishing for a new reality, I would love to mingle and enjoy what exists on the vast, horizontal, human plane before me.

Michael Stone says it much better. This video is worth a look. In the meantime, I am meditating and looking around from a horizontal point of view. It is all right here beside me. I have to find comfort in this vision and experience.

TEDxToronto 2013 Talk: Michael Stone
Click pic to watch video

Monday, October 21, 2013

Art Blog: Square Peg

Sometimes you have to go through trials to figure out what you really want. As an artist and person, I am a self improvement addict. I am all about spirituality and self realization. All this work is done for the sake of betterment. One of my biggest issues right now is the feeling of alienation. I haven't felt comfortable in my own skin. In order to alleviate this tension, I decided to start a very specific task for myself. I wanted to put effort into trying to fit in more. I wanted to put time into being more comfortable in my environment. I have been working on this for over a year now.

My strategies have worked in some ways. I see, look, and know what is around me with much more clarity. Rather than being held up in my art house and studio, I have gotten out into the provincial world that surrounds me. I have taken it all in with deep breaths, wide eyes, and fine tuned ears. Oh. Now I get it.

Yet, I realize now I have come full circle. There was nothing wrong with my art life in the first place. Even though I felt bad about not showing locally, I now realize that is OK. I don't have to be a "local". The irony is I will never be a local. I am an immigrant, so to speak. I live in my own land. I tried to become a member of another world and I really don't like it. I have realized my independence is one of the most important attributes I possess. I want to be the Queen of Sheree World. There is no harm in that. So, I am going back there. I can hear Glinda's words to Dorothy: "You've always had the power....."

The moral of this story is you have to be true to yourself:
If it doesn't feel good, don't do it.
There is truth to the idiomatic expression about trying to fit a "square peg into a round hole". It just isn't going to happen.
Now, I am OK with this.

Thursday, October 10, 2013


I have written before about my fascination with self taught, naive, or outsider artists. I love their work because of the purity of heart which drives them to create. Ultimately, this same energy emanates through their work.
One such artist is Emery Blagdon (1907-1986). He was an ordinary man. He was very eccentric, but not a recluse. He was from a small, rural town who accepted his unusual ways. Emory made what he called "Pretties". For most of his life, he worked on a large vernacular environment titled "The Healing Machine". He did not identify himself as an artist. He liked to be considered an inventor of this magical installation which emitted static energy and had the power to heal. His story is as interesting as his life work. I don't need to explain more because we are lucky enough to have this beautiful video that summarizes his life and the happy ending for his obsession. This video is a bit long (26:40), but well worth the watch. Bookmark it for later if necessary. It will inspire you to create and live your life with magical motivation.
"The Healing Machine" Video
(click pic to watch)

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Art Blog: Popular or Pro?

What is your preference? Popular or Pro?
Read on, I will explain. I remember a few art shows ago, we were dismantling an exhibition. As I was taking my work off the wall, this artist asked me if I sold anything. I nodded, "No". She quickly boasted "I sold two paintings!" I congratulated her and went back to my own business. As she walked away, I visualized her work in my mind. She was a painter of clowns. Her work was very relatable to much of the public audience. Obviously, her work was popular enough for someone to buy her art. That is great for her. More often than not, my work doesn't seem to be understood by the average Jane or Joe. Even though I don't really care, I was a bit jealous of the clown painter.

This week the Grand Rapids ArtPrize competition was held. This is a huge art contest drawing international attention. The most interesting part is the fact the judgment comes from two different entities. In one category, the prizes are determined by popular vote. The second group of prizes are given by art professional jurors. The person who wins the $200,000 grand prize given by "the people" gets lots of attention and press. The winner of the jury vote, not so much. In no way do I mean to downgrade any of the artists in this art contest. However, I have noticed a common thread amongst the works that win the popular votes over the past few years. Generally, it is very straight forward, representational, relatable, and usually quite traditional. The juried winner's works tend to be esoteric, academic, intellectually driven, and to put it simply kind of weird. At least that is what the average person might think.
So this brings me back to my original question. As an artist, whose vote would matter most to you? Would you prefer the popular votes or be given kudos by the art pros? I suppose ideally, it would be wonderful to have the best of both worlds. Is it possible to have art professional approval and still get the popular vote?
Tell me what you think.
Here are this year's ArtPrize winners (Click pics for more information)
ArtPrize Grand Prize Winner (Popular Vote)
"Sleeping Bear Dune" by Ann Loveless

ArtPrize Grand Prize Winner (Juried Vote)
"Ecosystem" by Carlos Bunga

Thursday, May 9, 2013


I remember seeing Jamie Fox speak about "The Mist" during an Oprah interview. He told of how when he wasn't famous, people didn't think much of him at all. Women told him he wasn't attractive and he had bad teeth, etc. Then after his acclaim for his performance in "Ray", he suddenly became handsome and desirable. Women would tell him how hot he was. He called this the MIST. It was as if someone sprayed him with a glitter of favor, he became popular and approved. This is what media and social opinion does to all of us.

I have thought about this concept since hearing him speak. I had a light bulb moment. I had a revelation. I started thinking about artists who are celebrated. I even equated the MIST with local art scenes. It is so much about popularity and social "butterflyism". It isn't so much what you do. I have seen a whole lot of crappy art created by celebrated artists. It is more about who you are and how people perceive you. You have to have the MIST.

I am sure many of you have gone to an art show and thought "My work is just as good as this artist or that artist. Why are they getting all this notice." It has to do with who you know or who likes you. If an art advocate has power, it might benefit you if they touch you with the sparkling spray of anointment.

Sometimes it is just a matter of being a part of a certain community at a certain point in time. Being in the right place at the right moment helps loads. Also, you have to be out there and part of the social scene. That is how you get people to collect your art. If you have a big personality, fit the mold of what they perceive as an "art star", and are a part of the social art scene, you might gain the MIST.

I saw this article about studio visits. It was written by Walter Robinson, former editor-in-chief of Artnet. This guy has connections! However, even he has had interesting moments trying to get noticed, let alone obtain the glorious favor of curators and collectors. He is seeking the MIST. I too wish someone could spray me with good favor. Yet in my heart of hearts, I know I am not social enough. I don't want to play the social game. It never was and never will be part of my being.
I am screwed. LOL

DeKooning sitting in his studio

Click the pic to read about Walter's studio visits. It is enlightening.

Friday, April 12, 2013

ART BLOG: Hegemonic Zeitgeist

Definition of HEGEMONY
1. influence or authority over others : domination
2. : the social, cultural, ideological, or economic influence exerted by a dominant group

Years ago, I knew a school security officer who went on a crusade to make sure all the staff parked correctly. He sent emails and memos warning school staff about parking procedures. He wanted everyone to know it was against the rules to park your car so that the front end was facing out of the parking space. In other words, NO PARKING backwards! According to him, the was a security issue. Oh..........OK.............whatever. I wondered why he wasn't concerned about the real important issues of school security.

It seems things and a lot of people are like this now. Everybody needs to assert their own brand of "bossism" on whomever will listen. We all have jobs. We all have certain responsibilities. I have encountered so many who are at such a loss and feel so powerless, they tend to overstate the little power they have. Consequently, we hear overstated demands and power monger requests. It is their last ditch efforts to feel important or relevant.

We are all guilty of this to a degree. I know I freak out when students put brushes upside down in the brush cup. In fact, students laugh at me at times because I go on and on about putting markers in the PENCIL drawer. Yet, there is more to this story.

I recently had a discussion with an art gallery owner. It was obvious to me he didn't know what he was talking about. However, I kept my mouth shut because he had some kind of weird power. He has a gallery. I don't. Therefore, I was mum. He rejected me after it was all over. Actually, I was relieved. I felt bad midway through the process. I knew all this was not for me. I knew he didn't understand my work. I knew, I didn't respect his gallery work. It was all good and ended as it should. I felt GOOD about the rejection! The thing that made me think twice was this POWER issue. He said "NO". That was the power he had. In other words with all the things going on in the world, he used her piddley power to reject me. I equate that same gesture with the kid who works at Burger King and told me I couldn't have a second salad dressing with my salad. It seems we have all fallen into a trap. I see a hegemonic zeitgeist. We, our societal pulse, longs for some kind of control. We want our own power even if it is menial and petty.
We need to STOP.

We all have power. I just hope we use it well.
STOP the negativity and avoid using your little bits of control to alienate people.
If we all do this, the world will be a better and a much happier place.

Friday, April 5, 2013

Art Blog: Pure Creativity

Before I say anything, I would like you to look at this work. What do you think? Do you have ideas about the artist? The work?

This week, I viewed a documentary titled "MAKE". This film documents the works of a few outsider artists. One artist in the movie is Judith Scott(1943-2005). Born with Down Syndrome and rendered deaf after suffering Scarlet Fever during infancy, she lived with her family until age 7. As was the custom of the time, she was put in an institution around 1950. Also, she had a twin sister, Joyce.

Joyce endured emotional pain being separated from her twin, Judith. Finally in 1986, Joyce became Judith's legal guardian and took her home to live with her family. Joyce enrolled Judith in day care facility for the disabled called "Creative Growth". It was quickly discovered Judith was not a painter. She had no interest 2D art. However, she started collecting objects from the studio and began wrapping and knotting. The works above are just a few of the hundreds she made over the last years of her life.

The reason I wanted to write about Judith's work is because I am fascinated by the fact she didn't call herself an artist. She didn't really know what art is. She just had the compulsion to create. She had a ongoing creative obsession. If you have the opportunity to see the film "MAKE", you will see she is very self driven and possessive of her art works. She was not being guided to do the work. It was her work.

We know so little about our brains and creativity. We all have notions of what it is to be creative. We all have our opinions about who is or who is not an artist. However, people like Judith are here to remind us of how we know so little about real art or the seeds of creative process. Her work has given me new thoughts and ideas about motivation and my own inner longing to MAKE art. This is Judith Scott, the artist.

Click to go to the "MAKE" website to view the trailer of this documentary.

Friday, March 22, 2013

Art Blog: Young Artist / Old Artist

These days, I am surrounded by young artists. Some are very young. Once again, I am teaching college age students. Some of them have unbelievable talent and untapped skill. Also, they are full of wonder and enthusiasm. They are like sponges wanting to know who, how, what, why, and when as it pertains to anything ART. Sometimes, I will be looking at their young faces as I show them an artist's work or a new technique. Their reactions are so fresh and full of excitement. I remember when I was like that.

It isn't that art has become mundane or uninteresting for me. I think my flames of creative desire have burned down to sparkling embers which continue to glow. I will admit it takes something special to make the burn jump and spark into fire. On a recent trip to the Museum of Fine Arts in St. Petersburg, there was a little flash.

As I walked gallery to gallery, I started realizing that I have seen tens of thousands of works of art in my life. Between artist's studios, galleries, and museums, the number of works I have viewed could never be counted. I started thinking about getting older and how my taste and interests in art have changed over time. Like most artists, I have my own art history that is reflected with each decade.

When I was in high school, I would pour over encyclopedic, art history books. You know the kind. I would peruse pulp, art history volumes which summed up art history in 200 pages. I teethed my way through antiquities to modern art. I remember being in love with the Impressionists. I especially loved Renoir. Those puffy soft brush strokes and rosy colors fit in with my romanticized vision of being an artist.

My first years in college, I became interested in all things Monet. His use of color and concern for light were fascinating to me. I would look at works like his haystacks and Rouen Cathedral for hours. I understood what it was like to view the works of a master.

In later college days, conceptual and minimal art was all the rage. It wasn't for me. I found myself going to the Detroit Institute of arts and hanging around with the primitives. The raw energy and pureness of intent was so real to me. This art was human and emotive. Maybe this interest came as a backlash to the cerebral art of the '70s. I wanted to see the "hand of the artist" (not a formula or work by assistants). To this day, all primitive art speaks to me.

As I turned the corner at the museum, this tiny piece caught my eye and brought a smile. It brought back a sweet memory. Years ago, I was in an artist's NY studio. He had a piece by some artist from the Ashcan School hanging over his bed. I can't remember whose work it was, but I remember staring at this piece and asking him about it. He said it was an original and it had been a gift. After seeing that piece, I became enthralled with all art ashcan.


In recent years, my interest in raw, human art has transformed into loving naive and outsider art. Actually, this interest dates back to the same time I loved Monet. My professor at the time, David Barr, turned me onto both genres of art history. To this day, I excitedly flip the pages of Raw Visions Magazine. It was there, I was introduced to the work of Mary Proctor. When I saw this piece at the museum I was reminded that excitement for art was still there in my heart.

There is a yin/yang to whether you are a young, enthusiastic artist or seasoned creator. Those days of bright eyes are wonderful. However when you are able to count your art years, it is joyous too.

Friday, March 15, 2013

Art Blog: Just get it DONE

Every artist knows what it is like to be alone. I mean really alone. Studio time is solitary. We can go hours and days without speaking to anyone as we hunch over our potentially brilliant creations. During these times, it is easy to get inside our own heads. The tape is running constantly. Not only are we thinking about what color to use next or whether to use wood or canvas, we also let our minds drift into the areas of what will be the response to this work? How will it be received? Will this piece lead to the next or will it be a onetime wonder? What? Why? How? Where? When?

Blah, blah, blah. Shhhhhh.... There are times when you want your mind to just STOP! This is why I like this Warhol quote so much. I can hear Andy's squeaky voice mouthing the words. "Just get it done!" "Let other's decide..." In other words, we are not in it at that point. Our work as artists is about making the art. Once it is done, our job is to make more. Let the art go out into the Universe and others can take it or leave it. It isn't about us anymore.

Yesterday, I was browsing Facebook and Karen Keimig Warner put up a link to an artist, Daniel Essig. He is a sculptor and maker of handmade books. I went to the link and I was blown away. His work is pure beauty. As I shuffled through all the photos in his portfolio, I was taken aback. The work is raw, natural, and amazing. The thought came to me that some of this work is not for everyone. I mean, unless you have a certain kind of art "eye", you might think some of this work is wonky or weird. Obviously, Daniel doesn't care about that kind of judgment. He just keeps making art. HIS ART. As artists we are alone in the studio, but thankfully we are still connected to each other via the internet and community. We need to embrace each other and share our commonalities. We should cheer each other on because we know what we do is good and right.
So just get it done.

Seeing this handmade book sculpture took my breath away.
"While they are deciding, make even more art!" says Mr. Warhol.
It looks like this is what Daniel Essig does.
Bravo to him!!
Click photo to see more of Mr. Essig's wonderful works.

Thursday, March 7, 2013

Art Blog: Is your ART relevant?

I think one of the reasons I am sinking my soul into my day job is because I have come to a point in which all my art efforts have become inert. I spent the last year making, hawking, and marketing until the point I am almost blue. No deals. Nothing. Nada. Silence.

I have dealt with rejection for over 40 years, but this is ridiculous. In fact, this doesn't even resemble rejection. What I am experiencing is total indifference. This is worse! I started thinking about the idea of the contemporary relevance of my work. I could stand before you while showing any one of my series and could spiel out the relevance and tell you why my work is current and important. The problem is that isn't really possible. My work is here. You are there. Also, I don't really believe in explaining anything.

I have spoken about MARGARET a number of times. She is 82 years old (83 next week). She is like my imaginary mentor. I look to her and her videos and think "I want to be like her in twenty years!". She just got back from India after spending time with the Siddis quilters. She learned the techniques and has produced a body of work. Now, she is trying to market them or at least find a venue to show the work. She hasn't had great response yet and she tells of her frustration in this video. I totally "get it". I too am amazed at the idea of non-response. It rocks you to the core of your being.

I agree with Margaret (atree3). There is a moat or a bridge (?) between the making of the art and the marketing of the art. Like Margaret, I love the process of the making. I love the alone time. I love the quiet. However, the marketing part is like the Tower of Babel to me. There is all kinds of chitter, chatter, and noise, followed by a deafening silence. This is OK though. I know Margaret's work is incredible. I know what I do is right and true. We are both on one side of the BRIDGE.
Come join us.

Click on photo to hear some atree3 brilliance!

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Art Blog: NOW WHAT?

If I have accomplished anything, it is to be honest about my art life. You see artists online singing the glories of being an artist. This is true; there is a great side. We get to express ourselves, produce work we love, and share our thoughts and feelings with others. That can be glorious. For new artists it is bright and shiny. It can seem like a disco ball of life. Just saying the words "I am an artist" can be titillating and so much fun. Chests puff up and long for pounding after this grandiose proclamation. There is some kind of heroic and austere notion about that label: ARTIST

However, it is very different after years and years and decades and decades. You suddenly STOP for a moment and need to take a relook. What am I doing? Why am I doing it? What is the point? What NOW?
I am going through this stage now. I have a great history. I have many, many wonderful art experiences. I have had success. I am entering into my last years now. I figure if I am lucky, I have twenty years left. So I am in a position of asking "What now?" I have done and experienced so much ART LIFE, I have what I call "Been there, done that" syndrome. In other words, I see young artists showing their work and being so excited. They sell a painting and they are so jazzed. Well, I have shown and sold many paintings in my art life.

That feeling isn't all that exciting anymore. I have worked in the studio for thousands of days. I have worked alone as a tribute to my craft. I have sat in galleries for hours and paid my dues. I have experienced the feelings of others loving my work and I appreciated their notice. That part has been all good, but what NOW?

I need to find something to get me excited about my art life. I have had the germ of an idea for years floating around in my mind. I have always wanted to take art "on the road". This is one of those bucket list things that just seems to never get crossed off the list. It just stays there on the crumpled paper with streaks of graphite almost obscuring the meager words. "Art Gallery on Wheels".

Well, it is time for me to start thinking about my bucket list items and figure out a way to cross them off my art life list. I saw this post today about Axle Art Gallery. I love it. I want it. I want to do that. Just this simple slide show gave me a new lease on life. I have a new goal now. I just have to figure out how to do it. It may take time, but time is all I have now.

I want that feeling of being proud of my art life.
I want to pound my chest one more time.

Friday, January 11, 2013

Art Blog: Full Circle

As I get older, I see the pieces of the puzzle coming together. When you start to work on a 1000 piece puzzle, you start with the edges. You get the perimeter. You frame it. I did that decades ago. I am a lucky girl. I know how I got my creativity and spirit to MAKE. When I was a very young child, I would hang around with my dad. He was a maker. He would use all kinds of materials to make stuff. It was very low brow stuff like upholstered vinyl plaques or chairs. He loved black and red vinyl with lots of big, silver rivets. Even though I was preschool age, I remember watching him work with awe. It was during these years, I was putting down the pieces of the puzzle frame. It was already boxed in before I was five years old.

When I started school, I went to a school right across the street from my house. It was Thorne Elementary School on Pennie Street in Dearborn Heights, Michigan.

This was so lucky. I think I got a great experience from grades K-3. However, the most important thing was the after school activities they offered. Mind you, this is around 1960ish. It is totally "old school", pun intended. Behind the facade of this school was an art shed. After school, kids could go there and meet with the recreation arts and crafts person. You could tell them what you wanted to create and they would give you supplies for a nickel or dime charge. These art people were teenagers with an after school job. I loved them. So, I would head over to the art shed each day after school. We could make all kinds of stuff. I loved pouring plaster into tiny rubber molds and painting the "sculptures". Another option was using "gimp". I never heard of that word until adulthood when I got to Florida. In Michigan we just called it "plastic lace" for key chains and such. It doesn't matter what you call it, I became obsessed with braiding, knotting, weaving or whatever with plastic lace. Again, it was a simple craft. It was low brow. At that time, I didn't care. I was MAKING and it was fun.

Then there were years and years of high art. I was involved in fancy, smancy openings, great gallery shows, commissions, and gallery sales. I am a lucky girl. I have had such a great art life. However, there is a time you might get in your art life when you long for those days of being happy just to CREATE. There are no deadlines, expectations, competition, or standards. You just want to feel that feeling of being six years old and making a lanyard and being so proud.

If you read this blog, you know I just got a new job. I am not teaching college level anymore. Nor am I teaching school at any level where you are bound to standards, rules, assessments, and curriculum dogma. NO. I found a job working in the field of recreation. I work with at-risk kids who are learning a trade, but need a break "after school". They come to my room to MAKE stuff. It is not hoighty toighty. It is low brow for sure. However, WE are having fun creating. This is what it is all about. The puzzle is starting to be filled in and I see the whole picture.

In the meantime, we are having lots of fun using gimp, pouring plaster, drawing, painting, etc. just to express ourselves.
Isn't that what it is all about?
In other words, things have come FULL CIRCLE for me.
I can introduce young people to the thrill of making, yet be happy enough to realize the joy of creating in this last chapter of my own art life. It is all good.
The puzzle is being completed.

Thursday, January 3, 2013

Art Blog: GOOD Art

OK. Enough of the job stuff. I have a steady income again and I am ready to roll back into my art world. What is next? My mind has been swirling with ideas. I have so much to do. I have already decided to ditch a few of my series and do what I really want to do. I can feel new things coming.

As usual, I have pondered, wondered, and thought about my art too much in the past months. I am like that. I think too much. However, it serves a purpose. It helps me to figure out the next steps in my artistic path. Now that the dust is settling in my new transition, it is time to get to work on my art life. What should I do now?

Today is my day off. I was having fun playing with my dog on my bed. While wrestling and poking my playful attack dog, I looked up at my crazy quilt. I bought this quilt eleven years ago. It is dated 1903. Every square has the initials or name of the quilter. My eyes focused in on one square. It was like I had never seen it before. I imagined the "artist" who created this square. She signed it "M.E.D.". I wondered about her. I also noticed her square was so different from the others.

So here I am in 2013 looking at a tiny quilt square made by a woman in 1903. I am mesmerized. I analyze. I see the WOW. Then, it all came tumbling down. I get it. This is what GOOD ART is supposed to be. It is about the legacy. It is about seeing something you have never seen before even after years of looking. It is about making things that delight you and others. It is something that will be there when you are gone.

M.E.D. You are dead now, but I thought about you.
I love your quilt square.
You did good. :-)