Friday, October 10, 2014

Art Blog: Time To Move On

For weeks, I have been in a droop. It has been a kind of downward spiral. As reported in my last post, my friend Gilda died. Her death has rocked my world. She was a fantastic person. However, she represented so much more to me.

We went to school together way back in the 70's. So losing her represents the end of that era. It is strange. Recently, we spoke about death via FB message. So many of our friends were dying. I told her that we are at that age. It is going to happen whether we like it or not. I just never thought it would be about either one of us.

So now, she is gone. It has taken a month for me to even say this. I need to let it go. I need to let her go. I need to get on with my art and life. I am so glad we shared a history. She was one person who I could talk with while voicing the same kind of "art speak". Right now, I am talking to myself. NO. I am still talking to her. She just doesn't answer immediately. I am sure she will send me signs. I am sure she is still listening to my crazy rants. I am sure she is thinking "That Sheree. She is like that."

She will always be part of my DETROIT memories. It is my hometown. She was my home girl.

Love ya Gild.

Click pic for larger view

Saturday, September 13, 2014

Art Blog: LEGACY

I remember the day the space shuttle blew up on January 28, 1986. I had been teaching all morning and I was on my school lunch hour sitting at a red light. The news was on the radio. It felt like I was stung by a million bees. After finishing teaching the rest of my afternoon classes, I left school. I drove to my Dad's house. I walked in, saw him drinking his beer at the table. The first thing he said to me was "Where did all those brains go?" My daddy was not an academic. He never finished school. Instead, he worked in printing factories for his entire life. Yet, he had a very primal wisdom. "Where did all those brains go?" This was his less than elegant way of asking what happens when we die. We accumulate all this knowledge. Then, we die and are silenced. Our physical bodies give out. Where does our essence go?

This week my best art friend died. Her name was Gilda Snowden. I cannot start to tell you what a phenomenal woman she was. I met her in the mid 70's at Wayne State University. We were comrades in undergrad and grad school. We have maintained our friendship for nearly 40 years. Her sudden and unexpected death has left a hole in my heart. She was more than just a friend. She was part of my spirit.

When I heard of her death, I remembered what my dad had said. "Where did all those brains go?" I thought of this because Gilda's foremost goal was to be a scholar. She wanted to be smart about art and life. OH, she attained her goal. She was one of the smartest people I know. I could talk to her about anything and everything. This is a rare gift. I too am a knowledge seeker. Sometimes I feel all alone because I think of things nobody else cares about. Gilda always did. So where do those brains go? Every day when I am teaching, I am met with smiling faces ready to make art. Gilda had the same thing happen. We all touch lives. We share tidbits of knowledge and experience. Those seeds are scattered into the Universe. Everything we do and share is distributed all over our worlds. Little pieces of us are floating in the air and caught by the people we touch. That is the answer Daddy.

The happiest thing for me is just weeks ago, I sent her a crown for her 60th birthday.
On the day it arrived, she put it on and sent this photo to me.
I will always love you Gilda.

Saturday, August 23, 2014

Art Blog: In the BLOOD

I have had the pleasure of meeting 500+ new students this week. It was a hot, crazy mess. However, I loved every minute of it. I was reminded that every human being needs to learn about creativity. Also, there are special individuals who are true, young artists. It is in their blood. For example, I met one little girl who cut her own bangs. I asked her about this. I asked her why she did this. Her response was "Because I wanted to." I asked if she got in trouble for doing this? She said "NO". That made me smile. She has a great parent or two. Some might see this as misbehavior. I see this as the work of an young artist trying to express themselves.

Despite the fact we need to teach everyone about creativity because no matter where your place in the world falls, you will need to be creative. There are always individuals who "get" this already. These young human beings already know the way. They are born creative. They express themselves through their dress and style. They might be moody even at a young age. They are different. Maybe this is why some artists feel like they have been outsiders their entire life.

It is very difficult to try to get close to so many students at one time. It is almost impossible to have a working relationship with that many students each week. This is why I focus on the art kids first. I can spot them from a mile away. They were born this way. Creativity runs through their veins. They are my young artists.

These are my people.

Saturday, August 16, 2014

Art Blog: Blue Teeth

SOCIETY. We have a problem. Our values are so skewed. What are we thinking? If you watch TV, you will see people spending thousands of dollars on purses or being famous for doing nothing other than posing for selfies. What is going on here?

Even though I am a wise, intellectual woman, I too fall for the joke. I will admit. I have felt lesser due to all the stuff I see in media. When I see all the star studded opulence and grand lives parading in front of me, it is hard not to think "My life sucks!"

Then, there are moments of clarity. This week I was hired to teach full time again. I took two years off. This past year, I was an Instructional Substitute to help make financial art ends meet. During this time, I realized that I am an artist without a doubt. However it dawned on me, I am a natural teacher too.

I stopped at the store after work today. As I rounded the corner of the aisle, I saw a little girl looking at me. Our eyes met. Her eyes became as big as saucers. I smiled back and said "I know you!" I was her substitute teacher for a couple of days last year. She smiled the biggest smile. I guess she just ate a blue popsicle or something. Her teeth were all blue. We talked for a few minutes. I told her I couldn't be her sub anymore because I am a regular teacher now. We hugged and I wished her well. I told her to do a great job in 2nd grade.

When I left the store, I thought about all the little bits of Sheree I have left around the world. My art is floating around the globe. More importantly, I have decades of blue tooth children who have experienced my Sheree wisdom and weirdness. It will stay with them. This is why their faces light up when they see me. They remember the experience of being around me. Like morsels dropped on a path, I have left a trail.

This is what really matters.

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Art Blog: Believe In Yourself

"I have wanted to take all of my art and put it in the garbage and burn it and say "F" this!, many, many times...ahh..then I don't. I just keep going because this is all I know. It just takes a couple of paintings and I am good for a year or two. Really.. You keep the hope up!"
Heather Wilcoxon

As artists, we have the power to drift off into our own imaginations. We live in our own heads. We believe those inner voices. We heed the good and bad of those listenings. Sometimes, we believe we are alone in our thoughts. We see the uniqueness of our own creativity, but we also think we are the only ones feeling the feelings. This is not true. I was reminded of the camaraderie of artist's experiences while watching a video about artist Heather Wilcoxon. As her gentle voice narrated the film, my mouth dropped in awe. Her words were my thoughts. I could say the exact same thing about my art life. She could have been describing me.

"I have been making art all of my life since I remember. Making my own world. I lived in my little world. I am still doing the same thing. It is what I do. It is who I am. I feel very privileged on one hand." Heather Wilcoxon

Especially in the past two years, I have realized more than ever, I live in my own little world. I have constructed walls around me. Yet, if I think back on all the years of my life, it has always been this way. I have lived my life in a home blown bubble. It was for safety and privacy. However, it has also been a way to protect my privilege of being special.

"It took me years to find my voice..." Heather Wilcoxon

This quote made me step back. As artists, we all develop our own vocabulary. The images we create and the type of strokes we make form together to make our personal alphabet. Some of the strife I have been feeling lately has to do with this. I want to deny my own vocabulary. I have wanted and tried to throw out the dictionary of my own language because it seems like nobody else understands what I am saying. This is not really true at all. It is one of those negative listenings I spoke of earlier. It is my black muse talking trash.

"Because I have been a fine artist and relied on sales, I have always had the up and down. I think when you get to be my age, it gets old. You think by the time you are 65 it is all going to be paying for itself. ha ha ha ha ha! SO NOT!" Heather Wilcoxon

These words too rang so true, she could have been shouting at me. Much of the drag I feel lately is because I am tired. I keep looking and seeking some little bump that will give me back my oomph! I have been on an art marathon. I am huffing and puffing right now. I have needed time to just stop and rest for a moment. I am not done with the race. I just need to stop for a sip of water and think about the words of wisdom that we all know to be true.

"I have to pick myself up because I have been there so many times. You have to believe in yourself. You've gotta know your work is good. I know my work is good. It will have its time." Heather Wilcoxon

Click pic to watch

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Art Blog: ARTIST OPINIONS WANTED!

I am 100% serious. I want opinions. I especially want the viewpoints of artists. I have this art concept idea. I have been thinking about it for months. I have already titled it. It will be called "9-22 Project". It has to do with finding out what my neighbors think about art. I live in a low/middlish class neighborhood in my city. Nobody really knows I am an artist. In fact, my next door neighbor was shocked to find me in my studio recently. She didn't know what to think. The weirdest part is I could see on her face she had no clue why I would do the stuff I do. Nobody talks to anybody around here. We all just live on this street.

Months ago, a mayoral candidate came to my door and we talked. ART is a hot topic in the downtown area of the city. However, the general populous is not very well informed about the arts or culture. One thing I said to him was "People in this area of the city have no idea about art. I doubt they have any art in their homes!". He listened and then left. After he was gone, I started thinking. I have no idea what my neighbors do or think about art. I just said that on a hunch. That got me thinking.

What do my neighbors really think about art?
What is their perspective or thoughts?

I decided to create the "9-22 PROJECT". I would like to send a snail mail letter to everyone in the 1.5 mile stretch of my street and ask them about ART. My current idea is to ask them to take a photo of the most artistic thing in their homes. They don't have to tell me their name. They don't have to tell me their address. I just want them to email me a photo of any "art" in their home. From this, I want to create new art in response to their art "inspirations".

After that, who knows. I haven't gotten that far yet. An exhibition? What if I actually met the people who sent me photos of their concept of art? That right there blows my mind.

This is why I have my hand out to artists.
What is positive and the drawbacks to this kind of art project.
I want your opinions.

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Art Blog: See the FIRE

Artists know. Any and every life experience could be potential fodder for inspiration. Sometimes it is a surprise when something will trigger an epiphany. Those "a-ha" moments can come anytime, anywhere. I had a huge revelation last night during an very unexpected moment.

This crazy insight was a total shock. I was tired and frustrated. I am struggling with my art right now in a way that has not been rivaled in my over 30 years as an artist. The past year has been comprised of making stuff, throwing it away, painting over it, or keeping it and hating every time I look at the finished work. I have been trying to figure out what is wrong. It became clear as day last night. As I laid on the couch flipping through the channels, there was nothing of interest to watch. Rather than turn off the TV, I settled on a VH1 program called "Behind the Music". This episode was about the musician/songwriter/producer, Linda Perry. After a few minutes I was hooked. Just the way she looked drew me into a world of awe.

The bio show was terrific. Then it ended. It was followed by a show called "Make or Break: Linda Perry Project". I didn't change the channel. I didn't feel like looking for the remote. So I watched. This is a kind of off the beaten path version of an "American Idol" type show. Linda found musicians around the country and wanted to mold them. Ultimately, the prize will be a contract with Linda Perry's record label. OK, whatever.

The show started and of course, there were bunches of young musical brats running around a mansion prepping for the showdown. Ms. Perry would call each into her studio for a type of initial audition/debriefing. One of the first young things was a man from the NY subway. He would play for his food. He was a really great musician and singer. However as he sang in front of the mic, Linda kept yelling "FIRE, FIRE, I want to hear the FIRE". The look on this young guy's face was heartbreaking, yet informative. He sang great. He sang what he knew. He just sang what was familiar to his heart and boring for the rest of us. That's it. Linda Perry recognized this. She saw his potential.
She wanted MORE.

As I watched this kid struggle, I got it! I watched him sing the same old songs as he looked down at the floor. It was almost as if he was going through some kind of rote maneuvers. I bolted up from the couch. This is what I am doing too. I am painting verbatim. I am making art in some kind of rote memorized way. I am not giving anybody the FIRE.

I need to get a lighter.
Thank you LINDA PERRY.

Thank you Linda Perry!
Click pic to find out more about this great show!

Friday, June 27, 2014

Art Blog: Relatability

Do people like your art? Do people respond to your art? Do people relate to your art? I have been asking myself these questions a lot lately. As my mind buzzes with questions about the art I create, I also wonder why it seems so many people don't really understand what I am doing or care about my work. I want to be brave and brash and say it doesn't matter what others think! However in my heart of hearts it does matter to me.

As I troll the internet, I have found many artist's works which stop me in my tracks. This got me wondering. WHY do I like certain art works and not others. One artist whose work amazes me is Stephen Magsig. Time and time again, I see one of his paintings posted and I just stare at it. Often, his work takes my breath away. What is it that draws me in and fills me with such awe? I am not always attracted to representational work or landscapes. I love painting in general, but his work really jumps out and grabs me.

For example, when I look at this painting of the Fisher Building in Detroit, I have a visceral reaction. Not only is the painting executed with precision, I also react to the subject matter. I have looked at that building throughout my life. In fact just before I left Detroit, I lived a few blocks away from the New Center area. I could stand and look out my studio window at that orange glowing dome.

In his series "Postcards From Detroit", he has painted many night or low light images. These small paintings are dense, yet glow with street lights or the burning fires of industry. They capture the atmospheric mood of Detroit. When I was a little girl, I remember peering through the windows of our car and watching the wavering lights and smoke on the horizon of my motor city. It was dirty and at times, smelly, but it was my home.

After thinking about Mr. Magsig's work, I realized I relate because his imagery is part of my life and deeply rooted in my artist's soul. As an artist in my own right, I have the tools of the trade down pat. I have the art experience under my belt. Now, it is time to strive for what artist's like Stephen Magsig bring to the art table: RELATABILITY.

Belle Isle Aquarium
Oil on linen/panel, 5x7"
Click on pic to see more wonderful works by Stephen Magsig.

Sunday, May 11, 2014

Art Blog: JULIAN

I have been trying to write this post for days. I was having such a hard time even thinking about Julian Schnabel. Usually, words pour out onto the page when I decide to write. Not this time. I started to wonder why I was so resistant.

I learned about Julian decades ago. I remember his coming out in 1979 when he showed at Mary Boone and Castelli. Out of nowhere, his fame rose with a cosmic boom. His meteoric rise to celebrity status included the high life of the 80's and pals the likes of Warhol and Basquait. Like being glued to naughty paragraphs in tabloids, I would climb into art magazines looking at his broken plate paintings and read the gossipy words about the painter. I was fascinated.

Notre Dame, 1979
oil, plates, bondo on wood, 90" x 108" 12", 1979

Over the years, that same art magnetism that drew me to his early work slowly flipped to the magnet's other end. I became repelled. The more I read about him the more I started to develop this picture in my head of the type of person he was. I have never met him, but so much has been written about him and I read a lot of it.

Much of the text about Julian as a man is unflattering. Phrases like arrogant artist, rocky relationships, name-dropper, narcissistic persona, and bad boy pepper reviews about him. Yet in those same articles words like mythical, legendary, and phenomenon are used freely and often. It makes me think Julian started to believe his own press (at least the complimentary parts). This could explain his braggadocios. As his star rose so quickly in the 80's he became a primary purveyor of self promotional hype and puffery. Some report he even stated "I'm the closest thing to Picasso...." This kind of talk didn't help to build his reputation as a humble guy.

This caused a backlash. Consequently like the disappearing vapor of a meteorite, Schnabel's fame became nebulous and dispersed over the past decades. Yet the urge to pull him down off the pedestal still continues today. In a recent Hyperallergic review by John Yau mentions unattractive traits of Julian's painting practice.

"The problem with Schnabel’s work is that his marks and actions are made by someone who is easily satisfied by everything he does, which makes what he does an inadvertent parody of genius. Some artists, like Matisse, will work very hard to make everything look easy, while others believe that, thanks to their innate gifts, everything is easy."

I suppose this is exactly the reason I felt uncomfortable writing about him. I was riding on the bandwagon that waves the banner "Schnabel is a Pompous Dweeb!". However, I think my feelings go deeper. Even though he does come off as a pretentious jerk at times, I still love his work. He is experiencing a resurrection of sorts now. Currently, he has work up at Gagosian Gallery. After watching this James Kalm video, I was reminded of those early days of excitement and interest in his work. Also, I forgive him for being so supercilious. I think I would have become uppity too if I had been anointed as a member of art royalty back in those days. I get it now.

Julian Schnabel A View Of Dawn In The Tropics: Paintings 1989
Click pic to watch

Julian Schnabel: In The Course of Seven Days
One more thing I will admit. I think I have always been jealous of artists like Julian. As I watch this video of him working on humungous, outsize canvases with giant paintbrushes, I wonder what it would be like to have endless resources to make any kind of art and know it will be shown.
It must be nice.

Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Art Blog: Young Energy

Today, a little girl walked into the room. She was supposed to be in an academic group. She walked toward me and said "I got kicked out of my group." I asked why. She told me it was because she was trying to help a friend and gave her an answer to a problem on the work. The teacher saw this as cheating. She was banned and told to leave.

As she told me the story, tears welled up in her eyes. She was a "goody goody" type of kid. You know the kind. There are many adults like this. I am one. We want to do good. We want to be perfect. We want to be stroked with words of kindness and well being. We wait to hear the words of a job well done. When it doesn't work out this way, we are devastated. I saw this mortification in her watery eyes.

I motioned for her to come closer. I whispered in her ear. "You meant to do good, didn't you?" She nodded, YES. I told her that sometimes we try to do good things and it just doesn't work out. I told her to learn this lesson. Maybe it wasn't a good time to give another student an answer. I went on to say, all she could do is learn from this little lesson. She nodded and moped away.

At the end of the day, she came up to me to say goodbye. It is doubtful that I will be her teacher again. Yet her hug was so tight and so meaningful, our future distance is of no concern. Her energy touched me. My energy touched her.

This is why I know I am on the right path now. Young energy is filling me up. Yet, my words and wisdom are helping them to be full of that same energy. She is young. I am old. We both learned.

Life is Good.

"CHILD", Alex Grey, painter

Sunday, April 27, 2014

Art Blog: Art Crush

Every so often, you see the work of another artist which hits you like a shot of adrenaline. This is what happens when I look at Tony Fitzpatrick's work. I have an art crush on his work. I love all his work. I love his onscreen personality. I love that he is an artist in many forms. I love that he has an obsession for creating.

I have an affinity for birds in art. However, Mr. Fitzpatrick has a wide range of subject matter. His color is wild and wooly. It screams "LOOK at me!" Yet to see and hear this artist speak, there is a surprise. He doesn't look like an artist. He looks like a car mechanic. However if you listen to his words, it becomes crystal clear. He is an artist of the best kind.

Here is a chance to hear him speak for himself. He does it far better than I could. BTW Mr. Fitzpatrick, thanks for the artistic jumpstart!

Click pic to watch this brief, but entertaining video interview

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

Art Blog: BELONGING

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?


"Who"
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?


Sunday, January 5, 2014

Art Blog: How to Peel a Hard Boiled Egg

Each new year brings new dreams. Some of us make resolutions. Most of us want our lives to be better. There are lots of resolution jokes and witty quotes:

"Now is the accepted time to make your regular annual good resolutions. Next week you can begin paving hell with them as usual." - Mark Twain

Reading that makes me think Mark Twain knew me. Every year, I have big ideas and bigger wishes. I want to turn my world upside down and just DUMP!

"Universal Dump" by Sheree Rensel (shown upside down)

This year, I could write a LONG list of resolutions and things I want to change. Instead, I am not going to be so specific. I remember this Einstein quote:

"Insanity: doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results."

I am really tired of being insane. I really am. So, the key is just to do things differently. The reason resolutions don't work is because many of the changes we want to make are rooted in habitual behaviors. We get up each morning and do things the same way we did yesterday. If I were to have a resolution, that is it. I want to do things in new ways each day. I would like to make fresh habits that are more positive and useful in my art life. Not only do I want to dream bigger. I want to dream BETTER!

So what about the EGG? Here is the very first thing I am going to do differently. So simple. So useful. So funny!
WATCH THIS! :-)



Click pic to watch.

Friday, January 3, 2014

Art Blog: Ah, but WHAT IS IT?

During the very early years of art school, something happened during one of my classes that has stayed with me for decades. It was a true art life lesson. In fact, it was one of the best lessons I got during all those years of art schooling. It was an ordinary evening. I think the class was a drawing class. I had a professor I loved for his way of thinking. I was a kindred spirit. He had set up the slide projector (this is back in the old days!). The room was long and narrow. Easels littered the room like a forest of metal trees. I positioned myself in the far left of the very back of the room. After he fiddled with the projector, he calmly went over to the wall and switched the lights off. He walked back to the projector and said "Now, be quiet!". He then pressed the on button. Slides of images started glowing on the screen. All the photos were close ups of textures, forms, line, color, etc.

Almost immediately, students in the class started yelling stuff: "leaves, cactus, seashells, car tire, etc......" He yelled "STOP! Be quiet!" Despite his warning, people kept trying to identify each image that popped up on the wall. After a few minutes, the professor started yelling and quickly shut off the projector. Then, he ran out of the art studio. We all just stood there, finally silent. You could tell he was PISSED off. Most of us "wet behind the earlings" didn't understand why he was so upset. It took me a few years, but I finally understood his angst.

I had a flashback of this scenario recently on Facebook. I saw a post by
Frank Strunk III. He posted a pic of one of his works.

There was no title or description. It was just a beautiful metal form. It was a sculpture. People started to comment immediately and the nouns started to fly. It is THIS. It is THAT. It is WHATEVER. I commented it is a sculpture. It doesn't have to BE anything else. This made me start thinking about why we need to label things. Why do we humans feel the need to name what we see? Apparently, this is a common response to our world and especially, when we see art. Are we trying to make sense of what we see or is this a push to understand things we don't understand? It seems to have to be SOMETHING other than just art.

Almost simultaneously to this incident, I watched an interview with sculptor Richard Serra on the Charlie Rose Show. This same topic became part of the conversation. Currently, Serra is showing his work at two Gagosian Gallery locations in New York. The work is beautiful, monumental works of steel. Mr. Rose mentioned that one of the pieces was being referred to as the "Cemetery" by some patrons.

Serra balked at this reference. In fact, he seemed flustered for a moment. Rose saw his reaction to that interpretation and asked why it seemed to upset him. He went on to tell how giving things names limits our art experience. To use "monikers" tends to give in to a type of judgment that narrows the reaction to the art. He went on to describe what a cemetery was: burial ground with stones with words, things lie beneath, etc. He emphatically defended his work as being none of those things. Instead, he wanted observers to walk into the piece and experience the weight, form, and juxtaposition of the materials without a preconceived notion of what is was supposed to BE.



Serra at the Gagosian Gallery, NY
Runs through January 25, 2014

Thursday, January 2, 2014

Art Blog: VITALITY

Happy NEW year! Some might think this post is a downer. It is not at all. In fact, it is a strong, positive grab. Please don't comment about how we will all feel better. If you watch the "Big Bang Theory" you will know what I mean when I say I don't need a "hot beverage" and a "There, There". Also, don't be alarmed. It is OK.

I am so happy for this new year. Like a prisoner in a cell, I make a chalk mark on the wall. I got through another year. Hooray for this. This post is about depression. STOP, don't leave. This is a hopeful post about this treacherous malady. I have dealt with depression since I was born. I am not talking about the "oh, I don't feel happy" kind of mood. I mean the kind of state of mind that causes a person to just stop moving. It is something that is so difficult to describe because unless you have lived it, you just don't get it.

I have dealt with depression forever and have the genes to prove it. Treatments? Been there done that. Nothing really works for me except pure, tenacious WILL. I taught myself to just deal with it on my own. Things have always worked out. However back in 2009, there was a major shift in my life. The downward spiral began as usual. I started dealing with it. The difference now is I haven't been able to shake it. Instead, I have spent years trying to rid myself of this feeling of hopelessness and now, increasing life altering anxiety. In fact, what Solomon describes as anxiety is spot on to what I go through every day now. It is horrible, but I am working on it.

I saw this video and it made so much sense to me. It gave me a totally new outlook. Andrew Solomon speaks on his depressive background and his research dealing with other who suffer this disease. One thing he speaks about is the definition of depression. Some people think the opposite of being depressed is being happy. He says the opposite of depression is vitality. I so understand this. Of course, we all want to be happy, but having vitality is what brings us happiness. This is one reason I have been so blue. I need to conjure up the energy that is inside me waiting to get out. It is there. I just have to open the bottle and let it fizz.



I toast to the idea and manifestation of VITALITY!
This video isn't for everyone. It is for those of us who struggle everyday to get up and live.
Click pic to watch. The minutes are worth it.