Wednesday, December 14, 2016

Art Blog: Shoulda, Woulda, Coulda

It is so difficult to explain to young women how things were back in the "old" days. I can remember being in early elementary school and never giving a second thought to wanting to do and be whatever I wanted to be when I grew up. I was a lucky one. I found out ART was my thing at a very early age. Yet, I always had desires in all realms of living. I didn't realize being female had anything to do with how those dreams would be impeded. I just kept going.

My first realization that something was amiss was when I was in third grade. I wanted to be on the safety patrol at school. Honestly, it never occurred to me that all the safety patrol kids were male. I marched myself into the school office and told them I wanted to join the squad. The school secretary told me this was not possible. She said you are a girl. Only boys were allowed on Safety Patrol. My 7 year old, 1960 mind accepted that, but really didn't understand what it meant. I just kept going.

Flash forward to 1966. I was in Mr. Thames Science class. I loved Science. I remember being the only one who could stand up and recite the entire Periodic Table from memory. One day, he told the class there was a Rocket Club forming. I was so excited. I went up to his desk after class and told him I wanted to join. He said "NO". The Rocket Club was for boys only. It is almost hard to believe nowadays and teacher would say something that stupid, but this teacher said it to me. My rocket dreams were squashed. That was the moment I realized this is total bullshit. Yet, I just kept going.

High school came and I was prepared. I was already working on my art daily at home and at school. However, there was still a little part of me that wished I could go in other directions too. I had to fight to be in Physics and Electronics classes. I won, but I was the only female in both classes. I was really into it. I stayed in Girl Scouts until high school. As a Senior Scout, you could earn medals by taking classes and doing things to prove proficiency. I wanted the Science and Technology medal. The council told me they didn't have any classes because there wasn't enough interest. However, they told me I could make up my own program. So I did. I went wild. I have to laugh at the balls I had when I was fifteen years old. I actually called the Enrico Fermi Nuclear Power Plant and told them I wanted a tour. They said YES. LOL LOL I went there with my girl scout uniform on and they gave me a personal tour. Also, they gave me all kinds of great leads and letters to gain entry into other science related venues. The council was impressed. I got my medal, but there was a little part of me that became worn out. I felt how hard it was and even at the young age, I felt the resistance.

I ended up choosing ART as my path. I just didn't have the fight in me anymore. This was because there were people who supported my interest in being an artist. Nobody was there to support my interest in science. Even though I am an old artist and have no regrets in regard to becoming a painter, there is still this tiny voice in my head. What if things had been different? What if I had been allowed to be on Safety Patrol? What if I had been invited to the Rocket Club? What if?

It is all about shoulda, woulda, coulda. In this political climate, I worry for our girls today. They too will probably have to live their lives fighting because they are female. You would think it would be different now. However, it is not.

Saturday, November 12, 2016

Art Blog: A Tear Finally Fell

Sometimes on television, you hear people describe how some people react when given bad news. If they don't fly into hysterics or fall to the floor, they are deemed unfeeling or have some kind of emotional defect. I thought of that the other day when bad news spread far and wide around our country. I was shocked, but I wasn't shocked. Emotionally, I turned to stone. Since I had a far less than perfect childhood, I learned at a very early age to thrive on crisis. Everything inside me would shut down and I would cope by making art or being creative usually all alone in some back room or basement.

This week, I reacted the same way. I just kept thinking "Go make art! Go make art!" It was not because I was inspired as much as this was the mechanism which helps me to stay sane in dire times. However, it bothered me I didn't cry. I have been a crier in my life. Show me a pet shelter commercial and I am wailing. The events of this past week were extremely important to me. Just like millions of people, I wanted and envisioned this new reality. When I saw it would be delayed, I went numb and never shed a tear. Still like others, I feel this deeply. However, I just hid inside my own head.

I have avoided all things related to the event. I will not name names. I will not read news stories. I will be aware, but not acknowledge people involved. I have unfollowed, unsubscribed, or blocked anything that will remind me of what just happened. I don't want to read anymore rants or propaganda. However yesterday, I saw a headline that said something like "Chelsea Breaks down, blah blah blah". At first, I laughed. These click bait headlines are getting out of hand. The words didn't make sense. Chelsea Handler is one tough cookie. I had to see what this was about and why they wrote that headline. Chelsea had invited Senator Barbara Boxer on the show to discuss what just happened. As I watched and listened, I started to cry.

Finally, tears were shed.

CLICK PIC to watch this heartfelt segment

Saturday, July 23, 2016

Art Blog: Is ART Stupid?

Way back in the late 70's, I was at a college party. All the party people were artists and art students. I was one of them. I was in full tough art girl apparel. I was proudly clad in a flannel shirt, jeans, and of course, combat boots. I was an art warrior back then. I remember trying to find something fun to drink. I hated beer and liquor wasn't my thing. I was just learning how to get drunk back in those days. I think I decided a vodka and orange juice would be palatable. I probably haven't had a Screwdriver since that party!
I remember having a blast and feeling so proud at that party. I was an artist and felt so cool and hip. I was so young back then. The world was my oyster. However, there was one thing which happened that I have remembered for decades. In fact, I remember it so well it haunts me. There was one elder artist at the party. He was a well respected sculptor. People crowded around him just to glean some of his cultural charisma. He was a nice looking man. He had salt and pepper hair. I remember he was wearing some kind of tweed jacket over a paint stained tee shirt with jeans. He was old, but he was cool. I was too shy to even talk to him.
As the evening progressed, I would wander by the circle of people talking to this esteemed artist. At one point, he said something that is branded into my brain to this day. When asked about his current work he said:

"I don't make art anymore. Art is stupid."

After he said that, I remember the quiet in the room. He went on to explain he had other interests and sculpture or making any kind of art seemed futile to him at this point in his life.
I was stunned. As a young artist / art student, I didn't know how to digest such a statement. I really didn't. Art was my life. I lived for art. How could he say such a thing?
Well now after living life for too many decades, I think I understand what he meant. For the first time in my life, I find it harder and harder to make art. I keep asking myself "What is the point?" I think I have lost that "Art is my life" kind of feeling. I think I have lost my mojo or at least my allegiance to ART. It feels so horrible to think the one thing you have loved all your life now feels useless to life in general. It is like believing in a relationship for decades only to find out before a big anniversary that wasn't what you thought it was at all.
I have to think more about all this. Maybe I will write another blog post to explain why I am so over it all. Until then, I ask this simple question:

Tuesday, June 7, 2016


It is all starting to come together. Finally, I am seeing some kind of light at the end of the tunnel. It has taken a few years, but it is starting to coalesce. Around 2012, I had to leave a job I loved. I had been working that job since the 80's to support my art life. Of course, I would have loved to just make art, but I have never wanted to depend on art sales to support me. I have always opted to work a day job so I could make any kind of art I wanted. Until then, this plan worked and it was bearable and at times enjoyable. However in 2012, it became too much for me to bear. I have always been a person who dances to the beat of her own drum. I am not a fan of authoritarian rule. That year, I made a pact with myself. I told myself, I am not going to do anything that I don't want to do, EVER AGAIN. So, I quit my job.

It has been 4 years now. It has been a wild ride. I have worked again on and off, but the same issues came up. It seems the workplace nowadays is all about authoritative B.S. Being dependable, loyal, hard working, and ethical means very little. What seems to be the most important is if you kowtow to the boss du jour. Seriously, I had one job in which I had four bosses in a matter of a few months. All of them were jerks and not very well educated. Nor did they know how to lead. This scenario seems to be a common thread in today's workforce.

Two months ago, I went to a job interview which was probably the best interview I have ever had in my life. I loved it. It lasted more than twice the time expected. There was laughter, banter, and great discussion about the job at hand. However, I saw one of the interviewers glaring at me. I knew what see was thinking. She knew and I knew I was not going to be submissive enough for this job. I wasn't young enough and naive enough. This is all such a shame because I would have been such a great addition to that organization.

I didn't cry a tear when I was rejected. I have come to the conclusion all this is a sign from heaven or the Universe or whatever. I am suppose to go to work in my studio. That is it. Just do my own work. I am my own boss. I think it needs to be this way.

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.

I have to explore this issue. It isn't a rich people problem. They have money and privilege, I don't. This is a photo of the Vinoy Hotel I took today down by the water front. I realized today that I have lived in St. Petersburg for 25 years and I have never walked past the car circle of this place. I don't feel like I belong. I almost feel like if I walked into this place they would chase me out. I doubt they would. I just feel this way.

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.