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Archive for the ‘Art’ Category

It may be a while before we find our way home again.

This blog has fallen idle in the past year or two because truthfully, I didn’t know what to say anymore. I wrote my first post on Christmas Eve, 2009, after something we never knew could fall did, and the message was that Art Matters. From then on I wrote about the crossroads of where Art and Life meet. There was no shortage of topics—just a shortage of time to cover them.

But as life around us grew more serious with events like Aurora and Newtown*—which occurred just 11 miles from where I was living at the time, and two days after I interviewed Kenny Loggins and the Blue Sky Riders—it seemed that art of all kinds began to recede into the background. Dare I say it—we became less relevant?

And now, on the first day of a very different world for all of us, it seems that the last thing on the agenda is art of any kind. Artists, musicians, composers, filmmakers, writers, etc.—we all seem to be quite beside the point.

But nothing is further from the truth.

What you do with your art in the next few years will be informed by the massive changes in the way we are coming to live and to think on a daily basis. We will all be challenged on our values, no matter what they are, because we now cohabit a world in a heightened state of disagreement, of conflict, and of confusion.

History does repeat, and looks at lot like the early 60s, a time that led directly into a creative explosion. Art thrives in adversity and finds its voice. Artists of all kinds are ridiculously brave in the darkness, willing to put fingers out into the unknown and explore whatever could be out there. What they show us about ourselves through songs and movies, in paintings and stories, will amaze us and open our hearts. It happened before and will happen again, and soon.

Of course, there is a unique lack of appreciation for any of the arts within the new administration, which has set as one of its first goals the elimination of funding to the National Endowments for the Arts (NEA) and Humanities (NEH). Really? A world in crisis and the first order of business is to cut out the arts? But I do digress….

The arts are and have always been the soul of our entire way of life. Artists are now charged with preserving our culture, as they have been since the first cave drawings were made. We capture not just the facts, but the raw emotions of the smallest moment in time, protecting and projecting images of who and what we are that are likely to outlive any number of transitions in our government.

And in the middle of the chaos to come, the words, the pictures and the thoughts will be released from a collective creativity that will lead us to understanding, to empathy, and hopefully to peace of mind. The message today is the same as it was in 2009: Art Matters. And now it matters more…please keep at it.

So welcome again to the Arts Enclave Blog – Where Art and Life Meet!

*going right up to the biggest and most lethal shooting in Orlando in December of 2016

© Copyright 2017 – Arts Enclave.

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Take success where you find it, and call it yours.

Stan Lee, the most famous comic-book creator of all time, was born Stanley Martin Lieber. He started working as a teenager at Timely Comics (later Marvel Comics) where he filled the inkwells for the artists. He planned to use the pen name Stan Lee for serious fiction. In 2008 he received a National Medal of Arts as a writer, editor and publisher—of comic books.

Dan Fogelberg and Joni Mitchell both planned on being fine artists. Oops.

As I write this, I am repeating the mantra to myself: take success where you find it. A lifetime of planning my career in the arts has taken me to many places I did not expect to go, and while the goal stays the same, the journey is not at all what I could have pictured. Through the years, I have worked in publishing, hospitals, advertising, art festivals, movie sets, corporate business, and even retail. It’s all good, because eventually, it all ends up in the book…

You can’t plan your journey in the arts…or in life. You can only prepare for it and then go where it takes you.

Very few will find the kind of success in their fields they dreamed of and others will find so much more. If you choose a life in the arts, then it’s about legacy. While money and fame are certainly possible, they are the rare rewards and to many a distraction from the actual work. Stan Lee, to my knowledge, has never published the novel he planned on writing, although, I suspect he’s pretty satisfied with what he has done.

Even in the business world, there are parallels. Only one person at a time is the CEO. The rest are all just hopefuls and minions.

Now there’s a term we have come to see differently: Minions. Defined as, ‘a servile follower or subordinate of a person in power,’ the connotation of this word changed with the release of the movie Despicable Me. Where once a minion was thought of as one of the faceless mass of followers, usually of ignominious stature, that movie created a whole world of individual minions who are fantastically happy being just what they are. In fact, the new movie “Minions” is based on the notion that they seek to be followers in the most zen-like fashion.

It’s a hard life to pursue the arts, and we are drawn to it because inside, we simply have no choice. Eventually it will call you out, and you know what you want to do. For most of us, it will mean working at other vocations to earn the moments we spend making art of any kind. Those moments are certainly precious, but the ones we spend in our other lives are what we bring to our art.

It’s what you do outside of your art that goes into it.

The secret is to appreciate the journey for what it is. Be a minion to your calling and accept the unique life it brings you.

Here they are, singing the Banana song. Enjoy.

 

BTW: Support Wikipedia with a small donation to keep it ad free. It’s the best FREE resource on the planet!

 

© Copyright 2014 – Arts Enclave.

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So here I am in Sydney, Australia, on a writing gig that even makes me jealous—and I’m here! Freelance writing—especially niche writing—can offer amazing perks and this is one of them. In one of my other incarnations, I am a medical writer, specializing in neurology. I’m here to cover the International Congress of the Movement Disorders Society, and of course, I had to take some time to see the city before I got down to work.

Before my arrival last week, my uninformed impression of this city was based mainly on movies like the absolutely hilarious The Gods Must Be Crazy, and the not quite so hilarious Crocodile Dundee. Oh, and I am a regular at the Outback Steakhouse (get your own link for this one, they don’t need me to advertise them).

So my initial impression was this would not be a city known for its arts culture, despite the imposing figure of the Opera House. Before disembarking the plane, my image was one of burly men in short sleeves and hats, talking about shrimp and beer. Okay, my impression may have been several miles below the solid ground of reality.

Sydney Opera House

Sydney, Australia

Not to sound juvenile, but…this city RULES!

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Seurat probably never said, “fuck-it.” Anyone who has seen his pointillist paintings becomes instantly aware that he just kept going, adding dot after dot after dot until the wee hours. But at what point (literally what point) was it time to stop? It’s really not clear that Seurat knew.

Here’s how it goes:  Anything in life is about perception, which is subjective, meaning completely clouded by the notions and emotional artifacts of the person doing the perceiving. That final impression—of a painting, a song, a movie, an event, even the way you spent Thanksgiving—is as much about the mind of the audience as it is about the creator.

Art needs to cut through this cloud in which billions of particles of debris are already floating to leave one single, fleeting impression. Seurat, who led the Post-Impressionist Movement, discovered he could manipulate the way the brain receives the message by breaking down the colors in the painting into separate points.

Seurat is the artist most associated with pointillism—although there were (and still are) others who practice it. The technique involves placing very specific dots of pure color in careful juxtaposition. Up close, they are DOTS, painstakingly applied, and appearing to have little meaning. But as you move away, the mind takes over, filling in the spaces for a more complete, unified picture. The further back you stand, the better it looks.

Georges Seurat

A Sunday on La Grande Jatte by Georges Seurat (Wikimedia Commons, courtesy of Chicago Museum of Art)

Seurat painted about 240 paintings, often repeating the same subject. His most famous work, Sunday Afternoon on the Island of La Grande Jatte,” appeared in different forms over several years, as he “reworked” the painting, actually adding the points of color later in the process as his technique grew.

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“My art speaks for itself,” is a statement M. Stephen Doherty, editor of the recently revived Plein Air Magazine, has heard all too frequently from artists when he asks them to talk about their work. Doherty was guest speaker at the opening of the 31st Annual Adirondacks National Exhibition of American Watercolors (ANEAW) in Old Forge, NY last weekend. He then went on to explain several of the paintings in the show because, well, they don’t speak for themselves. Paintings never do. They are by definition, limited, and very specific in context, released from artist’s imagination for reasons no one can truly gauge without some additional exposition.

2012 Adirondacks National Exhibition of American Watercolors

Stephen Doherty discusses the use of light in the painting “Window To the Heavens” by Donald Taylor.

The ANEAW show is one I have wanted to see for some time, and it did not disappoint. This is one of the top juried watercolor shows in the country, demonstrating a range of styles and subjects that was quite broad, while still reflecting personal and local tastes. So how do you look at a painting borne of a place and time and particular person’s imagination, and immediately understand it? And is it necessary to understand it?

A novel should speak for itself. If it’s not on the page, then there’s nowhere else the story’s coming from. And you shouldn’t need a playbook to understand a movie or play. But other art forms—like music, poetry, painting and sculpture—are meant to be interpreted more intuitively and less literally. To relate to a song, you only need to hear it. To relate emotionally to a painting, you only need to see it.

But that’s not the whole experience. Next comes the intellectual exercise of understanding it—that foggy gray area Doherty was addressing. You can like a song, but if you don’t understand the lyrics, then the statement behind it is lost (in many cases, a good thing). Interestingly, while many songs lose personal meaning when you actually listen to the lyrics (eg, the chauvinist message to a lot of beautiful 60s songs), they develop a new historical perspective (Gary Puckett and Tom Jones should be taught in high school history classes for a great insight into why the Feminist Movement happened).

And then there’s fine art. A painting hangs before you, separated completely from its original context. You can’t hear the backbeat or synthesizer to place it in time, you don’t know where it came from, and without a verbal message to explain the context, you are left with just your gut. You like it. You don’t.

If likability were all that mattered in art appreciation, only works by Claude Monet, Thomas Kinkade and a handful of others would be valuable. And yet art values soar based on the weight of far less pretty works by Dali, Vermeer, Goya, Picasso, Rivers, Kandinsky, Munch or several thousand other artists with distinct points of view to share.

As Doherty eloquently demonstrated, paintings are borne of context, and they are doors to a much richer universe of meaning than the simple image you see. They are full of accidents and cognitive incongruencies. They capture slivers of emotion the artist may not have even intended. And they are most definitely products of the time and place and the personal experience of one artist.

Trail and Streams Medallion winner. 2012 Adirondacks National Exhibition of American Watercolors

“Lilies and Lines,” by Richard French. Photo courtesy of ViewArts.

Technique can be copied and taught, and there are only so many subjects that can be rendered, and so many ways to render them. The originality comes from the unique point of intent, where one artist, one day, picked up a brush. Doherty’s point was that understanding the history of a painting, including technique and the biographical history of the artist vastly increases its relevance. Because words matter, even for a painter.

And maybe that’s why exhibition curator Miriam Kashiwa asked the artists to write a statement about their technique as well as their intent, which appears next to every entry. If you can get to Old Forge to visit this show, so beautifully exhibited at the new View building, then you will have the opportunity to think about why each painting was done in the first place, and this will enrich the entire experience.

The show continues through October 8, 2012.

© Copyright 2012 – Arts Enclave

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It’s pretty obvious I’ve been away from this blog for a while. In fact, I’ve been away for a while  in general.  My quest: to explore all of life’s possibilities, a large number of which seem to present during the summer.

This summer I’ve made trips to Lake George to teach a writing workshop, toSaranacLaketo cover a plein air festival—and again to step into the life of a full-time plein air painter. I came back to my freelance writing  job for a few weeks and then promptly took work as Locations Manager to a feature film shooting inConnecticut. None of these jobs have regular hours. They all bleed into each other, and into every corner of my personal life. In future posts I will explore/explain what I learn on these individual journeys, but for today I want to share a poem that keeps resonating in my head, because it completely nails my own personal life M.O.

It was more than a year ago I heard this poem read at a reading inNorth Easton,Massachusetts. The poet, Craig Fredericks, gave a wonderful reading that night, opening by saying, “there is an ancient Hebrew Law, rediscovered with the dead sea scrolls, that prohibits ‘saying anything stupid on the Sabbath.’ With that in mind…” Read more

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Plein Air painting conjures images of lazy summer afternoons where Frenchman long now passed on once stood in a field or beside a stream, painting masterpieces that would last beyond their lifetimes.

Impressionism was literally born from the plein air experience, as the artist worked quickly to capture the impressions of an outdoor setting through a few hours of changing light. And change it does, moment by moment.

Last week I followed a large group of exceptionally talented painters (about 87 of them) from around the country (and one from Russia) who made the pilgrimage to upstate New York for a 5-day plein air festival, high  in Adirondack Mountains. Read more

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