CPS Studios-Summer 2010

MN Women's Press-Oct 09



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Entries in Abstract (5)


Once A Year...


Every year around this time I get excited and more than a little anxious about my State Fair entry for the Fine Arts competition. The Minnesota State Fair hosts a Fine Arts competition each year. The Fine Arts division has their very own building where the exhibit is housed each year. It's been my dream for a number of years to get in this show.

But honestly, it's not an easy show to get in. Competition is stiff (there is no jury fee and anyone from Minnesota can enter).  They tend to select more pieces with a Minnesota or State Fair "flavor", so my work isn't an automatic fit, but what can it hurt to try...right?

This year the jury process has changed a bit. In the past, all work (you are allowed to enter only one piece) had to be brought in to be juried in person. It was a bit of a hassle, but a big part of the ritual of entering--standing in line with all the other artists hoping their piece will be selected for the exhibit. (And if you don't get in, there is the sad little email that says "sorry, but you're not in!" and then you have to stand in line again with all the disappointed artists who come to pick up your rejected piece).

But this year there is a first round which involves registering your piece online, along with a photo of your piece. You have to make it past that first round to be asked to bring in your piece to be juried in person.

I always have a hard time deciding what piece to enter. This year was no exception. Today is the deadline for registration. Last year I'll admit that I decided to take a pass and not enter. But I promised myself that this year I would give it a shot. There is no entry fee, for god's sake. And this year, all I need to do is send in a few images.

I try not to overthink these decisions, but I generally do. I decided to go with this series of abstract watercolors that I titled Ripening. To be counted as one piece, they needed to be framed as one--which is how I wanted to present them, but does make it more challenging to get a good photo. Besides the one image of the whole piece, I was able to submit two detail shots. For the detail shots, I picked two images from the series that I hope will peak the interest of the juror (and usually it is just one juror for each category). Honestly, I really wish I could have taken the piece in, even if it meant standing in line for several hours, to be juried in person. But it is what it is.

I enter the piece with no expectations (but plenty of hopeful anticipation). I just didn't want to pass up the opportunity to enter this year. 

So the registration is done. And now, along with thousands of other MN artists, I will sit and wait for an email that either says, "sorry, but your piece..." or "your piece has been selected..."

Regardless of the outcome, I will check out the exhibit--like I do every year! And then I will start dreaming about what piece I will enter next year!


Why Abstract?



This past year my work has become increasingly abstract in nature. It is what speaks to me. But as I approach the opening of my two-person exhibit Vantage Point, I have been thinking more and more about how to talk to others about abstract work in general and my abstract work specifically.

I understand that abstract art is not for everyone. Some folks feel they just can't make "sense" of abstract work. I think it can be more difficult for viewers to understand abstract work when they stand in front of the piece and look for something they can readily identify--a face, an object or perhaps a landscape. Some may say it is "human nature" for people to look for that recognizable object, but I would challenge you to look at abstract work, and really all art, in a different way. 

My suggestion when viewing abstract work is to "step away" from looking for that landscape, or recognizable form. Instead focus on colors, shapes, energy, movement... Notice the brushstrokes or how the paint is applied to the canvas/panel. Pay attention to layers of paint and texture.

How does the painting make you feel? What kind of emotional response do you have to the piece? Does it convey a dark, somber mood? Or is it filled with light and energy? 


In my abstract work, I am trying to explore moments/events in life that are emotional in nature, but difficult to express or explain with words. We have all experienced significant life events that burn an impression in our memory. I hope to give a creative voice to those moments of despair, terror and even joy that we carry deep within.

And how do I do that (or try to do that?)

When I am painting, I feel as if I am communicating very intimately with the paint and canvas. Often times it is as if the painting reveals itself as I work. Sometimes that happens very quickly and sometimes it takes a great deal of time--it can be a back and forth process.  Working with a palette knife or a brush, I lay down many layers of color and texture, often using a cloth or even my fingers to blend or wipe away colors to reveal the mysteries of what lies beneath.




Hit or Miss

Hit or Miss, 36x36


Thought I would post an image of my most recently finished canvas (at least I'm thinking it's finished).

It's a large canvas--36"x36".  That's a lot of surface to cover, but lately I've been finding the larger pieces easier to work on than the small. 

It belongs to the same series as the last one I posted.  Again, a primary palette of Payne's Gray, with Alizarin Crimson. I think it has a very atmospheric feeling to it.  I was trying to communicate a sense of foreboding, of possible turbulence within. I was thinking of those moments when it feels like life is about to blow up in your face.  Sometimes you ride out the storm without incident. Other times, it does feel like the grenade you've been holding has just detonated.

I'm interested in how in those moments you strive to find calm in the presence of terror. Have you ever been aware of those moments? Do you know what I mean?

I would love to hear your thoughts!


And here's a detailed image that gives you some idea of the texture in the piece:




Working in gray...

Why Does It Hurt So Bad,  30x30, acrylic on canvas

 One of the things I've learned over time about my painting habits is that my color palette changes with the seasons--at least the dominant colors that I work with. As the fall turns into winter, I start using more gray. It's been that way for three years now.

It's sort of an instinctual that I initially resisted, because I generally work with a lot of bold colors. But I've learned to trust my instincts and I feel that as a result my work has become much richer. 

But why gray? When I look out my studio windows, during the all-too-frequent cloudy days we endure here during a typical Minnesota winter, I see gray cloudy skies. So it is in part a reflection of the natural world that surrounds me. (Sometimes I wonder if I lived elsewhere, would my color palette change. I think it absolutely would. When I visited Santa Fe in December I couldn't help but notice the beautiful blue skies so different from our Minnesota skies...and knew that if I lived there, there wouldn't be so much gray in my work).

Winter and its gray cloudy skies feel dreary (to me). I much prefer sun. But winter also seems like a natural time to hibernate a bit and struggle with life's darker side. And that has been part of my work in gray--giving creative voice to that inner struggle with some of life's darker issues. Sometimes I think by painting in gray I am trying to find the beauty and grace in not just the color, but the struggle. 

As I wrote earlier, I have been returning to this gray palette for three winters now. There are several different "series" within my gray abstractions work (check out my Portfolio). As I start to work more intentionally on building a body of work for exhibition, I am looking at current and earlier work...deciding which series to expand and build on. I'm also trying to "think" more about what this work "means" and how to "talk" about that with an audience. 

I hope to share some of my thoughts here and will gratefully welcome feedback.


A change in seasons...

Somehow summer slipped by...not that I'm complaining--it was hot, humid, and my time was splintered between too many obligations. I spent as much time in the studio as I could...and my time was quite productive. But while I found time to paint, finding time to write about my art didn't happen much. (Sorry).

With the arrival of fall, life seems to be easing a bit. I'm enjoying even more time in the studio and am determined to make writing here part of my weekly routine. I have new pieces to share, have been working with some new techniques and materials and have some new adventures in the works.

Stay tuned here for more details.


(Painting: Midnight Dream, 6"x6", acrylic on wood panel)