Friday, September 22, 2017

Finishing Touches - The Seinfeld Effect

There is so much to write about these days - so many thoughts going through the old noggin about recent events. It seems that inside and outside the art world there is a tsunami of intolerance. I previously have mentioned Dana Shutz's painting of Emmett Till's casket, titled Open Casket, that created such a controversy at the Whitney Biennial.

emitt till

The image she painted was created from a photograph of a young African-American boy who was beaten to death. This image had its own life and symbolism in the African-American community and Ms. Shutz, a white artist, was told that she could not use the image, even if she, as a mother, could identified with the pain in the image. 
Fast forward a couple of months, and the Institute of Contemporary Art Boston announced that they will have a show of Ms. Shutz's work. People protested that the show should be cancelled because of Ms. Shutz's insensitivity to African-Americans even though Open Casket would not be in the show in Boston. None of her other work is considered derogatory towards African-Americans. Also, the show was set up prior to the controversy at the Whitney and announced after consulting with local arts leaders.

A few weeks ago, there was a Neo-Nazi march in Virginia that resulted in a woman protester being killed. There is little need to say much more about Nazi's than that the very definition is intolerance. They have been responsible for the murder of millions of people simply because they were not white or considered white. They are often oppressive and violent toward women simply because they are not men. Everyone other than the white male is considered inferior.


This is all scary and heavy. Everyone has their hair on end and have a trigger ready to be pulled if something is not acceptable. My observing and inquisitive nature makes me wonder how we got here. People can say Trump is the reason, but this started long before him. Others will go back to Reagan and the ending of the Fairness Act, which allowed hate radio to rise, leading to a misinformed and manipulated citizenry. But I can't help but think this goes back even further. I see the manipulation of the wealth of this country in the late 1800's that ultimately led to the Great Depression. I read about the history of immigration and how each new wave of immigrants became the rung on which the last wave rose. Each immigrant class is given some status as long as there is a newer class to be pushed down and prejudiced against. And then there is slavery. 

This country has always been about pitting people against each other. We have a myth that the ruling elite, the current supposed oligarchy, is unified in dividing and oppressing the rest of us. Yet, when you see one of the wealthiest persons become the President of the United States, he starts to turn on those around him, even those he has chosen to lead with him. Those around him start fighting for their own territory and throw anyone else under the bus, gladly.
I think of Seinfeld, the show that best captured the innocent version of this inability to be happy, to accept that life is good, to accept that we are good. There was always something wrong with every girlfriend, with every restaurant, every dish served, etc. In America, there is always something wrong with the other. In America, one mistake leads to a lifetime of opportunity for condemnation. Why are we so vicious and mean to each other? We return hate with anger, we return misunderstanding with shame, we return hurt with fists.
When do we help each other heal? Have computers so taken over our lives that we no longer know how to look into each other and see ourselves, to have empathy? Has the need to be unhappy, to see ourselves as a victim, made it impossible to truly see and understand others?
I am toying with the idea of a class about art and meditation and relation. Art can be a way to open up one's self to others, to share what is inside and to see what is inside others. There are many art forms that are meant to be meditative/contemplative. Could engaging in these art forms help bring about a change in ourselves? Could communal forms of this art bring about a change in our community? It is a question worth exploring.

Friday, September 15, 2017

What's Cooking In the Studio?

Compost- 7Along with the Featured Painting from the last post, I completed Sinkside Compost #7. As I mentioned, the style of this and #8 are looser than the previous ones. Part of the looseness in this one is the smaller panel size while still using the same size brushes. There was a lot of white food scraps in this composition with old lettuce leaves, egg shells and pale broccoli. Then there is a nice brown banana peel in there for contrast.

Trillium in process

Last month I showed the sketches of two potential watercolors for a commission. The trillium flower was chosen. Here is an image of the partially completed piece. It's about 95% complete. At this point I slow down in my painting. I will spend about an hour on it at a stretch and then let it sit for a few hours or a day. I slow myself down at the end of a botanical painting because I have learned that going too far is too easy. So I approach it cautiously, identifying only two or three places to improve at each sitting. Then critiquing it and determining the next two or three places for improvement the next time.

sketch---if-loving-you...What next, after the Sinkside Compost Series? I've been starting to think about a new direction my food paintings. Here is a sketch painting for a series of work that will look more at the psychological relationship we have with food. I am pairing up lines from love songs and songs about relationships with food that I am addicted to. I have been working hard at losing weight -- I have lost almost twenty pounds since the end of January. While restricting myself I have observed cravings and addictions to sugary foods and some other tempting treats. As a child of the 70's and 80's, I was indoctrinated to certain relational expectations via popular music. I find that both of these desires, for food and love, are similar and similarly warped by our culture. I will be talking about this in the next series. It should be interesting.

Friday, September 8, 2017

Sinkside Compost #8, oil paint on panel, 12" x 16"

Compost- 8- 3
Sinkside Compost #8
Oil Paint on Panel
12" x 16"
I continue to make paintings of my sinkside compost container. My initial plan was to make a series of ten panels. I have completed eight and designs for the last two are chosen. This particular painting is heavy on the oranges and yellows because of the sweet potato peelings and a rotting orange. The style of my last two sinkside compost paintings is a little looser and more defined by outlines (see #7 below). I don't paint with orange very often and had fun with the variations of orange and yellow. I particularly like the plastic container in this one. It is an old baby spinach container with a peel strip that you can see at the bottom edge. The reflections turned out to be quite effective.

Saturday, September 2, 2017

Art Exhibit at Banfill-Locke Center for the Arts

I am in a small group show at Banfill-Locke Art Center in Fridley, MN beginning September 2, 2017.
The exhibit, titled texture/imperfection/life – works by Marjorie Fedyszyn, Mark Granlund, Ellie Kingsbury will run from September 2 – 30, 2017 with the reception on Saturday, September 16 from 4 - 6pm.
All of the completed Sinkside Compost paintings will be on exhibited. It will be fun to see them all in one place, other than my studio. I will also have other food paintings on exhibit. It would be nice to see you there!

Wednesday, August 9, 2017

Studio Renovation Update

I took a little time off from renovating the new studio to have some fun in Chicago. But now I'm back framing in closets and bathrooms and windows.

Here is the basement.  It is one of the only shots you will see of it because it is not much to look at. I find it funny that this small house had a 50 gallon water heater.

The closet and the bathroom are now two separate spaces. Closet on the right, bathroom on the left.

This is a hole in the wall for a new window. It is covered by a shower curtain to keep the rain out. 

Now it is not covered.

Now it has a new window in it.

I purchased three matching windows at Building Materials Outlet in Eagan, MN. Got a great deal on them! I'm a little behind schedule but am hoping to have it ready for a workshop or class before the holiday.  There will definitely be an open house in November. 

I am looking forward to having a warm, welcoming and dedicated space for teaching art classes.

Wednesday, July 5, 2017

Abracadabra and Its Gone!

I've been working hard removing materials from the new studio. It has been a lot of work, but I break it up into manageable parts.  When I work in the studio I bring a timer. I only allow myself 45 minutes to work each weekday, 2 hours on Saturdays and Sundays.  And I don't work there every day. I pace myself to make sure that the entire project doesn't consume my life and to make sure I don't hurt myself.  I am getting older and can't haul and demo like I used to.  So I limit myself. If my knee, or any other body part, is feeling funny I don't work. No point in building a studio to teach in if I'm hobbling around while teaching.

The only incident so far was twisting my knee in a hole in the yard. The yard was full of ruts and divets when I purchased it. I filled in most of them early on, but there was one I missed and it was full of leaves, so I didn't notice it.  I was a bit concerned at first when I stepped in it because I have a friend who had just had knee surgery. But I rested my knee and it hasn't bothered me for more than a month.

Here are the latest pictures:

Here, half of the flooring has been removed (closest to us). Why am I removing the flooring, you might ask? The floor had been cut up with several trap doors and temporary covers.  One large opening is to a stairway that goes to the basement (not in the picture, to the right). The other was the former chimney hole (seen in the photo). And I found another in the living room near the bathtub. The interior walls had also been installed at subfloor level and when I removed those there were gaps in the flooring where the walls had been.To patch all these holes would have been difficult and look shoddy.

Here is an image with all the flooring missing. You can now see the trap door by the tub along the far wall. Another reason to replace the flooring is that I will be installing in-floor heating. For that to happen, I need a good smooth surface.  The existing flooring was not adequate.

No need for a tub in an art studio - so it has to go. This was the hardest work so far. The tile walls were very stubborn and a sledgehammer was used repeatedly with traumatic force. Eventually, they succumbed. Originally, I was thinking of putting in a shower stall to replace the tub, but now I am going to put a closet there, instead. 

This image shows the tub completely gone, along with the bathroom door gone and some of the walls missing. The finished bathroom will consist of a toilet and a sink. I am trying to keep most of the existing tile work and will then match the tiles for the rest of the bathroom walls. We'll see how that goes.

I am happy because I have hit rock bottom when it comes to demoing the house. At this point I start to build up the different parts of the studio. It is definitely a corner turned when, at the end of the day, the studio is actually looking better and closer to finished instead of more of a mess. More to come...

Sunday, June 25, 2017

On and On...

I have been working on the new studio for the last couple of weeks. Here are some more photos:

I have been cutting down a lot of weed trees and buckthorn that has been growing along the fence line and around the house. This is less than half the original pile. It took four trips to the compost site... and there is still more to cut down. 

The inside is messy, but coming along. 

This is where the bathroom sink used to be. After doing renovations and repairs on four houses, I've gotten pretty good with a hammer and pry bar. 

 This used to be the kitchen. Well, it never was much of a kitchen, just a sink a a couple of cabinets.

And the end result, all of the debris fitting neatly in a 10 yard dumpster. 

Now to removing the tub and pulling up the flooring.