The Language of Abstraction: Still's Path of Discovery by Jennifer Davey

The War Begins: Clyfford Still's Paths to Abstraction at The Clyfford Still Museum from Oct 10th - January 18th, 2015 is an illuminating and exciting exhibit that pulls the curtain back to reveal Still's fervor and struggle to discover a new language in paint.  I was fortunate enough to gain a behind the scenes tour with David Anfam, the curator of this show and Dean Sobel, director of the Still museum.  

The show highlights Still's paintings, drawings, and sketchbooks from 1939-1944, revealing a complex constellation of events that swirled into Still's incredibly focused mind, leading him to discover an abstract, all-over, simplified visual language that would mark the shift of the art world from Paris to New York and a beginning to the lineage of a Western fully abstracted visual  language.

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Truth and Illusion in Painting by Jennifer Davey

 Jan Vermeer,  Woman Holding a Balance , c. 1664, 15 x 16 3/4 in.  National Gallery of Art, Washington D.C.

Jan Vermeer, Woman Holding a Balance, c. 1664, 15 x 16 3/4 in.  National Gallery of Art, Washington D.C.

I have been studying the painting Woman Holding a Balance, c. 1664 by Jan Vermeer.  At a mere 15 x 16 3/4 in., this painting packs a punch.  I am currently working on a series of paintings exploring perception and the veils that often obscure my seeing.  As a part of this research, I am investigating the inner compass and our conscience.  I immediately thought to look at this stunning Vermeer painting as an expression of this inner conscience.  It holds an exquisite spiritual and pictoral balance.  At first glance, the woman is weighing her family gold.  However the painting is rich with religious symbolism that speaks of this inner center and spiritual balance that any human has the potential to experience.  Her mere presence speaks of silent serenity.  She is dressed in a simple white veil and a blue coat, reminiscent of the colors and images so often used to depict Mary.  The painting is dark and quiet, save one subtle beam of light from a curtained window that shines down on her pregnant belly, alluding to the idea of the annunciation.  Both also are in a yellow gold, which immediately makes me think of golden light/Christ consciousness.  Above her is a picture of a version of The Last judgment, where the picture reflects the souls of the damned, in flat monochoromatic, chaos as a back drop to this quietly alive woman.  The jewlels on the table, pearls and gold, are mere daubs of light, metaphorical reflecting the jewels of the spirit along with depicting their physical value.  The balance itself is also so delicate it almost dissapears.  She gracefully and steadyliy holds this balance and the viewer is reminded of the similar weighing going on behind her.  

There is also a wonderful interplay of light between dark and light, which seems almost perfectly divided into four squares with the woman's hand holding the center point in the painting.  It seems the more I look, the more I see.  I have begun to draw this image and although I have much to learn, I am always amazed at what copying a drawing will teach you.  I'm excited to see how this painting will influence my own painting.  This painting creates a powerful, illusional space, one that you feel you could walk into.  And yet, through this illusion, Vermeer points to eternal truths.  This is why I love painting!  

Beckett, Sister Wendy, The Story of Painting.  London; Dorling Kindersley, 1994. Book.

Transforming Violence through Art by Jennifer Davey

Peace-making 1, 2014. Oil, collage and chalk on panel, 48 x 48in.  Jennifer Davey-all rights reserved

I have been impacted deeply by recent violent events internationally, nationally, and locally.  Personally, those that know local artist Keith Jentzsch have been saddened and dumb-founded by the brutal attack and subsequent injuries he has suffered for a simple act of asking neighbors to stop shooting off fireworks late in the night.  My heart is heavy as I hope for Keith’s full recovery of his creative, intelligent mind. 

Watching and listening to events in Ferguson, Missouri and seeing the use of military equipment that is now standard issue for police officers nationwide, makes me question much of our direction in the United States.  Why is violence so embedded in our culture?  I wonder when will we mature as a nation.  I wonder how we can truly heal racial divisions and evolve into an authentic and peaceful democracy.  

On the international scene, there is constant news of violence in Iraq, Syria, Russia and the Ukraine, Gaza and Israel.  How does one respond to such violence in all spheres of our world?    

I remember how art transformed violence in my own life.  Art has the powerful ability to transform perceptions.   Altering our perceptions evolves our ability to respond and act as mature human beings in accord with a very inter-connected 21st century.   

Keith’s attack brought back a flood of memories and emotions related to our friend’s murder in 1999.  This murder also took place in a quiet neighborhood in Fort Collins.  I remember distinctly seeing police tape outside of my studio window on Matthews Street.  News came in bits and pieces.  There never seemed to be enough of a story, a why, to piece together the reason for this violence.  The feelings of heightened awareness when walking down the street, no longer feeling quite safe when strangers passed, was raw again.  The wondering how in the world this could happen as well as the unsettled feelings of fear and doubt, resurfaced.  

In this remembering, I also remembered the power of art, and how it became central to my healing.  This brutal event actually made me see very clearly the purpose of art.  First, art touched me as a means of compassion and empathy.  Mark Rothko’s paintings did not talk of tragedy.  Instead, they were tragedy.  He felt the same depth of emotion and loss.  His paintings were a guidepost as to how to be human.  In that recognition of my own pain and loss, there was comfort.  And then, there was the act of creating.  Making art allowed me to heal.  I made art specifically about Mike’s murder for two years. Through this, I learned clearly art’s power to transform grief into action, into peacefulness.  

Art gives humans specific tools enabling us to understand, touch, and heal these horrific wounds created by intense violence through ignorance.  Art provides a way of transforming consciousness and it does seem that our world is in great need of transformation. 

I have been teaching drawing again, and I am recognizing that the process of learning how to see is parallel to the process of learning to create peace.  Peace is a skill that can be learned, practiced and mastered.  Drawing students learn to go from awkward, overtly symbolic shapes to masterful, beautiful lines that actually capture what the drawer sees.  This process mimics the same kind of learning needed to be peace.   It is a skill and an art to learn how to create and build rather than dismantle and destroy.

Peace is a deeply rooted sense of self AND it is active.  It is seeing what needs to be re-aligned and then working to transform relationships in every encounter, starting first with the self.   Peace in the 21st century also relates to drawing and art-making in the 21st century. European Western perspective has changed.  No longer is the accepted cannon a single point perspective representing the Christian faith.  It has expanded.  It also includes inner-perspective and aerial perspective, alongside multiple faiths and ways of being. We see from the inside out.  Western artists pointed to this internal understanding and landscape shift beginning in the late 1800s. Western psychologists such as Carl Jung, William James, and the great mythologist Joseph Campbell recognized this internal landscape as our true home.  Quantum physics confirms that what we see in the outer world is directly and intricately linked to our inner state.  It is clear that when making changes, starting from the inside out provides powerful results. 

Our perspective has also changed in that we can now see from above, both from an airplane and from outer space.  This has given us a new horizon line, or in fact, taken away the horizon line.  There are not borders of planet earth from space.  Earth is a singular whole, connected by land, river, mountains, and oceans.  Borders, divisions, and wars are human made creations and reflect mis-perceptions about the separateness of reality.  This 'us and them', border-state belief reflects a symbolic way of thinking that no longer matches up with reality.  

Changing this perception mirrors the same challenge a beginning drawer experiences in learning to see.  The beginning drawing student draws an eye as an oval with a circle and some eye-lashes.  But this is not an eye that one has observed deeply.  This is not an eye that is individual.  It is a symbol.  Perceiving enemies, perceiving borders, perceiving the necessity for war is a mis-perception that seperateness is reality.  In the 21st century we need to learn to see how we are in relation to one another.  Seeing that we are all connected radically affects how we are in relationship.  The mis-perceptions that keep us separated and in war are perceptions that need evolution.  These perceptions can be transformed in the same way that beginning drawing students learn to see. 1) By taking time to observe 2) By adjusting and re-adjusting internal perceptions to see if they match reality 3) By growing skills to be peaceful in order to respond to our fellow humans as brothers and sisters 4) To be pro-active in working to shift our own perceptions and to heal our own wounds, and then working outward to radiate peace.  I can think of no other practice more relevant for our survival.   

 

 

 

 

through the lense of awareness: a conversation with 2 artists by Jennifer Davey

  Vintage Landscape  pinhole photograph courtesy of Laura Cofrin  Juror's Choice Award, Lincoln Center Studio Tour Preview Exhibit, 2014

Vintage Landscape pinhole photograph courtesy of Laura Cofrin

Juror's Choice Award, Lincoln Center Studio Tour Preview Exhibit, 2014

The Fort Collins Studio Tour is coming up this weekend (June 28th-29th, 2014)  I wanted to highlight two of my favorite local artists, Laura Cofrin and Loretta Cummings, who will be at the Valhall Arts Studio in Old Town.  Valhall Arts is also sponsoring my studio and the three of us have been collaborating on preparations for the studio tour, as well as being tremendous friends and artistic support for one another.  I am excited to share a little bit about their inspirations and challenges in regards to being artists.

Cofrin is a photographer dedicated to expanding the idea of what a photograph can be, how it can be made, and what it can look like.  She can be found on online at www.lauracofrin.com.  You can see her Juror's Choice award winning photograph at The Lincoln Center Preview Exhibit.  Cummings encourages us to use attention, perception, and time as our art materials in order to make the world our studio.  "Try it, you'll like it!" encourages Cummings.   She can be found on twitter at www.twitter.com/thedarklobster.com.  Below is an image from Cummings (Art)making meta-work/One Year Project.  Cummings drew everyday for one year, recording each daily drawing and posting it on twitter.  You can see all drawings projected at The Lincoln Center for the Studio Tour Preview Exhibit.  

Still image from Loretta Cummings year long (Art)making meta-work/One Year Project.

While setting up for the studio tour last week, I asked them 2 key questions about being an artist....

What is most inspiring to you about making art and being an artist?

Laura:  Making art is a creative out-pouring, a way to express myself.  It is all about the action, it is playful and fun.  I truly love the a-ha moment when the piece is a success.  This is what keeps you going.  That magical moment of witnessing a scene through the lense of the camera.  It makes me hyper aware of myself in the world.  

Loretta:  Being an artist is a really good job.  It is in fact the best job you could ever have.  I am particularly inspired by Richard Wright, winner of the Turner Prize in 2009.  He states, "The fragility of the experience is the hinge for me.  It makes the work more like a musical performance, something that exists in the memory of the creator and the audience, but can't be owned, sold, or carried around."  For me art is a way to remember I am here-a way to come back to the point of now. The way I work is to build some sort of 'container' and then put things in to it to keep me present.  Anyone can do this.  As artists we can see that all can do it.  

What do you find most challenging about being an artist?

Laura:  Not having the technical knowledge to produce the idea that is in my mind.  Which leads me to another challenge-my lack of ability to give up control in the making of the project!  If I was able to do so, I might be able to more easily collaborate with others who have the tech (or other) knowlege I was seeking to bring my idea to fruition.   It is also challenging to realize the more I do something the less I know!  I am finally challenged by my audience's reception.  I sometimes feel that the viewer wants to be told what the art is about and would like a drive-by solution.  Instead, what inspires me in a viewer is curiousity and a willingness to actively look, ask questions, wonder and experience the artwork on their own terms.  I guess because of my science background, I am always exploring and looking for unexpected and surprising results that generate more questions.  It is really energizing to have this kind of viewer who is willing to dive in, ask questions, and not know where it might lead.  

Loretta:  It is challenging for me to continually run into the frame of reference from others "why isn't what you do making money?  But my interests in working as an artist and what inspires me does not concern making money, it is irrelevant.  However, on the flip side, I think artists have done themselves a dis-service by upholding the myth that they will make art at any cost, without desire for personal gain.  This is not real.  It denies that we need to live and sustain ourselves...so this is a kunundrom.   I also agree with Laura that it is challening to not have the technical knowledge to make the projects I want to make!

You can learn more from and experience art by both Loretta and Laura this weekend at the Studio Tour.  (No. 9n on your studio tour map)  Both artists look forward to engaging your curiousity and questions!  

Be Awesome Buy Art by Jennifer Davey

As an artist, my joy is found in making art.  I don't think there is an artist out there who would be making art if they did not love it.  But the other side of the coin is, what happens to your art once it is made?  For anyone making art objects, when someone buys your art, it is very validating.  It is exciting.  And it allows you continue to do what you love, make art.  I spent some time talking with Traci, one of my largest local collectors, and we discussed the joys of collecting art.  I met Traci and her husband Tom in 2011 on the Fort Collins Studio Tour.  Since that time they have purchased a number of my pieces and we have become friends.  I wanted to share with others what impact buying art can have on artists and collectors.  

"Buying art is a luxury, but it is not frivolous"

How did you decide to start collecting art?

When Tom and I were first dating, we went to Columbine Gallery in Loveland.  I was surprised to find out there were so many Colorado artists who were making a living from their artwork.  I thought that was really cool.  I decided I wanted to buy local art as much as possible to support Colorado artists.  I liked that it went against the stereotype that one could only buy art and make a living as an artist in a big city.  

"No matter what your income, if you love art, you should have at least one piece of artwork in your home"

John Kinkade, owner of Columbine Gallery was very engaging.  He was warm, and open and would tell us stories about the artwork and the artists.  This made it personal and it really is what got me hooked.  I would then go home and research more about the artist online.  This really enriched my knowledge and the love of the artwork.  Meeting local artists through the Fort Collins Studio Tour has also been a great way to learn more about the artists and to collect their work.  

"Art is an investment.  You can change or trade an artwork, but I buy things because I love them and they speak to me.  I expect to be with them for a long time."

What does a collector gain from buying art?

By making an investment in art, you gain the enjoyment of seeing it everyday in your home. There are always new ways in which I see a work.  I notice something different due to the light, the time of day, or just seeing it in a new way.  My home is my sanctuary and artwork brings me joy."

What gets in the way of people buying art?

Commitment:  It is a commitment-a long term relationship.  Sometimes people are intimidated by that, like they will make the wrong choice or change their mind after their purchase.   Don't worry.  If you love something, you will enjoy it for many years to come.  It is also okay to change or trade in the future.

Money:  People assume that only the rich can buy art.  This is not true.  There are all sorts of possibilities to buy inexpensive art.  Look for young, emerging artists, or small artworks. 

Intimidation Factor:  Do not be intimidated!  Go into galleries, look at art, ask questions, learn what you like.  Ask if the artist has smaller works available.  Go to studio tours, talk to the artists. Look in cafes, at art fairs, anywhere.  Keep your eyes open and trust what you love.  No one can tell you what will bring you joy in your home.  

Do you have any final thoughts you'd like to share about collecting art?

Many years ago, before I was seriously collecting art, I saw a painting in a cafe.  It was of a chair and it had a very strong sense of serenity.  At the time I did not buy it.  I still think about that painting 20 years later!  That is the power art can have.  

 

 

 

Invisible Relationships-Internal Objects by Jennifer Davey

On Friday, I will exhibit my work at Point Gallery in Denver.  Paintings I delivered on Tuesday to the gallery included an older work that has been wrapped away in storage for many years- Admit One. I created the painting in 2008.  Pulling it out and thinking about it being in the public sphere made me reflect on how it came to be.  It is a painting I consider pivitol in my transformation into an abstract painter, but it is also a painting that I have not thought of much in the last few years.

 Admit One 2008. Oil and collage on canvas,  44 x 44 in.

Admit One 2008. Oil and collage on canvas,  44 x 44 in.

I distinctly remember looking at a Judith Streeter painting in Art and America and realizing that the picture plane was an entirely free space, an area in which one could lay down any image or color, creating a lyrical composition.  My painting thus far had suffered many layers, none which felt right or authentic.  Seeing Judith's painting unlocked one secret in approaching the canvas. Suddenly I felt freedom.  I let my intuition guide my painting decisions and the final painting emerged.  This secret, however, was the superficial one. The one centered around composition and form.

The true revelation in this painting is reflected in an essay shared by my beloved painting teacher Joan Anderson.  The essay was by Karl Paulnack, director of the Boston Conservatory and a pianist.  It was a welcome address to incoming musicians at the Boston Conservatory.  In this address, he identifies the key job of music: to disover the invisible moving pieces inside our hearts and souls and order them.  Music and art are interchangeable in this regard, and this painting is significant for me in that it successfully re-ordered my internal life.  When I stood back and realized the painting was complete, I also realized that something had shifted within me.  An external recognition of internal struggle, things I had difficulty naming, suddenly became clear, ordered, and at peace.  This knowledge of how to use art to transform the self in order to understand the soul is what I have carried with me ever since.  

image.jpg

The purpose of painting by Jennifer Davey

 This process of re-creating this painting was an evolution of my own spirit.  The process itself helped put me more in alignment with my best self.  This is the beginning of the painting that became "Evolve"

This process of re-creating this painting was an evolution of my own spirit.  The process itself helped put me more in alignment with my best self.  This is the beginning of the painting that became "Evolve"

What is art about?  Why do paintings matter?  These are questions I ask myself daily, so as to be ever clear about the purpose of my craft and the worthiness of my devotion.  Today I was reading Joseph Campbell's Goddesses, Mysteries of the Feminine Divine and in his typical clear and illuminated way, he explained exactly what painting and art is all about.  In the history of humans, image making is core to our essence.  We have made images in a multitude of forms, often representing deities. What is the function of this image making?  Of this deity representation?  

Campbell states "Now, the energies of nature are present in the outer world, but also inside ourselves, because we are particles of nature.  So when you meditate on a deity, you are meditating on the powers of your own spirit and psyche, and on the powers that are also out there." (Joseph Campbell, Goddesses, Mystery of the Feminine Divine, p. 14)  This meditation is meant to put one in accord with nature.  The function of the image is to align our spiritual nature with the world in which we live.  

It is not necessary that the image be realistic or abstract, its function is to remind the viewer of his or her spiritual nature.   When one assumes that the image of the deity is the concrete meaning, however, its meaning is lost.  I see this gap in understanding frequently when viewers do not perceive the value of an abstract image.  There is nothing concrete and so it must have no meaning.  I often wonder if this missing link in understanding is reflective of our disconnect to the natural world as well as absence of a larger functioning cultural mythology.  We are left to read artwork at face value, not perceiving its symbolic potentials.  This knowledge of how to be in accord with our own life seems like a foriegn language at times.  However, just because the language is not always understood, does not mean that the spiritual meaning is absent.  

Images have the power to point the way to powers held within each of us to grow and expand our consciousness and to become in accord with the world in which we live.  In religious terms, Christ on the cross is not a historical representation of a temporal time and place event, but a symbol that points us in the direction of understanding our own transendence.  We are reminded of our potential to die to the energies that have held us back, old habits thoughts and ways of being.  And are resurrected into a new larger life, a spiritual life that is more in accord with the world and is not just about our small ego getting what it wants.   In the same way, abstract painting points to an interior state of being and recognizes different possibilities within us.  

By being with a painting one has the potential to remember ones own divinity and expansion. The painting reminds us of our higher nature and points us to this direction.  

A series of images that records the transformation of the painting Heart-Mind  2012.  Oil collage and chalk on canvas, 60 x 48 in. into the painting Evolve 2013. Oil and collage on canvas, 60 x 48 in.

Recent images from the studio by Jennifer Davey

We find that the question, --What is art? leads us directly to another,--Who is the artist? and the solution of this is the key to the history of Art.   Ralph Waldo Emerson

 January 20, 2014      

January 20, 2014

 

 

 January 20, 2014

January 20, 2014

 January 20, 2014

January 20, 2014

Uncovering Inspiration by Jennifer Davey

 prepping the painting "Uncovering" to take to The Lone Tree Art Center-November 16th, 2013-January 5th, 2014.

prepping the painting "Uncovering" to take to The Lone Tree Art Center-November 16th, 2013-January 5th, 2014.

At this time last year I had my studio at The Fort Collins Museum of Art, I was working full-time at The Cupboard, teaching a class at The Murphy Center, and squeezing in time to paint.  I was also in the very beginning stages of making some pretty big changes.  Today in the studio, feeling both very inspired and peaceful, I realized just how many changes I have made.  I also realized these changes are reflected in the painting Uncovering, which will be at The Lone Tree Art Center from November 16th, 2013 through January 5th, 2014.  I haven't looked at the painting since June, and was amazed by its energy and luminosity.  I thought it the perfect time to reflect back on some events and thoughts that inspired both the painting and life changes.  

A few excerpts from my studio journal and an abbreviated time-line:

12.14.12: drawing contour line + gesture portraits of the studio space-considering/evaluating what I need/want 

1.22.13:  I have moved out of my studio and temporarily into our apartment.  I am excited about the changes to come as well as a few months of concentrated study without rent and First Fridays.

1.25.13: Attend opening of Red/Yellow/Blue at The Clyfford Still Museum.  Inspired by this Still quote "I can think of no other way for a serious artist to achieve his ends than by doing what I did-to show that this instrument, the limited means of paint on canvas, had a more important role than to glorify popes and kings or decorate the walls of rich men."  Also, blown away by Still's PH 893-a stunning, breath taking, all-encompassing yellow.  

I directed my attention to color, fascinated by its ability to have its own presence and power. I began painting small color studies and reading Color A Natural History of the Palette by Victoria Finlay and Color, A Workshop for Artists and Designers by David Hornung.

In late May I re-visited the Red/Yellow/Blue exhibit and started working on a 48 x 48 inch panel in yellow.   

6.5.13  Moved the yellow painting from our tiny living room to the patio to work through its final iterations.  Felt a sense of space and expansion.

6.10.13 I gave The Cupboard notice that I my last day would be August 15th.   

6.11.13 Ran into friends that had a friend looking to rent out a studio space in her backyard.

6.15.13  Visited the studio space.  Incredible.

6.16.13  Said yes to renting the space starting in July.

8.19.13 Arrived for my first full day in the studio.

11.11.13 Worked on yellow, orange, and red squares and a field of large yellow-excited about this because it is becoming more luminous and muted at the same time.  Then wrapped up the painting "Uncovering"  for the Lone Tree Art Exhibit.  Excited.  It is a beautiful painting.  

I feel very lucky to spend my days painting.  I am inspired and excited to grow as a painter and am amazed at how much has transpired in less than a year!  

The Artist and Work by Jennifer

 Blue paint  October, 15, 2013

Blue paint  October, 15, 2013

I have been actively working in my studio 5 days a week for almost two months now.  It has been a process of ups and downs, questioning, discovering and finding my way.  Without any expectation beyond going to the studio and painting I have felt both incredibly free and totally untethered.  In the process, I am beginning to develop my work "manual" shall I say.

What I have discovered thus far is this:

I am searching.  Looking for the edges.  Questioning and thinking my way towards a painting.  This is both exciting and  uncomfortable.  Often, I want the map before I've gone on the journey.  I would much prefer figuring things out with my head first so I can have a fine, intelligent body of work created in a smooth and effortless fashion.  I want the proof that my paintings will work.  A solid return on my investment.  Therefore, instead of painting, I "prep" for painting with my head by meditating, reading, studying, drawing, or even leaving the studio. This feeling may often be followed by an internal crisis and feeling of depression.  Not quiet the feeling I am looking for.

What I am learning from this is that I cannot lead with my head, I must lead with my heart.  And my heart is directly linked to the process of painting.

What I am trusting instead is work.  The process of picking up a brush, or pencil and starting to make marks creates its own momentum.  Suddenly....or slowly, ideas pop into my head as I work.  When I follow those ideas, I come up with the most unexpected results and these results are satisfying.  I also begin to see the thread of connection that is unfolding before me.   I know that this process is true, as I have followed it many times before.  Its funny how now, when there truly are no distractions, I create my own distraction by distrusting the process.  Ironic.  Yet, when I follow this simple rule of "just paint" I am rewarded with unexpected discoveries and a true sense of accomplishment.

Radical Sabbatical by Jennifer

 Mapping 1, 36" x79", dirt and chalk on panel, 2012 Jennifer Davey

Mapping 1, 36" x79", dirt and chalk on panel, 2012 Jennifer Davey

Radical:from Late Latin radicalis "of or having roots, from Latin radix- "root"... meaning "going to the origin, essential"

Sabbatical:from Hebrew word shabbat which comes from the verb shavat meaning rest or cessation.

Sometimes something that has been a long time coming has a way of actually happening quite quickly.  Last week I gave my notice at The Cupboard AND found a secluded studio in which to begin my Radical Sabbatical.  It is not so much a sabbatical as a major life transition to be a full time painter everyday all day. Instead of clocking in at The Cupboard on a daily basis, I will be clocking in at my studio and making a lot of work.  I'm so excited I can hardly stand it!  This 'radical sabbatical' has been my secret (not so secret now) name for this transition I have been specifically planning for over the last few months.  Radical because it is going to take place during the busiest time of the year in retail, the fourth quarter, where I am usually working my hardest at selling housewares and going home to paint after.  Instead I will be painting, painting, and if someone else is interested in buying a painting, well that is just fine.  But I will be painting. And sabbatical because I have created the opportunity for a pause as I am shifting my sails.  I can focus on painting, ceasing to do other activities that distract from painting.  An opportunity to re-charge, reflect, assess, and oh, did I mention paint?

The Artist's Studio: Place or Process? by Jennifer

 Jennifer Davey  

Jennifer Davey  

Due to my recent move out of my studio at the museum, my quest for a new studio space, and my upcoming participation in the Fort Collins Studio Tour with Laura Brent and Valhall Arts, I have begun to consider this basic question:

What is the meaning of the artist's studio?

A visit to etymoline.com provides the root meaning of the word in question.

Studio: A work room of a sculptor or painter.  First used in 1819.

This definition stems from the Italian word studio or a room for study.

Study comes from the Latin roots studium: meaning study, application, or eagerness.

It also means

the application of the mind to the acquisition of knowledge.

including being zealous in applying oneself in this acquisition of knowledge.

This definition resonates with me.  It matches my desire to delve into the art and craft of painting.  Regardless of where my studio has been or will be located in space and time, I am always on the quest for understanding and knowledge gained through the process and investigation of making art.  At the root is the quest.  A quest to uncover, to illuminate, and to understand.  The studio space is merely a container for this very active process.

As I considered this definition over-lapping onto the spaces that have been my studio laboratories, I was surprised to find this old drawing of my original "studio" in the living room of our apartment during art school.

My first 'studio' during art school, circa 1997
My first 'studio' during art school, circa 1997

It looks surpisingly similar to my current studio living room space.  I love that in  this discovery, I know both spaces allow creative investigation.  I also feel as inspired now as I was then to learn to see, understand and relate to the world in an increasingly focused and deep way.  However, there is one distinct difference between when I started art school and now.  In 1997 I was interested in capturing what I saw in order to put it into a drawing or painting.  Now, I am interested in using  the process of art making to change how I see and relate to the world.  This difference is critical when looking at what an art studio means.  It seems the object of "the artist's studio" is often confused for the activity of artistic investigation, the heart of being an artist.  Studio is a process, a study, a practice, and a state of mind.

I will be continuing this investigation of what it means to have a studio and a studio practice.

I hope to see you at my guest studio space at 916 Woodford in Old Town for The Fort Collins Studio Tour on June 22nd and 23rd from 10am -5pm.

Current "living room" studio in our 9th floor apartment
Current "living room" studio in our 9th floor apartment

Quiet by Jennifer

 Veil, 48" x 48", oil and chalk on panel, 2012

Veil, 48" x 48", oil and chalk on panel, 2012

Quietby Susan Cain, is my new favorite book.  Impassioned and informed, I feel that opening the pages of this book have reminded me who I have been since birth, an introvert.  Growing up in America, I have learned many fine skills to navigate my way through an extroverted landscape where one is always encouraged to sell yourself, be gregarious, make your own way, and do, do, do.  However, Cain's eloquent descriptions of being in love with ideas, re-charging by being alone, avoiding conflict, and listening to the world around as it spins magnificently, all resonated with my inner-being.  It has clarified my resolve to become the artist I would admire.  And this does not happen in the fray and din of everyday life.  It happens alone, facing myself, each and every day, and painting, painting, painting.   To have let go of my studio turns out to be the perfect first step to begin an intense focus on my craft.

On March 1st from 6-9 p.m., I will share three paintings at Valhall Arts  created over the last year that point in this direction of quiet solitude.  A recognition just recently realized, that my soul had known sometime ago...it is time to focus.  It is time to release any outer distractions and truly get down to the work of being a painter.   I suppose it sounds kind of strange to have an exhibition to kick-off the beginnings of being a recluse but I guess its about as strange as giving up a studio to become a better painter.  Paradox...true fuel for the creative spirit.

Quiet: paintings by Jennifer Davey

Valhall Arts [201 S. College Ave, Plaza Level #2, Fort Collins, CO 80524]

March 1st-March 25th, 2013

Opening Reception

Friday March 1st 6-9 p.m.

Empty Studio by Jennifer

 My now empty studio at the Fort Collins Museum of Art

My now empty studio at the Fort Collins Museum of Art

We must be willing to get rid of the life we’ve planned, so as to have the life that is waiting for us.

The old skin has to be shed before the new one can come.

If we fix on the old, we get stuck.

When we hang on to any form, we are in danger of putrefaction.

Hell is life drying up.

The Hoarder, the one in us that wants to keep, to hold on, must be killed.

If we are hanging on to the form now, we’re not going to have the form next.

You can’t make an omelet without breaking eggs.

Destruction before creation.

Reflections on the Art of Living, A Joseph Campbell Companion.  1991. Joseph Campbell

_____________________________________________

I have decided to move out of my studio.  I am currently working out of our apartment, on the 9th floor, over-looking the Eastern sky.  Simplicity has its luxuries.

This December I began contemplating a move so I started to really observe my studio space, rather than just inhabiting it, like the favorite sweater it had definitely become.  It is a beautiful space, but when I really looked, I realized the obvious, it is an office, not a painter’s studio.  Not that it hasn’t worked wonderfully as a painter’s studio, but when I thought about the size of work I am making and the size of the space, something didn’t fit.  It was me.   My paintings needed space to breathe, I need space to see the work side by side, I need space to grow.  But growth sometimes happens in reverse order, so prior to a large painting space, I have moved into the micro space of our apartment.  And I am thrilled.  There is an energy and excitement to change, especially when you know you are on the right track.   I am not sure how long I will be in apartment/studio space, but while I am, I am excited to study and investigate my painting ideas on a small scale. I can incubate these ideas with intensity and depth, waiting for the next space.

If you would like to contact me, please don't hesitate to send an email.

I will also be posting periodic updates as to my adventures in the micro-studio.

Happy 2013!

-Jen

Still Committed by Jennifer

Clyfford Still

One year after the opening of The Clyfford Still Museum in Denver, my admiration for the artist only continues to grow.  I just returned from a class at The Clyfford Still Museum, graciously taught by the director, Dean Sobel.  It was two hours filled with the joy of soaking up the beauty and depth of Still's work.  I am astounded by the insights uncovered when I give time to just be with one of Still's paintings.   His gift to the world stretches far beyond most artists imaginations or capabilities.  This gift came about largely because of his incredible commitment to his vision and purpose in painting.  As he was gaining fame and recognition in the art world in the 1940s and 50s, he became increasingly wary of the business of art.  Seeing that continuing to show and sell his work without strong leadership on his part would lead to a diminishing of his artistic vision, he pulled back. His decision to stop showing work unless it met his stringent guidelines and criteria was a profound and bold decision to remain true to his creative spirit.  Although he did sell some paintings and showed work at a few select museums, mostly he painted alone in his Maryland barn.  At the end of his life he wrote a simple will bequeathing his entire body of work to an American city willing to house it together as a whole to be open to the public in perpetuity for exhibition and study.  Some call him arrogant for such a wish.  Seeing the museum and continuing to learn more and more about his work, I call him committed and incredibly generous.  He had the vision to understand the importance of remaining true to his artistic voice, without interference of trends, critics, gallery sales.  He also had the vision to see his lifetime of work as one entity, only understood as a whole.  Still died in 1980.  Now I stand in Denver, in front of his ever unfolding collection in 2012, in awe of a man who was able to see his artistic vision through to its completion. I highly recommend a visit to The Clyfford Still Museum, situated directly behind the Denver Art Museum.

Time: by Jennifer

 Highway 287, September 2, 2012

Highway 287, September 2, 2012

Time is the starting point for the painting I am currently working on.  I am looking back in history, thinking of the vast evolution of time, both geologic and human.  However, this long look at time has caused me to examine my own micro-relationship to time.  As a Westerner in the 21st century, I am often in an argument with time.  I either don't have enough time, or I am frustrated that the "future I envision" time has not arrived, or I am disappointed in the way I spent my time in the past.  It is really a humbling and slightly embarrassing moment to bring the microscope in to examine my relationship to time.   However, there is pay off in this akward exploration, freedom.  The most simple start to this path to freedom is posing the question:

"What would my life be like if I did not argue with time?"

It is a radical notion for someone like me, so trained in judging the past, present, and future and how it is not living up to my "standards & expectations".  It's as if I have my own Standard & Poors rating index for time.  Time rarely fits my "standards" because of the poverty in which I view time.  However, ever optimistic, even with my judging self, I indulge in imaging what a day in the life of not judging time might look like:

  • Waking up to realize how lucky I am to be in a warm, cozy bed lying next to the man I love.
  • Drinking hot tea and eating toast, which to my surprise, I truly still enjoy even though I have eaten the same breakfast almost every day for years. (boring, yes, I know)
  • Meeting whatever task at hand with an openess and curiousity.  It really doesn't matter if it is doing the dishes or going to the studio (even though being in the studio is my favorite use of time, and probably is the one place where I have a healthy relationship to time.)
  • Arriving early to events to greet time gracefully as the next convergence happens, rather than holding onto a past task thinking I must complete it in a certain way in order to meet the next task...late.
  • Looking and listening to the people and things I meet, the trees and sky, birds, cars, bikes, even cracks in the sidewalk as I move through my day.
  • Being open to surprises and unexpected turn of events, knowing that my relationship to time is maleable and surprises are the gift of being present to its unfolding...and this may or may not follow the laws of the clock.
  • Returning to my bed looking back on the day with appreciation and grace, ready for a full nights rest.

Sounds pretty good at 10:21 in the morning!  I'll see how I do today, removing myself from my abusive relationship to time...

Heat by Jennifer

 Jennifer Davey,   Heat , 2011, oil, burned paper, chalk and pencil on panel,  48 x 48 in.    Private collection

Jennifer Davey,  Heat, 2011, oil, burned paper, chalk and pencil on panel,  48 x 48 in.    Private collection

Heat.  It is a quality that is surely very present in the minds and hearts of the residents of Northern Colorado over the last week.  Fire, with both its destructive and life giving qualities, is an element that can evoke both great comfort and great fear.  Over the last week, watching the High Park Fire grow, despite the definite fear it has provoked in us all, I have witnessed the strength and beauty of people coming together in a time of crisis.  This collective care for one another is the glue that allows us to mature, to flourish, and to grow into human beings who care for one another and for our homes, both metaphorical and physical, individually and collectively.  The gift of a crisis is remembering what really matters.  Things come and go.  Structures come and go.  People come and go.  So it begs the question, what is constant, ever-lasting?  This week, I have remembered the numinous quality of helping another.  My acts have been very small relative to the courageous fire-fighters and people on the front lines working to contain the fire.  However, these small acts have profoundly impacted me.  Thoroughly enjoying and being present to an unexpected dinner with friends evacuated from the fire, celebrating news of another friend's home surviving the fire, showing kindness to those that come through the store.  These acts do not win boldness or recognition awards.  But I have found that this simple shift toward gentle kindness in small daily acts has provided an internal stability that I have greatly appreciated.  It is a good reminder in times when the outer world feels tumultuous and unpredictable, that the internal world of care and connection provides a stable home for love to flourish. I ran across something I had written in my journal in 2008 and it seemed timely:

"I realize that tension, sometimes more extreme tension of opposites is what keeps things energized and alive.  Without that tension, there is nothing.  And holding your center between two opposites is where success, love, and a rich life flourish.  The desire to discard the negative or the obstacle is a false desire leading to failure.  Honoring and integrating the obstacle brings life."

...and hopefully rain.

 

Bodies of Work: Pulling a Thread Through History by Jennifer Davey

Bodies of Work

by Mickey Bookstaber

Interview by Jennifer Davey  

Fort Collins Museum of Art:  

Exhibition from July 15 to August 5, 2011

On July 29th, I had the pleasure of interviewing artist Mickey Bookstaber about her current exhibition, Bodies of Work, on view at the Fort Collins Museum of Art.  Here are a few highlights from our conversation.

 Image still.  video clip of Bodies of Work, by Mickey Bookstaber   video taken by  Dennis Bookstaber  2011

Image still.  video clip of Bodies of Work, by Mickey Bookstaber   video taken by  Dennis Bookstaber  2011

While events in the news rise and fall, 

Mickey Bookstaber has been pulling a thread through political concerns since the 1970s.

The result of her artistic inquiry is

Bodies of Work, now showing at The Fort Collins Museum of Art.  Enter the show to see an elegant collection of visual imagery exploring world events that impact us all.

 Mickey Bookstaber explaining the dolls she made by hand over many years to express her frustration about American political actions in Guatemala.

Mickey Bookstaber explaining the dolls she made by hand over many years to express her frustration about American political actions in Guatemala.

Walking into the show, one sees a line-up of small, hand-made canvas dolls, each adorned with a tiny bead, a mark of individuality, amidst their precise and uniform similarity.

 It is these dolls that provide the genesis for the entire show. 

Mickey, an art teacher at the time, and her husband Dennis, began traveling to Guatemala in the 1970s.

Visiting remote villages, they experienced cultures and people with a rich history of making textiles to adorn and express their individuality. 

As Mickey and Dennis returned, year after year, they began to see changes and watched the ideas of globalization, capitalism, and American democracy drastically change the villages they first knew.

Politically, she felt America was very aggressive in pushing our version of democracy to other cultures, at the cost of a country’s individuality and heritage.  As she thought about this, she began to make handmade canvas dolls.  They were the same, minus one small bead that would mark their individuality.  It was a visual statement to say, “Yes, America, we see these changes, but we also maintain our individuality.” 

Watching the political and global scene unfold, and often with a very negative impact on the cultures and people she knew in Guatemala, she exclaimed, “I am so angry about American politics, I could make a 1,000 of these dolls!” 

And so it was.  She made them, year after year, filling many boxes with dolls, going about her life as an art teacher, and coming back to them when she had a chance.

photo+%25288%2529.jpeg

Shortly after September 11th, a friend, who was also an artist, came to visit.

They discussed Bookstaber’s dolls and her friend requested to see them. 

As Bookstaber opened the lid of the box, both felt a chill, as the stacked canvas bodies created an eerie reminder of the recent tragedy. 

However, the timing and the conversation also created inspiration for Bookstaber to continue making the dolls.  It also added a new dimension to her political ruminations.  After September 11th, she began to think more about American political leaders and the consequences of their decisions.  Reading Thomas Friedman’s book, The World is Flat, also brought new insights about globalization.

This lead to the next part of the exhibit, a map on the floor stacked with black rubber dolls. 

800 of the 1,000 dolls were meticulously dipped in black rubber. 

She then placed them on the floor on a map of the world. 

Black figures bulge and precariously balance to stay within their limits of the geographic boundaries of land. 

The idea of population over-load is more than obvious.  Although this map’s ignition point stemmed from the perception of very negative global situations, Bookstaber feels now she also sees the positive changes of globalization.  Most notably, she notes the rapid expansion of the Internet, leading to more opportunities for education and connection, and even to the most recent revolutions across the Arab world.

By 2008,  just before the presidential election, she worked on a piece that was submitted to the Fort Collins Museum of Contemporary Art’s patriotism show.  It was an idea for tapestries that would create a merging of the portraits of iconic political figures and the American flag. 

The results are the framed woven images of prominent American political figures, starting with George W. Bush.

American flags were unwoven, becoming the warp, and the photographic image the weft. These two parts were then re-woven together with a statement written at the bottom of the frame as to what kind of world she felt each politician was helping to create.

The political portraits are a strong contrast to the quiet white figures, providing a very interesting opportunity for comparing and contrasting. 

Over the span of decades, Bookstaber has kept her awareness on the human cost of this turn of the century’s globalization, politics, war, and economics.

Through the simple act of making she has woven a thread through challenging topics relevant to us all.  Her show is beautiful, engaging, and provocative.  I highly recommend spending time with it before it closes on August 5th.

Regardless of your political opinions, Bookstaber has generously shared her very human views of our changing world.  Spending time looking at the work, posing your own questions, and sharing in Bookstaber’s exploration, will be time well spent.  

Random musings by Jennifer Davey

 contour line drawing from sketchbook, 2010

contour line drawing from sketchbook, 2010

I am sitting here listening to Sigur Ros's album, Hvar-Heim Samskeyti, and it breeds a certain sort of contemplative mood.  I have transformed quite a bit over the last two years...or so it feels. I suppose those that know me best are the ones to provide the true answer to that question. Things I felt were true in my heart have become a little more expansive and a lot less demanding or compelling.  I feel a sense of peace and awareness.  I am astounded by the people that come into my life and bring such depth and richness to my world.  I have been out of my studio for the last three weeks or so, awaiting repairs.  I am anxiously awaiting a return to painting tomorrow morning.  The space is clearer.  The clutter is gone, for now, and my mind feels sharp.  I am anticipating that feeling of diving in, getting into the flow, and creating, creating, creating. Tonight, there is fluidity in this evening space, music filling the apartment, the swamp cooler churning, and my thoughts settling on the morning.  The gap before the next expansion occurs.