Join me in my studio as I discuss elements essential to my paintings: awareness, the viewer, color, and transformation.
This 9 part blog series BOUND explores the inspiration behind the stenciled words used in my paintings for the exhibition BOUND at Point Gallery, Denver August 2015. In the series, I will share my musings on these words, what they mean to me and why I selected them to be included in these paintings: SHADOW,RATIONAL MIND, COCOON, DISCERNMENT, SCREEN, HIDDEN, BODY, LOVE, and BOUND
I refuse to accept the view that mankind is so tragically bound to the starless midnight of racism and war that the bright daybreak of peace and brotherhood can never become a reality...I believe that unarmed truth and unconditional love will have the final word.-Martin Luther King, Jr.
1. v walk or run with leaping strides
2. n a leaping movement upwards
3. adj tied: in bonds
4. adj destined, certain, sure
5. adj determined or resolved
Today it is apt to discuss the word BOUND as I prepare for the artist's reception tonight at Point Gallery for the exhibit of the same title, Bound. I selected Bound for the title of this show because of its double meaning of being constrained and also leaping upwards. Although I have often blamed my physical world for the limits and constraints I dislike, experience has taught me that the root of these physical manifestations are often in my mind. Fear, limits, and self-judgment, all inform how I act and show up in the world, which greatly impacts how my world looks. I can tell you that my current reality is shifting and expanding by leaps and bounds. This is not just by what I have changed externally, but what I have continually changed internally, learning to release old habits of fear, self-doubt, avoidance, and hiding my true self. It is in this context that I share with you my inspirations for the exhibit Bound. And if you are in Denver tonight, please stop by Point Gallery from 6-9pm and say hi!
Bound is descriptive of both the constriction and freedom we can feel living in this human body. I want to know how to be free, full, radiant and alive, yet am trapped also by my shadow, failings, warts and unknown aspects of myself. It is this desire to know the divine that has lead me to researching the structure of the soul and psyche. What is underneath my everyday existence? What drives my choices, my behavior? What belief structures create my world? It is through the unexpected appearance of words in my paintings that has provided the thread for this search. I have frequently used writing in my work, though up until now, it’s meaning has remained hidden to the viewer. The writing becomes muted through layers of paint, leaving only a hint of presence. Recently, however, I have begun to use stenciled words. The process of selecting and stenciling words became a clarifying force. It acted as a meditation, defining the painting as well as my search. It allowed me to contemplate the many layers of meaning behind each word. Words are sacred. They have a lineage and ancestry that can help us understand our place in the world. I want the viewer to experience the word like the sound of a meditative bell, a call to contemplate its meaning. It is directly because of the physical, bound elements of our life, exactly as they are, that we can know the divine through awareness, attentiveness, and love of both the beautiful and the ugly.
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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.