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Courage to Create

28 May

What would life be if we had no courage to attempt anything?  These words of Vincent VanGogh ran through my mind as I read about Zarina Hashmi last week.

Zarina Hashmi was an American artist who went by only her first name, Zarina.  She recently passed away in April from Alzheimers.  Born in India, she used Islamic type decoration as visual elements in her art.  Her geometic style is similar to the minimalist style of the 1970s.

According to Gallery Espace in New Delhi, India, Zarina has a unique “ability to distil emotion down to its most essential and expressive forms.”   To view some of her artwork at Gallery Espace, click here: www.galleryespace.com She has many pieces from a 2007 show that are unique paper cast sculptures.

After doing a lot of travel, she began incorporating maps into her art work.  She expanded her ideas to include topographical details of cities that had been altered by political turmoil, such as India, NY, Baghdad, Kabul, and others.

MoMA has 43 Zarina works online that you can view on their website.  www.moma.org    She has a lot of interesting art but her prints are what interest me the most.  In an interview with editors of the 1970 issue of Vrishchik, she states that she didn’t have a lot of space or money when she first moved to NYC, so she devised her own paper casting mold by drilling holes in plastic.

In 1980 she was invited to co-curate an exhibition and design the catalog for the A.I.R. Gallery in NYC but they didn’t want her to show in it because of her race.  They just wanted her to do the work of curating and making the catalog.  In the end, things worked out and she did end up participating.

Zarina created many woodcut prints as well as her own paper, sculpture, drawing and often paired writing or words printed in Urdu, her native language from India.  She taught in several universities, NY-FAI, NYU and Cornell.  Her work was important to the art world because she explored home, displacement, and memory in a profound way through her prints.

Courtney Stewart with the Met Museum Research Department of Islamic Art questioned Zarina about the role of an artist in society.

“I think we are witnesses to the times we are living in.” stated Zarina.  She went on to explain how she saw Aligarh, her hometown, divided by a politically drawn line separated into India and Pakistan.  1947 was a tragic time where she saw villages burning with the British partition.

When asked “What’s the best piece of advice you’ve been given?”, she said “Keep on working.  Just keep on working.  You will find a language for yourself.”

She reminisced “Everybody can draw, you know – skills don’t make art.  That is the least important part.  I’ve been a teacher for 25 years in this country, so I can teach the skills.  Ideas make art.  There are lots of people who can’t draw but they can make big art – great art, because it comes from ideas.  You can teach skills but you can’t teach ideas.”

Despite her not attending art school she had a long and successful art career.  The Jeanne Bucher Jaeger Gallery in Paris, writes that Zarina became more and more convinced that a superior force guided her life.  In accepting this light, she began using gold leaf the past few years, as she considered her artistic voyage as more of a universal spiritual destination.

To read Zarina’s biography, go to zarina-hashmi.com or the artist’s official website at www.zarina.work

Video: Zarina YouTube Video by Tate

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The 9th Street Women

27 Apr
Hard cover book "The 9th street women"

The 9th Street Women by Mary Gabriel

The 9th Street Women is a book about the New York City art scene from 1930 through 1950s written by author Mary Gabriel.  The book covers five influential women who helped to revolutionize the modern art world: Lee Krasner, Elaine DeKooning, Grace Hartigan, Joan Mitchell and Helen Frankenthaler.

This book is long at 944 pages but it kept my interest the whole time.  I was impressed with the way Gabriel developed the characters into memorable artists weaving history into the stories.  I was able to see how these artists impacted the art world.

Each woman played a role in the new art movement.  They challenged the traditional roles of women, questioning what society was telling.  They challenged the male dominated art scene of New York and in their own personal lives.

Elaine DeKooning boldly rejected the housewife role to take up her brushes with a more fulfilling role to her as an artist.  There were even times when other women discouraged her, yet she ignored their criticism to pursue her art career.

The book does a great job setting the stage with American history and gives the reader both historical and artistic reference.  I liked that Gabriel took time to point out the men who supported these women throughout their various challenges.

I find it inspiring that these women set aside discouragement and negativity to exercise their talents by pushing forward with their art.  They didn’t do it for fame or fortune but to become the best artist they possibly could be.  This book reminded me that we all have talents and need to continue to use them and develop them regardless of who acknowledges or approves.

Reading about how the women networked, strategized, and developed their art made it clear to me how challenging it must have been for them and how brave they were to push ahead with their art.  Although women still have a lot of challenges in the art industry we can draw encouragement from these 9th street women.

Have you felt challenged to give up your art?  Have you overcome artistic discouragement?  Please share!

Modern Art Pioneer

18 Feb

I was asked about a pioneer who I admire and immediately thought of Edgar Whitney.  I felt he was a modern art pioneer because of how he shared his great talent through teaching.  Many of his students went on to become great painters and teachers, influencing modern watercolor painting in a positive way.

Edgar Whitney was born 1891 and died 1987.  He worked 25 years in Commercial Art, then 5 years as an Art Director before becoming a full time artist and teacher.  The American Watercolor Society lists him as a Master Watercolorist and has an annual award in his honor.  His dedication to American Watercolor greatly influenced our modern day art.

“There are only 2 things that matter in life – your friends and your art.  Everything else is worthless.”  ~ Edgar Whitney

How did I come across Edgar Whitney, my friend asked.  I was interested in finding an artist that painted in a similar way to my mother.  When I came across Whitney’s art, I knew this was it.  His paintings were what I was really looking for – very impressionistic and loose with lots of movement, spontaneity and texture.

Since he was no longer alive, I realized the only way I could learn from him was to learn from his students.  I spent about 10 months researching who his students were and even located some classes from them.  Some of his students were Cheng Khee Chee, Barbara Nechis, Tony Couch, Frank Webb, and of course there are many, many more.

I realized I could learn a lot from his books and for the next five years I dove into studying and practicing his way of painting.  Every class that came up with any of his famous students, I attended.

“No door is closed to a stubborn scholar.” ~ Edgar Whitney

I admire the way he was able to share his style and technique and had some students who went on to become famous painters and teachers.  From what I heard, he had a tendency to push his students and he was quite an interesting character.

“You have chosen to spend your time and money on esthetics.  Others can cheat you, a craft cannot.  It’s the only area in life where you get back what you’ve put in.”  ~Edgar Whitney.

Who do you admire as a pioneer?  What pioneer qualities do you possess or desire?  I’d love to hear some comments.

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Technology & Art

3 Nov

david hockney book

After reading David Hockney’s Secret Knowledge: Rediscovering the Lost Techniques of the Old Masters, I can begin to see how technology changes the arts.  In the same way the camera lucida and its lenses changed the way paintings were developed, technology continues to impact the art world.  Today digital art and computer manipulation continues to impact art through multi-window perspectives, multiple viewpoints and easily blurs the lines between illusion, fantasy and reality.

The same way the camera has shortcomings with perspective, computer aided art, and film also has shortcomings.  The computer cannot provide vision or passion.  Only the artist can supply the heart and vision behind the art.  There is a danger of relying upon the computer and forgetting that it is only a tool.  The hand, heart, eye and passion of an artist are far more complex than any computer will ever be.

Still the technological advances we have today are amazing.  We have gone from 2-D still pictures, to moving film, even to 3-D!  Who knows how the next 100 years will change art or in what way?  These are exciting times to be an artist!

Have you ever thought about the tools you use and how they impact your own work?  In what ways has technology impacted your creative endeavors?

 

Glorious Creative Expression

25 Jun
Van_Gogh_-_Terrasse_des_Cafés_an_der_Place_du_Forum_in_Arles_am_Abend1 
Café Terrace At Night (1888) Oil on canvas – Kroller-Muller Museum, Otterlo Vincent Van Gogh
Van_gogh_cafe_arles

The café terrace, now called “Le Café La Nuit” at Place du Forum, Arles, France

 

fishing on lake

Onondaga Lake, Syracuse, NY

Blue abstract woods small for blog

Blue Abstract Woods, Watercolor, K Turner  (1 of 2 interpretations of lake picture above)

Onondaga Lake for blog

Fishing, Watercolor by K Turner (2 of 2 interpretations of lake picture above)

 

Have you ever thought about how you want to paint a subject?  What is the message or feeling that you want to convey to the viewer?

Recently, artist David Becker  blogged about how different artists interpret subject matter or a scene.  Some like to interpret things in a very realistic manner and others more abstract.  The way an artist decides is based on their own unique style.  You don’t have to look far to see examples of this – even the masters (Picasso, Dali, O’Keeffe, Rothko, Matisse, Van Gogh, etc.) have numerous examples of unique artistic interpretation.

After reviewing these famous artists from the past and looking to all the unique modern day artists and what they are producing – I am convinced there is no right or wrong way.  My personal feeling is that a photograph can tell me a lot if I want a report.  A painting can tell me more about the feeling and the artist’s thoughts and ideas.  There are of course artistic photographs that are wonderful and impactful. I’m not saying photographers aren’t artistic – they are!  When I’m painting, I am forced to edit myself and think about what it is that I want to say to the viewer.

There are times when I think of my painting as a musical concert with a large orchestra, maybe even a brass section.  As the conductor I might want a certain color to give me a deep background sound while another note becomes an essence of color to highlight an area.

Creating your own unique style seems to only come with time and lots of painting.  So I’d like to encourage all creatives, whether an artist, musician, writer, scientist, inventor, etc.  keep working towards your own unique style.  Try hard to avoid becoming someone else’s clone or copy.  Develop your own style.

As a creative you have a special gift of seeing the world a little differently than others.  You owe it to the world to share that unique original vision and idea.  Let your unique style shine through!

The night scene above, painted by Van Gogh, interprets the night scene without use of black.  He creates this with beautiful blues, yellow and citron green.  Van Gogh enjoyed painting right on the street at night, painting his observations and impressions directly.  He shares his interpretation with a spiritual and psychological tone using his brushstrokes to convey his sense of excitement.  The café still exists in southern France today and is a favorite tourist spot for Van Gogh fans.  The café terrace, now called “Le Café La Nuit” at Place du Forum, Arles, France

*Pictures credit: Wikipedia.  To read more about Van Gogh click here: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Vincent_van_Gogh

In My Spare Moments: The Art of Harold F. Schmitz

23 Apr

I recently came across an announcement for a historical art show “In My Spare Moments: The Art of Harold F. Schmitz” at the Wisconsin Veterans Museum in Madison, Wisconsin.  The artist, Harold Schmitz, was working in advertising when he was drafted into WWII in 1942.  He became a map maker with the 955th Topographic Engineer Company for the next three years.  After the war he became an art director for Northwestern Publishing House.

Although I find many things relating to war extremely disturbing – particularly the horrors and suffering related to it, I do feel it’s valuable to keep an open mind to what can be gleaned.  It is also fitting to give honor to those who sacrificed and served our country.

The show features 40 drawings, photographs, letters and a recorded oral history by Schmitz.  The recordings, completed prior to his death in 2013 include Schmitz discussing his art.

“Viewers of this exhibit will witness the fascinating evolution of an artist influenced by an alien but beautiful environment and his work as a wartime Army cartographer,” said Michael Telzrow, Wisconsin Veterans Museum Director.

Without even viewing the show, I can see the importance of sketching, drawing, documenting the world around us.  As artists, we are the window to the past, present and future, providing our interpretation of the world and events around us.  How fortunate that Schmitz took the time to practice his craft, despite circumstance.  When I think of the artist-soldiers who found the drive to create like that, I am inspired to brush away any of my own lame excuses.  Documenting our lives through art is great artistic exercise.  The art is needed just as much as the photography.

If you are in Wisconsin and would like to visit this show check out the links below:  https://www.wisvetsmuseum.com/exhibition/the-art-of-harold-f-schmitz/

https://www.wisvetsmuseum.com/contact/

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Kitaj Depicts Agitation

1 Mar

I was reading about R.B. Kitaj (October 29, 1932 – October 21, 2007) an American artist who developed a love of Cézanne while at the Royal College of Art in London.
Kitaj’s brightly colored figurative paintings influenced British pop art. His later works became very personal with complex compositions. He developed special line work he called “agitational usage”.  In his art, he would depict disorienting landscapes and 3D constructions with exaggerated and pliable human forms.
Kitaj published “First Diasporist Manifesto” in 1989 and in 2007 the “Second Diasporist Manifesto”.  He was one of several artists in 2000, to make a post-it note for an internet charity auction.  Surprisingly, it sold for $925, making it the most expensive post-it note in history, a fact recorded in the Guinness Book of World Records.
The influence Kitaj had on the art world and the record-breaking post-it note were interesting to read about. If you’d like to see some of his dramatic artwork or read about the history, here are some links.

https://www.independent.com/news/2007/nov/08/r-b-kitaj-1932-2007/

https://www.nytimes.com/2007/10/24/arts/24kitaj.html