Sunday, April 30, 2017

Making Space: Women Artists and Postwar Abstraction

Alma Woodsey Thomas, Untitled, circa 1968

I was alerted to this MOMA exhibition by an article in The New Yorker (April 24, 2017 issue). A good reason to plan a trip to NYC? The show continues until August 13 and, as an added bonus, MOMA's Rauschenberg show runs May 21 - September 17.

MOMA's website gives this description:

"Making Space shines a spotlight on the stunning achievements of women artists between the end of World War II (1945) and the start of the Feminist movement (around 1968). In the postwar era, societal shifts made it possible for larger numbers of women to work professionally as artists, yet their work was often dismissed in the male dominated art world, and few support networks existed for them. Abstraction dominated artistic practice during these years, as many artists working in the aftermath of World War II sought an international language that might transcend national and regional narratives—and for women artists, additionally, those relating to gender.  
"Drawn entirely from the Museum’s collection, the exhibition features nearly 100 paintings, sculptures, photographs, drawings, prints, textiles, and ceramics by more than 50 artists. Within a trajectory that is at once loosely chronological and synchronous, it includes works that range from the boldly gestural canvases of Lee Krasner, Helen Frankenthaler, and Joan Mitchell; the radical geometries by Lygia Clark, Lygia Pape, and Gego; and the reductive abstractions of Agnes Martin, Anne Truitt, and Jo Baer; to the fiber weavings of Magdalena Abakanowicz, Sheila Hicks, and Lenore Tawney; and the process-oriented sculptures of Lee Bontecou, Louise Bourgeois, and Eva Hesse. The exhibition will also feature many little-known treasures such as collages by Anne Ryan, photographs by Gertrudes Altschul, and recent acquisitions on view for the first time at MoMA by Ruth Asawa, Carol Rama, and Alma Woodsey Thomas."
Also on the website is a 38-minute video of the two curators being interviewed in front of a live audience. One of the topics touched upon is the "reclaiming of craft" as art in the 1960's and 70's.

You can learn more about the exhibit here.

Wednesday, April 26, 2017

America After the Fall: Painting in the 1930's

The Royal Academy of Art in London is currently staging the exhibition "America After the Fall: Painting in the 1930's".

To accompany the show, the curators have produced several 60-second video profiles of some of the artists featured, including Edward Hopper, Jackson Pollock and Mark Rothko.

The show ends June 4, 2017.

Sunday, April 23, 2017

Hudson Artists Spring Show

Delighted to be participating in the upcoming Spring Show of the Hudson Artists. That's my fibre piece on the poster, chosen because it's the donation to the event's raffle in support of the local food bank. Notice our jazzy new AHA logo in the upper left corner, designed by President John Goodger. The poster itself was designed by our graphic wizard, Mona Turner.

I will have twelve new pieces in the show. Exactly which ones? I'm still figuring that out. 

Do hope to see you there!

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

Papier 17 by the numbers

Tenth edition.

Thirty-nine art galleries.

Nearly three hundred artists.

Twenty thousand expected visitors.

Three days, April 21 to 23.

Cost of admission? Zero.

Papier 17 is a fun opportunity to see what's happening in contemporary Canadian galleries. It's also a chance to visit one of Montreal's best art venues, Arsenal, at 2020 William Street in Montreal. All the work shown will be on paper: drawing, prints, sculpture, and cut and stitched paper, for example.

Nancy Petry  Noatak, 1970 Sérigraphie / Serigraph - 52.7 x 67.6 cm
Galerie Beaux-Arts des Amériques

Sunday, April 16, 2017

Exercise in Blue and Orange

I took my cue from a recent blog post by Jane Davies, and tried to make interesting compositions in the complementary colours of blue and orange.

These all measure 10" x 10".

I used a variety of techniques for visual texture: stamping, stencilling, scratching, brayering and blotting with paint, as well as torn and cut collaged shapes. And I used several variations of the two main colours. Transparent paints (blue over orange or orange over blue) often produced a green hue, so I favoured opaque pigments. There's a little scribbling with oil pastel too.

I tried to use shapes in a variety of size: small, medium and large. Sometimes I employed hard edges, and at other times smudged edges. I tried to have some boring areas, and others more complicated. I also wanted to have some ambiguity about what was advancing and what was receding, that "push and pull" that Hans Hoffman achieved. If I could create a sense of depth, all the better.

I found the piece was more successful when one of the colours predominated over the other, rather than having a 50/50 distribution of the orange and blue hues. I also think it was useful to have each colour coalesce into an interesting shape, giving the composition some unity.

This assignment was challenging to me, but I persisted with it because I feel I have so much to learn. Instructors like Jane can make an exercise like this seem easy, but in fact it was quite a struggle. I'm still thinking of these as "works in progress". When I look at them again in a week or so, I may well make further adjustments.

Wednesday, April 12, 2017

Lakeshore Artists Spring Show

Always one of the best art shows in the region, the Lakeshore Artists will hold their annual spring exhibition at Fritz Farm in Baie d'Urfé, April 21 - 23, 2017.

Please note that Helena Scheffer, a fellow member of text'art, has donated one of her gorgeous textile pieces for the charity raffle.

For more information, go to the LAA website.

With any luck, the woods adjacent to Fritz Farm will be carpeted with scilla in time for the show.

Sunday, April 9, 2017

I'm Your Man

Dance Me to the End of Love

A local art gallery has put out a call for entry.  Every year, the gallery hangs a show inspired by the connection between the written word and visual art, and how one can inspire the other. This year, a concurrent theme is an homage to the Montrealer Leonard Cohen, musician, poet and visual artist. Figurative and abstract works are welcome, and there is no requirement to include text in the image.

Ain't No Cure for Love

I have never submitted work to this gallery, but I thought I would give it a try. So...

I Have Tried in My Way to Be Free

... I have chosen four of my remaining twenty-seven Touchstone pieces and titled them with the name of a song or a lyric from Cohen's oeuvre. This was not done in a slapdash fashion, but was carefully considered, looking for a good connection between the feeling evoked by the abstract image and the words. I even rotated one of the images to better convey the sense of the title. Come to think of it, aren't most abstract works titled after completion?

If I Have Been Untrue

Will my entry be acceptable to the jury? Much depends on what is submitted to the show by other artists, and considerations like space and price points. I'll post here when the results are in.

Wednesday, April 5, 2017

Continuing display at Café Mikko

Seven months ago, Elizabeth Glazier of Café Mikko here in Hudson suggested I might display my work at her popular restaurant and boutique. Every few weeks we change it up and install a new batch of art, whether cityscapes in fibre or abstract collage/paintings. Over the months I have developed quite an appreciation for their spring rolls with satay sauce!

I am delighted to have this exposure for my work. Above is a photo of the latest display.

You can visit Café Mikko at 403 Main Road in Hudson. With the arrival of spring, clients will soon be sipping their capuccinos in the front garden, observing the passing traffic of moms, strollers, shoppers and cyclists.

Sunday, April 2, 2017

Hudson Fine Craft @ Rigaud Library

A dynamic new group came onto my local art/craft scene a couple of years ago. "Hudson Fine Craft" meets three times a month to share their skills and enthusiasm for a wide variety of craft, including quilting, embroidery, jewelry-making, collage and more.

Their current show can be viewed at the Rigaud Library, and runs until May 15. Their work fills not only the small gallery, but is displayed on the walls of the library itself.

Joanna Olsen, Untitled

Above is a small collage by Joanna Olsen, one of the group organizers. It seems that no matter what the medium, Joanna's work is always exceptional.

Carol Outram, My Secret Garden

Another of the group organizers, Carol Outram, has several arresting pieces in felted wool, embellished with embroidery and appliqué.

Carol Outram, Folk Art series (Skylark)

Carol Outram, Folk Art series (Night Owl)

Ute Sell makes distinctive small paintings in ink on salvaged papers.

Ute Sell, Untitled

Marlise Horst, Fan-tastic

Many of the traditional pieced quilts showed a real flair for colour choice, like this one above by Marlise Horst. Marlise chose recycled silk ties for one of her smaller pieces, and unusual European prints for another.

Phyllis Spriggs, Untitled

Each of the works on display is identified with a unique card, featuring randomly collaged fabric leaves stitched into place with heavy thread.

wall in small gallery

I was pleased that my entry was included in the show, seen above on the gallery wall and then again up close, below.

Heather Dubreuil, Come Sit with Me, Georges Braque

Hudson Fine Craft was responsible for other interesting shows last year, including one on "Women's Work" at the Hudson Historical Museum and the War Memorial Library. They are an inclusive group, with a fresh take on the use of local spaces and an ability to make things happen. 

The Rigaud Library is located at 102 rue St.-Pierre in Rigaud. Hours are posted on the town's website.

Wednesday, March 29, 2017

Membership in SAQA

A cheque arrived in the mail last week, and once again I am reminded of the many benefits of belonging to SAQA (Studio Art Quilt Associates).

A couple of years ago I made a small (10" x 7") cityscape intended as part of a SAQA Trunk Show. This collection travelled all over the world, introducing many people to "art quilting".

View from the High Line, Heather Dubreuil

When it came time to retire the collection, many of the items were made available for sale, and I was delighted that View from the High Line found a buyer, Cindy Grisdela. Cindy is an artist whose work I admire very much (great colour sense, distinctive rectilinear compositions). She is a published author, and also contributes articles to the quarterly SAQA Journal. I have connected with Cindy a few times at annual SAQA conferences.

Cornflower Blues, Cindy Grisdela

Already I have touched on some of the many benefits of membership in SAQA: the opportunity to show and sell one's work, two quarterly magazines, and annual conferences. Did I mention that one of my pieces will be included in an upcoming SAQA publication? The book is tentatively titled "Art Quilt Retrospective: Fifty Years of Innovation", and I am honoured that Camden Town #2 will be featured in it.

Camden Town #2, Heather Dubreuil

Some of the other aspects of SAQA membership that I value are the Yahoo chat group, the list of international calls for entry, and the opportunity to connect with other members, both at conferences and at regional meetings. A mentorship program is also available, as are many on-line resources.

The Central Canada region of SAQA has a new representative, Maggie Vanderweit, who has planned a series of small group meetings in various locales throughout Ontario and Quebec. A meeting for the Ottawa-Montreal area is tentatively scheduled for late May, and I have offered to host. 

Maggie is enthusiastic about sparking more activity at the local level so, if you live in Central Canada and you think that SAQA might be helpful to you, I encourage you to go to the website. There is still lots of time to join!

Sunday, March 26, 2017

Alex Janvier at the National Gallery

Lubicon, Alex Janvier, 1988

Earlier this month our text'art group went on a road trip to Ottawa's National Gallery. An inspired choice, Colleen!

We toured the Alex Janvier exhibit, which runs until April 17. This large show is very comprehensive. We see some of his student efforts, and observe how he developed a singular style that resonates with Dene visual imagery. We also see how in later years he continued to explore new approaches to painting. His entire oeuvre is on display, and represents a lifetime of serious artistic pursuit.

Janvier's association with the "Indian Group of Seven" is noted, and their individual paths to painting and printmaking can be compared.

Many of Janvier's paintings deal with issues such as the tragedy of the residential schools, and the conflicts over land use and treaty violations. The curator's notes and photos inform the viewers of the political significance of these themes. For example, the large painting pictured above was completed with Janvier's typical white background. As an act of protest over Lubicon land use issues, Janvier re-painted the background in a brilliant red.

With increasing coverage of native art and culture in the national media, Canadians will no doubt develop a greater appreciation of the range and talent of First Nations artists like Alex Janvier.

Friday, March 24, 2017

Free on-line painting class begins today!

Mark Rothko, Untitled (Green on Blue), 1968

Thank you, Dianne, for putting me onto this exciting opportunity.

MOMA has designed an on-line class offered through, titled In the Studio: Post-War Abstract Painting. It includes art history and theory as well as hands-on painting assignments. It is available at reasonable cost, and for free if you don't care abut getting the certificate. Financial aid is also available.

Here is a description:
About this course: Want to know how some of the 20th century’s most celebrated artists made abstract paintings? This course offers an in-depth, hands-on look at the materials, techniques, and thinking of seven New York School artists, including Willem de Kooning, Yayoi Kusama, Agnes Martin, Barnett Newman, Jackson Pollock, Ad Reinhardt, and Mark Rothko. Through studio demonstrations and gallery walkthroughs, you’ll form a deeper understanding of what a studio practice means and how ideas develop from close looking, and you’ll gain a sensitivity to the physical qualities of paint. Readings and other resources will round out your understanding, providing broader cultural, intellectual, and historical context about the decades after World War II, when these artists were active. The works of art you will explore in this course may also serve as points of departure to make your own abstract paintings. You may choose to participate in the studio exercises, for which you are invited to post images of your own paintings to the discussion boards, or you may choose to complete the course through its quizzes and written assessments only. Learners who wish to participate in the optional studio exercises may need to purchase art supplies. A list of suggested materials is included in the first module.
For more information, please visit the website. The class begins today!

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

FIFA - 35th edition

Will you be in Montreal at the end of this month? You might find the Festival International du Film sur l'Art of interest. Running from March 23 to April 2, FIFA's 35th edition will screen films about visual art, music, dance, literature, architecture and design, photography and counter-culture.

Venues include Concordia University and UQAM, the Grande Bibliothèque, the Museum of Fine Art, the Canadian Centre for Architecture and others.

Over 900 international films were submitted to the jury, and about 170 were selected. Most of the films are in French, but many are in English, or have English subtitles.

One of the films that interests me is Beauty and Ruin, a Canadian film about the economic collapse of Detroit, and the fight over "de-accessioning" (selling off) some of its many art treasures to raise money for the city. Screening March 25 at Concordia.
"Detroit, a once prosperous city, is going bankrupt and the appointed emergency manager, Kevyn Orr, is plundering the city’s assets in search of cash to pay off Detroit’s creditors. One of the most valuable assets in the city is the Detroit Institute of Art (DIA), which houses one of the country’s richest collections, including masterpieces by Van Gogh, Titian and Brueghel. Canadian director Marc de Guerre chronicles the story of the bankruptcy and the fight over the artwork as Detroit goes into receivership. What will be the consequences? How will this affect its citizens, its art, culture and health care? This documentary artfully explores the story of the once powerful American city now on the verge of financial ruin."


Another screening of interest is the French series Les Aventuriers de l'Art Moderne. These six films (in French) describe the development of modern art in France, and were originally made as an award-winning TV series.
"Adapted from Dan Franck's literary trilogy Bohemian Paris, Libertad!, Midnight - The documentary series made up of six episodes plunges us into Parisian life in the beginning of the twentieth century, a hotbed of artistic creation with the blossoming of Fauvism, Cubism, Dadaism, and surrealism. Through illustrations, animation and original archives, the film will trace the highs and lows, scandals and celebrations, tragedies and the triumphs that shaped the phenomenal period of Modern Art from the basement of the "Bateau-lavoir" in 1900 to the last shudders of World War II. The main characters are called Picasso, Max Jacob, Stein, Apollinaire, Hemingway, Matisse, Cocteau, Kiki - artists, art dealers, muses who came to France from all over Europe and left an indelible mark on the 20th century. These glorious subversives were adventurers before becoming heroes."

A download of the program is available on the website.

Sunday, March 19, 2017

Five years of blogging!

Wow! Last week marked the fifth anniversary of this blog. It has been rewarding to have conversations with my readers, often in person. Writing these posts helps to clarify my thinking, set goals, and share news of resources and art events, near and far.  And, of course, to share my own work and inspiration.

Almost without fail, I have been in the habit of posting twice a week. (This is post # 539. Can you believe it?) I may cut back on that a bit to allow more time for, um, making art.

Meanwhile, thank you for reading. And here is a little treat that will, I hope, brighten the day of any art-lover. Thank you, Jane, for passing this on.

Thursday, March 16, 2017

There is a crack in everything....

It has been almost four weeks since I posted here. Among other things, I have been working on my entry to a group show, the theme for which is the Leonard Cohen lyric for Anthem:

"Ring the bells that still can ring.
Forget your perfect offering.
There is a crack in everything.
That's how the light gets in."

When the group met a few days ago, it was clear that everyone had their own take on the meaning of the song. I have chosen to make a mixed media painting that references the international refugee crisis, an issue that is re-shaping the political dynamic all over the world.

The refugees have been forced from their homes and undertaken arduous journeys in the hope of finding safe harbour in an alien land. Will our door be opened to them? Will we build walls to keep them out?  Do we want to live in a society that welcomes newcomers? What is our responsibility to them?

Here are some photos to show the process I used to create this piece. I began with a 20" x 20" birch panel, and covered it with black gesso, front and sides.

I dug into my collection of antique papers. Over the years I have gathered lots of collage material: paper napkins, printed tissue, pages from old books and magazines, etc.

Soon I had covered the front and sides of the panel with text and images, glued on with matte gel medium. I had to be careful to eliminate bubbles and wrinkles, and to get a smooth finish at the edges and corners. Once the papers were dry, I used an x-acto knife to slice off the extra bits.

Next, I clipped some relevant headlines from the daily newspaper, and arranged them randomly, fixing them with more acrylic medium. Then I applied a dilute coat of matte medium to the entire surface. This served to protect the newsprint collage, because I knew I was going to be applying paint and also lifting paint off, calibrating the lights and darks. That extra coat of medium gave me more flexibility to adjust the paint coverage without damaging the underlayer of collage.

I used a small brayer to add patchy glazes of Yellow Ochre, Payne's Gray and Raw Umber, lightened with Titanium White. The paint was mixed with Glazing Medium to create some transparency. This formed the background, partially obscuring the text. I intended that the drawing of the eye would be the focal point, and kept it lighter than the other areas. I used stencils and stamps to add texture and interest in a cruciform shape, radiating out from the eye.

Darker paint was added to enhance the cruciform shape, further obscuring the printed background. Lighter textures reinforced the lighter "spokes" of the cruciform.

At this point the headlines were barely visible. I went back in with some alcohol and lifted some of the paint off them.

The lightened strips of headlines were now too prominent, and they were fighting with the "eye" for attention. So it was time to knock them back, by adding more transparent layers of dark paint. At the same time, more textural detail in Naples Yellow and Gold emphasized the cruciform structure.

Finally, a balance was achieved between the legibility and obscurity of the headlines. The eye is dominant and the lights and darks support the structure of the composition. And, up close, some of the headlines are legible.

Some detail shots are below:

I may make further adjustments to the piece before putting on a final coat of matte medium, which will serve to protect the surface. 

The group will be getting together in April to give progress reports and to talk about possible venues for our show.  I look forward to listening as each artist talks about their process. It will be exciting to see the range of technique and the various responses to the theme.

Sunday, February 19, 2017

Yikes! Another deadline approaches

A few months ago I agreed to participate in a group project to honour Montrealer Leonard Cohen. The chosen theme is the lyric from his song Anthem:

"Ring the bells that still can ring 
Forget your perfect offering 
There is a crack in everything 
That's how the light gets in. "

While no deadline was set, it was agreed that we would have photos of our works ready by March in order to search for suitable venues for a group show. I was reminded of this a couple of days ago. Nothing like a deadline to focus the mind. So...

... I had another look at a little group of collages I made last year, as part of an on-line class with Jane Davies. I actually made six in this set, each measuring 6 x 6.

Jazz Fest 2016

I think this kind of composition will be a starting point for my contribution to the project. Perhaps if I work larger, at least 20 x 20, say, and begin with a dark background....

The project will be my focus for the next while and I may not be posting here until I have something to show you. Stay tuned....

Meanwhile, if you'd like to read a thoughtful analysis of Anthem's lyrics, please have a look at this. Having just re-read George Orwell's 1984, I found it illuminating. 

Notably, the Musée d'Art Contemporain in Montreal will stage a multi-disciplinary show this fall, inspired by the work of Leonard Cohen. Leonard Cohen: Une brèche en toute chose / A Crack in Everything will be part of Montreal's 375th anniversary celebration.

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

Love, Love, Love: a series

It's Valentine's Day as I write this, and I am reminded of a series I made some eight years ago.

Love, Love, Love #2
The text in the upper left corner is a quote from Helen Keller:
"The best and most beautiful things in the world cannot be seen or even touched.
They must be felt within the heart."

I named the series after a classic song by Martha Reeves and the Vandellas, released in 1967, titled Love (Makes Me Do Foolish Things). Scroll to the end for a link to the song itself.

This series was an opportunity to play with paint on fabric, collaged tissue paper, image transfer, beads, buttons, ribbon, metallic paper, sheer organza and stitch. I made several full-sized, framed pieces in the series, and also perhaps forty 4" x 6" postcards, which I framed. A few of them are shown below. I found the small format a good way to experiment with composition and technique.