Sunday, January 27, 2013

You're In - or Not

Lately my mailbox is full of invitations. With a little bit of effort, they promise,  I can hang out with the cool crowd.

Or rather, with a small fee and a few slides of my work, I have the opportunity to have my artwork judged into - or out of - a very fine art exhibit. Not just anyone gets in. You pays yer money and you takes yer chances.

Having just entered yet another competitive art exhibit I will admit that I have really mixed feelings about these things.  Let me wade through my thoughts and perhaps come to a conclusion…

Most experienced artists, consultants, teachers and coaches encourage artists to enter juried (competitive) exhibits. It’s a resume builder. If you can list on your CV acceptance into several competitive exhibits then your stock as an artist goes up.  And if you can claim an award at these prestigious exhibits, well then, aren’t you something!

I’ve done my share of competitive exhibits. I have been honored with awards, and been denied entry into exhibits - even with the same painting.

Each time I sign my name on an exhibit prospectus  I wonder if I’m not undermining something precious. 

We as creative people reach deeply into our hearts and psyches to solve problems or to search for answers. We use words like resonance, memory, and perception.  A mark is made, then a pause for a response. We create our own vocabulary and hope the nuances and subtleties come through in a language that can be shared.  We are alone in a timeless place with no thoughts of how our creative energies measure up. Until the mail comes.

How does one grade something like that? How does one judge the validity of what comes from that place?

Okay, you say. A good jurist will evaluate technique, that is, whether or not the artist knows how to manipulate their medium of choice. 

That statement alone takes the creative act and dumps it squarely into the realm of…what? Cake decorating? Gymnastics?  Does the artist get 10 points for adequate brushwork and docked 2 points if the canvas shows through?    Add to that the fact that in a multi-media show, the judge may not be familiar with all types of processes. Can a watercolorist accurately judge ceramics?

Then there is the final caveat:  It is just one person’s opinion.  Virtually every jurist starts out their remarks saying just that. In fact, I just spent time surfing through several “how to” blogs on judging art shows. Regardless of what tricks and tips are shared, they all wrap it up the same way:   bottom line, it is just one person’s opinion. That statement is the balm of those who go unnoticed and the admission of the judge who knows there are no right answers to be had.

And yet we artists keep sending in slides and applications, tossing in $30 or $40 bucks per piece, begging to be approved by that one person who, admittedly, is an idiot if they don’t choose us.

I’ve been on both sides; I’ve been the judge awarding the ribbons and I’ve been the participant. It’s a joyful, painful experience either way. 

So why do it?

I’m not sure there’s an answer. We humans have a need to know our place in the crowd, to know that we’re better than X, or not quite as good as Z. 

There’s an underside to the lofty art world for sure.  Being juried into and out of exhibits surely takes the blush off the rose. If you can stick with it you grow some thicker skin and learn about yourself. You test your mettle, so to speak. Maybe that’s reason enough.

Chapter 2 comes next week. Does the emperor wear a paint smock? I've been pondering this subject for awhile and there are several facets to consider. Chime in please. 

Let’s open a conversation about this. Whaddya think? No, really, I'm interested.

Sunday, January 20, 2013

No Words

I started this post with great hopes that a marvelous idea would leap out of my brain and land on the keyboard. My fingers are poised perfectly, just like typing class way back when. My digits are curled like talons ready to grab the first spark of...

Yeah. It's not happening.  I've mentioned that I post a blog by Sunday evening whether I have anything to say or not. This is one of those "not" weeks.

Rather than torment you with disjointed, half-baked thoughts, how 'bout I show you what's been on my easel?

11 x 14 oil  Just a few strokes shy of being done.

This is a different approach for me, more aggressive, less "pretty".  The brushstrokes are heavier, the colors pushed a bit more. My thoughts are leaning toward atmosphere rather than a physical likeness of something.  I'm thinking about paint as much as place.

Because I've been painting all day  my brain is definitely in picture mode. Rather than fight it any longer I surrender.

By the way, the bowls from last week turned out spectacularly. I can hardly wait to see them all lined up ready to be loaded with steaming hot soup!

Sunday, January 13, 2013

Souper Idea

Greetings Dear Reader –

Over the last few years I’ve worked hard to raise the public’s awareness of my immense talents.  I’ve learned SEO (sort of). I've taken on web design and blogging. I've taken - and taught - workshops and tooted my horn to gallery owners and directors of various art centers, all for the purpose of sharing my wonderfulness with the world. It was all about me.

Yesterday, however, it was about something vastly more important. 

Waiting to be fired...waiting to be filled

It seems that reality has reared its ugly head here in my own little community.  

For quite some time now the local elementary school has been providing backpacks full of nutritious food to children who have no means of finding a decent meal over the weekend.

 Here? In my neighborhood?  

Sadly, yes.  In lots of neighborhoods it seems. It's a sad fact that there are far too many families with empty cupboards here in the wealthiest nation in the world.

One of the best things about small communities is that when there’s a need, there’s someone willing to put on a soup supper fund raiser.  For a proper soup supper you need proper soup bowls. Buy a bowl of soup  and pay a little extra to put it in a super soup bowl - and help a child. Seems pretty easy.

The Geneva Art Association, of which I’ve been a proud member for over 20 years, did their part recently by painting a dozen or so ceramic bowls for this very occasion. 

 Not one of us knows a thing about ceramics, glazes or firing, but this group of community minded artists jumped in without hesitation. After firing, these bowls will be filled with the kind of delicious soup that can only be found in a church kitchen. 

Mine was supposed to look like flowers, especially of the rose variety. I'm afraid they ended up looking
 more like paw prints.  

Funds raised go to the Lincoln Food Bank and the Feeding America BackPack Program, which in turn provides food products to local volunteers who then fill  the backpacks and distribute them to those in need.

Our lack of experience was tempered by a sincere desire to help.

It's easy to become to focused on personal goals while the rest of the world slides by unnoticed.  

Take a moment to lift your eyes from whatever has got your focus. See what, or who, is out there. 

Could be time for a soup supper in your town. Pitch in. It's not just about us.

Sunday, January 6, 2013


Greetings Dear Reader –
Those of you who follow this blog (hi Mom!) recall that I’m a not a fan of New Year’s Resolutions. A more helpful method of self improvement or growth, in my opinion, is choosing a word to serve as a guide for the next 12 months.

Over the years I have used words like ‘engage’ or ‘focus’ to lead me through times of growth, languish, tension or ease. I found that a simple word whispered into my inner ear could lift or push or validate my actions in a manner far more deeply than any resolution could.
When the calendar reminded me that it was time to pick a new word for 2013 I imagined something exciting. Charge! Leap! Courage! Effortlessness!

The word that appeared unbidden was “up”.

“Up”?  Gee, I was imagining something more…exotic. 
The more I pondered my list of uplifting words, the more often the word “up” came ... up.

Have you ever noticed that when something is on your mind, you experience it more often?  Like forgetting your purse and seeing traffic cops at every corner. Or giving up sugar and the neighbor, to whom you haven’t spoken in years, brings over a pile of cookies just because. Or pondering the word “up”, and finding that it comes in handy in all kinds of situations.
I cleaned up some files. I’ve upped my exercise routine. I’m aware that I tend to knit my eyebrows and am making a conscious effort to lift them up, coincidentally lifting my attitude.

Who knew such a tiny little word would worm its way into my daily life and have an impact in such a short time? Up is not just a direction. It seems to be a call to action as well; get up, up-level; buck up; be up to it, upscale, be on the up and up, upbeat, sunny side up.  What else? I can have an uplifting attitude,  I can update my website. I can up-end my schedule, or upset the fruit basket – all good things in their proper context, which is to pay attention and grow. Up, of course.
At The Burkholder Project in Lincoln, Ne. proprietor Anne Burkholder arranged to put carpet up on the walls of a vacant studio space. 
Anne Burkholder herself

She then offered this prime space to a select group of artists, including me.

I signed up, and recently hung up a group of paintings on the wall.  Stop in and see what's up at the new Corner Gallery at The Burkholder Project.

I'm up for 2013. Are you?