Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Why Art Matters - Andy Warhol

Art captures the emotion of history.

I was born in 1969, to parents that still believed in the Camelot years of John F. Kennedy's presidency. When they bought their stereo hi-fi in 1978, complete with AM/FM, turntable, 8-track and cassette, the first thing they listened to were the speeches of JFK on vinyl. They made us listen to it as well, but being 8 at the time, I didn't understand what I was listening to.

As the years went on and I learned about the presidency, I still didn't understand why the assasination, as tragic as it was, still held such an emotional grip on not only my pre-boomer parents, but so many people who, as they say, could tell me where they were when they found out.

Then I viewed "Warhol in a Series" at the Grand Rapids Art Museum, including an extensive series Warhol did on the assasination of JFK. The piece that compelled me the most was a series on Jackie, smiling in the motorcade moments before the shooting, silk screened in off-putting, dark, unsettling colors.

Suddenly, I got it.

The piece that captured an ominous feeling, an almost fairy-tale like premonition that something evil will soon change the whole story. I felt horror looking at Jackie's smiling face, knowing there was no way to change what was about to happen, no way to turn back the clock, no way to warn her.

There's only two times I've ever felt that sense of personal horror over a world event: the horrific lovliness of the Challenger's plumes of smoke, and the mockery of how perfectly beautiful the weather was September 11 2001.

Art, in this case, was not merely looking at something pretty. It was a history lesson on loss for a nation.

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Back to School?

An idea of returning to the classroom... I'm not talking about renovating a dorm into a dream party pad or doing triple lindys to win the big match for the title, although I happen to know the stunt double who did the diving tricks in the Comedy Central favorite Back to School. After seeing the paintings I recently did, my mom suggested I go back to school for some further instruction, because she believes, "you may have missed your calling. You have a real talent for color and composition."

That may have been the nicest thing someone has said to me this year, and only adds to my desire to create.

I've been a big supporter of continuing education through the years. I've enrolled in countless continuing ed classes: Dave and I took ballroom dancing before we got married, co-workers with tension headaches pitched in to pay the tuition on my massage therapy class, I recently ran into my guitar teacher at an art show opening, and I learned combat with a foil, taking fencing classes in Missouri.

My favorite class by far was the metalsmithing/jewelry class at Kendall College of Art and Design. It was a one-night-a-week, four-hours-a-night class where I would slip into my right brain thinking during the creative process, and four hours turned into five. I had lots of crappy attempts are creating something cool that didn't quite work out: a pin, a little brass box, some random stamping. But what did turn out was a beautiful bracelet that its category for Best in Show at a juried art exhibition the next year.

The challenge going back to school creates is when, where, and how much. The when is the biggest issue, with the baby starting pre-preschool, keeping up with skating, my job, my family and of course keeping the house clean. The where coincides with the how much: a return to Kendall would be wonderful, but the cost of their continuing ed, while a bargain compared to tuition, is still cost-prohibitive. And with cutbacks and downsizing, parks and recreation departments have done away with most classes outside of aerobics and nature walks.

So my new quest, in addition to everything else, is to find a small space in time for some creative studies. While I will give the idea some effort, I'm sure the right class will find me. However, any readers in the GR area, if you have a lead on a class, let me know.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Creating An Artists Statement

A unique opportunity was presented to me at my place of employment, which is celebrating its 100th anniversary. The art gallery on campus is hosting a juried show featuring art created by the employees.

The difference for me in the creative process, was writing an artists' statement. What also presented a new challenge was the fact the art had to be inspired by the mission statement of the organization.

So my muse was my job, which led to a creative block. Many times we are so busy, that I'm guilty of punching in and doing, not thinking. Then with HIPAA laws, one can't get too personal without getting all pronoun-ish, and hoping you are being generic enough.

So the artists' statement forced me to do my homework. This was more than slapping paint on canvas, I had to think about what I wanted to say, then how I was going to say it.

The first painting I deliberated and created was "Looking Within/Reaching Out," the blue block painting depicted above. It was inspired by the people I see who are struggling with depression. The darker the blue, the more desperate the situation becomes. But there are two reasons for hope: the first is the blue, as dark as it gets, it never lapses into black. The other is the white slash across the canvas, symbolizing Jesus as a presence even in the darkest of times.

Allowed to submit another painting, I wanted to create something with a little more joy. I thought back to my time as a care provider with the Dementia Living Center and created the piece "There Are Memories." The idea was that while these patients were suffering with memory loss, they were still holding onto pieces of themselves, memories that sustained them, gave them comfort while their body betrayed them. For some, it was a faint memory of a childhood pet; for others, the memory was longer, a place in time to be and remember something happy. The colors are bright, a little chaotic, but very organic.

I'm eager to allow the paintings time to dry, apply a coat of varnish and frame in time for the show.

Sunday, February 13, 2011

February Playlist - "B" Mine Lady Rockers

Oh, my sweet honey mustard lady rockers. I have wondered many a time why there is no female equivalent to the Rolling Stones. Being a girl myself, and a fan of bands like the Runaways, the Bangles, Heart, I know all too well what some of the issues are. Boys that think girls can't rock. Bands that break up when members get married, have babies, get domestic. The girly appeal of pop music.

It's a shame, because women can wail, be it with a mike or a whammy bar.

For Valentine's Day, I am givin' my love to some choice lady rockers and including them in my playlist for the day. Whether they are talkin' about love remains to be seen.

For fun, we will stick with the B's on my iPod.

The Bangles, Going Down to Liverpool: I loved this band in high school. Their couple of albums were packed tight with hits, hooks, and harmonies. What was fantastic about this group is all four members sang. While Susanna Hoffs gave a voice to the biggest hits, sisters DEbbie and Vicki lent honeyed, husky (more h's!) vocals to songs like Walk Like an Egyptian and To Be With You. Michael Steele, she of former supergroup the Runaways, showed off her rich interpretation on songs such as Following.

I chose Going Down to Liverpool because I love the jangly harmonies, but that rings true for most any of their songs. They rocked an old Simon and Garfunkel tune, they popped up a gift from Prince, torched the place with a throwback torch song. They so ruled.

Barbra Striesand, Evergreen: This is on the list without irony, without camp value. Two of my favorite old movies from the 70s feature Babs, the first being The Way We Were, the other A Star is Born with Kris Kristofferson. This song is sweet and gentle in its harmonies but lyrically powerful and magnetic. Gives me chills. Bravo Babs.

Bettye Lavette, Choices: Speaking of chills... I admit that I never heard of Bettye until she performed The Who's Love Reign on Me at the Kennedy Center Honors. Bettye knocked the stilletos off one of the other KCH recpient - Barbra Striesand! - who was shown leaning over to Pete Townsend, asking "YOU wrote this?!" She also performed "A Change is Gonna Come" at Obama's Inauguration.

I had the honor of seeing her open for Heart in 2009, and this was the one song that she ripped through and I swear you saw her heart beating on her cap sleeve. I was captivated and electrified. I've listened to the song at least once a week since and can hear something new every time.

Bjork, Venus as a Boy: Bjork is a very, very different girl, an exotic songbird from Iceland which undoubtedly influences her art. This song is as otherworldly as she is, girly, sensual, pretty. But it's the kind of bold, jarring pretty you experience by seeing shocking pink coupled with orange. It's not your conventional candy box pink, but captures your imagination.

Blondie, Rapture: Debbie Harry is the singer every girl who ever sang into a hairbrush wanted to be. She's pretty, she's tough, she's sexy, she's cutting edge. Rapture was the first exposure most of the country had to rap music, combining her sweet singing with her throaty scat about Fab Five Freddy. Visually, the black gauzy dress, stilettos, supergloss lipgloss, the wispy blonde hair, and kickass light up shades knocked the gator off our 'tween polo shirts. So effin' cool... Yeah, all the girls wanted to be Debbie.

Bobby Gentry, Ode to Billie Joe: And sometimes, ypu're just blown back by engaging storytelling. Research into this song tells me this is considered Southern Gothic storytelling with a classic country and western melody. Gentry's delivery is similar to Johnny Cash, almost spoken word reading of this hypnotic tale. The question that has never been answered is why Billie Joe jumped; but Gentry feels that is beside the point, the real story is with the people who lived and how the mother and daughter relate having suffered similar fates in the loss of their loves. So many layers in a scant 3 minutes.

Bonnie Tyler, Total Eclipse of the Heart: Bonnie Tyler 80s opus has had a very long shelf life in my personal soundtrack. It was a hit, a huge hit, when I was a freshman in high school. Powerful dramatic vocals that made absolutely NO sense. The over-the-top theatrical interpretation music video that made NO sense. It was a confusing mess of young bodies, big choruses, melisima, wind machine blowing around huge gauzy curtains. As a dreamy-eyed 14 year old that had AT LEAST 3 crushes simultaneously on different boys, I sighed in pleasure at the ache that made no sense while belting out the chorus "I really need you tonight! Forever's gonna start tonight! Once upon a time I was falling in love, but now I'm only falling apart..."

Flash forward, 2008. While commuting through Canada on our way to Lake Placid, an iPod shuffle brought this gem to the forefront, and thus a legendary addition to the soundtrack of adult figure skating. We sang it in the car, we sang it in the bar, it was a group sing with a coach in the shower, a group in the stands and finally, a final parting rendition at the competitor's party.

Bow Wow Wow, Do You Want to Hold Me?: The video makes absolutely no sense, as Annabelle wears various Disney character outfits while avoiding cutouts of buses, donuts and the like from hitting her and her band mates doing a love train. The African drum beats are complimented by the heavy, rhythmic bass line, and it's a catchy piece of pop music overshadowed by their big hit I Want Candy. It's worth the 99 cents on iTunes.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Valentine's Craft - scentual!

I wanted to buy some Valentine cards to send out on the boy's behalf. However the tiny price adds up quickly when you are getting more than one or two, leading me to think "We can do better than that!"

So I've got a crafty plan that will change these messages into something extraordinary!

I went through my Glamour, allure and Elle magazines and pulled all the fragrance ads that had scent strips. These ads are fantastic for 3 reasons: they all have pretty graphics, are made of a heavier paper stock, and the scented strips add an extra scented element.

Next, I will select a favorite cute photo of Will and print it onto the sticker photo paper. I will then stick the picture to one of the ads and trim.

Next, I will go through my stock of scrapbook materials and trim the cards with stickers, ribbons and trinkets that will make it extra-sweet.

Finally, it's into an envelope and sending off to grandmas, aunts and sweethearts!

I know the inspiration came from being cheap, but it has grown into something unique and special.