Saturday, September 19, 2015

Graphically True

I am in the middle of an intriguing book.  Nick Sousanis, who calls himself a comics artist, has written a philosophical treatise in a comics format that links graphics and words, and thus the format itself becomes part of the subject matter, one of those mind-twisting connections I love.  As I read, I continually find myself saying---Whoa! That is really cool!--or making some equally erudite or perceptive comment.

Unflattening begins with demonstrating that, because of our binocular vision, we are primed from the very beginning to see things from more than one viewpoint and the implications of that are significant for us citizens of a complex world. But I am not going to follow that path. Instead, I will focus on an art connection he makes on the way to making another point.

We live in both mind and body, in our thoughts and in our senses, one obviously influencing the other. Conceiving a thought and perceiving an object are two different aspects of how we function but creating art joins these two in a dynamic way: the idea in our minds becomes visible and tangible (take note, fiber artists) as the work takes shape, and then we in turn are perceiving, looking at, touching what was once a concept only in our minds. As we work, we continually move back and forth between conception and perception. His explanation of this point is of course enhanced immeasurably with his clever graphics.

Perhaps this joining of the two aspects of our nature is one of the reasons we can lose ourselves so entirely when we are making art.

And if I haven't entirely lost you, thanks for the company!

Sunday, September 13, 2015

The Old Craft vs. Art Question

So is this gracefully spiraling piece by Joseph Walsh, Lillium III, art or craft?

Or what about Poros by Nathan Cravan, which is actually a window (those bits of light you see are actually the trees, lawn, sky outside--and this is not a great photo)?

And then there is arrythmia by Chung Im-Kima piece that suggests a quilt because it uses industrial felt that is made of blocks silk screened (with a pattern based on an electrocardiogram) and hand stitched together.

Those of us who are artists who work in fiber or who call ourselves art quilters have had to deal with the craft vs. art question for a long time, but some museums and art galleries are just now discovering it. My local big name art museum, the Museum of Fine Art in Boston, just opened an exhibit titled "Crafted: Objects in Flux," which seeks to demonstrate that "the distinctions between art, design, and craft are shifting and porous." I, of course, had to see it. And it was well worth braving the Boston traffic jams to spend some time with all of the above works, as well as many more, like the spiralling room created by panels of indigo-dyed fabric sewn together and framed by one wall filled with the indigo plants the artist grew to dye the fabrics.

This exhibit implies that the MFA is answering the question in favor of the label art, but the exhibit also suggests that such labels become meaningless in the large gray area between the two. Many of the items in the exhibit play with your perceptions so that you are forced to see the world just a bit differently and that is always a worthy experience. And several of the works were created using CAD programs and 3D printers, another direction artists are taking and the art world will have to get used to.

And, to be fair, the MFA already places such works as one of El Anatsui's magnificent metal quilts made from found materials in the contemporary art section, but still they maintain a contemporary crafts gallery that houses such gems as this little sculpture made of wood, Familiar Strangers by Betty Scarpino.

Unequivocally art, in my opinion. But that is the point, I guess: The use of the two terms is opinion and only becomes an issue when a particular piece or medium is excluded from a show simply because of the labeling process. 

It's a beautiful, thought-provoking exhibit and, if you're still reading, thanks for the company!

Wednesday, September 2, 2015


I have been too busy living life to write about it but that element of reflecting upon events that is part of writing is also important. So I am beginning with a new resolve to post more often. And what a wonderful to event to start with: As a member of the Abstract Artists Group of New England, I have seven pieces in their annual show, Transcending Reality, at the Newburyport Art Association and feel honored to be part of this event because it is such a strong show. Here are some of the works:

Above on the end of the wall are two of  my pieces Arc, above, and Ballad, below, which is sold! But this gives you a sense of the some of the downstairs gallery space.

A beautiful piece by Cheryl Dyment

Another two small pieces of mine are in the bottom row--Etude and Lienage.

One of my scrunched technique pieces--Opening.

'Tis a Gift is center left

A wretched photo of World Without Many.

There were works by twenty artists and a total of 119 pieces in the show in many different media, oil, watercolor, acrylic, mixed media, wood sculpture, but I was still the only fiber artist. Our opening reception was an evening full of people and some great conversations explaining how my pieces came to be. This is my second show with AAGNE and I am very glad I have found this group.

And if you are still reading, thanks for the company!