Monday, October 21, 2013

Rebeca Calderon Pittman's Artwork

"Solace in Redemption"

Rebeca Calderon Pittma's imagery creates surreal spaces in which the natural world and the man made world intertwine with each other.

 I recently covered her exhibit at NKU for AEQAI, you can see the review here.

Sunday, February 17, 2013

In Your Dreams: An Exhibition by Northern Kentucky University Print Club

Artwork by Andrea Melnyk

While I was in art school I had the chance to take a printmaking class. I remember loving the experience. We got to try our hand at woodcuts, etching, and Linocut. I especially enjoyed the Lincuts and Woodcuts. So when I heard that Northern Kentucky University was having a printmaking show, In Your Dreams: An Exhibition by Northern Kentucky University Print Club, I couldn't resist attending. I was not disappointed; there was some truly lovely artwork on display.

Radha Lakshmi

Andrea Melnyk- If anyone knows her website let me know, I would love to include her link.

Exhibiting artists include: Andrea Knarr, Alison Shepard, Sharmon Davidson, Kelly Schierer, Peter Hall, Dustin Pike, Brian Stuparyk, David Wischer, Jill Ross, Carola Bell, Nicci Mechler, Alecia Weber, Paige Wideman, Saad Ghosn, Kathleen Piercefield, Randel Plowman, Andy Sohoza, Radha Lakshimi, Chris Plummer, Joline Costello Hartig, Bonnie Mitsui, Michelle Lustenberg, Susna Naylor, and Andrea Melnyk. The exhibit runs through March 8. For more information visit NKU's Facebook page and website for more details.

50/50 Art Show & Sale Feb 22-23

If you're an artist, then you understand the difficulty of finding suitable venues to display artwork. So when I saw an ad about this show I was immediately intrigued. A brand new exhibit, the 50/50 Art Show & Sale, will be showcasing 50 pieces of artwork created by 50 local artists, all for the price of $50 a piece. As a bonus, all proceeds go directly to the artists. I am very excited about this exhibit, since I was able to get one of my paintings accepted into the show. I haven't been in a show since 2009 so I figured it was time to dust off my paint brush and get back in the game. So if you're in the area, stop by and check it out.The exhibit is February 22 & 23 from 6-10 p.m. at the Artisans Enterprise Center located in Covington, Ky. For more information, you can visit their Facebook page for more details.

Sunday, December 23, 2012

Winter Journal Book Review

Winter Journal Book Review
By: Pat LaFleur

“You think it will never happen to you, that it cannot happen to you, that you are the only person in the whole world to whom none of these things will ever happen, and then, one by one, they all begin to happen to you, in the same way they happen to everyone else.”

With these lines, and now breathing in the steam from your freshly brewed cup of tea, you begin reading Paul Auster’s new memoir, Winter Journal (2012). You brought this one home to your chair because you’ve always enjoyed Auster’s work, and memoir is one of your favorite genres.

But these opening lines halt your first sip and raise your brow. Not because they’re poorly written: they’re actually quite smooth, as his tend to be. And not because you disagree with what they say. They’re sharp in their commentary, if anyone were to ask. Instead, Auster’s opening sentence strikes you because, based on your understanding of memoir, Auster... well, he just doesn’t seem to get it.

And then, over the course of the next 230 pages, your tea disappears, night turns to morning, and you find yourself standing corrected.

Typically, memoir is the product of its author’s attempt to answer the question: WHO AM I? Marion Roach Smith, author of The Memoir Project (2011), describes this process as a marking of territory, “staking out what’s yours, defining it and walking its perimeter.”  In doing this, you will discover the boundaries of the truth of who “you” are, plotting a coherent outline of what makes you “unique.” And, hopefully, if you succeed, your reader will follow along.

So, why on earth - you ask yourself - would Auster begin his memoir by describing his growing suspicion that he is, in fact, just like everyone else? The answer lies - as it usually does with Auster - in his way of writing it.

Auster’s form, which has become critics’ chief complaint about Winter Journal, consists of loosely related thought-fragments. Some recollect places (a 50-page, chronological catalogue of the dwellings he has inhabited in his lifetime), some feelings (like the way his six-year-old bare feet feel on the cold morning floor) and other definitive episodes in his life (his mother’s death, to name the most vivid). And because Auster makes no obvious effort to link these sketches, it’s easy for you to think that this open weave of memory flies in the face of everything memoir promises. You wonder if they will ever merge into anything recognizable. Will they ever tell a story? Will they ever shape and define the truth of who he is?

And then it hits you, the reason you hesitated with that first line: Auster’s memoir refuses to tell you this truth. There is, in fact, no single “truth” to tell. When describing his struggle to commemorate his mother, he explains that there are “too many gaps, too many silences and evasions, too many threads lost over the years for (him) to stitch together a coherent story” (132). Auster’s fragmentary style, you realize, works to make the same point about his attempts to reflect on his own life. The telling of his story must be as scattered and flighty as his own memory. This, for Auster, is no doubt the closest he or anyone else can get to authentic “truth.”

Auster refuses to tell you a coherent story not because he disagrees with Smith’s description of memoir, but because he favors the mapping over the map it creates. The 50-page list of places he’s lived, dripping with tedious detail, might seem self-indulgent, but only if you read them as Auster’s attempt to squeeze them into “the truth of who he is.” Instead, you choose to read these pages as a demonstration of the often difficult road one must undertake when outlining this truth.  Lest we forget Auster’s demonstrated skill spinning a good yarn (The New York Trilogy, The Music of Chance, anyone?), if Auster wanted Winter Journal to deliver a moving, fluid narrative, he could and would have. Instead, while Auster’s works of fiction plainly pursue their characters’ search for identity, Winter Journal gives a first-hand look at that process.

This is because, for Auster, memoir - a word no doubt sharing ancestry with memory - happens underneath the level of straightforward story and clear understanding - or, as he puts it, before “the domain of conscious selfhood” (136). His life has no “arc,” in the literary sense of the word. Instead, it adds up to a heap of parts as crude, as ordinary and as (non)related as “sneezing and laughing, yawning and crying, burping and coughing, scratching your ears, rubbing your eyes, blowing your nose, clearing your throat...” (229). How many times, Auster wonders, has he done these things? Collecting these memories, holding an extended conversation with yourself (with no shame, he structures the memoir in 2nd person), these are where memoir lies, and in this way, it not only marks out what makes you you, but it also shows you how we all ask these questions of ourselves.

In Winter Journal, Auster takes you on a journey through his mind, his body and everything in between. And if you’re left with any sort of grip on the author by the end, it’s an understanding not so much of who he is but of how he works. And you set the book down, having sipped its final drops, wondering if there’s any better way to understand someone.

You set the book down, suspecting that maybe you’ve enjoyed thinking about Winter Journal more than actually reading it.

[1] From National Association of Memoir Writers Teleseminar, posted 27 Apr 2012.

Saturday, December 8, 2012

A Conversation With Mary Syring

Mary Syring, an artist from San Fransico, California, creates beautiful artwork that blends fairy-tales, the powerful presence of nature, and an elemental energy.  What I like the most about Syring's artwork are the multiple layers of meanings and imagery at work within each piece. Syring spoke with ArtSeen about her artwork and artistic inspirations.

Can you tell us a little about your artwork, artistic process, and what types of artistic materials you use?

My art is an extension of myself, I start off with an idea in mind, and it always grows. I'll be half way through a piece and then get some random idea to bring to it and just toss right up in there. Hardly do I ever finish a piece [that] looks exactly as I intended it to, in the beginning I have dozens of thumbnails that can attest to that. I prefer to use ink, watercolor, and gold ink; my favorite surfaces are wood, watercolor and Bristol paper.

"Self Portrait 1"
What inspires you as an artist? Why do you create art?

I seem to be drawn to the slightly creepier aspects of life. Or at least that's what I've been told. But in all honesty, I've never seen my curiosities as creepy or strange, but beautiful and fascinating. I've never once told myself that my interests teetered on the strange side. It's only others that seem to point that out to me. But who is to say what is normal and abnormal really? I'm inspired by the breath and decay of life, I'm inspired by my fears, what frightens me equally interests me. Fairy tales, monsters, that which goes bump in the night, ghosts, hot summer nights, cold foggy days, the stars and the essence of space, the unknown, the unknowing, symbolism, faith, chance encounters, cake, you name it. 

I create art because I don't enjoy expressing myself any other way, because I'm never happier then when I’m working on something of my own. I'm beginning to realize I have a very self-destructive side, I have destroyed many opportunities for myself before, it seems I never do with my artwork though. Me thinks it's a sign I should stick to it.

What types of themes, ideas, or concepts do you explore within in your artwork?

Whatever pops into my head; existentialism in general. I'm fascinated by life cycles and seem to always go back to themes that incorporate them. Same with fairy tales and the innocents that riddle them. 

Who are some artists that you admire, and why?

Well I'd be nowhere without Arthur Rackham. His ink work is what has always inspired me to keep working on my own technique. 

Alphonse Mucha; his design sense was and still is sensational. Nobody has ever been able to master him.

Toulouse Lautrec, his technique in general, the flow and life that dances off of his work fascinates me. But it's more the fact that he's the kind of artist I'd like to have a conversation with. 

"Tongue In Cheek"

What’s the best and worst thing about being an artist?

Everything and nothing at the same time. Sometimes you feel so in tune with all that goes on around you, you whole heartedly believe you see the entire world differently than others. The trees, the birds, the bay, even the air fills your lungs differently. You see through people as if they are just tufts of lace wandering about and conversing before you, and you have to pretend and play dumb. All the while watching the wheels turn inside them. This separates you from the numbers, and this is something you enjoy. Then you realize it's a double edged sword, and if you're not careful you will fall into bouts of loneliness because no one understands you and you feel no one ever really will.

"Deep Within 2"
For more information about Syring and her artwork, visit her blog and website for more details.

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Color: A Natural History of the Palette Book Review

Color: A Natural History of the Palette

By: Pat LaFleur 
If you come across a copy of Victoria Finlay’s Color: A Natural History of the Palette (Random House, 2002), take pause before opening and ask yourself at least 3, if not all 6 of the following questions:

1)    Do I like history books?
2)    Do I like travel books?
3)    Do I like reading other people’s journals?
4)    Do I have a pathological obsession with the color wheel?
5)    Do I actually like the unrelenting, scrupulously detailed narrative typical of my least favorite Victorian author?
6)    Do I have a lot of time on my hands?

Okay, I’ll back up.  It’s only fair to say that Finlay’s book embarks on an admirable (and potentially interminable) task: to chronicle the cultural histories of the color wheel’s most ancient ancestors.  While she admits that this fascination is not new, she’s right that it warrants continued pursuit - if only because it takes something that is easily shelved as part of “nature” and recasts it as a very human thing.  In an academic sense, her scientific treatment of these pigments sheds a different light on why, for example, the Boddhisatvas in Dunhuang’s cave 419 appear with darker skin than the depictions of the Buddha in the foreground.  Rather than reading the darker skin in a racial context, Finlay explains how these pigments simply darkened with time, and so, in one sense, her histories open new avenues of interpretation and meaning for us to consider.  In an even more vital sense, though, Finlay describes the potentially bloodier side of some red dyes derived from the cochineal beetle, inhabitants of the prickly pear plant: “[The harvesters] made a surreal scene, with their hoods and gloves and glasses, and the constant hiss of the compressors echoing around the fields... The protection was necessary: one of those fine spines in the eye and a worker can go blind.”

She’s got stories like this for all the major colors, and it’s no secret to anyone who has moved beyond a freshman-level art survey that there is more to color choice than hue, saturation and value. Colors have cultural connotations and consequences, too, and Finlay resolves to flesh out these connections between hue and humanity.

And my, oh, my does she flesh them out. To a fault. Part history textbook, part travelogue, part art theory thesis, Color: A Natural History of the Palette takes what is a dense, rich topic and refuses to discriminate in its choices of detail or digression.  In fact, where most lay history or travel writing relies heavily on careful narrative craftsmanship, Color reads more like a polished version of her apparently extensive field notes.  And it’s not that her writing is bad.  Finlay can certainly craft a sentence, a paragraph, and - like the cochineal example above - she has no trouble weaving drama into the production of these inks and dyes. 

Ultimately, though, she doesn’t seem to know the boundaries of her stories.  Take her chapter on the color Yellow, which moves somewhat erratically from Mumbai to Hong Kong, to Britain, back to Hong Kong, and finally to Iran - with references to New Zealand, Macedonia, Tasmania and La Mancha, Spain sprinkled in for flavor.  To a certain extent, I wonder if this is a consequence of her topic: these hues have rich, extensive human histories.  But I think Finlay limits her audience by providing such meticulous historical detail, particularly when it’s crafted as a linear travel narrative.  As a whole, Color shows little notable effort to shape these histories into something palatable.

So my tone in beginning this review, I’m convinced, stems directly from the way in which I set out to digest Color.  Some of you might be thinking: “Oh, he just doesn’t have the same passion for color that I do... I’m sure it would keep my interest!”   Okay, maybe you’re right.  But I’m not wrong in saying that if you try to sit down and read this book in one, two, or even five sittings, you will fail.  The topic might be fascinating, but the writing fails to captivate.  Take home the book if you must, but leave it on your coffee table, your night stand, or your bathroom sink, and read it bit by bit.  Read it for the information, not for the storytelling.  Otherwise, a rich, textured history of art will quickly be drained of all its color.

Friday, November 2, 2012

A Conversation With Ramel Jasir

Ramel Jasir and his artwork.
Several words come to my mind when describing the artwork of Ramel Jasir, a self-taught artist from Portsmouth, Virginia: bold, colorful, and filled with rhythmic textures and elaborate line detail. All of these elements come together to create some very poetic pieces. Jasir spoke with ArtSeen about his artwork and his artistic inspirations. 
Can you tell us a little about your artwork, artistic process, and what types of artistic materials you use?

My artistic process always starts with color and music. Many of my paintings were created to the timeless sounds of Fela Kuti, Ismael Rivera, Donny Hathaway, Syl Johnson, and Gil Scott Heron to name a few. I often let the music set the mood, pace, and creative flow. Then I use the colors that I see in the music like a big color swatch. I rarely have a concept when I start to paint. The colors, the texture, and the random shapes and images created by the paint brush or palette knife drives the creation if that make sense. Within the random abstract image I may see a face, city, or some other image that I may decide to isolate or paint over. It is a fun process of discovery because I never know what I am going to paint so it is a treat for me every time.

I mostly create my paintings with acrylic paint but often use oil when needed, especially when creating eyes or lips because I like the realism that you can achieve using oils. In general, I will create on anything I can, which I often do because of financial constraints. When I cannot afford canvas I create on hardboard or wood and have even used hard Styrofoam blocks in which I coat in polyurethane for hardness.

"Where is the Honor 2"

What inspires you as an artist? Why do you create art?

My greatest inspiration has and will always be my family. I have always been surrounded by my children while creating my artwork. As much as I would love to paint in peace they add a certain energy to the room and my work. Other than that, my desire to create, share, and create dialogue via my work is insatiable at times. I am always in the process of creating whether it be in a tangible form or in mind; I am always working on the next project.

What types of themes, ideas, or concepts do you explore within in your artwork?

My artwork at its current stage is but a reflective of my four year journey as a visual artist. As I often say, it is “my voice in color.” Not only through my artwork do you see my journey towards discovering and getting to know my cultural and multi-ethnic roots but you may also see many different themes that include love, family, politics, human rights, and social activism. I like to think that my work is representative of the diverse human experience through the four year lens of a visual artist.

Who are some artists that you admire, and why?

There are a few local artists such as Wayne Potrafka, Valente Frazier, Clayton Singleton, Trish Doolin, and Sharon Hanson that I admired because they were the ones that took notice of my artwork early in 2009 and 2010 before I had ever shown my work publicly. They not only encouraged me to keep developing my craft but some actually took the time to help guide me in the right direction in regards to the business of art and introducing me to other talented artists.

"The Taureg"
What’s the best and worst thing about being an artist?

The best thing about being an artist is being able to share and meet people from all walks of life and from all over the world with the help of the vast social media networks available nowadays. Going from creating my work to seeing it hung for exhibition is the ultimate high because it is like seeing my work for the first time. I get to enjoy and talk about my work along with everyone else with equal excitement. Because of the lack of storage space my work goes from creation to being stored very quickly in which I may not see it again until show time. So often when I am engaging with the public about my work I enjoy hearing what people see in my work. I am always amazed at the images people see in my own work that I would have never thought of. So again, it is always a treat for me as well.

The worst part about being an artist is the financial hardships as a developing artist. The rejection, be it a gallery or collector, is difficult at times, but it is part of the process. Yet being able to show my work with an engaging public makes it all worth it every time.

"The First Dance"

Can you talk about any current or future projects you are working on?

Right now I am working on portrait series for 2013 featuring many interesting people that I have met or read about during my journey as an artist. Most of the portraits are women who have been victims of abuse, human rights violations, or just symbols of power. I plan to create portraits in my style of art which will also consist of a couple of collaborations with other artists. I know a portrait series does not sound that interesting but I promise something new and interesting in regards to technique and presentation.

"The Color of Love 3"

And finally, what advice would you give to other artists?

My advice to other artists is to keep doing what you love and develop your craft. Create quality work, learn the business of art if your goal is to create for a living, and most importantly have fun. Don’t let the drive to make money and the competitive nature of the business make you forget why you started creating in the first place. Most people are very successful at doing things that they love and it will translate into your work and presentation.  Support other artists whenever you can and never give up.  If I may be of any assistance in any way feel free to contact me and I will be happy to help.

"The Wedding Planner"

For more information about Jasir, you can visit his website, Facebook page and follow him on Twitter for more details. You can also check out an interview PBS did with Jasir here.

"The Color of Love 4"
All images provided by Ramel Jasir.
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