Art quotes

"For the last 20 year period I've been working with ideas conceived as a child." -Red Grooms

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Shiawassee Arts Center Show is Ready

Island Birth  18x24  oil on linen

       After a sleepless night and the next day packing the transport boxes in two vehicles to deliver paintings, the Shiawassee Art Center show is on its way. The smiling volunteers waiting to hang the show greeted us with warm welcomes. As they worked on their project two reporters from the local newspapers were interviewing for their stories from the participating artists – Karen Kangas-Preston, photography, Douglas Thayer with his strong forged metal work, and me with my curious abstracts and dunes.

Spirit of Three Fires 24x30 acrylic on canvas
       The first reporter worked on the Michigan connection that is behind many of my pieces. He asked if living in the Great Lakes area had an influence on my art. I flashed years of hiking the ever changing dunes, waking to subtle light bouncing off the magnificent Lake Michigan, slipping on a frozen coast just to get that special picture, but I just nodded yes to the reporter. We walked over to a painting titled Spirit of Three Fires, referring to the Anishinabe legend of the Algonquin First Peoples that populate the Great Lakes. The reporter and I both knew the location of the reference photo.

       The other reporter was also interested in motivation and how that motivation influences the paintings. We looked at the painting that was selected for the Michigan Governor’s Residence Artists Program, (see Surprise in Fort Wayne blog) the large Touch of Lavender. This painting has a lot of texture and as we moved our fingers over the thick paint I told the story of a previous art show where a blind visitor moved her fingers over the surface to “see” the painting. Every art piece has its own story, a collaboration between the materials, the creator and the viewer’s perception of the outcome. We all bring to an art show our experiences and expectations.
Wheels of Fortune 20x24 acrylic on linen
       We walked around the gallery, she asking for the motivation that jump started the creative experience and me telling the story that helped to bring the visual to life. Both reporters were asking the same basic question, what was my motivation. This is the question most viewers ask when they look at any art. What are the influences behind the finished art work? 

       Some art is an expression used to support a belief or a statement - political, religious, romantic - and some tell a story that is influenced by the times the artist works in. We each create for our own reasons. Even though I have blogged about this before the question always comes up in interviews and discussions, what is behind the paintings. Each painting has its own story as well as its own history but that is another blog post for another time.

       Thank you for your interest in these blog posts. For more paintings you may want to check the website, or better yet, if you are in the area please check out the Shiawassee Arts Center Spring presentation in Owosso, Michigan. The show runs through April 14, 2013. Please feel free to share this blog with friends who may enjoy reading about the artist’s experience. I am still awed by the story in the  previous blog on the Peru, Indiana High School art treasures.
Earth Cycle  18x24  acrylic on linen

Sunday, February 17, 2013

Big Surprise in Fort Wayne Indiana!

Out of the Box  20x24 acrylic on linen

       We have been preparing a show of 30 paintings for ShiawasseeArt Center (SAC) the last few weeks. All the paintings are framed and in shipping boxes waiting for the drop off day. The prep work for any major show takes many hours of caring for details and at times frustrating delays but all is completed as we are looking at our sore finger tips from the hanging wires. Ah, a sigh of relief.  
       Helene and I needed a little R and R so we took a trip to Fort Wayne, Indiana to the art center area. The first visit was to Art Link, an old favorite art venue. In one small gallery space we saw young children’s art that was so pure and sweet. We could just imagine the small hands plying with their creations. Art Link shares space in a building of Arts United. Lots of education going on here that includes visual and performing arts.
       Across the street at the newly redesigned Fort Wayne Museum of Art (FWMoA) we were astounded again by young artists from high schools in 54 counties of Indiana and Ohio. The museum offers one of the rare scholastic arts programs in the country highlighting the value of art education. The works of these young people was very inspiring and gave us hope that the new generations will be just fine and the arts will thrive into the future.
      We walked through the American Tapestry Biennial 9 show in another gallery of the museum with intricate beautiful works. We said to each other, “how can this get any better?”
The next large gallery room we glided into under the haze of Stendhal syndrome - too much fine art. We almost zipped through this gallery of large colorful paintings without a closer look. Stendhal on hold our quick glance around the large gallery was stunning. I had to sit and regain some form of composure. While sitting in a stage of utter surprise I let the magnificent paintings come to me, and they came - with their stories and their own histories of survival.
       Closer inspection of images spanning mid-century master works surprised me. Hidden Treasures the sign said: The John Whittenberger Collection of G. David Thompson at Peru Indiana High School. What? A high school collection in Peru, Indiana? What was this story all about? We asked at the desk and got a fragment of the story. Thanks to the internet we were able to piece most of the story together.
       G. David Thompson, a Peru High School alumni back in 1913, called a troubled student, found art and art appreciation through a beloved teacher, John Whittenberger. Thompson left Indiana for Pittsburg where he became a financial investor and an executive in Pittsburgh steel industry. But it was art and art collection that gave him great pleasure. In 1938 he donated 8 pieces of his collection to Peru High School in the name of his mentor, Whittenberger.
       Throughout the years until his death Thompson donated a rich collection of works by Picasso, Dali, Miro, Roualt, Predergast, and dozens of other fine art paintings along with ancient Oriental pottery, 200 items in all. The trouble was over those years that these treasured works became too valuable to hang on the walls of the old high school. When the new school was built in 1970 the works were tucked carefully away in a closet designated as the janitor’s supply room. Art teachers over those years knew about the works and even used a few now and then for their art education.
       It is the students of those lessons that have taken the initiative to present the valued collection to the public and the students of Peru as intended by the gracious donor G. David Thompson. A new gallery is being built in the high school along with high tech security. What a story! What a testament to the value of a good art education in the schools.
       I hope you get a chance to explore art in your area and if you get to the Midwest check out the venues at Fort Wayne Museum of Art. Unfortunately the premier showing of Hidden Treasures will be closing February 24. The student scholastic show continues until mid-April.
       And if you are in mid-Michigan during March and early April please come to the Shiawassee Art Center (206 Curwood Castle Drive, Owosso, MI 48867) to see Joel Ellis Art in the main gallery. Other artists in the building include blacksmith metal artist, Doug Thayer and photography by Karen Kangas-Preston. Opening reception is March 1 from 6 – 8 pm. 
       Hope to see you there.
Earth Cycle 18x24  acrylic on linen

Touch of Lavender  36x48  oil on canvas , Governor's  Residence selection

Wild Summer 30x40 acrylic on canvas
Three of the paintings in the upcoming show at Shiawassee Arts Center February 26-April 14
Opening Reception Friday, March 1 6-8 pm

Look about you, folks and enjoy!