Wednesday, May 20, 2009


I felt embarrassed as I walked up with my three new art pieces for the juried art exhibition. My excitement of making something new and out of my comfort zone quickly vanished into a strange self-consciousness I haven't felt with my art recently.

It is a great local show with great cash prizes. The theme of the show was "Roots." The prospectus wanted the artist to stretch the meaning of roots to family origin, history, root cause...I chose the simple and direct earth-focused approach. I was excited about the theme and felt inspired.

I had been dreaming of going 3-D with encaustic, but struggling with the right material for the wax to adhere to and then it came to me three days before the event. I was playing again. I wasn't going back to a familiar formula.

I made the mistake of showing people the first piece unfinished and by cell phone photograph. What was I thinking? I was excited but too fragile to take their pregnant pause following such statements as "Does this dress highlight my pot-belly?" *Pause, nice smile...searching for the right words* Ugh, it does! I hate this dress. I hate my hair. I'm ugly. I will never get married.

Prior to entering any show I always research the juror. If they are an artist, I check out their work. If they are a curator I check out the shows they have curated and the show themes of their museum or art center. It is usually an easy way for me to decide if my $35 entry fee is an investment or donation. I wasn't sure about this juror. His artwork was not in the family of mine, but I stretched on these pieces and it would be a shame to shelf them.

All three pieces were accepted. Whew.

Earth's Armature - Encaustic, 8" x 8"

The opening came and a good friend said he would be my date. So, we went, mingled and then it happened. I received puzzled looks and awkward, "This work seems like a drastic departure from your usual work." I was mortified and embarrassed. Apologetically I said I was trying something new. I kept thinking I should have kept to the formula. The formula sells and that is what people like.

An old friend came up to me and said something in the same vein, but was excited. He said, "This must have been so freeing for you. You were able to take artistic risks because you have won this show and don't have to prove anything." That was definitely one way to look at it and I'm thankful he made me look in that direction.

The awards ceremony came and my name wasn't called. I am happy to report that my ego survived, did not throw an internal tantrum and stood aside to appreciate the artistic talent recognized for the evening.

What I learned:
Take artistic risks. If you find yourself looking at your old work or work that sells as inspiration for your next piece you are heading toward formula art. I'm a fan of recognizing the hand of an artist and not a fan of recognizing the same visual tricks of an artist.

I still struggle with the difference (is there one?) of decorative art and fine art. Am I painting to match wallpaper or painting for the intellect. I'm pretty sure I have done both.

Chances are that if you make a leap in your artwork you are making a leap somewhere else in your life. I have made some drastic changes in my personal life. It only makes sense that it shows up in my work too.

What do you do to stretch artistically? How do you know that you have actually stretched? What do you see, hear or feel that lets you know you have pushed yourself?

My improvisational theatre teacher says, "Go in the direction you are facing." On the stage, a scene isn't interesting when it becomes transactional or the characters don't change. Artwork needs to make shifts, change and move to keep your audience watching and most importantly keep you interested.

Saturday, May 02, 2009

The wheels go round and round.

I'm going on 6 weeks without a car. I've been biking my butt off. It should be coming off soon. I blew out my back tire when I piled on two sacks of groceries and my ass. I'm just guessing that is what happened, but secretly hoping it was a nail.

Yesterday, I road home from work in the rain. I put on this giant blue tarp of a poncho and belted it with a bungee cord. I felt like a wind sail pedaling hard against the wind and any minute I would be airborne. I passed a long line of cars with drivers looking grumpy and grim. Grinning like a goof, I was hoping I would get at least a thumbs up or a encouraging honk. It IS bike month! Nope, nothing. I only passed two people on the usually very busy bike path. I rang my bike bell and waved enthusiastically. I received the "What the hell are we doing on our bikes?" grin. I told everyone I road in the rain and received little to no sympathy. Yes, I do believe I deserve a medal.

Biking to work tips:
1. Roll your work clothes to keep them from being a wadded, wrinkled mess when you get to work.
2. Take sunscreen and apply liberally 30 minutes prior or you will end up with a crooked V-shaped sunburn on your chest.
3. Go to the bathroom before you leave because it is usually a long way home.
4. Learn to change a bike tire.
5. Take rain gear, but don't count on it keeping you dry.
6. Know the bus schedules just in case you are just plain tired of pedaling.