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   Welcome to my blog! I'll be posting thoughts about art, photos, happenings, and other things that strike me--and hopefully my readers--as interesting. And please visit my website by clicking the link to the right--thanks!

   Also please check out my second blog, The Painting Archives to see older (pre-2004) paintings for sale.

Thursday, April 27, 2006
I'm on a committee that chooses artists to exhibit at our local public library (in an very nice gallery space)and sometime last fall ideas were being tossed about for the summer show, which is typically a curated, themed group exhibit. The themes are without exception (until now) geared towards realistic interpretation...recent examples are "Rural Landscapes" and "Our Town."

Well, at this meeting I found myself speaking up to request a theme that would focus less on concrete subject matter--one that would include abstract artists. All heads turned my way. And of course, someone had to ask, "why not an all abstraction show, with you as curator?"

So I am now finalizing details for the exhibit, Visiting Abstraction, which opens June 6th. I have never curated anything before, so this was an learning process. The first step was to find a focus for the show. The committee liked the idea of showing a range of abstract approaches, but that seemed to me a given since I planned to invite about 15 artists. How similar could they be, after all? In fairly short order I had a group of artists lined up --some I already knew, others suggested to me, working in both 2-D and 3-D, in a variety of media.

For a theme I decided to focus on how abstract artists express meaning in their work--where they get their ideas, how they interpret them. I'm hoping this will help inform the general public that abstraction is neither shallow, random doodling or simply pleasing design. I know, I know--this should probably be obvious in 2006. But I don't think it is, at least where I live. And since this show will be hung in the public library, the audience will be broad...there will be plenty of folks who will say "what is it?" or "I don't get it" or "my 5-year old could do that." I'm hoping, perhaps naively so, that whatever publicity is generated will provide a little Art Appreciation 101. And each artist is invited to write something that will offer a way of understanding what they're up to.

I'll be posting my curators statement on my website (under the "essays" section on my Artist page) if you're interested, and some photos of the show once it is up.
Friday, April 21, 2006
  contemplating abstraction
Lately I've been preoccupied with questions about subject matter and the degree of abstraction in my work. I've felt a shift in the past year or so, gradual but forceful, away from direct, literal references to nature such as the glimpses of rock, water, foliage and sky that are found in lots of my previous work. More and more of my images now seem to come from some other point of synthesis in my mind, one that draws mainly upon intuition--and from aspects of color, line and texture that exist apart from their descriptive possibilities.

I'm wrestling with the challenge of keeping my work as personal, individual and unique as it has ever been, and at the same time venturing further along the path towards pure abstraction. Which is an approach to painting that seems to have been so well covered before me and around me that I fear I have nothing original to add.

On the other hand, I'm realizing that having lived in, worked from and observed nature for many years, its colors and textures are deeply imprinted in my mind and my manner with paint. So that when I work intuitively, without obvious or conscious reference to nature, I'm also tapping into this deeper level of understanding. Its patterns will continue to be part of my work, even if highly abstracted, as long as I stay tuned into that true part of myself and my experience. It's a comfort to think I have that aesthetic "home," that constant orientation, even if I end up wandering rather far away.

(Thanks to Cheryl and Mark for listening to my ramblings on this topic and for joining in with enthusiasm and wise insights.)
Thursday, April 13, 2006
  studio update
Two mnths ago (2/15)when I posted a shot of a few of my paintings in their very early "abstract expressionist" phase, I had intended to track one or two with photos as they developed. I soon realized though, that I had little heart for that project. As I've explained before, I like to keep all of my options open and I sometimes make very drastic changes. Given that my paintings don't tend to progress in a logical way, I realized that it's unlikely that anyone would gain much from seeing my fits and starts (except to perhaps find some stage along the way they preferred over the finished piece!)

On the other hand, I do sometimes take photos of paintings in progress for my own amusement, and recently one of those found its way (long story) onto the cover of a brochure put out by Ampersand (they make the panels that I use in much of my work.) I had some misgivings about allowing this photo to be used, preferring one of a finished painting. But in the end I could see that the in-progress photo shows a moment in time, a slice of an artist's experience, that allows viewers to imagine ideas of their own for using the panels. It's a different focus than a series that would reveal the ramblings of my art mind in action. And when Ampersand also hired me to write an article about my process, I deliberately did not include photos illustrating the various stages in a painting's development, which seems to be standard in such articles. I just couldn't see trying to illustrate how one thing led to another, why entire areas disappeared or panels migrated in and out of the composition. Even to me, it is often a mystery.

In case you are wondering, though--here's how one of the paintings in my February photo turned out. I took this while it was still hanging in the studio. The final state is the result of lots of paint application, plus (if you wish to refer to my photo in the Feb. 15th entry) taking two of the panels from the painting on the left in the earlier photo, combining them with one additional panel, exchanging the center panel for the top one from the painting on the right in the photo, and turning two of them vertically. Got that??
Tuesday, April 04, 2006
  the big picture
I was asked to give a short talk last Sunday at the local Unitarian Universalist church on the topic of spirituality and creativity. I posted the text of the whole talk on my website (listed under "essays" below bio information) but here is an excerpt:

I would like to begin with talking about searching as both an artistic and a spiritual activity. When I paint, what I’m after is undefined throughout much of the process. Answers or conclusions are elusive during all of the initial stages. However, as I come to the end of a painting, I recognize what the outcome will be, and do my best to bring it forth as the final step. This is similar to the way in which a spiritual insight or understanding of a particular issue may be just out of your reach as you struggle towards it, but then becomes clear, sometimes in a rather sudden manner. The frustrations along the way, the need for persistence, and the willingness to keep at something without knowing the final result are similar in both a creative and a spiritual search, as is the sense of resolution and peace when a conclusion is achieved.

The talk goes on to explore the state of creative "flow" and the overall creative process in relation to certain states of mind--those that involve spiritual qualities such as letting go of the need to control outcomes, trust and rising above daily concerns.


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       Rebecca Crowell