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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, November 30, 2006
  studio view

This is a shot of work in progress as of last night. None of these are finished paintings except for the 2 Column paintings (which are #11 and #12 in the series) on the far end of the wall. Although the arrangements and format of the panels are likely to change along the way to the finished work, I can see something here that surprises me a little...without planning it my use of color has been shifting towards more use of white, with very subtle surface variations (that don't show up in most photos.) Also I'm using more earth tones combined with small areas of intense color, such as the blue and red panels in the Column paintings.

Another direction is toward larger panels of intense color such as the red one you can see in the photo. This may or may not end up in an arrangement with other panels, but for now I'm enjoying its intensity as it stands alone.
Sunday, November 26, 2006
  milwaukee studio crawl
If you're in the Milwaukee area this coming weekend, please visit The Arts Building Annual Studio Arts Crawl (December 1-3.) Twenty five studios are housed in this historic warehouse building, in the Walker's Point area of Milwaukee. Here is a shot of my work displayed in the studio/gallery of Marina Broere (MB Gallery, 4th floor.) Marina's work, as well as that of several other artists will be on view along with about a dozen of my smaller paintings.
Friday, November 24, 2006
  and another new painting

This one is called Taos, 30" square, oil on board. It's quite subtle in its layers of transparent colors with a bit of metallic sheen. The title comes from the earthiness and clear light I associate with Taos, and the feeling of adobe.

A little story about Core (which I posted on 11-13): last night I had 5 or 6 friends in to see my studio after our Thanksgiving meal. When I pointed out the figure in the center panel, there was a collective, audible gasp and several mouths dropped open in disbelief. I guess all you have to do as a non-representational painter to be shocking is to put in an intentional, clear human figure. I have to admit I got a kick out of that.
Thursday, November 16, 2006
  another new painting
I'm all set to take this painting to Circa Gallery in Minneapolis tomorrow. It is called Pisces, oil on panel, 64"x30" on five panels.

I'm drawn to bodies of water of all kinds, for calming and reflective moments, and this painting evokes that feeling for me. I started the center panel while making my own small water garden in the yard this summer.

You can click on the photo for a larger version, and see a bit more detail. As with most of my images, there is a lot more visual texture and nuance than what shows up on the computer screen. My technique involves layers of paint mixed with wax, followed by scraping, scrubbing with wire bristles, washing out with solvents, and all sorts of other assaults on the paint surface. It seems a bit ironic that from my rather aggressive moves with paint materials comes, in the end, a sense of harmony and quiet.
Monday, November 13, 2006
  new painting
This is one of a new group of paintings I'm finishing up; the title is "Core"...36"x 54" on seven panels. Perhaps you notice a torso in the center panel? This is a completely new idea for me--I haven't used any human images in my paintings for at least 20 years. Why now? I'm not sure...perhaps this follows those dog paintings I did this summer, in which (radically for me!) I "allowed" recognizable, figurative images into my work for the first time in years. Or it's a result of the life drawing session I attended in August...or a reflection of a new aspect of my life--taking two dance classes--so I've become a bit more aware of the expressive potential of the figure.

One of these is a Nia class, which involves fairly simple choreographed movements that focus on placement of feet, legs and arms, while encouraging lots of improvisation and dancing for pure pleasure. The music is unusual, and often beautiful--certainly not your typical aerobics class pop playlist. Everyone ends up sweating profusely and it is very enjoyable, though I have to admit it took me several slightly embarassing sessions to catch on to the basic moves. At this point I'm actually starting to feel some grace and rhythm in my movements (whether this would be obvious to anyone else, I have no idea!)

My other dance class, taught by painter/dancer Barbara Shafer, is what I jokingly refer to as Modern Dance for Middle Aged Klutsy People. (Speaking for myself, of course--although there are others who would accept that description.) Interestingly, all the participants in this small group are artists, so we share that primary identity (as opposed to thinking of ourselves as Modern Dancers.) This class consists of a series of slow, very controlled and precise movements. The movements mostly generate from the core muscles of the torso and are meant to flow harmoniously through contraction and release. In some cases they do, but I personally have a long ways to go to acheive this effect.

Still, there I am, working hard at something I would not perviously have imagined doing at all. And figures are appearing in my paintings! If you can't surprise yourself, what fun is it anyway?
Thursday, November 09, 2006
  studio thoughts
Now it is well over a week since my return from NM, and I'm getting my focus back, and sensing new directions and ideas. As much as I love travel, it does leave me feeling a bit scattered. Not only does life in general tend to fall apart while I'm gone (that would be the housework, paperwork, financial work, and overdue library books side of life)...but the studio presents its own challenges. It's disorienting to find that my paintings all look strangely different and really not as far along as they had seemed when I left. When I first got back, my studio time consisted mainly of moving panels around in an indecisive and unsatisfying manner, perhaps trying to recapture what I was seeing in my work a month ago.

But it's a good thing to get away. This week, since my travel-drained energy has returned, it's been my mission to rip things apart and make fairly big changes. I feel much clearer about what I'm after, and I attribute that to all that I experienced in NM. Amazing landscape, seeing the work of other artists, interesting conversations, reconnecting with family and friends...it was all a lot to take in, and perhaps a small period of incubation while I attended to the mundane side of life was needed. Ideas are percolating now.
Saturday, November 04, 2006
  sally bowker exhibit
Yesterday my friend Chris and I visited the current exhibit of Sally Bowker's paintings at the Baraboo campus of the University of Wisconsin (Broken Bars: Traditions and Improvisations.) Sally is a long time friend of mine who's always lived unusually close to the natural world that is the subject matter of her work. The house she and her husband Jerry live in now has a river flowing just outside the back door, and they will soon be retiring to a secluded piece of land in northern Wisconsin that is within walking distance of Lake Superior. For Sally, nature is part of the pulse of daily life, and she deals with its dark and brooding aspects as well as its lighter beauties and energies.

Like myself, Sally was inspired by seeing The Quilts Of Gees Bend exhibit a few years ago when it came to Milwaukee. The body of work she is showing at UW-Baraboo (through November 30)features an underlying grid structure in each work, sometimes clear and fairly precise, other times looser, sometimes weaving in and out of surface images in a subtle manner. This show is striking for the dark and light contrasts between panels--each has either a rich dark background or a light airy one, over which images of leaves and other natural and abstracted forms dance in rich, bright color.

Another exhibit by Sally Late Fall: Variations is hanging concurrently at the LE Phillips Memorial Public Library in Eau Claire WI. This one includes drawings in addtion to a number of acrylic paintings, and deals with themes of dormancy and death in seasonal cycles. It is on exhibit through November 29th.


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       Rebecca Crowell