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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.

Wednesday, May 28, 2008
  a good visit
Sally Bowker and her husband Jerry visited for a bit on Monday. It was at the tail end of several days of company here, including our big party, and so for three days I had applied not one dab of paint to board. For me, their visit provided what I needed to transition back to a focus on art work...art talk and a good studio visit.

Sally is a long time friend and artist. I think of her mainly as a painter, but she also works in various other media including fabric, which she approaches with a painter's sensitivity to expressive line and composition. In this fabric piece there are wonderful stitching/drawing lines that resemble bird tracks in the sand--inspired by walks on the beach at her new home near the shore of Lake Superior.

Oh and I also want to mention a brief visit I made yesterday to the studio of Rhonda Willers, an artist new to my area who works in clay and drawing media (including wire.) She will be having a show at our local library's gallery space in January, and I'm her contact person for that (I'm on the library's art selection committee.) That aside, I mainly wanted to meet her and welcome her to at least my little corner of the art community...I loved what I saw in her submission materials and it was great to see some of it in person. I'm sure we could have talked on and on, but I had to be somewhere else, and left with ideas floating for further get-togethers.
Monday, May 26, 2008
  may party
A 27-year tradition lives on...we had our annual May Party on Saturday--always an eclectic mix of old and new friends, disc golfers (a random doubles tournament was organized to play my husband's course) and artists, friends from here and there, people of all ages from 5 to 83. Here are a few of the guests filling their plates at the potluck. For me it's also an opportunity to invite a crowd into my studio. (Kind of exciting, since I often go for weeks on end with no visitors except my husband and dog.) This year I had some great art conversations and good feedback, and even sold a few older paintings (not part of the agenda, I swear!)
Tuesday, May 20, 2008
  new painting

This morning I finished this painting, called Boundary (60"x36".) I am happy with its subtleties, which may be viewed better by clicking on the image, then hitting your backspace arrow when done. On the center panel there are delicate lines--I used a technique that I've been playing around with of drawing on thin paper (I use tracing paper) with compressed charcoal, then pressing the paper against the (not completely dry) painted surface with a brayer. The lines transfer very well. I burnish them a bit with a squeegee to make sure they are integrated into the surface layer of paint.
Thursday, May 15, 2008
  new paintings and thoughts on raushenberg

These are two new paintings in my Vertical series, #17 (79"x12") and #18 (82"x12.) I will be shipping them to my Santa Fe gallery within the next few days.

I have been thinking about Robert Rauschenberg, who died this week, and about a large show of his combine paintings that I saw in New York two springs ago. Before that show, I thought I knew his work pretty well--mostly because he was a favorite artist of the instructor of my Art Since 1945 class back in undergrad school. I had liked his work well enough when I saw it in class, but was never really bowled over by it...was it the goat with the tire around its middle, that I just never really "got"? I went to the Met that day expecting to give the show a cursory run-through and get on to other things.

But seeing that collection of his work in person, I was indeed bowled over, and I spent several hours going through the exhibit in that elevated state of mind. The thing that I had never understood from reproductions, and the few pieces I'd seen in person--is that his work as a whole is so visually stunning. Seeing it in person, I saw how very painterly it can be, and how delicious in its raw and ragged textures and unexpected flashes of color and bold contrasts. Probably because the emphasis in my art history class had been on his ideas, I had thought of him as primarily a conceptual artist--not one who also spoke such a compelling visual language. My opinion changed that day...even the goat with the tire around its middle had an aesthetic appeal that I'd never realized.
Sunday, May 11, 2008
  well, there's always the food...
It's my first Mother's Day as an empty nester...my two boys are both out west, finishing up their semesters at college. In their early years, finding the time and focus for my art work was a challenge of course--nobody gets through that stage of life without sacrifices and frantic juggling of time and energy. Somehow I was able to keep on with my studio work, or some scaled down version of it, through it all. As time went on, the expectation that I would have my studio time took root in our family dynamic, and things got easier. This photo was taken at my first solo gallery show, at the now-defunct Suzanne Kohn Gallery in Minneapolis/St.Paul in 1994. You can't see it in the picture, but my son's other arm is in a cast (in the midst of my last-minute show preparations I got a call from the school secretary asking if his arm normally curved like a banana or had he really been hurt as badly as he claimed on the playground?)

When I talk to young artists wondering if they can fit kids into their creative lives, I can only offer the kind of encouragement that based on personal experience, that for me (aided by my very supportive husband) it was doable and worth every struggle. I had almost no role models myself--personally knew no artist/parents that I could look to for advice or encouragement--when we had our first child in the year after I finished my MFA. I was terrified that I would lose every art cell in my brain to the haze of hormones, infant demands and the baby-centered world I found myself in. In desperation, I guess, I set myself the project of processing the experience through my work, in a series of abstracted growing plants, seeds, and birth canals. This was the beginning of motherhood feeding into my work, which continues to this day. From the time they were small, my kids have led me in directions of thought and understanding that I would never have anticipated.

Of course, this is my perspective...I wonder sometimes how it was for my boys to have an artist for a mother. Getting dragged to openings, competing with paintings for my attention, and having an unconventional mother in a very conventional community were probably not always easy. Still I hope they benefited from being so close to my art life. They grew up knowing that besides being their mother, I was also committed to my work and doing what I love. At 18 and 21, they are now fastantic young men with deep creative capacities of their own.

Old photos like this one tug at my emotions but really, I am happy to be in the present--off now to take my own mother to lunch and to shop at our favorite garden center for spring plants. Wishing a good Mother's Day to all--
Thursday, May 08, 2008
This is the story behind the painting above...my artist friend Patricia (also seen above) came over with the intention of buying an older painting out of my "thrift sale" corner. Didn't see much that grabbed her until she spotted one that I had painted over about two years ago, possessed by the self-critical impulses that sometimes overtake me. There were bits of the underlying painting showing through, especially at the bottom, but mostly it was the sort of chalky gray-green that you see here. Patricia was not dissuaded by my "oh that old thing" attitude, and brought the painting out to study it.

After a few moments she said, it needs more lines scraped in (there were already a few scrapes and gouges on it, mostly from being knocked around in the back of the studio.) OK, I said and handed her a palette knife. She went at it and I did not hesitate long before joining in. She made some interesting bird-like images, and also enhanced a circle that was just barely visible under the top layer. I contributed the longer lines, and of course the underlying layers. After a bit, we both felt it was done, and that it had become a viable painting. And a true spontaneous collaboration (and perhaps spontaneous is the key to such things.) She wanted to buy it and I did not feel right about charging her anything above the cost of the materials in it, and a deal was struck. What a great ending for a painting that I had only saved because I thought I might take the panels apart someday and re-use them (and who knows when that would have been!)
Sunday, May 04, 2008
  new painting; a question
This is a medium-sized painting, 44"x24" with some very delicate textures. I don't have a title yet..the white panel reminds me of something fragile, a shell maybe.

Two promotional projects that I have mentioned in the past are almost finished. One is a small book about my work, self-published on Blurb.com. This has been rather long in the making, because most of the photos in my proof copy were too light. I have since gotten a lovely new monitor and blame all previous photo problems on my old murky screen. I uploaded the improved version tonight and my new draft copy will arrive in a week or so. This is the cover:

The other project is a short video about my work that was requested by my Santa Fe gallery. It will be shown with videos from all other artists they represent in a continuously running loop in the gallery. My friend Wade Britzius is producing this video for me, and I saw his rough draft over the weekend. Once I got over the shock of seeing and hearing myself on the screen (ratty studio clothes and all) I decided that it is very good. Wade has done a great job of editing several hours of video and honing in on the essence of what I would like to convey about my work.

Now for my question: does anyone know how to go about posting the video on this blog or on my website? At this point the video is a bit too long to use the You Tube option...that site has a ten minute limit and my video is about twelve. I can't figure out any way to save what is on the DVD disc to my computer. If anyone has the answer to this please post a comment or email me at crowellart@yahoo.com...thanks!


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       Rebecca Crowell