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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.

Monday, January 26, 2015
  home base
It's been just over ten years since I've shown in my home community of Eau Claire, Wisconsin. My work has changed a lot since 2004--here is an installation shot of the exhibit held at the LE Phillips Memorial Public Library in December of that year. 

At the time, almost all of my work was made up of multiple panels, bolted together. I had been working exclusively in abstraction, using cold wax medium on panel, for about three years at this point. In retrospect, while I still appreciate this work, I see that it was created mostly with my head more so than with my heart. I did not invest much emotion or meaning in the work--it came more from a fascination with the medium I was just starting to explore, and the structural possibilities of bolting panels together . But these interesting arrangements of color and texture were an early and important step on the road to true personal voice. 

A little over a week ago, my current exhibit opened in the same exhibition space. There have been many changes in a decade. My 2015 exhibit, A Gift of Days: Memories of Ireland, is thematic in a way that my earlier exhibits never were. Back then, I was far less specific in my intentions for the work. Now, everything I make in some way relates to personal experiences and memories both visual and emotional. Most of my paintings have to do with specific places in Ireland, where I have spent so much time in the past few years.
Also,I have mostly abandoned multiple panel arrangements, as my images have become stronger and expressive as individual compositions.  

The photo below shows the same exhibition space, just taken a bit closer in than the 2004 photo. 

The adjacent wall in the gallery at LE Phillips Memorial Public Library, below:

Here is the statement I wrote for this exhibit; you may click here to read the John O'Donohue poem referenced (which I posted beside my statement.)  

Irish writer and philosopher John O'Donohue's poem, For the Traveler, describes the awakening of mind and soul that comes with a certain kind of focused travel in an unfamiliar place.  He speaks of travel as a pilgrimage, a journey--words that imply much more than a sight-seeing trip or holiday.  His poem is about a kind of travel that opens a channel between inner and outward experience, and one that involves intention, intuition and being aware of each day's offerings.  This kind of travel invites creative response, and is at the heart of the experience of an artist-in-residence program.

Artists' residency and fellowship programs are found all over the world-- providing selected artists with the opportunity to pursue their work for weeks or even months at a time, away from daily concerns. An artist's residency is a gift of time, of space, and of place--and of these, place is what most motivates me to seek these opportunities.  During each of the seven artist residencies I have experienced, the surroundings have given rise to new thoughts and changes in my work. This has never more so than on my last two fellowships, which took place at Ballinglen Arts Foundation in County Mayo, Ireland in the fall of 2013 and 2014.  Both times I was able to stay for six weeks and to immerse myself in the daily life of the small Irish village of Ballycastle, and in the stimulating and congenial atmosphere of the Foundation where artists come together from various parts of the world.

At the root of my memories and sensory impressions of the West of Ireland are the dramatic coastal cliffs,  richly textured boglands, patinas of old boats and buildings,  Neolithic ruins, and the dramatic skies that characterize the region.  I was moved every day by Mayo’s beauty and long history. As an abstract painter, the imagery I work with is filtered through these emotional responses, in ways that I hope convey some essence of this remarkable landscape

Thursday, January 01, 2015
  looking back, looking ahead
2014 ended quietly for me, a glass of wine, a good book, and asleep by eleven. But the year itself was an exhilarating ride, full of milestones and expanding horizons. I look back with gratitude to all that has happened, and ahead with a sense of momentum and possibility. 

It was a year of travel, from Florida to Vancouver Island, to North Carolina and finally back to my beloved County Mayo, Ireland. In the middle of all of that were several treasured months at home during one of the most beautiful Wisconsin summers I can recall. The autumn colors before I left for Ireland were spectacular. 

our woods, October 2014

It was my fourth time in Ireland, and my second stay at Ballinglen Arts Foundation in Mayo. On each visit I have felt a deeper connection and a relaxation into the flow of my work and the simple life in the village. This time, a highlight was spending time with my younger brother Hugh, who came over for two weeks--the first time in almost forty years that we've had the luxury of a prolonged one on one visit. I also taught two workshops with wonderful students (there is something about Ballinglen that bonds those who come for class in a special way.) I also enjoyed the company of other artist/fellows in the congenial atmosphere surrounding the Foundation, and outings to the coast and the boglands.

My brother Hugh at Benwee Head, in County Mayo, Ireland. 

Other great teaching experiences of 2014 included working with very focused and excited groups of cold wax students in Delray Beach, Florida, British Columbia, Mineral Point, WI, Cullowhee, NC and in my home studio.  I also taught a new type of workshop at the beautiful Lake Logan Retreat Center in NC. It was not specific to cold wax, but dealt with broader issues of abstraction in various media-- including monoprinting and acrylic painting--with a focus on small works on paper. 

students discussing their work at Lake Logan NC workshop

2014 was also a year of success for my own work with my highest level of sales and income to date--a total of 53 sales, from small works on paper to large commissioned paintings (including a series of five large paintings for the MD Anderson Cancer Center in Houston, TX.) I was excited to participate via Gormleys Fine Art of Dublin (where I had a solo exhibit in September) in Affordable Art Fairs in London and Brussels--the first time I have exhibited and sold internationally outside of Ireland. 

Ancient of Days, 36"x48" --sold in London by Gormleys fine Art of Dublin

Another highlight of 2014 was the sale of five large paintings via Telluride Gallery of Fine Art to the Lumiere Hotel in Telluride, CO, and several works that sold as a result of a spring group show I was part of at The PS Gallery in Columbia, MO. Thomas Deans Gallery, Woodwalk Gallery, Brewery Pottery Gallery and Elaine Erickson Gallery  all made sales too, and friends, colleagues and people in my workshops bought a number of pieces from me directly. This amazing year has brought hope that the economy has turned for the better and that other artists too are enjoying a return of sales. 

The year ended with a newly cleaned and organized studio, and the hiring of a studio assistant--my first ever. And there was the surprise and honor of being chosen from among 550 entries for Huffington Post art blogger John Seed's picks of Memorable Paintings of 2014.  

Red Bog, 48"x36"--published on the Huffington Post

My newly organized studio!

What's ahead for 2015? Lots more travel for teaching, including an expansion of the ideas launched with the Lake Logan workshop of '14--this time the setting will be in Taos, NM in April, at the famous Mabel Dodge Luhan house/conference center. Called the Poetics of Place, the workshop will include interaction with poet Cecilia Woloch, who also taught at Lake Logan, and her students. 

I'll be exploring another new workshop format in May with my friend and colleague Janice Mason Steeves, as we co-teach an abstraction/cold wax class at Ricklungarden, an artists' residencey in northern Sweden. (Jan and I will stay on and paint for three weeks after the class ends.) I'll be back at Lake Logan in September and at Ballinglen (Ireland) in October and November. I'll also be teaching several other classes around the country and in my studio in Wisconsin. I plan to send out a newsletter soon with complete details on all my workshops in 2015; please join my mailing list here  (scroll down the page ) if you'd like to receive that information. 

Currently I am preparing for five exhibits in January (and feeling grateful for my new assistant!) I am quite excited to be chosen by Gormleys fine Art for their booth at The London Fair  that opens January 21. The London Fair is considered the premier fair for modern and contemporary art in the UK.  

Fissures #1, 42"x40" oil and mixed media on panel. --to be exhibited at The London Fair

I'm also having a solo show at the public library in Eau Claire, WI that opens January 15--it the closest exhibition space to my home and quite a nice public space. I look forward to sharing my work with people I know in the area--I haven't shown locally for ten years and it seems time. The exhibit will focus on paintings created as a result of my last two residencies at Ballinglen. 

The other exhibits I'm participating in this month are group shows: Colors of Fire at Telluride Gallery in CO; Breaking Through Surface Tension at Pima Community College in Tucson, AZ, and Geologic Time at Conrad Wilde Gallery, also in Tucson. I'll be flying to Tucson for the opening at the college on Feb. 12th, where I will also be speaking and later teaching a workshop (which has been filled.) 

SO...that's a lot. If 2015 is anything like 2014, I'll have times when I feel overwhelmed...when it seems I cannot possibly meet my commitments and deadlines.  I am familiar with a feeling of stress when things pile up--because of course nothing comes along in neat linear order. There are aspects of every workshop, exhibit and project that must be planned far in advance, often in the midst of some other demanding situation, But over time I feel I'm getting better at coping with this level of activity and demand--more able to relax and believe that it will be all be done. 

My challenge, and my goal for the coming year is to cultivate trust that my plans will unfold as they are meant to, and will evolve with sense of ease, enjoyment and accomplishment. And to all of my artist friends--may the New Year bring you ever closer to your own goals and desires, and may you find pleasure and excitement in all the surprising turns of your creative journey.



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       Rebecca Crowell