Sunday, February 11, 2018

Slow Progress

"Ex Libris F. S."  7 x 17" Assemblage box in progress, 02-11-18
The holidays were wonderful, as ever, but not a time when I can work on art (other than my annual Christmas card) or do much of anything else outside the celebration. I am a slow worker at the best of times; trying to put on some speed, without condensing the process too much, is a challenge. How does one condense a process anyway? One thing I'm trying, is Tai Chi. Loving it so far, and in fact it does seem to help my concentration.

The piece shown is one of several in progress in my studio at the moment. It may or may not turn out like this. Seeing it here, it is rather more somber than I realized. Or perhaps it's more a matter of what's lacking in the photo: the absence of the play of light on the brass of the oval box, the missing depth the wax gives to the image at the bottom, and the texture of the pebbly surface of the antique book cover.

The title derives from the small bookplate at the top, which came from a German flea market during my happy time living in that beautiful country.

I have not yet made the box in which the work will be installed, and to which the frame shown will be attached. At present, it is far too cold to work in the garage, where my carpentry happens. Thus, there is no depth dimension given in the caption.

But, the new year brings new possibilities. I'm getting back into the groove, back to work. That's the important thing!

Inspiration is a guest that 
does not often visit the lazy.   

 P.I. Tchaikovsky

Tuesday, May 16, 2017

Off to a Fantastic Start!

In March, I posted about reviving this blog as part of starting a new phase of my life:  Retirement! And what this would mean to reinventing myself as a “full-time” artist. Happily, my new artistic life has gotten off to a fantastic start. 

One of the works in progress from that March 5 post featured a cast-paper bookshelf filled with tiny books that I’d made. I was able to finish the entire piece in time to enter it for the annual Salon Show at The Gallery 4 in Pittsburgh’s East End. The gallery’s original email, notifying me that the piece had been accepted, ended up in the spam folder (!) but luckily I found it in time, and dropped off the piece at the gallery three days before the opening. The title is "Death of a Bibliophiliac."

As mentioned before, the piece is a tribute to Dutch artist Peter Gabrielse, with a nod also to Joseph Cornell, who also used antique star charts in his work. I was raised Roman Catholic, so the sight and smell of many candles burning  is something that always evokes my childhood. The stack of books that the ladder rests on are actual vintage books, some from German flea markets obtained when I lived there during the 1990s. The thickest one is a prayer book that was bound (sometime in the early 19th c, if I remember correctly) in paper recycled from an even older book, a common practice throughout the history of books. I started to disassemble it to use the pages in collage, but went no further when I saw the old printing underneath the spine.

Below is a photo of the piece installed in the gallery, with apologies for the poor quality. The lighting was subdued to lessen glare, but made it difficult to photograph with my phone. (The almost-impossible-to-see etching hanging above my box is by Ciara Gray.)
Death of a Bibliophiliac, 2017, mixed media assemblage box, 26"x 12"x 8"
If I needed further encouragement to pursue my artwork, this was certainly it. Full-steam ahead on the other works in progress! As well as a list of 6-10 long-planned pieces that are embryonic rather than in-progress. Fodder for plenty of posts.

MEANWHILE, on the first Saturday of retirement, my dear friends Sharon and Dave threw a retirement party for me, attended by many of my favorite people and filled with good food, conversation, music and their three friendly dogs! It was truly a labor of love on their part, and I am so grateful. It was a very special way to start retirement.

Later that week, I went with friends to see giant glass flowers by artist Jason Gamrath at Phipps Conservatory 
Water Lily by Jason Gamrath
Next, we attended Phipp's annual May Market sale, where I purchased a hand-made garden ornament, which will no doubt feature in a future post. 

The next evening was the opening at Gallery 4, which lasted several hours and enabled me to meet some other artists, as well as another gallery owner who expressed interest! But I quickly realized that if I kept up this social pace, I would be too tired to make art. It's time to slow down and get back to art-making!

BACK IN APRIL, pre-retirement, my friend Kris and I made an excursion to Ohio to the Akron Art Museum to attend an exhibit, "Turn the Page: The First Ten Years of Hi-Fructose". This included contemporary artists who had been featured in Hi-Fructose art magazine during the first 10 years of that publication. We went on a Thursday (I took the day off) because that evening one of my favorite artists, Beth Caverner, ( was giving a talk. In a humorous and thought-provoking presentation, she shared the ups and downs of her artistic journey, and the breakthrough which set her on the path to her artistic blossoming. This was her discovery that people respond more readily on an emotional level to animals than to fellow humans. And so she began sculpting her signature clay menagerie, animals in attitudes and situations that convey human feelings. The label for her piece, below, states that "These animals communicate through gesture, with their body language acting as a metaphor for human psychological states...often responding to events in her personal life. Unrequited refers to Cavener's lack of feeling desirable after having her first child."

All the art in the Hi-Fructose show was stunning, very contemporary, and incredibly well-executed, even if not to my personal taste. A sampling of the art on view:

Unrequited (Variations in Pink) by Beth Cavener

Cement Truck by Wim Delvoye.

ratspiderbat by Fulvio Di Piazza

Incantation by Martin Wittfooth

Embraced #1 by Ronit Baranga

ON THE DRIVE to Akron, Kris and I had a discussion about “being an artist” and what attributes allow one to claim that title. Not that either of us really has anything but personal observation to go on; we are not up on our “isms” and contemporary art criticism is like language from another planet. In spite of our lack of art-world creds, we decided that nothing beats an interesting idea, well-executed, in a well-designed work. This includes conceptual, installation and performance art.

Here’s what else we came up with:

·         ORIGINALITY. The Japanese have been making wood-block prints for generations, yet every print-maker of note, while using time-honored techniques, has had something new and original to say. In short, avoid clichéd images. Milk cans in a field of daisies and tropical sunsets have been done. Millions of times.
o        What you can get away with:  paint the above, with the intent of irony. Make this clear.

·         ABILITY. The legendary graphic designer Milton Glaser observed that everyone at the Push Pin Studios (which gave us numerous classic ads and posters) could draw. It’s OK to break rules, but not if you’re doing so because you could never come up to snuff in the first place. Of course, there have been great artists (Joseph Cornell, for one, whom I revere) who never drew. But what they did, they did with total command of their materials.
o         What you can get away with:  do “bad” drawings deliberately, with attitude

·         AUTHORITY. Show hesitancy in the work and the viewers will know, if only on a subliminal level. So, you can draw like Leonardo but you want to make images of people with rubber arms and faces askew? Go ahead. But do it like you KNOW you know how to draw but are choosing to suspend the rules (see above), because you have something original to say, and you’ve made the conscious decision that dodgy anatomy conveyed it best. 

No particularly original thinking here, but it was an interesting discussion! 

I CLOSE with an observation on retiring:  I expected retirement to be a big adjustment; it is, after all, a total change in my daily routine. What has actually happened, is that being able to call my time my own has taken no adjustment at all! In fact, it was keeping up the employee mind-set for decades that took adjusting to, and I quickly sloughed that like a snake shedding skin that no longer fit. I am grateful that jobs provided the wherewithal to keep a roof over my head, but having spent all that time doing tasks many others could have done, I am now free to pursue that which only I can do:  my own artwork. Yippee!

Sunday, March 5, 2017

Preparing For a New Beginning

In the April of 2010, I started this Collagitation blog as a means to present my collage-a-day project, “3SIXTY5”, in honor of my 60th birthday. Now, in 2017, it will be reborn as a platform to document my journey from full-time employee to full-time artist. 
As of May 5, 2017,  I’M RETIRING!!

Much has changed in seven years. There have been losses (my dear mother passed away in 2013) and gains (I got a new knee and the house got a new back porch); but what has remained constant is my desire to do my artwork, with my full attention, whenever I choose, and without interruption.  That’s a lot of emphasis on me, my and I.  Surely there are greater reasons, beyond personal fulfillment, for why people are given talents? This too I will discover, in time.

A man is not old until his regrets take the place of dreams. 
-Yiddish proverb

Meanwhile, here is a sample of what I’ve been working on. All of these were begun within the past 12 months; none is finished yet.

This first piece is entitled "Owl for David Caspar Friedrich," who is one of my favorite painters. (

"Owl for Caspar David Friedrich"  

Making tiny books for a library assemblage piece

The books in their gothic bookcase. The rest of the interior of the assemblage box is in the works.

This piece was inspired by another favorite artist, Peter Gabrielse, whose work I discovered last year on Pinterest. His website is here: And if you are into interiors as much as me, on my Pinterest page you can see photos of his home in Normandy (as well as his artwork) though it is sometimes difficult to distinguish rooms in his house from those in his work.

By the way,  most of the photos of Gabrielse's home were taken by London-based jewelry designer and photographer Kotomi Yamamura, who travels all over Europe every summer taking photos (MAJOR ENVY!!), and visits Peter. You can see her work here,  I recommend scrolling through her albums, there is an amazing assortment of inspirational things to see! Unfortunately (for me) her blog is in Japanese.

You can also see boards of my painting, collages and calligraphic art on my Pinterest page.

Finally, one more work in progress, tentatively entitled "The Cosmos in Her Hand." Another tribute to my love of books, reading, and the allure of old objects.

That's it for now! 

Watch this space!

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Murder on my mind & saved by the book

The Murder - Paul Cezanne, 1868
I mentioned previously that my recent involvement with the Bizarre Bazaar Shoppe seems to be encouraging me to notice and explore--perhaps attract?--some darker aspects of life. In mid-August I was called upon for jury duty, and learned during the selection process that the case was a homicide. 

The Dark Side was creeping closer again, this time with no fantasy element whatsoever to buffer the chill.

Although I am a mystery fan from way back, the idea of determining someone’s guilt or innocence as a murderer, in real life, was daunting. As it turned out, our task was to determine the degree of guilt (first or third degree murder, or manslaughter) because it was already established that the defendant was the killer. Oh, good. That would make it easier, right?

Well, it did make the process simpler, in that incontrovertible, physical facts are just that and there was plenty of evidence (the details of which I will spare you.)  In spite of the considerable efforts of the Defense to convince us the defendant believed his life was in danger when he acted, you can’t fire a gun from across the street into an unarmed man’s back, and call it self-defense. Not only that, he killed the wrong man, a friend of his intended victim. (A person in the wrong place at the wrong time; which could happen to any of us, at any time. Random dark-sidedness. As my son would say, Welcome to planet-fucking-earth.)

The jury deliberated for only an hour before reaching a verdict on day three of the trial:  First degree murder. 

Nevertheless, putting a 36 year old man behind bars for the rest of his life, murderer though he is, is not without psychic consequences. We, the jury, had no other choice. But still.

As a friend said afterwards when we discussed my experience, “You’re watching peoples’ lives fall apart in front of your eyes” and you cannot help but be emotionally affected. At the end, I was left with a profound sadness that lasted for days. Sadness for the victim, the perpetrator, his children, their mothers, all their families; for communities where random murder has become almost normal; for our society as a whole where such things have become common and no one seems to have an answer.  I hope this is as close to murder as I ever get in real life.

Allegheny County Courthouse, Pittsburgh PA, c 1904.
Designed in 1883 by Henry Hobson Richardson. Build 1884-1888.

Well, something interesting happened during the days of the trial, which convinces me yet again that there are seldom coincidences, and our mental frequency, our state of attraction, determines what we draw into our lives. Yeah, it is definitely anti-climactic, after the above, to talk about a book I discovered, but I think it demonstrates not only the Law of Attraction in action, but also the power of words in the hands of a Master.

On the morning of the second day of the trial, I finished the book I’d been reading (a mystery by one of my favorite authors of the genre, Donna Leon). There's a lot of down-time while serving on a jury, so at lunch time I headed to the nearest discount bookstore in search of reading material.  I came across an author named Walter Mosley. There is an author named Mosley that I want to read, but I couldn't remember the first name. Was this him?  On a chance, I bought the book.  

As it turned out, Walter Mosley was not the author I had been looking for, but that didn't matter once I started reading.  In the book, The Last Days of Ptolemy Grey, Mosley writes eloquently about the human experience, through the often harsh lens of the contemporary African-American experience. Coincidence? 

Even though the book is not a mystery story, it was uncanny how settings and events in it related to my experience of being a juror on a black-on-black murder case. The book's protagonist, talking to a friend about a shooting victim, says:  “…so you think [the shooting] was just some mistake, somebody thought he was somebody else?”  Whoa! A person in the book has the same unusual surname as a person mentioned during the trial. The motive for the murder in the book is a love triangle. Also true of the real murder... 

I felt as if unseen forces had "sent" the book to help me cope emotionally with the surreal experience of the trial. The Last Days of Ptolemy Grey is  filled with Mosley's lively imagination and wit, and plenty of compassion. In spite of the often gritty settings and events, it was a joy to read. The contrasts and similarities between the fictional and the real shape-shifted in my mind as I read the book during recesses of the trial.

I finished the book, sitting on my sunny patio, the Saturday after the trial. I started to cry, and could not stop. Ptolemy Grey is a very old man, who dies at the end of the book. With a 91 year old protagonist, this is not a spoiler. But my tears went way beyond the death of an endearing fictional character, obviously, and the catharsis was intense. I couldn't start another book for days, because this one kept resonating in my mind and heart, softening the memory of the trial which also continued to haunt me. 

So, many thanks to Walter Mosley for giving me an escape valve for the head of emotional steam built up by jury duty and its consequences, and to whatever Power sent the book to me when I needed it most. To attract a book like The Last Days of Ptolemy Grey into my life, I would almost do it again.

"The great man say that life is pain," Coydog had said over eighty-five years before. "That mean if you love life, then you love the hurt come along wit' it. Now, if that ain't the blues, I don't know what is."

Walter Mosley, The Last Days of Ptolemy Grey

Moonrise over the patio, 3 days before the trial started.

I’ve also learned that Mosley is the creator of the celebrated Easy Rawlins mystery stories, which I've not read, but will now. 

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Invasion of the Flesh-Eating Slugs!

My cat Shadow is an avid hunter (note the flexed paw at the ready.) Being mostly solid black, he is, literally, a shadow and hunts in perfect nighttime camouflage. It is not unusual to awake and find a small, furry trophy on the back porch. Occasionally, it might be a feathered trophy, which is worrisome because I love birds. But, what can I say? He is a CAT!

Recently, he brought home a kill that I did not find until after others did. Specifically, ants, and one gluttonous slug. Rhymes with ugh! I can’t think of any garden creatures more hateful than slugs!

RE the above photo, I get the feeling that the appearance of Bizarre Bazaar Shoppe in my life is bringing certain tendencies of mine to the forefront. I find myself looking at skull jewelry a lot lately. Find myself practicing gothic blackletter at my calligraphy desk. Even thinking about getting a tattoo.  And I don’t think I would have, pre-BBS, bothered to photograph a flesh-eating slug.

Be that as it may, the advent of BBS has been totally a positive event, no doubt about it! Tectonic plates move faster than my art career, so every bit of exposure helps. All exposure is often a springboard to more opportunities.

At Bizarre Bazaar Shoppe, you are intrigued but never feel like you’ve wandered into some pervert’s private realm. I overheard this comment while putting up title labels for my works: “Look at this! It looks just like the thing in—what was it?  Oh--The Addams Family!”  (The movie, of course. I wonder how many younger people who saw the movie, know about the TV series? Let alone know about Charles Addams himself??)

Like Addams’ classic cartoons, the offerings at Bizarre Bazaar are an immersion in what I would call Classic Creepy. Often sincere, sometimes tongue-in-cheek. A strong ambience of Edgar Allen Poe and Victorian gloom pervades the space. There are lamps made from animal spines, taxidermy, dolorous poppets, dusty relics of dubious origin, vials of secret potions and other references to arcana and dark magic. There are also enough references to white magic to keep it just this side of Knockturn Alley. However, if one night a year to celebrate the dark side does not suffice, here is a place to get your Halloween fix year-round! (See my previous post for a peek at the shop, as well as links.)

And, as everyone knows, Pittsburgh is Classic Creepy’s hometown, thanks to George Romero and Chilly Billy Cardille, with whom my teen-aged self and  friends spent many a horror-filled Saturday night with the TV on and all the lights off!   MMWA-HA-HA-HA-A-A-A!!!

Thursday, July 31, 2014

Collagitation now at the Bizarre Bazaar Shoppe!!

Recently I had the opportunity to consign 17 collages for sale in the Bizarre! Bazaar! Shoppe, located in the Most Wanted Fine Art Gallery satellite location at the Waterfront, in Homestead, PA. I first discovered BBS while delivering a painting for an Associated Artists of Pittsburgh group show at MWFA in June. I was so taken with the intriguing shop, I put together a little album of my own macabre art, showed it to the lovely Proprietress, who then  invited me to bring in some pieces to offer for sale there!

You can see some of my collages in the center image.
It was great to pull all that art out of plastic sleeves in binders, where most of it's been stored since 2010, and put it into frames (a process which is worthy of a blog post all its own. Why did I think I could mat and frame 12 pieces in one afternoon? Daft!)  Here are photos of some of the pieces in the shop:

Never Looked Better
Mixed Anatomies (top), Masks (bottom)

My Dark Heart

Remorse (on easel)

Spiral Staircase (top) and Party Hat (below)

Grouping of the above, along with Death on the Wing (top left) and Aunt Letitia's Parlor (Tribute to Edward Gorey) (lower left)

If you're in Pittsburgh, please stop by the Waterfront in Homestead and take a look!  Most Wanted Fine Art (#9 on the directory map in the link) is located on Amity Square behind Leow's Theater, across from Starbuck's, next to the Gap. (Ironic, no?)

Bizarre! Bazaar! Shoppe is the brainchild of Dr. Morose and Miss Macabre, aka Nick Noir and Macabre "Mac" Noir. Artists, performers, entrepreneurs, magician, seer, they encompass a variety of talents, sensibilities, and knowledge both arcane and mundane, in their amazing personages. And they are really nice people!
Nick and Macabre Noir
Here are some other links to their worlds of mystery and decadent beauty:  Nick’s dark and delightful instagrams;  Mac’s instragrams.

Here are links to the original posts for some of the artworks at BBS (I've changed some of the titles):

As you can gather from the name of the shop, Bizarre! Bazaar! caters to those with a darker sensibility. Capitalism with a twist! I’ve been interested since childhood in the macabre. Like my Mom, I loved ghost stories and scary movies. Still do. I’m also interested in the sinister aspects of history, art and literature and I thoroughly enjoy producing collages in that vein. Although my work isn’t all “dark,” a lot of it tilts in the direction of irreverence and irony. It’s a short slide down a slippery slope from that to outright tilted. So…why make “dark art”?

Dark art is, first of all, fantasy. Fantasy without the pink-tailed unicorns and glittering fairy-godmothers come to save the day, but like all fantasy, it is an escape from reality. It can also be an attempt to explain an indecipherable existence, or to build a safe space against an intolerable one. Or simply a way to amuse yourself. Or, perhaps it is just us trying to get comfortable with our own mortality.

Death can be a great enigma to us body-bound souls, lumbering about in our meat machines. (Are we driving it, or is it driving us?)  I guess we usually envisage departure from the meat machine as a traumatic experience, even though, "we" are not destroyed, only sent on to the next leg of the journey, or perhaps reunited with the Source. Yet death evokes all kinds of worrisome questions: Will it hurt? (I doubt if it will be comfortable, if only because the m.m. struggles against its demise.)  Will I go to Heaven?  (Only if you truly believe you will—click your ruby heels together and repeat three times…)   Will I see my departed Loved Ones? (I certainly hope so!) Will I meet the Grand Overall Designer?  (Not if you believe that’s some grouchy, white-bearded patriarch, sitting on a cloud smiting and smoting and generally behaving like a prick.)

Albus Dumbledore, revered by many of us, said:  “To a well-organized mind, death is but the next great adventure.”  So why do we Fear Death?  Probably its simple fear of the unknown:  we can't know for sure what is really, REALLY going to happen beyond that portal. Some of us are comfortable with Mystery, others not so much (they have Religion, the great comfort blanket, instead.)

My very perceptive son recently commented that there are people who get psyched out by the realization that there is whole, working skeleton, right inside them, all the time! “Ewww, creeeeepy!!!”  So let us get used to the fact that we all carry our own creepiness within us. Putting it into artwork is, I think, preferable to letting it turn us into monsters (which, as we see every day on the news, Religion can certainly do.)

NOTE:  if you are the easily offended type, please disregard the parenthetical statements above. HA!!

Another individual revered by many of us, the inimitable Edward St. John Gorey, was asked by his long-time friend, Paul Theroux, (quoted in Theroux's excellent book, The Strange Case of Edward Gorey) why "stark violence and horror and terror were the uncompromising focus of his work." Gorey replied, “I write about everyday life.” In other words, being alive is not for the timid. Witness the Gashleycrumb Tinies! So we use dark art to help us cope, help us laugh--or at least grimly smile-- at the bigger Darkness ahead and within.

Speaking of Albus Dumbledore, I once took a “Sorting Hat test” years ago, on one of the many Harry Potter sites. It put me in Slytherin House. That explains a lot! I was not pleased at the time, but now I say, Wear Your Darkness Proudly!

There is darkness inside all of us…
We are what we are because of it, or perhaps in spite of it. 
Some use it as a shield to hide behind, others as an excuse to do unconscionable things. But, truly, the darkness is simply a piece of the whole, neither good nor evil unless you 
make it so.    
Jenna Maclaine, Bound By Sin

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Collagitation’s new lease on life!

St. Theresa in Excelsis
Recently, a couple of things occurred to bring Collagitation back to life. The first was being contacted in June by Virginia artist Karen Whitehill, who wrote to tell me how much she enjoyed my collages after seeing them on the blog. What a treat that was to hear!  We started emailing and found we have a lot in common, as well as each being able to bring something or someone new and interesting to the other. Karen purchased my collage, St. Theresa in Excelsis, partially by bartering one of her own works. These “bible babes” are digitally altered classic religious paintings.  I love them! Here’s a link to see more of Karen’s fun and witty “Hymn to Her” series:

Being a fan of Shirley Temple since childhood, I chose the Madonna & Child print, with Myrna Loy as the Madonna.

Here also are links to some collage artists of whom I was unaware or had forgotten about, until she brought  them to my attention. Thanks, Karen!

Max Bucaille 
(1906-1996), one of the classic Surrealists:
Max Bucaille, Butterf
Dan Hillier
 A contemporary collagist whose elegant work continuously gives me a 
why-didn’t-I-think-of-that frisson of pleasure.
Dan Hillier, Falls
Claudia Drake
another contemporary surrealist:
Claudia Drake, Fire Walk With Me
Paula Braconnot  
A contemporary French collagist extraordinaire. 
Her site is in French, but you can see her work here: 
and link to her site if you are fortunate enough to know French!

Paula Branconnot, Coq

“Meeting” Karen was the first happy incident recently that resulted from my 2010 collage project.

 More to come!

Thursday, December 26, 2013

Memories of Christmases Past...

Christmas Memories 12/25/2013
For 2013, I decided to do a card in tribute to my beloved Mother, Elizabeth, who passed away on Jan 26, 2012, aged 85. This first Christmas ever without her has been a roller-coaster of memories and emotions. Perusing the old family albums to select images for the card was a rite of memory and self-review that I think was invaluable. Maybe we live more in the past as we become older? Nah, that wouldn't work,  life is an ever-forward-pulling path of adventure and challenge. But, in truth, there is value in looking back, and this becomes more apparent as we age.

Only after I assembled the card, did it dawn on me that 2 other family members depicted are also gone, my cousins Lenny and Bill, both of whom died too early.

Some notes I made at the beginning of December:

Listening to Bing Crosby's Christmas recordings (on CD), I feel how much Christmastide is like a warm cocoon, a cornucopia of tradition and memories that wraps one about like wings of a guardian  angel. All the memories come forth, all the old Loved Ones appear again, the old customs take front place, and peace, quiet joy--even the memory of loss--blend in to create a rich tapestry of one's past life---which is also, truly, one's present life.

I put up the tree, and through my hands pass ornaments that were touched by my grandparents and mother, and my little self. Some of these ornaments are well over a 100 years old now. Each one holds a spark, that ignites in my heart and mind, the warmth of those loving hands from the past touching me again.

I wish you and yours, a most Merry Christmas!

Monday, October 28, 2013

Do you twitter? I don’t. Yet. Maybe.

(With apologies to de la Tour)

I already stumbled into the technology gap when I went shopping for a clock radio that also played CDs. Nothing out there but clock radios with iPod docking stations!  No, I don’t own an iPod. Yet. I do have a shuffle that was given to my late Mother for Christmas years ago, but she couldn’t get the hang of using it.  OMG--is that my future? Not yet! But I do perceive that my technology exasperation point is set rather low.

However, art does tend to be a solitary endeavor. More than once I’ve heard, if you want to make art, don’t “have a life.” Stay home and make art! Of course, that’s not entirely a viable route. I think you need to live, to make art. You need to interact, be stimulated, form opinions, as well as guard your time to actually do the work. Full time employment (for those of us who lacked the luck, grace, drive, whatever, to make it in the art world decades ago) only complicates the problem.

So, is social media the answer? Bigger slices of (ever more rapid) life in ever-tinier packages? I’ll admit the instagram thing intrigues me. Walking from where I park to where I work, I constantly see little photo-ops. The No Parking sign bedecked with morning glories blooming in the early sun. The sidewalk weeds that, taken in macro, would look like a forest on another planet.  The Bicycle-Bumper Guy almost stopping traffic on the boulevard (you have to be a Pittsburgher to know who that is!)

Unfortunately, I am not yet smart phone enabled (insert frowny face here.) I do have a cell phone, which came in the mail when my daughter put me on her family plan.  [Aside:  my first introduction to mobile phones came in the 1990’s, in Germany, when they were known (in both deutsch and english) as “handys”; they were about 6” x 3” x 2 “,  weighed about 10x what they do  now]  I have learned to use the little contemporary phone (already obsolete) that she sent me, albeit reluctantly.  Now, I can’t leave the house without it. There is definitely a smart phone (or, as a very clever guy calls them, HTDs—Human Tracking Devices) in my future.

For now, I guess I should start twittering. I accidentally signed up for an account when I thought I was signing on to follow a blog I like.  But, what would I twitter about? My FB page already contains more postings about various ecological, animal welfare and human rights issues urging people to sign petitions (on which almost no one ever comments—that should tell me something), than it does posts about my doings. So, step #1:  educate myself about how to twitter without being a twit.

And, get a laptop. OMG I meant an iPad! No, wait, a SMART PHONE!! I’m still vague enough about them to be utterly impressed when my daughter goes online—on her phone!—to look up something on the internet. I see photos taken with phones that I can’t believe weren’t taken with a “real” camera. OK, when I said that, did you think digital or SLR? Do you recognize the name Kodak? How about Brownie?

I do have a Pinterest account, but I hardly ever go on it. Seems like so much on-line scrap-booking. Step #2:  educate myself about how to use Pinterest to promote my art. (Guidance welcome)

Vining sounds really interesting, because of the creative aspect of making 6 seconds really count!  I think I could do a little video with my ancient Motorola…

“Change is inevitable, personal growth is a choice.” – Bob Proctor

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Art Opening!

Opening of my exhibit at Backstage Bar, Oct 11, 2013

On Friday, October 11, 2013, the fruits of six and a half months of artful labor went on display at the Backstage Bar at Theater Square in downtown Pittsburgh, PA. The show consists of 9 new pieces and  pieces of work that were previously done (but never exhibited.)

There had been some possibility of one of the pieces, “Mermaid Dreams,” being removed due to a reference to “soft porn” in my Artist’s Statement. It seems BB management takes issue with “offensive” nudity. OK, they do serve food, and I can understand people not wanting pussy on the wall when they’re trying to eat (no double entendre intended and with apologies to any prudes among my readers) but it seemed surreal that mermaids could be an issue. Especially as all the semi-nude images of women that formed the mermaids’ torsos, came from classic 19th c paintings. I offered to collage their nipples with tiny seashells if it would help but fortunately it did not come to that (I would’ve removed the piece myself before bowdlerizing it like that, but I wanted to make a point.)  That an establishment associated with arts organizations would be practicing censorship is disturbing. But, in the event, the Mermaids were deemed acceptable and got to strut their stuff on display.  (At the opening, a gentleman and his two alert young nephews sat at a nearby table enjoying a meal before going to the theater show. So, maybe management has a point…) Here's a (rather poor) photo of the work in question, with a promise that all the pieces will be properly documented as soon as the show comes down!
Mermaid Dreams, paper collage, 18 x 29"   (C) Diane Keane, 2013

The opening was a great fun, with many friends and a few relatives crowding into the tiny bar, along with other customers. I got some very nice comments on the work, and 3 pieces sold on the first night. Great! I also heard later that inquiries were made about obtaining prints of some of the works, which of course means a whole new opportunity is opening. The interest is there, why not proceed? I have learned that you don’t get anywhere by refusing a challenge. Onward and upward!

Below are a few photos from the opening, as well as my Artist’s Statement. Thanks for looking!

The bartender at Backstage Bar made the first purchase:  Chair Porn!

Artist’s Statement for Backstage Bar Exhibit                        

It has been a number of years since I picked up a brush! My previous most recent body of work consists of numerous small collages that came out of a collage-a-day project during 2010 (hence the name of my blog, Collagitation.)  The offer of an exhibit at Backstage Bar, which would require pieces on a larger scale, prompted me to take up painting again. I’d been thinking about doing so for years, and I had a backlog of images that I wanted to get on canvas.  For the past 6 months, I’ve been like a kid with a new toy:  paint this, try that, and what about that funky chair idea? An image that has long intrigued me is the fresco of the 3 Minoan women (and ancient art in general.)  I wanted to give them a more contemporary treatment, and I think they stand up to it with complete aplomb.   I also morphed some of my small collage designs into paintings (The Birdwatcher, Once in a Blue Moon) which was an interesting exercise indeed. 

I felt other ideas were more suitable to collage, so I got out the scissors and glue again. The classical female nudes in their languorous poses—the soft porn of their time—lend themselves very well to another ages-old male erotic fantasy, the mermaid. I also enjoy the play on opposites of their marbled-paper tails:  fluid paint patterns imitating hard stone while perfectly capturing sinuous, fishy flesh.

Creating the art for Eccentric Characters has been an immensely challenging and equally satisfying process. It has restored art to the center of my life, and re-kindled an almost forgotten dream, which is to fashion a life where I can do art full-time.  The result is a diverse body of work exploring various ideas and imagery that have fascinated me.  Over time, several of the themes presented in Eccentric Characters will become the basis for entire series of related works. The common thread in all the present pieces, I think, is whimsicality and an off-beat view of the animate and inanimate worlds.

I hope the works bring a smile to your face. I believe art is about communication. Self-expression, yes, but to whom is the artist expressing herself, without a viewer? Although there are many viewpoints worthy of expression, humor emerged as a major component as I produced these paintings and collages. Humor is a very direct, universal form of communication.  Anthropomorphized animals and objects have been the basis of funny stuff for millennia, as has been putting a modern spin on images from the past. I’ve enjoyed following these and other routes to produce these artworks, and I am grateful for the opportunity to dust off my easel and paint tubes, and to work with collage on a larger scale. These have rejuvenated my skills and my desire to continue exploring my visual ideas. I welcome you along for the ride.

Diane Keane, Oct 11, 2013 


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