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 

Friday, September 20, 2013

Eccentric Characters at Backstage Bar--Opening Soon!

It's getting close! I've been concentrating on finishing new work, which includes documenting, installing hanging hardware, matting/framing of the collages...!! As well, of course, preparing a flyer. I did finally add some color to the ladies' skin and eyes, and I think they do look better. I'm a great believer in makeup. (For men too, for that matter!) So, sorrty that there's been no other new art posted here for awhile. Time to get back to work!

Friday, August 30, 2013

Chair Porn...?

Chair Pornography, acrylic, 18x24"

“The Dutch in old Amsterdam do it,
Not to mention the Finns,
Folks in Siam do it - think of Siamese twins!
Electric eels I might add do it
Though it shocks 'em I know,
Why ask if shad do it - Waiter bring me shad roe!
In shallow shoals English soles do it
Goldfish in the privacy of bowls do it
Let's do it….!

--Cole Porter, Let’s Fall in Love

And chairs? Of course they do it, too. Now you know what’s going on at home while you’re away all day. Their anatomy may be a bit more obscure, but where do you think all those kid-sized tables and chairs come from? 
(With the exception of the guys lower left) Foot-stools? Bibelot tables? 
Well, some say they are manufactured that way in factories.
Yeah, right. That’s what they want you to believe!
Now you know the (artistic) truth!!

Monday, August 26, 2013

The Birdwatcher, Again

The Birdwatcher, acrylic, 18x24 inches

Tarsiers are small primates, less than the size of a squirrel, native to southeast Asia. They are bizarre looking critters, but cute! (I was delighted to discover that there is even one known as Dian's Tarsier.) Back when I was working on my collage-a-day project, I made a collage using an image of a tarsier from a 19th c. engraving, and that collage became the inspiration for my latest painting. I wanted to be sure to include it, because the woman who curates art for Backstage Bar told me she particularly enjoyed that collage when she saw it online. The painting is also entitled The Birdwatcher. (Why? Read the old post.) As a largish painting, I had the opportunity to add a lot more birds. I had a great time looking at images of tropical birds, mostly from Indonesia, and I used several, including Asian glossy starlings (the sinister guys on the right with the red eyes), a sunbird (lower left), and my favorite, the aptly named frogmouth (on the right under the blue foliage) as well as several others whose names I forget. Unfortunately, none of the flora or fauna in my painting is to scale, nor do I have any idea of one could ever see all of them in the same place. Artistic license. Or just laziness. Regardless, I hope you enjoy the painting! (And once again, my apologies for the shortcomings of the photography. Where did I stash that tripod??)

More art to come! I do not as yet have an opening date for the exhibit at Backstage Bar, but it will definitely be in October. Stay tuned.

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

New Art: Once in a Blue Moon

Once in a Blue Moon, acrylic, 20x20"

  This is another piece based on a work from my collage-a-day project, “3SIXTY5” in 2010. (I must again offer apologies for the quality of the photo. I seem to be mostly a seat-of-the-pants photographer, with no time to set up tripods, etc.) The original was a digital collage, created on the Polyvore, made for one of those popular “challenge” sites, where a moderator gives a theme, in this case “Something Blue,” and people create pieces based on it. I participated in a number of these challenges during the course of 3SIXTY5, as an aid in coming up with a new idea for a collage every day. It was also a great way to meet creative people, though my goals for my art go way beyond the hobby level, gods willing. I doubt that I would’ve conceived this painting without having first made the digital collage, and that was composed based probably more on what images were available on Polyvore, than on any preconceived design. I am not normally drawn to fairy-tale themes!

Translating a small digital image into a full-scale painting is an interesting exercise. Some of the elements would not translate well to paint, such as the glittering digital stars and the ribbon of blue moon mojo streaming from the moon to the frog.  I was able to suggest these in the painting with (I hope) reasonable results. Other elements, such as the linear flourishes, I thought would not be as effective on a larger scale.
The diamond or harlequin pattern in the background is one of my favorite decorative motifs. It is always associated with the character of Arlecchino (“little Hercules”), the strutting, agile, but dim-witted acrobat from 16th century Italy’s Commedia dell’Arte. The roots go back much further (you can learn more than you ever wanted to know about Harlequin in an Australian designer’s BA thesis, here.) Regardless of the source, I love the energy and rhythm of the pattern, a checkerboard gone bonkers!

The princess in the original digital piece was taken from Leonardo’s Lady with an Ermine, but in my painted version the resemblance is mostly lost. If I could convincingly imitate da Vinci, I wouldn’t need a day job! I also used her image in one of my first collage works, posted in February 2010, here.

I think most relationships can be viewed as kissing the frog:  you plunge ahead and HOPE that the very attractive frog will turn out to be a prince. All too often, it’s the other way around—you start with a prince and end up with a frog. Maybe even a poisonous one, who expects you to change the way you treat your friends, so as to accommodate his froggy insecurities!—or is this getting too personal?? Yes, I have ended up with one or two frogs over the years, but I am certainly not waiting for my prince to come, thank you very much! Art, books, gardens, music, dear friends, interesting worlds to explore via the internet—life is a feast! So, I wish you Bon Appetit!

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

New Art: T.G.I.B.C.

 I promised new art for this post, and here it is! Or should I say, here they are? The 3 Minoan ladies from the famous fresco in the Metropolitan Museum of Art have been reborn as timeless party girls, imbibing their way through eternity on an endless supply of wine (provided by hunky dudes in loincloths!) Thoroughly appropriate for an art exhibit in the Backstage Bar at Theater Square. I propped the painting on the patio table and snapped a quick shot, so apologies for its shortcomings. Now that I'm working larger, I'll have to get out the tripod and borrow a good camera for documentation photos.  

This piece seemed to take an inordinate amount of time to do, and I’m still not 100% sure it’s finished. In keeping with their appearance in the original mural, I left the ladies’ skin-tone pale, almost white. But I’m not sure if it doesn’t look like I forgot to paint them? Having taken so much liberty already with the original image, I’m thinking my ladies could benefit from more color. This piece is more like a colored drawing than a painting, which also somewhat disturbs me. I think some tweaking will take place, but I need to distance myself from it a little bit.

I’ve started on the next painting, which is based on my collage, The Birdwatcher. Stay tuned.

Other stuff:  I recently discovered a wonderful blog which has become my escape from the daily grind. Ben Pentreath is a British architect/interior designer/purveyor of home accessories who divides his time between his office and shop in London, and his property in the Dorset countryside, The Old Parsonage. He could probably make a living as a photographer, too, based on the beautifully composed photos on his blog (see sample below.)

The Old Parsonage, Ben Pentreath's house in Dorset
  He loves books, gardening, handicrafts, typography, art—all the things that are meat and drink to me. His posts are always well written, even poetic, and never dull.  Here is the link to his website, click on “Inspiration” to see the blog. As it happens, he just put up a post about brick making! But do take a look at some of his other posts as well, and the archives. I’m tremendously enjoying reading my way through his archives. I acquired a copy of his first book, English Decoration, which is a delight.

Collagitation was always meant to be a blog about my art, but, let’s face it, that’s pretty limiting! Especially since the current pattern of my life precludes making as much art as I would wish, sadly (but at least the bills are being paid, so I’m grateful!) Ben’s blog has made me want to roam further afield for topics. So, my next post will be about…who knows? But I certainly will try to make it interesting. Thanks for visiting!

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Stress Relief

Man Like a House Afire
 Life recently interrupted preparations for my October art exhibit when my car broke down. A week of riding the bus to and from my job took its toll on my time, as well as my stamina, as it actually vastly increased the amount of walking involved. But, in addition to getting an overdose of exercise, I got a lot of reading done, which is always happy-making. I have just about finished Nicholas Haslam's hugely enjoyable memoir, Redeeming Features. Alas, I got very little artwork done, however.

Last Saturday, with invaluable help from my son Joe, and my generous neighbor who loaned me her car for the day, I was able to find an affordable, very low mileage used car! This week I’m back to driving and back in the studio, albeit a bit behind schedule. The above painting, which dates to 1990, might finally get a viewing if I run out of time to make newer work. It is, actually, the only other acrylic painting I'd ever done until starting to work on the Backstage Bar show.

On a couple occasions during the carless week, I relieved stress by spending some time pottering in the garden. Last year, I had started dozens of perennial seedlings, many of which actually survived the winter! Here are the ones already in bloom:

Dianthus barbatus in front of d. wee willie

Dianthus wee willie and d. arctic fire

Dianthus double gaiety
Malva sylvestris zebrina

Feverfew in copious bloom

Silene armeria and veronica spicata

My neighbor has a thriving batch of Seven Sisters roses, which have happily grown right over the fence and are now in the process of trying to take over my back yard.

Seven Sisters climbing over cotoneaster and into the lilac
This photo also shows the recently deceased sweet autumn clematis, not yet removed from the side porch roof. Apparently the thick base of the vine either rotted or was gnawed through. Several weeks ago my cat Dundee brought a chipmunk to the back door, bloodied but not dead, which sprang off as soon as possible. Perhaps the killed vine was it's revenge?  

Here is Miranda, who usually will not let herself be photographed. She  is admiring the beautiful wild ferns growing in the shade of the steps to the upper garden.

My next post, I PROMISE, will have new artwork!

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

How Did The Cat Get In There?

Here is another painting for the show in October, completed at the end of May. It does not have a title as yet, although I guess the title of this post could work as well as anything else. (I apologize for the blurriness of the photo, it was taken, without benefit of a tripod, with my very basic digital camera.) It is based on a photo of a charming old fresco in an Italian house, from the book Italian Style by Jane Gordon-Clark, with photos by Simon Upton (the original illustration appears in the page previews in the link.)

I attempted to give the scene a little twist with the addition of a cat lurking below the fruit tree, watching the birds. However, after adding him, I realized that he kind of throws the whole thing off, since the painting follows the rather primitive style of the original fresco, but the cat is done more realistically. But I like his furry face so much, I couldn’t bring myself to redo him in a more “cartoony” style to match the birds. So I have decided that the discrepancy is part of the humor of the painting. How did a “real” cat get into a fresco? Viewers will either get it, or conclude that I can paint cats, but not birds.

I love to look at ancient art for inspiration, and of course, for sheer delight. The “primitive” look is deceptively difficult to render, even without requiring perspective and chiaroscuro. The original artists were still the highly skilled painters of their time, and their designs are often as sophisticated and complex as anything out there today.  

Monday, June 3, 2013

New Opportunities = New Blog Posts!

Hearts Afire (photographed in my bathroom!)
  I started Collagitation blog in 2010, to observe my 60th birthday year with a collage-a-day project. Although I only made it through about 8 months before exhaustion did me in, I produced what was, for me, an astounding number of artworks. All of which are here on the blog. My posting has fallen way off since then, as has my productivity, except for the book illustrations in 2012 (see post from October, 2012.)

Happily, honest effort is never wasted, and in 2011, my collages got me juried into the Associated Artists of Pittsburgh. I posted some of them on my member page on the AAP website, where they were seen by the co-manager of the Backstage Bar at Theater Square. In April she emailed me and asked if I’d be interested in exhibiting my work there in October 2013. YES!!

Backstage Bar is petite establishment at the back of the Cabaret Theater in Pittsburgh’s “cultural district.” It also opens onto Katz Plaza, the heart of the district (and which, by the way, has granite eyeball seats designed by the late Louise Bourgois, visible in the link.) Backstage Bar caters especially to before- and/or after-performance patrons, not only from the Cabaret Theater itself, but also the Pittsburgh Symphony, Pittsburgh Opera and Pittsburgh Ballet Theater in season, the Civic Light Opera during the summer, as well as a variety of musical and dramatic performances taking place in the many venues within walking distance. (You can check all these out using the sidebar links from either of the sites above.) In other words, it is a fun venue with a cultural twist, situated in a fun part of town, a wonderful spot to enjoy a drink or meal with friends, as I did recently, at the al fresco tables on the plaza. And perfect for getting the work of local artists, which they consistently display, before the eyes of people who appreciate art in many forms. What an opportunity!

The catch is that my detailed collages, designed on a small scale so I could work them up as quickly as possible, and framed behind glass, are not the ideal works to display on a 30-foot long wall above a row of bistro tables. Thus, I was asked to exhibit larger work, which I assured them would be no problem! I estimate I will need a minimum of 12-15 pieces, ranging in size from 12 x 16 to 24 x 36 inches, to do justice to the space. I have all the way to October, so NO WORRIES, right??? I plan on doing mostly paintings, some of them based on my collage designs, although I may do a few large collages as well. Time to dust off those tubes of acrylics...

I started in April, 6 months out, on a schedule of at least 2 paintings a month, to reach 12 pieces by the end of September. Presently, I am (sort of) one painting behind. However, the more I paint, the faster and (I hope) better I am getting, and I have some tricks up my sleeve for when I get really desperate. It took me a few weeks to get over that feeling of panic every time I started to work, not having painted on any large scale in decades. Now, I am enjoying the heck out of it and can’t wait to get to work each evening when I get home from my day job! Hearts Afire, above, is the first acrylic painting to be completed (12 x 16"). It is based on an ATC I made years ago.

So, Dear Reader, you are welcome to follow along on my latest adventure, Will She Finish Enough Paintings for the Show or Will She Have to Leave Town in Disgrace Come October?!?


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