#12. The Last Creative Third (or 1/4, as the case may be)

#12. The Last Creative Third (or 1/4, as the case may be)

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If life is a pie, mine is at least two-thirds gone; no way of telling how much of it is left, of course, but it’s a pretty good pie, all things considered. Not to be cliché, but we’ve all heard that this aging thing is not for sissies. Turning sixty is not like turning 59, no matter what they try to tell you. So, I’m toughening up. And as an artist, I (once again) decided to reinvent what I’m doing, at 60. Women artists reinventing themselves is not uncommon. One of my absolute favorites is Beatrice Wood, who, in her late 30’s after years of dance, theater, art, travel, love and passionate liaisons with fascinating people, including Marcel Duchamp, found her true creative path through ceramics. Her pie was a wonderful, rich and large one; she lived passionately until 1998, aged 105, creating extraordinary art until the end. She was known as”the mama of Dada”, and the character of Rose in the film “Titanic” was based on Wood. An incredible life story.

I shock myselfBeatrice Wood’s autobiography. Best title ever.

When I turned sixty last spring, I had no idea where my work was going. I knew that I was pretty much finished with the work I’d been doing for the previous eight years, which was metaphorical, emotion-driven, symbolistic, and based on personal narrative. 

unsafe hanging72“Unsafe Resting Place”  2009. charred paper sewn with bronze wire, canvas, acrylic, branches, bird. 22x24x41″ ©2014 Karen Rand Anderson 

my message

“Getting the Message”  2010. graphite, acrylic, gouache on paper. 38×50″ 

©2014 Karen Rand Anderson 

Enough, already. “Let it go”, said my inner wisdom. “Move on. Do something healing. Like, paint landscapes, of places you love, that are beautiful.” OK, I said.  I will. Georgia said something similar, and through her passion, drive and creative commitment,  immersed herself completely in her beloved New Mexico landscape until her pie was gone, at age 99. More about Georgia O’Keefe here.   (I can never get enough) Like anything newly begun, I’ve  having an awkward time trying to get to where I envision my current work to be going. I had a show in the fall of 2013 of some of these new paintings, and.. well, let’s just say, the work wasn’t ready to show yet. Nevertheless, I put it out there, for better or for worse. Live and learn.

krause showSome of the new landscape work, Krause Gallery, Providence RI, September, 2013

One can spend time & energy going back over the would-haves, could-haves, should-haves.. hashing over the choices that were made in art + life, (not to mention relationships), but it doesn’t get you anywhere. It’s far more productive to stop looking back, and focus on going forward.

not looking back“Not Looking Back” 2010. graphite + gouache on paper, sewn onto linen. 32×38″

© 2014 Karen Rand Anderson 

One more extraordinary woman artist:  German-born Meret Oppenheim (1913-1985.) Meret was the “enfant terrible” of the surrealists, moving to Paris at age 18 and connecting with artists Hans Arp,  Andre Breton, and Alberto Giacometti  among others, including Duchamp. This  December 2013 interview with Meret’s niece, Lisa Wenger shares wonderful details and anecdotes. (With thanks to Hyperallergic)

oppenheim book

I was gifted this incredible book  by my professors when I graduated from my MFA program at Johnson State College/Vermont Studio Center, in 2010.

Oppenheim was also a muse for Man Ray,who did a 1933 series of nude photographs of her.  (Scandalous…) Sculptor, conceptual and installation artist, painter, photographer, Meret made art until her death, at age 72. As for moi, I’m just going ahead now with these paintings of place, season, energy and light, reflections of what I’ve seen and where I’ve been and how I feel about it all.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA“Late Light on the Marsh I” 2013. mixed media on canvas, 30×30″. ©2014 Karen Rand Anderson 

Which is not to say that I won’t be doing ephemeral sculptural installation and mixed media stuff again…

chairs“Forgiveness Bower” sculpture and “A Tentative Embrace” drawing, from my show at Cate Charles Gallery, Stonington, CT, 2010  ©2014 Karen Rand Anderson 

I just never settle for one medium, one concept, one process, one creative endeavor. My life as an artist would be much easier and well-established if I could focus on one thing and do it well, but — I can’t. So be it. In the meantime, the pie is constantly being nibbled at. Every so often, I think about that, and wonder how much (or how little) is left of it. There is no sense in worrying about it. But I find that I feel a sense of urgency these days, to get into the studio as much as possible, to get lots of work done, and to be patient with myself. The energy level is not what it used to be. So– whatever gets done will get done. And that’s OK with me.

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Postscript:  Interesting to note that all three of these incredible women artists did not choose motherhood, as I did; they chose their work instead. They sure as hell made the most of their last thirds. Good inspiration for a sixty-year-old starting over…

#11. Look/See: Thomas Deininger at Van Vessem Gallery, Tiverton, RI

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Ok, so the guy might be a genius. Since I am not qualified to designate what “genius” entails, I’ll leave it up to you. But to see for myself, I took a drive the other day down to Tiverton, RI to go see Tom Deininger’s  raw, mighty and meaty work currently on view at the somewhat new (opened May 2013) Van Vessem Gallery, curated and directed by artist/owner Marika Van Vessem.

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Deininger is a painter, yes, seeing with some sort of x-ray vision that defies explanation, but what gets you is the fecundity and raw beauty of the work, along with humorous, timely and sometimes frightening imagery, not to mention painterly craft. The sheer quantity of work, as well as all the various processes in evidence, is astounding.

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Loads of small paintings pack the walls, randomly mounted edge to edge, along with large complex digital prints, sculpture, video installation, and his incredible trash art, composed of multitudinous tidbits and cast-offs; largely plastic, and things probably unmentionable. I don’t know. Impossible to tell. But look closely at the following images, a large 3-d self-portrait in trash.

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The large dead sparrow collage is stunning. Image

Detail of sparrow’s head.ImageWearable art hats and other things.

ImageDon’t even ask me to explain this video/found object/recycled stuff installation. Suffice to say it boggles the mind. You have to see it to get it, and even then you won’t get it. Brilliant. (Those eyes are actually composed of weird stuff, and there are little cameras trained on them, and the images are projected onto the monitors. Or something.)

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No way can I attempt a comprehensive review of this show. Therefore I invite you to check out  Tom’s website as well as this article: Natural Landscapes Recreated in Junk , which gives a good overview and provides wonderful images of some of his recycled-stuff art.

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 I found this Deininger quote from a 2009 interview:  “Perception is really the backbone of my work. I think that all art, even reality, is about perception. And so you’ve got one thing up close and it coalesces into something else all together from a distance. So, just the idea of what is reality, what is truth, has everything to do with perception… It reminds me of how slippery it can be, what is real and what is true.”

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Indeed. In  looking at the prolific and edgy work of Tom Deininger, one gets that slippery feeling of “wtf is real, anyway?” The show is up until Feb 3rd, with a closing party on Feb 2nd. Check out Van Vessem Gallery’s Facebook page for details.

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#10. Stopping Trying

Confession: I used to try to be a certain way, look a certain way. I wondered if I was beautiful enough, smart enough, cool enough. Wondered how others would see me and/or my art. If my art was “good” enough, different enough, unique enough, powerful enough, inventive enough..If it was really meaningful. And on & on. Although I’ve consistently fought this stupid and annoying monkey on my back, it’s a constant process to shake it off. (“What? You think that’s GOOD ART? who are you kidding? who do you think you are?” ) This stuff is all a product of fear. Fear of what? Being rejected? Being hurt? Failure? Being seen as stupid? Being found out that I’m not really who I pretend to be? (see: impostor syndrome)

I know I’m not alone. It seems so many young (or not-so-young) emerging creatives are SO concerned with being edgy, cool, hip, trying their damnedest to impress. What about just DOING? Making? Saying? I know the feeling so well. Wanting, desiring, hoping for acknowledgement and “success”, wanting to stand out in the crowd, be “different”, get “known”.  Don’t all artists?

Maybe not.

“If we are willing to open ourselves up and be laid bare, to respond to the moment and without hesitation, to connect deeply with our audiences’ eyeballs and the minds behind, we will be freed of the bullshit that holds us back. We will tap into the deep wellsprings of creativity that lie beneath our artifice and style and self-conscious crap and hesitation and self-deception and excuses and fears. We will make art of truth.” Danny Gregory

Artist/writer/thinker all-around amazing and inspiring human Danny Gregory recently wrote a truly brave post regarding fear.  I’ve been ruminating on this topic quite a bit recently, and interestingly enough, over the past few weeks, I’ve been coming across references to one of my favorite books on the subject, which if you never read (in art school, or out, or whatever) you’d best find it– “Art & Fear: Observations on the Perils (and Rewards) of Artmakingby David Bayles and Ted Orland. (1993, folks, and still as timely as ever.) Funny how when something is percolating, references keep showing up. Somehow, my old copy of Art&Fear has been missing. I was actually looking for it yesterday, in my studio, when a visitor happened to mention it in our conversation. No luck. Then this morning, reading some comments on Danny’s post “The Fears of a Clown“, there’s yet another reference to the book.. so bingo—-I look in my bookshelf (where I’ve looked a ton of times before), and find it immediately. (dust-covered.) Obviously I’m supposed to re-read it. So I will.

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 To quote Danny Gregory, again: “At their core, drawing, painting, clowning, all art, are about letting go, responding from your gut, trusting, working hard. Can you let go of all your preconceptions and finally, truly, truthfully see? Can you embrace and trust your audience rather than trying desperately to impress or con them?… Art is not entertainment. It is the way to what matters in our lives. To conquer our fears, we must face them, turn their ugly lies to beautiful truth, and share what we have made of them on the page or the stage.”

 Funny thing. As I’ve begun stopping the “trying”, I realize I no longer worry about what others think, so much. I’ve begun just “doing”. {I will not quote the famous footwear company here, but you know the deal}

“There is no try, there is only do.” Yoda

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# 9. New territory

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Territory: Terrain. Ground. Land. Place… Striking out into new territory implies leaving the old one. Exciting, intimidating, courageous. Over the past six months I’ve made a conscious shift from the sculptural mixed-media work and text-informed drawing I had been doing for some years to landscape painting. In my distant past I painted (didn’t we all?) — everything from figure + still life to landscape. Later on, around 2006-7, I was exploring the idea of landscape through abstraction and energetic expression– not painting places, but playing with shape, color, line, etc. and turning it into landscape. Now I’m re-exploring landscape informed by intuitive mark-making, layering of color, gestural brushwork, and spontaneity, and referencing place. It’s a revival of my love of nature, beauty, land, vista. And a departure, a welcome one, from the emotionally-driven, personal narrative work of my (fairly recent) past, which focused on relationship, using metaphor and/or symbolism, specific imagery, objects and text. Which is not to say that at some point I won’t go back (or forward, as the case may be) to doing sculptural work again. I love the hands-on manipulation of 3-D stuff, especially burning paper and sewing it with bronze wire  as well as playing with all sorts of materials for collage and assemblage. (Bring on the glue!)

Landscape, to me, is more than painting pretty pictures. It speaks of place, wayfinding, “carving a path”… In the words of author Dominique Browning:  (“Slow Love Life”)– “We don’t find paths, do we? We carve them, into what seem like impenetrable terrains, never certain where exactly we are going even when we are certain we are fooling ourselves.” At this point,  I’m not certain of where I’m going, or whether or not I’m fooling myself. But I’m in the studio, being brave, consistently challenging myself even as I ask “why does the world need another landscape painting?”

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Although, I can answer that too: it’s about the energy of the work, the intention, the quality of place, mark-making, and letting go of the desire to shock, stand out, or say something “profound.” It is, for me now, the experience of creating the painted surface, infused with passion and beauty. The word “biophelia” comes to mind : “an innate love for the natural world, supposed to be felt universally by humankind” (Also: Bjork’s  project .)

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So– I’m striking out, one stroke at a time: curious about where the path is leading, where I’ll be going this year to find even newer territory, and leaving you with a question: Are you making radical shifts this year, in your life/work/medium/concept? Is your territory new or comfortably old? I welcome your comments– after all, the real reason I’m striking out here is to expand my tribe, my vision, and my work, and hopefully yours as well.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA“Barrington Summer House”  30×30″.  mixed media on canvas © 2014 Karen Rand Anderson

#8. Look/See: A winter’s walk on the High Line

Image The High Line in winter,  from Washington St. & Gansevoort St.

Last weekend, I finally made it back to New York. City, that is. You’d think that since I’m an artist living in Providence, RI, which is only three hours away from NYC, I’d get there frequently to be immersed in art + culture. Alas, ’tis not the case. So, the first big thing on my list was to walk The High Line. (Other things, like getting to the MoMA, or the Whitney, or the Balthus exhibit at the Met, just didn’t happen.)

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Railroad tracks & birches& winterberry

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For a wonderfully written and creatively comprehensive overview of the High Line, go see Michelle Aldredge’s blog post  from her extraordinary art blog, Gwarlingo. It’s where I first heard about the High Line project. Here you’ll find dozens of Michelle’s  stunning photos, along with lots of historical reference photographs, and you’ll learn all about this phenomenal project. Just reading about the High Line can make you want to get involved, even if you don’t live in New York.

libertyyou can’t see it, but the Statue of Liberty is right out there…

Just think– this is what can happen when a few highly creative, driven activists with vision and a lot of hutzpah get together to make something happen. And millions of people, not to mention all of New York, benefit from the beauty of this project. Since I read Michelle’s High Line piece over two years ago, I’ve wanted to get to the city to walk the High Line and revel in experiencing this incredible park, which is perhaps the most beautiful urban success story ever.

white wall

Incredible white wall, windows included

Quite the bright mural, 23rd Street, ( I think.) 

To learn more about the High Line, including its public programs and art installations, visit the High Line website.

Walking from my daughter’s tiny Lower East Side apartment up to the meat packing district to get onto the High Line, we went through Washington Square Park and were lucky enough to catch some Chopin and Debussy from the crazy piano man. Astonishing, really. Talk about commitment and creative drive, and sharing one’s passion and talent. People get to hear this guy every weekend in the park, as long as it’s not raining.

Remarkable classical pianist, Colin Huggins

The one gallery I was able to get to was Rooster, to check out Providence artist Max Van Pelt’s  solo show: an intriguing and exuberant wire, wood, string, and odd-bits-of-things installation, along with his delicate and curious counterpoised wire sculptures and works on paper. Wonderful and beguiling.

Max Van Pelt’s installation at Rooster

My all-too-brief NYC visit was all about walking (and eating), and we walked over to Brooklyn across the Williamsburg Bridge in the rain on Sunday afternoon.  I can’t wait to get back to NY and walk the High Line in the spring, and/or summer (the plantings are incredible) and get to all the other places I just HAVE to go. (Of course, that would take more than one lifetime….no more excuses!)

#7. Launching on the new moon

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“Bald Porcupine at Dusk”  12×12, mixed media on board. © 2103 Karen Rand Anderson

As the old phrase goes…  “Let ‘er rip” . So, it’s January 1st, 2014, which happens to coincide with the Capricorn new moon, an excellent time for beginning something that is crafted from an internal, thoughtful place. You know that feeling of starting a new painting/project/piece–  making the commitment to do, begin, create with passion; having the gumption (love that word) to go for it..? I’ve made a 2014 commitment to myself to confront my fears, my past, and my future; hence, the launch of this blog, “Cleaning Up the Studio“. Welcome… I’m glad you’re here. (I’m glad I’m here!) I hope you’ll scroll down and see my previous posts… this blog has been private until today, coinciding with the new moon which, I’ve just discovered, is considered a “supermoon”. Quite cool actually.

Now that the solstice has passed, winter’s darkness is beginning to lessen, day by day. (Thank God.) I’ll be wrapping myself up in studio work, getting ready for my upcoming show at Alexey von Schlippe Gallery in April. I’ll also be thinking about and planning what to focus on here— writing, wondering, questioning, and marveling, while continuing to be inspired by the words and insights of so many others [see sidebar]. Art, writing, and messes will get made, that is, until that tipping point is reached, when I can’t get anything done in the midst of the chaos, and it’ll be time to clean up the studio again, start afresh, and get new stuff going. I do love cycles.

In the meantime, I’m stumbling around as a complete newbie in the art blogosphere. So please forgive the bumbles and faux-pas as I get going with content, comments, and concepts. By putting myself out “here”, I plan to share my art and studio thoughts, make connections, get exposure, interact with other artists and bloggers, shed light on things, sprinkle inspiration, and pose questions. I’ll be posting images of my work, which is available for purchase… Let me know if you’re interested.

And by all means, please let me know what you think — I’m looking for my tribe. Join me?

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