Brittini Renee returns to Art Copy to share her ideas about the contemporary artist. She has recently joined her creative efforts with community projects that raise awareness and resources. I’ve enjoyed being an onlooker to the creative development of this young artist, poet, and now community animator. Please join us for an interview with a gutsy young artist who continues to find her own voice, style, and purpose.
Art Copy: Welcome back to Art Copy Brittini Renee. Would you like to introduce yourself? Where do you find ideas for your work?
Brittini Renee: Life! I can be walking the dog, playing with my kids, or washing laundry and BOOM! a idea hits me.
AC: Do you feel that your art reflects your personality?
BR: I feel that my art reflects not only my personality but also my opinions. Some opinions are more pronounced in my art than other’s but regardless, its always there if you look hard enough.
AC: How has your practice changed?
BR: My practice has not changed just matured. I have ventured into using mediums that I have never used before, which has caused my art to slowly become more mature/advanced.
AC: You’ve been busy writing a novel, have a book of poems available on kindle, and have been organizing community projects. I remember reading one of your poems last March and admiring your courage in defining your own individual style. Looking at your new art, I’m impressed by how you’ve been able to marry your creativity to your private concerns with the world around you. In Mother’s War, for example, you’ve neatly joined your art with your concern for climate change into a practical fundraisingcampaign.
What is the artist’s role within their community?
BR: The artists role in the community whether its music, art, writing etc. is to inspire and share. Artists bring relief to the world in the form of their art. Art can inspire others to do amazing things. Art is more powerful than most realize.
AC: Your response is inspiring in itself. Yes, it must be powerful to inspire other people to come together and create and recognize beauty in the world around them. I admire how artists like you, or Gilda Oliver, and other community animators bring diverse groups together with concrete projects that grow each individual’s creative skill set. More of these kinds of projects would give our communities a welcome lift, I think.
AC: Do you employ specific themes and symbolism in your work?
BR: The themes and symbolism I employ differ from collection to collection. But the majority of them all inspire positivity and self-empowerment.
AC: What is your favorite viewer response to your art?
BR: Comments and Likes show me that people appreciate my passion, which is more than enough for me. Every single viewer is important to me as each Like inspires me to continue sharing.
AC: Do you have any grievances with the art world and how it operates?
BR: There are many artists such as myself that enjoy creating art, as it is their true gift. BUT, unfortunately too often than not we are forced to work jobs that strangle our passion. And in the end most artists disappear before the world really knew them simply because they had no one interested enough, or was not seen enough, to make their passion a career.
AC: You make a sobering point, I think. Many artists will never realize their gift because of the way that the art market operates.
Have you always wanted to be an artist?
BR: I have ALWAYS wanted to be a artist. As soon as I discovered crayons I knew this is what I wanted my career to be. It allows me to express myself in a positive light and also share my views with the world. What better career could I ask for?
AC: Thank you, Brittini Renee for sharing your ideas and art with us. <examples in progress in the top header>
For more information about the artist, please see:
In the following interview, Lorena Kloosterboer discusses her experience growing up in the Netherlands and in Argentina. Her unique experience leads her to identify herself as a Dutch Latina. The artist also elaborates on her indefatigable creative ambition. She is a successful painter and writer of books as well as monthly articles with reputable publications like PoetsArtists. Please join us for a discussion with an artist who has experienced broad support and shares a unique point of view.
Welcome to artcopyblog.com. Would you like to introduce yourself? Who are you and what do you do?
LK: My name is Lorena Kloosterboer. I grew up in the Netherlands but spent time in Argentina every year visiting my maternal grandparents and family. Both parental cultures imprinted me with complementary behaviors, as well as contrasting social models.
Neither typically Dutch nor Argentine, I consider myself to be a Dutch Latina. I’m an amalgamation of both cultures; a combination of the down-to-earth, open-minded rationality of the Dutch and the emotional, expressive flamboyance of the Argentines. In social situations I’m an extrovert, but I cannot keep that up for long—I crave solitude, quiet, and time to myself to be truly happy.
I’m an artist and a writer.
As an artist I paint contemporary realism, in which I seek to capture the fascinating interactions between colors, light, shadows, textures, and reflections, and unite them in visual poetry. I love painting—for me it’s meditative, even though I’m quite organized and methodical in my approach. I plan and think ahead of each brush strokeso that each gesture purposely builds substance. My aim is to portray my subject matter in such a way that it looks photographic from afar, yet shows my hand from up close. It’s important to me that my work involves beauty. To date my art has participated in well over one hundred exhibitions in art galleries and museums in eleven countries.
As a writer I’ve authored a big fat reference book about acrylics, which has been published worldwide in American English (for the US and Canada) and a British English version (for the UK and Australia). A Dutch translation has also been published in both a soft and a hardcover edition (for the Netherlands and Belgium). I’m very proud of this book and the response continues to be very positive and sometimes quite overwhelming—in a good way.
I currently write a monthly art review for the independent art magazine PoetsArtists. As might be expected there’s a novel inside of me waiting to blossom, although time constraints constantly push it to the back of my to-do list. I love writing, especially in English—for me it’s the best way to express myself clearly. As with painting, my writing is best done behind closed doors, in solitude, where I have time to think about the meaning and the resonance of words and the way to articulate my thoughts as elegantly and beautifully as I can.
AC: Your achievement; writing books, monthly reviews, and painting in a spectacular style that requires concentrated attention to detail is impressive, indeed.
Why do you do what you do? Have you always wanted to be an artist?
LK: Although I was a creative child it never occurred to me I could become a professional artist, so in high school my ambition was to become a fashion designer. Through twists and turns of life, this career choice and associated studies met with a brick wall—a story too long and complex to tell here—so in my early twenties I attended classical art school in Buenos Aires, Argentina.
Due to the sociopolitical climate at the time, I encountered quite a few unexpected stumbling blocks during my art schooling. Instead of letting them derail me, these obstacles fueled my determination to become the best in my class. Happily, I not only achieved top grades but also won two important awards, and incredibly, I sold my first pieces to American tourists visiting the ‘Paris of South America.’ Experiencing appreciation and satisfaction through art made me realize it would always play a central role in my life. My art has come to define me as a person.
I’m an explorer at heart, a bohemian, I like to move around. I’m curious. I like to investigate, think, understand. It’s very important to me to live a non-destructive life. Painting and writing essentially fill my soul’s needs; the contemplative solitude, the introspection, the creativity, the freedom of expression, the luxury of self-determination to keep my own hours and schedule my tasks according to my needs. The resulting external rewards—such as appreciation or sales—fill me with deep gratitude and joy.
AC: How do you work? What does “being creative” mean to you?
LK: My work starts with thinking about which textures, color combinations, and thoughts (symbolic content) I want to work on next. Sometimes it revolves around one object that catches my eye, or it starts with a thought or emotion I want to express. I gather objects—either from my own collection,or borrowed from others—and set up compositions, which I then photograph in different lighting and arrangements. When a composition stands out—when it sings to me—I feel a tug at my heart. It feels like falling in love, it’s exciting!
This happens when I see pleasing characteristics such as subtle shadows, interesting color schemes, beautifully shaped lines, a clear expression of form and textures. This infatuation gives me momentum and drives me. Ideally I can hold on to that fascination during the entire process. Once in a while, when I’m lucky, the enchantment continues beyond the finished stage of a piece. Being creative, to me, feels like being in love. Creativity is seeking out that joyful feeling, that high, and holding on to it.
When there are technically difficult features in a composition that make me feel uneasy, then I know it’s the right painting-to-be. Let me explain. I get bored quite easily so I need to challenge myself, especially on a technical level. I eschew repetition, I need novelty to keep me interested. Each painting needs to give me a certain angst.
I don’t want to paint something I know I can do easily, I crave a touch of adventure, that thing that scares me because I may well fail. This is a double-edged sword. Some paintings fail because I mess up or can’t reach the required artistry. When I’m not satisfied and can’t fix it, it has to go (i.e., resolutely roll over it with gesso, start anew). On the upside, I learn a lot from my mistakes and when I do get it right I feel I’ve conquered a challenge. Stepping out of my comfort zone keeps me coming back for more.
The painting process feels very meditative and intimate, especially when I work on smaller pieces. I use brushes on about 90% of a painting but have taken up using the airbrush for subtle transitions and smooth gradations that are hard to accomplish using fast-drying acrylics and brush. My paintings are built up in many thin layers of mostly transparent glazes, with which I manipulate values and color through optical mixing—a process I call the ‘push and pull.’
AC: I’m was wondering if you have a favorite city for seeing art?
LK: First place comes New York, then London.
AC: Do you feel that your art reflects your personality?
LK: Yes, absolutely—I think it always does, somehow.
My artwork reflects my need to make the world a better place—even though I realize that I may do this in a very small insignificant way, it is nonetheless my intention. I want to make others feel good by painting graceful subject matter with care that can grace someone’s habitat. I think my artwork also shows my need for being in control of at least one tiny part of life, as seen in the meticulous planning and lack of spontaneous brush strokes, as well as my need for rationality and harmony, as seen in the absence of unintelligible content.
Both my painting and writing are based on the traditions of realism, which to me is an essential component in order to express myself well and make my intentions clear to viewers and readers who need no explanation or translation to be able to understand my work.
AC: Do you feel that your practice has changed over time?
LK: In my early days I started out painting figurative pieces, a combination of the human body, flora, and fauna. Using mostly myself as a model, I created nudes surrounded by animals, flowers, and other natural phenomena. I wrote poetry to accompany my pieces. And I also painted and sculpted portraits on commission.
As a sculptor I made a name for myself when my first public statue was unveiled in my hometown—subsequently several additional public sculpture commissions followed. I’ve always felt enormous satisfaction and pride knowing these bronzes are there to stay well beyond my time here and it’s comforting to know I can visit those fruits of a much-younger self anytime I like.
Profound changes occurred after moving to the US in 2000when suddenly my art came to a screeching halt. I suffered painters block—a condition I didn’t believe existed until it struck me. It was devastating, I suffered terribly at losing the essence of my being. After trying numerous different self-help methods, I managed to break the block by changing medium (from oils to acrylics) and, after the dismaying realization that nudity was a big no-no in Southwest American culture, I also changed my subject matter (from figurative to still life).
Fast forward to today—I love painting still lifes in acrylics, but lately have been yearning to dip into the figurative genre again. As a personal challenge I recently painted a self-portrait which gave me a lot of pleasure. If time allows, I may paint another self-portrait again next year.
AC: That must have been very frustrating. I know that I feel as if I’m going to blow a fuse when I have writer’s block.
What do you feel are some of the most inspiring things happening at present?
LK: Having crossed the threshold of living half a century, I realize I’m probably at my personal best on an intellectual and emotional level—I’m more thoughtful, more stable, and more aware than ever before. While I regret the loss of physical splendor, I’ve never felt better about my life. I am loved and supported. I take pride in my artistic, social, and intellectual skills. I say this in the sense of comparing my current self to yesteryear’s self—I see no point in comparing myself to others, we all walk different paths.
However, I’m a realist. So I see time is starting to run out and, while I’m not afraid of death, I realize time is a-flying. I feel a certain urgency to work hard at what I do best, share my experience and knowledge, and enjoy all the wonderful things in my life to the max. As a consequence, I’m much more focused—inspired if you will. I’m increasingly allowing less room for negative or disruptive influences in my life. I have no patience for obstinate ignorance, unjustified egotism, or competitive pettiness; by moving away from the negative I create more time and energy for the people and things that are edifying and genuine.
As for my art, I’m not looking for fame or prominence, but I do enjoy the respect and recognition I’m receiving, which in turn lead to interesting projects, commissions, exhibitions—and some amazing friendships! I love that my artwork goes to homes where it is appreciated and I love that my writing is well received. I’m very grateful for these riches—they inspire me and propel me forward.
AC: What is the artist’s role within their community?
LK: Artists must determine what they themselves and their artwork can offer as a contribution to society. Somehow, I believe the intention of the artist can oftentimes be perceived in the work. Great art inspires us; it makes us think, it elicits an emotional response, it transports us to another place and time, it makes us feel we are part of something so much bigger than just ourselves. It’s inclusive; great art has no need for language, it transcends borders, nationality, and social boundaries. So our first and foremost goal should be to create great art.
Moreover, I do think artists as individuals and as a group need to embody and live by the standards of what we are collectively known for: artists are supposed to be the freethinkers, the nonconformists, the visual philosophers, the pacifists living next door. We should uphold and defend the norms and values of openness, conviviality, and understanding within our social circles, starting amongst ourselves within our artist community.
Artists know firsthand how rejection feels, so we should be the first to reach out or offer support to others, especially other artists. Artists need the art community to feel understood and to gain insight and valuable feedback, so it should be clear that arrogant rivalry, petty jealousy, and exclusion are harmful to the ideal of supporting the arts.
AC: What art do you most identify with?
LK: Without doubt, Realism—in all its forms and expressions. Besides an emotional reaction to the subject portrayed, I need to see a level of exquisite craftsmanship and artistic thoughtfulness for it to move me.
AC: Which artist do you think is most undervalued?
LK: Allan Gorman. I think his current work is spectacular.
AC: What’s the last art object that you purchased?
LK: I bought a portrait of myself by the Dutch artist Caroline Westerhout. She painted me with loose strokes and unusual colors,and truly captured my essence. I also acquired a small whimsical self-portrait by British artist Tom Mulliner, in which he portrayed himself as Napoleon.
AC: What work do you most enjoy?
LK: I enjoy all stages of my work, but the most enjoyable moments are those in which I find myself being taken over by ‘flow’—that miraculous illuminating force that guides my hands, provides unlimited energy, and erases time and space… the results of which always far exceed expectation. Unfortunately, I have never quite been able to find the formula to summon ‘flow’ on command, but oh boy, when it happens I am at my happiest. It is beyond orgasmic.
AC: What themes and symbolism do you employ? What do you wish to communicate with your art?
LK: Although the viewer may not be aware of it, I express myself constructively by conveying positive philosophies through symbolic content. Serenity, purity, wisdom, awareness, and clarity are recurring themes. I’m convinced that beauty truly is in the eye of the beholder—in other words, the viewer sees what he/she needs to see and since this is subjective and personal, often the viewer’s opinion reflects more about themselves than about the art. However vague and nonobtrusive my intentions, I believe they will somehow reach the consciousness of those open to receiving them.
AC: What was the last show that you saw and how did you like it?
LK: The exhibition’50 Years of Photorealism’ in Musée d’Ixelles in Brussels. It was the second time I saw it; the first time I went to interview some of the artists in it, the second time I went to look at the work in detail accompanied by a friend. I love photorealism and this exhibition shows the evolution of the genre. It’s a treat to see these works up close, to study the techniques, and compare the older with the younger generation of photorealists. Most big name photorealism sells to collectors before it shows in public, so seeing this many pieces—many from private collections—together in one place is wonderful!
AC: Do you have any grievances with the art world and how it operates?
LK:My biggest pet peeve in the art world relates to the so-called purists, who, regardless of their genre, try to dictate their individual preferences on technique or style, as if it’s the only legitimate way of expression. It’s one thing to state your personal proclivities, quite another to express them as universal rules. This arrogance should have no place in the art world. It bothers me that this influences starting artists whose creative paths and development may be severely constrained and limited by listening to these patronizing figureheads.
Art is about doing your own thing, dancing to your own tune, being restricted only by the limits of your own capacity and the mediums you work with. Since I started painting at age 16 I’ve heard a gazillion perplexing rules, such as, ‘never use pure black or pure white,’ ‘don’t paint from a photograph,’ ‘don’t use a projector, ‘ ‘only paint from life,’ ‘only use broad brushes,’ ‘always stand at arm’s length of a canvas’ … etcetera, ad nauseum.
Being a stubborn contrarian, each time I spot a new art rule the first thing I do is break it! Although some artists will disagree with me, I believe that in the end the result is more important than the process. While the process is essential and highly enlightening on a personal level, the result one begets is public—how one gets there should be dictated by personal limitations only.
AC: What is your favorite viewer response to your art?
LK: All positive responses are highly appreciated! Regularly I receive emails from complete strangers describing how seeing my artwork has impacted them, which is truly heartwarming. It reinforces my belief that my art truly does have a positive effect.Of courseit makes me really-really happy when someone buys my work. The exchange of money for my art, besides being useful to me, is also a way of the collector saying, ‘Your art is precious to me, I can’t live without it.’
AC: Could you tell me about your most memorable response to a work of art?
LK: Many come to mind, but I received the most unusual compliment around a decade ago. During my first solo exhibition in the early 1990s, a young man fell in love with a painting—a large symbolic self-portrait of me chained to a huge praying mantis—but couldn’t afford it at the time. It was one of the few pieces in that exhibition that didn’t sell. I moved several times, but kept the painting in storage, rather forgotten. He got in touch with me two decades later to inquire about it and bought it for its original price. Realizing that someone fell in love with my work and continued thinking about it for so many years, is to me, an amazing compliment!
AC: What do you dislike about your art?
LK: Hmmm… well, my work takes a lot of time. I wish I could execute it faster, be more productive—be a faster painter. I’ve tried cutting corners, loosening up, simplifying it, but somehow my work always ends up being intricate and tight. Not being able to let go of a painting until I’m completely satisfied with it means that it eats up time. I suppose it is what it is—my art governs me, not the other way around.
And another thing I dislike—maybe it’s not linked to the art itself, it’s more about me—is that I’m not very fluent in speaking about my own art to others. I can talk about almost any topic to virtually anybody. But when it comes to art speak I often just withdraw. I’m envious of artists who just babble on and on about their work, making sure the focus of the conversation is kept right where they want it. I’m better at writing about my work, but I can’t very well hand out little explicatory text cards to people at a cocktail party, can I?
AC: What do you think that future generations will recall about the art world today?
LK: I have no idea, but I fervently hope they will see this decade as a historic period in which renewed appreciation for contemporary realism and true craftsmanship regained its footing and reclaimed global respect in an art world gone completely bonkers over modernism and the crazy art market bubble.
AC: Do you collect anything?
LK: Oh yes! Lots of things… I collect ceramics, especially Delft Blue, Asian, and 1930s pieces. I collect glass, both decorative as well as utilitarian (e.g., champagne flutes). I collect pill boxes from around the world, little decorative animal figurines, miniature perfume bottles, silver objects, books, loads of books… I’m a human oil spill—every horizontal surface at home is soon covered with something.
AC: Where do you find ideas for your work?
LK: Everywhere! At home, in restaurants, during travels, antique stores, museums (especially of Decorative Arts), in books and films, online in image galleries… I keep several folders of images on my computer; for example, one contains inspirational ideas with annotations, another has a vast library of compositions I photographed but haven’t painted yet, and another contains interesting color schemes and textures. When I look through them, they often lead to new visual ideas that I can then develop and elaborate on.
AC: Do you have any creative habits or rituals?
LK: Yes. I take time to think about the physical step-by-step actions before I start painting each day. I picture them in my mind, like a movie, before I begin and often talk myself through them. Compulsive list-making is a good way to organize myself when juggling multiple projects at once, I love ticking off items on those lists. I also have a wall full of colorful notes in my studio with good advice to myself. One I look at every single day says, “Keep it simple.”
This is a concept that shakes me, in that it stops me from going overboard with overwhelming out-of-control details. When I break this rule it’s done consciously and with purpose. I tell myself this keeps my work balanced between two extremes (i.e., too simplistic versus too elaborate).
In the following interview, Brooke McGowen shares her carefully considered ideas about herself as an artist and the purpose that her art serves in society today. She also brings a unique spirit of affirmation to this conversation about the contemporary artist. Please join us in our discussion with an individual who leads with her heart.
Art Copy: Welcome Brooke McGowen. It’s great to talk to you again. Would you like to introduce yourself further? Why do you do what you do?
Brooke McGowen: I paint to survive. It is necessary. Working with the material paint is existential. The irresistible possibility of beauty, the pure sensual joy of color. I am a painting addict. Art comes from a place of passion. The artist shares their deepest feelings. Maybe that is the meaning of art, a message from the heart.
It is not about money. Maybe that’s why we look to art to be a revolutionary voice in these times when people are being silenced. I feel so bad about what capitalism is doing to the planet. Art is especially relevant now where our values have been sold out to commercial interests. It can point the way towards human values.
Art Copy: It must be gratifying to have discovered an avenue for interacting in a meaningful way with the world around you while simultaneously nourishing your heart’s desire.
I was wondering if you identify with any particular art styles?
Brooke McGowen: Street art because it is an attempt to break down the barriers of the art world (art market) and carry the artist’s message directly to the people.If you see street art, you know that artist risked his freedom to bring you his message. Far from expecting remuneration, he can reckon with a jail sentence if caught. This message is so pressing that the artist is willing to forgo sleep and foil police to deliver it.
Art Copy: That level of commitment is commendable. Some art lovers appreciate the art-object solely for its enjoyment value, I sense. While there isn’t anything wrong with art appreciation, I’m discouraged when art is assessed solely for its entertainment value. But, I digress.
Do you employ specific themes and symbolism in your art?
Brooke McGowen:Sexuality is an important theme for me, as an artist and also in my life. Sexuality is also a political theme since the repression of sexuality is an instrument of power. This is seen in the Republican attempt to control women’s bodies, a type of modern witch hunt. Sexuality has always been a theme of art, often cloaked in religious or mythological images. Think of Danae and the golden rain, or Venus in myriad representations or Suzanne Bathing,
Much art in the past has been devoted to the beauty of the female figure. Figurative themes have the power to suggest a situation that the viewer can identify with. The figure is the symbol for the individual, in the picture which is the world.
Art Copy: Your response reminds me of Eunice Lipton’s research on Manet’s Olympia, and his portrayal of a real woman owning and returning her gaze to the artist and the viewer almost in challenge. I find it disheartening that 150 years after contemporary culture demeaned the painting and the seeming impropriety of an independent woman, that there still is so much gender disparity in our world today. It’s more than a disgrace that women continue to be objectified and dehumanized in ways that are hard to see and measure.
Where do you find ideas for your work?
Brooke McGowen: Living in the present is a source of inspiration that feeds you with ideas both literally and subconsciously. If you were a mathematician, this feed would come in the form of numbers. If you are a visual artist, it comes in images. These images are composites of everything we experience.
My themes are universal, personal and political. I make no difference between personal and political since society is a reflection of the people who live in it. The artist is the third reflection, reflecting inherent values of an ideal society. The artist holds the mirror to society, comparing the real to the ideal. Society could be ideal if it was based on sustainable community and protecting the planet, instead of corporate greed. One horrible example is the mountain of garbage created in New York City every day. This is totally unnecessary. France just banned plastic tableware.
Art Copy: What does being creative mean to you?
Brooke McGowen: Opening the floodgate to the subconscious where like in a dream state random images appear and you paint them without knowing what it means. The next day you see it in the cold morning light and realize what it is. But that is also only a subjective interpretation. Everyone will see the painting in their own light.
Art Copy: Would you please tell our audience a little bit about your process?
Brooke McGowen: I squirt the liquid paint directly out of the bottle onto the canvas. This causes the paint to swirl in uncontrollable motion. I try to coax the flowing paint by gently tilting the canvas. The figure so suggested will define itself through the random interaction of the various colors.
Often I will see strange images appear and disappear as the paint meanders towards its resting point. It is impossible to stop the flowing motion of the paint and capture the desired state. I am always surprised at the outcome. If the semblance was destroyed, I will continue it the next day with fresh courage.
Art Copy: How has your practice changed?
Brooke McGowen: I used to paint with a paintbrush, but there is only so much you can do with a paintbrush. All these brushstrokes have been seen before. If you want to use a brush, you must top Van Gogh. That will be difficult. Or DeKooning, what a genius. To take painting to the next level we will need to discard old methods and concepts. There are many things that must go out the window, the outline, object color, perspective, to name a few.
The paintbrush is only one of the things that must go. Everything that impedes the rhythm andflows of color elements in an abstract composition is going to get in our way. Since we are applying the criteria of abstraction to figurative scenes, the figure is subjected tothe rhythmic flow of color elements.
Each element defines the figure while simultaneously creating an abstract flow of color. Each color element is a rhythmical element in a color movement but also a space element and defines a level of space that corresponds to the relative space requirements of the figurative situation. This is Cezanne’s color relief space unleashed.
Art Copy: What was your most memorable response to a work of art?
Brooke McGowen: I cried in front of a Cezanne because his color patches were so lovingly placed with such delicate intensity. Did you ever read Proust’s description of a famous composer dying in front of a painting by a great painter because of the way the little yellow corner of a wall was painted? Well, he mayhave intended this passage to be ironic but I could certainly identify.
Art Copy: I don’t remember reading it. I’m sure that I’m sure that I would have remembered that.
I was also wondering what you wish to communicate with your art?
Brooke McGowen: I want to communicate a feeling of freedom, freedom that creates form. The form is determined by the inherent qualities of the material that are revealed when you respect the laws of nature. This is not the destructive ‘freedom’ of capitalism, where corporations are free to pollute and destroy nature. This has nothing to do with freedom but only short-sighted greed and stupidity. I mean the freedom and beauty of nature when it has the right conditions to create and sustain life. That is our next step as humans, to respect and revere nature for its creativity to which we owe our existence on this planet.
Art Copy: Since I’ve been examining the contemporary artist, I find that some artists are overtly political while others follow in a tradition that actively avoids references to politics. It’s almost as if these artists don’t want to drag their art through the stench of politics.
Others like yourself seem to embrace the idea of the artist as an active agent within the world community. Mati Russo, another artist who I’ve been lucky enough to work with, discovered after 9/11 that she was compelled to make art that spoke to the reality of the world around her rather than appealing to the senses alone. In each instance, there is a real commitment to making the world whole in your art.
Do you feel that your art reflects your personality?
Brooke McGowen: No, not really. I try to forget myself when I paint and let the paint unfold its natural properties. My personality is more OCD, a control freak. Maybe this is the best form of therapy. I need to let go. If lucky, the paint can escape me.
Art Copy: What do you feel are some of the most momentous things happening within the art world at present?
Brooke McGowen: Seeing this clown circus of an election reminds me not to take anything too seriously. I hope everyone in this country and around the world is seeing what a farce this bought-out democracy has become. It is government by the rich and for the rich at this point and the people have been deprived of their voice by corporate lobbying and unlimited campaign donations. This election is a mockery of sanity.
Art Copy: Do you have any grievances with the art world and how it operates?
Brooke McGowen: The art market is a caricature of capitalism. Value is created out of nothing like on Wall Street. It is all about speculation, creating bubbles of hyped up value. It has nothing to do with the real value of art. The real value of art is to touch people’s hearts, not how shiny or expensive it is.
Art Copy: The burst in the present art market points to the real uncertainty and disruption that these practices lead to for many.
Gailene McGhee St. Amand might appear at first glance to be a regional artist. In the interview below, for example, she speaks of herself as a Catholic living in a place where voodoo is practiced. Upon closer inspection, her art is relevant within a mainstream context. Artsy magazine recently emphasized the importance of a generation of transformational artists, traditionally seen as outside of the mainstream, who would no longer be denied recognition.
Although St. Amand’s art may seem to resonate with local color, it also speaks to traditional creative concerns. For starters, she emphasizes color, texture, pattern, animation and more, in her tactile, and lovingly composed art. The artist also touches upon larger ideas. Her preoccupation with fonts conveys an interest in how human beings communicate in visual terms. Finally, St. Amand lives within a sophisticated American culture. In a recent article, Business Insider described Louisiana as New France, one of the most liberal places in North America.
Welcome to artcopyblog.com. Would you like to introduce yourself? Who are you and what do you do?
My name is Gailene McGhee St.Amand , and I am a mixed media collage artist who was born in New Orleans LA. I lived in Jersey City NJ for ten years where I joined two artist groups, ProArtsnj.org and HobArt cooperative.
I am an artist; it’s what makes my soul sing.
Art Copy: Is there something that you wish to communicate with your art?
Gailene McGhee St. Amand: Simply that I love color and love what I do.
Art Copy: Have you always wanted to be an artist?
Gailene McGhee St. Amand: Yes, I created paper dolls, drew objects at home and always found color animation very interesting. I always noticed patterns on fabric and realized that someone had to create it from an idea. As a teenager, I would visit the galleries in the French Quarter and the museum to look at the Artwork.
I began as an oil painter, painting portraits of women on canvas. I had a small studio at the University, one day of the professors stopped to say hello and invited me to his ceramic painting class. I joined and started painting portraits on 12” x 12” bisque tiles. The same oil painting technique was applied to glazes that were opaque, semi-transparent and transparent as the properties of oil paint. I sold them all, the bisque tiles are no longer available.
Art Copy: Has your practice changed over time?
Gailene McGhee St. Amand: My perspective changed from representational portraits in oils on canvas, to abstract watercolor collage, when I decided to work on my own voice in my work. Watercolor and ink on rag paper were once my painting media. That was great, but I wanted to work fabric into my collages.
I had a wonderful introduction to collage and assemblage in a workshop at Tougaloo College. I was interested in handmade and found paper. Papermaking, phototransfer, burning paper, tearing papers were techniques that I use in my work. I have since created dolls, artist books, ceramic portraits on bisque tiles and fiber wall hangings.
Art Copy: You are the first artist working in these mediums to join the group conversation. I feel lucky to have found a participant who brings another layer of meaning to the discussion.
I wonder if you employ specific themes and symbolism in your art?
Gailene McGhee St. Amand: I am a Catholic living in a Catholic city, where Voodoo is practiced and employ spiritual themes in my art. The fact that color plays a large part in spiritual practices all over the world is inspirational. My work has lots of colors, patterns, and texture. I love ancient script. I find Mayan script the most interesting. At one time I thought I wanted to use these symbols in my work but after researching realized it is the many beautiful characters or fonts that man used to communicate and record its history.
Art Copy: You are also the first participating artist who explores spiritual themes.
I was wondering where you find ideas for your work?
Gailene McGhee St. Amand: Usually after lots of visual stimulation of watching fashion, visiting a gallery or museum, or just going through materials that I work with such as papers, inks, paint, etc.
Art Copy: Do you identify with a particular style?
Gailene McGhee St. Amand: The works of Kandinsky, Gustav Klimt, Benny Andrews, Bonnard, Edgar Degas, John T. Scott, Basquiat and Frida Kahlo.
Art Copy: I see the of influences of these artists throughout your work now that you mention it. For example, Klimt appears to have influenced your style when you were painting on tile, and so forth.
Is there anything that you would change if you could?
Gailene McGhee St. Amand: I would love to work larger. I usually work small because of the space in which I work.
Art Copy: Could you please tell me about the last show that you saw. How did you like it?
Gailene McGhee St. Amand: Stella Jones Gallery in New Orleanscelebrated her 20th anniversary with an extraordinary show featuring 70 works by both established and contemporary artists including myself.
Art Copy: What a lovely honor.
Do you have any creative habits or rituals?
Gailene McGhee St. Amand: I take small pieces of various papers and/or fabric and start assembling on my workspace. I pull out lots of materials, beads, shells, and paints and just get started.
Art Copy: What is your favorite response from viewer to your art?
Gailene McGhee St. Amand: “I love it !”
Art Copy: That must be rewarding when everything comes together and the audience admires your work.
What is your favorite city for seeing art?
Gailene McGhee St. Amand: Sante Fe New Mexico is culturally rich in the arts.
Art Copy: Do you suspect that future generations will recall anything in particular about the Art World today?
Gailene McGhee St. Amand: I think that because of the computerized digital and virtual products will seem Primitive to the future generations.Everything is so time sensitive now, so I don’t know that they will appreciate our creative process.
Art Copy: Thank you Gailene, for the fresh direction and lovely conversation!
Jan Nelson is among an intriguing generation of contemporary artists who have come to creative fruition comparatively late in life. Artspace magazine recently scrutinized this emerging group likening them to a fine wine ready to be decanted. In the following interview, the artist introduces himself and answers detailed questions on a range of topics.
Art Copy: Welcome to artcopyblog.com Jan. Would you like to introduce yourself? Who are you and what do you do?
Jan Nelson: My parents were both musicians and active in the theatre, which put me on the stage at an early age, however, my Mother made sure that I always had art supplies at home, nurturing my interest in making pictures from the ‘beginning’. Given the arts life I experienced, it was really no surprise to find myself in college getting a double major in theatre and art, and a minor in music (Dad was the choir director and also staged several musicals that I performed in, singing and dancing my way through school before turning to stagecraft, set design being the area where I received a TA position in the theatre department before settling into the art studio toward the end of my undergrad years.
That exploration led me to the U of Wisconsin, Madison Art Department where I earned a Master of Arts, primarily drawing, but not before heading off to New York City after establishing residency to spend some time with my friend and mentor, Don Eddy while taking some graduate study at New York University. All that culminated in a move to Puget Sound in 1977 following my completion of the M.A. and starting out as adjunct art instructor at a couple of community colleges teaching drawing, painting, art appreciation and history classes.
My budding art career was derailed early on by the birth of our first child who was born with significant developmental disabilities. That required a shift in priorities to provide the kind of support that having a developmentally disabled child requires. Over the years that commitment to parenting created a shift farther away from time in the studio and required me to seek employment in other areas.
My creative abilities enabled me to move into the emerging personal computing industry in the late 70s as an entrepreneur and co-founding a small tech business focused on disk drives that I ran for 13 years. On a symbolic level, I encountered another seismic shift when climbing Mount Rainier and gaining the perspective that comes from simplifying my existence focusing solely on my rope team’s collective safety.
Through that experience came a revelation that I needed to take my current skill set in high-tech manufacturing and see if I could work with kids to help them enter the workforce. I created some curriculum ideas and shopped the concepts to local school districts, getting hired in my home district in Gig Harbor.
I spent six years as an alternative high school teacher delivering a manufacturing technology curriculum that provided a real-world perspective for my students, many of whom are now thriving in this vibrant industry. During these years, I was contacted a few times by companies asking if I was interested in coming to work for them. In 1998 I accepted a job in program management at Microsoft where I continue to work today.
Along that path, I co-authored 14 patents, 10 of which have been granted so far and delivered features that are in use by over a billion people, built tools for developers to assist them in creating multilingual apps, and served as the Microsoft Internationalization expert representative to the Worldwide Web Consortium (W3C).
Around 2011, I reconnected with artist Don Eddy on Facebook after decades of sporadic contact by letter and phone. That connection reignited the artist in me who had been pushed aside so long ago, sparking a new series of conversations between us and a renewed passion to make art.
AC: Late last year Artspace magazine examined an emerging category of artists who they described as; often over 60, .. has worked outside of mainstream recognition for decades, honing a distinctive style that has been allowed to age and ripen out of the light of the art market. The article likens artists the creativity of artists like yourself and your good friend Allan Gorman to a superbly aged wine. I’m not sure how you feel about the analogy.
JN: I’ll take it, consider me to be a peppery pinot noir then.
Nevertheless, life seems to have had other plans for you when you were a young adult that led you to your own distinctive style over time. A child with an unusual set of needs presents a real challenge for a family, especially a child often navigating inconceivable scenarios in the world around them. It could lead one to be very introspective, I think, in ways that are both welcome and unwelcome. It also seems that the well-laid plans of your younger years were clarified as time went on through encounters with nature, reunions with old friends and so on.
JN: And then another major disruption happened in July of that year when I tangled with a John Deere trackloader on the side of an Olympic mountain and experienced a near-fatal crush injury to my right foot. Following a self-extraction and ultimate rescue chopper flight to Harborview Medical Center and seven surgeries to rebuild the mess into what was hoped to be a durable appendage, I started on the long path to recovery. This effort and the time invested in it gifted me with a chance to reflect on my priorities, resulting in a purer, more fundamental understanding that I needed to make art. Period.
AC: That sounds unthinkably painful, and possibly depressing. Again, you found a silver lining that led you back to your creative process.
JN: In March of 2014 my wife, Connie, and I traveled to New York City where we met with Don Eddy and his wife and artist, Leigh Behnke, our first physical meeting since saying goodbye in 1977. A lot of time has passed since those sessions at N.Y.U. and in Don’s studio, yet in many ways, we felt like we were picking up right where we left off so long ago. Time in their loft, a dinner, and then attending the opening of his exhibit ‘Two Realms’ at the Nancy Hoffman Gallery in Chelsea cemented a need or compulsion to make art as part of the daily fabric of my being. This has driven me to a deep introspection on what my work is about and where I want to take it, reconnecting with my early art and photography and my creative aspirations.
Today I am completing a wonderful studio space on our property in Gig Harbor, Washington where I will be able to spend my time reunited with camera, canvas and paint, a prospect that makes me very excited! I use my cameras and photography skills to capture the world and also paint and do drawings in graphite and colored pencil. I have returned to exhibiting my work and have seen it accepted into a number of national shows. My mission is to create art, to simplify the number of activities in life in order to spend more time in the studio, and create the portfolio that is pent up inside me, eager to come out, and ready to share with others.
I am no longer ‘artist interrupted.’
AC: Thank you for a very poignant introduction, Jan. You’ve been remarkably productive in a range of professions. Additionally, your facile creativity speaks not only to your skill, but also an impressive sense of innovation throughout. I was wondering if you would tell our readers a little bit about your process today?
JN: The camera is core. My work comes from records of, slices of time as I move forward in life rather than setting out to find subject matter. The imagery is really a part of telling my story. The photographs become reference material back in my studio where I work in graphite, color pencil, ink, oil, pastel… whatever the medium needs to be as I set about to create something. Starting drawing from life, I move to creating grids, then opaque projectors and finally into slide projectors, drawing the layout on paper or canvas in pencil, then working in many layers to achieve the desired contrast and detail. This can take weeks or months to do.
AC: Have you always wanted to be an artist?
JN: No, I wanted to be an astronaut, a scientist. I dreamt of travels through space as an explorer, fueled by a very rich group of science fiction writers in the 60s providing pulp for a young boy to consume. But I always was making art all along the path.
AC: I see, possibly you were one of those kids caught up in stars, rocket ships and the depths of outer space. Do you feel that your art reflects your personality?
JN: I am a pretty deep introvert, the work also tends to be ‘quiet’ I think, telling stories of man, man made things, dreams and the effects of time rather than confrontational, ‘extroverted’ works that are experienced as ‘louder’. Early on, I spent time worrying about originality, e.g. John Salt painted a wrecked car, so he now ‘owns’ all wrecked cars, I need to do something else… over time, I have been largely able to separate myself from being concerned about what others do and stay focused on my own journey and explorations and what imagery works for me along that path.
I was concerned about the technical skills I had, spending a lot of energy and time to hone material use. Today, I just use materials and process as it best represents what I am working to resolve in my work, with confidence in my ability. Likeothers, I was concerned about recognition in the form of sales. Today I am grateful when a piece is purchased or a swap made… it feels good for my work to be something that someone else enjoys that much.
AC: What do you feel are some of the most inspiring things happening at present?
JN: I am fascinated by the role of social media in the presentation, sales and curating of artworks as a sea change in how the world has moved and the art world are responding. I am pleased to see art fairs (apparently) flourishing, bringing a vast treasure chest of works to many more people than ever before and in community projects like Art Prize where an entire city like Grand Rapids can fill so many spaces that the community is truly immersed in the arts for awhile, along with how they are evolving events that extend the connections to art beyond the actual shows.
AC: You make some very important points. Social media is revolutionizing not only the way that the art world operates, but also the way that we view art, I think. There is breathtaking potential. Gilda Oliver, another artist who I’ve had the privilege of researching, applied herself to her digital art during a long recovery following emergency surgery and a poisonous spider bite. Social media provided her with an avenue for sharing affirmational messages in her beautiful signature style at a moment when she was very vulnerable.
At the same time, social media has a downside. While it reconnects old friends, it also connects friends of friends, thereby forming uncertain relationships. Additionally, it changes our experience of art. In 2013, ARTnews examined this idea in an article entitled Cut-and –Paste Culture pointing out that our experience online presents us with more information than we can digest. As a result, social media consumers scan for information rather than carefully reading art and articles. While there is great potential, there is also the possibility of distancing ourselves from reality.
JN: For me, I see my community as existing in the social networks I participate in, circles of other artists all working, sharing and providing ideas and feedback together. Through this virtual community, I am connecting with so many stellar artists who are clearly recognized as modern masters, emerging artists and the amazing energy of young folks who are still very early in their creating. My communities, therefore, have no geopolitical borders to them.
AC: What do you think that future generations will recall about the art world today?
JN: I think there is a pretty large shift in the art world with the rapid rise of globalization, of thousands of artists entering the social consciousness, of distributed art exhibiting with the rise of regional fairs and of new collectors who are not connected to the Euro-American traditions and history. All of this will inform those generations, I have no idea what they will think, but would hope that there is a result of more art in the world than there is today.
AC: Do you identify with a particular school?
JN: Brenda, this is a great question, I do not ascribe to any particular school or label, though my use of photographs as the core of my material, the relationship my work has with those photographs tends to raise the term photo realism or similar. There is certainly a connection to some of the artists that Louis Meisel defined as the original ‘photorealists.’
They were a few years ‘ahead’ of me in their careers, emerging as they did in the late 60s and early 70s when I was still in art school. When I first saw the works of Ralph Goings, John Salt, Don Eddy, Richard Estes, etc… it was kind of a spiritual connection that others had some affinities to what I cared about, though I did not know why or how close any alignment might be beyond tightly rendered imagery that related to photographs. So I guess the closest definition does land near that of photorealist, though not as a “first generation” artist. I think the term is a bit overused today and would prefer to consider my work as having aspects of Abstraction, Expressionism, and Precisionism as well as the tight ties to Photorealism and Pop.
AC: What’s the last art object that you purchased?
JN: Randall Rosenthal carves these fabulous sculptures, I have one of them that he did as part of an ongoing dialog we had that started when I was scanning old slides and tossing them into a box. I looked into that box and saw what looked to me like a Rosenthal work, photographed it and posted my activity on FB where Randall and I exist in that virtual community I talked about.
Randall immediately jumped on the imagery and we started talking about his carving a ‘box of slides’ since he also has a massive set of old stuff like many of us do, and off he went creating a cool prototype, leading to a real stunner. This is a photo of the first time I physically met Randall (at the Bernarducci Meisel Gallery in NYC) where he brought the ‘box of slides’ sculpture that he created based on our dialog on FB:
As we continued to talk, I mentioned that I was deep in introspection (Artist Interrupted) from looking into the past at the young artist self from so many decades ago, at the grime, grit and scratches that seemed to have accumulated on the slides which felt like a metaphor for the fact that I am also a bit scratched up after so many years. I was working on a prototype myself of those slides for an exhibition idea I had that I call my ‘Dirty Picture Show.’
Randall responded to that prototype and we collaborated on the idea that evolved into a wonderful sculpture of a legal pad with one of my slides that I’ve used in the past on a work ‘Jorge and the U-Haul Trailer,’ and was the subject of the ‘Dirty Picture Show’ prototype, along with my project notes and a Prismacolor pencil denoting my use of that brand in my drawings. The image below is of that sculpture:
Here is an image I sent of a mockup I made that Randall worked from:
And my prototype work with Randall’s sculpture living together as a set in my home:
AC: What work do you most enjoy?
JN: I have a range of emotions that surface when I am working, enjoyment being the dominant emotion on the work I am doing in the moment. There are those times though when frustration, determination and sometimes a kind of flow state come out to play. I also love the moments when I first encounter another artist’s work for the first time that resonates. That first blush of experience is wonderfuland is also core to what I tend to collect.
AC: Do you have any creative habits or rituals?
JN: I tend to see patterns in things, which I promote by being very liberalin the amount ofphotos I take as I move through life. One habit that has emerged from that and is fueling my current introspection is doing a review scan of my photo archive and looking for patterns that address whatever frame I am working within in that moment. The image might become source material for a new drawing or painting, may stand alone as photographs or suggest a renewed focus in future photography sessions.
An example of this is my focus on work that I am doing for a show coming up at the Nichole Longnecker Gallery in Houston that we’ve labeled ‘Industrialism in the 21st Century.’ Allan Gorman is a co-conspirator in doing the curatorial work with me to define the set of artists and works that are included in that effort, but along the process of creation of the show, I re-engaged with photographs from a trip I had taken into British Columbia with my wife, Connie and a series I have been working on I think of as ‘Pressure.’ I am creating a painting and a photographic triptych for that show. Here is a photo that I am working from for a painting called ‘Pressure #1’.
AC: What do you wish to communicate in your art?
JN: I do not set about to deliver a message as such, but would love to know that some who experience my works walk away with a sense of place, time and the forces of nature, are amused with my use of materials and appreciate the effort I have made along the path.
AC: Those are fine aspirations, and I imagine that are some who do attribute those forces to your work. How do you view creativity? What does “being creative” mean to you?
JN: There is this notion in complexity studies of that space between Order and Chaos where the most interesting things occur. Order is inherently not creative, it is static, unchanging, predictable. Chaos is also not creative, for Chaos is completely unordered and so nothing can be created there. To me creative happens when a system, any system, moves from an ordered state to a chaotic state, breaking down existing patterns and allowing new ones to be formed when returning to a new, ordered state.
I think of it as a sort of frequency, like drawing a bow across the string of a violin, the resulting vibrations are the path the string’s length takes between two states. We all spend time as a collection of biological systems moving between these two states. We must, for staying stuck in Order is death creatively. Likewise, to stay in Chaos is also creative death as I mentioned since there is no pattern creation, nothing can be created in Chaos.
M. Mitchel Waldrop wrote a book, ‘Complexity: The Emerging Science at the Edge of Order and Chaos‘ that provides a great layman’s view of the research done by great scientists and systems thinkers that tend to align with my views, though I would not profess to be expert in this work.
AC: Your definition is fairly precise, I think. Would you please talk a little bit about where you find ideas for your art?
JN: I generally do not explore for ideas, though I am going to a maritime site to look at some things that interest me. The objects of my photography usually present themselves in the course of my life.
AC: Is there anything that you dislike about your work?
JN: Nothing. While there are works that are higher or lower on a scale of accomplishing what I intended, they are all a part of me, and I generally like myself. 😉
AC: Do you collect anything?
JN: Yes. Eclectically. We have art dating from 1638, to current in print, sculpture, painted, drawn and furniture, musical instruments, cars., all prized and things to spend time with.
AC: Do you have any grievances with the art world and how it operates?
JN: None. How the art world operates is more about the market, and that is best left to all those fabulous gallery owners who have invested their lives in defining the market which in turn tends to describe the art world as a set of artists, collectors, museums and the folks who tirelessly work to present the artworks to the world. I am glad they are there, and that I can focus on my own investigations.
AC: What is your favorite city for seeing art?
JN: New York.
AC: What artist do you think is most undervalued?
JN: I must quote the wonderful painter Allan Gorman here: ‘Me.’ To be clear, I am not motivated to be the next Koons with regard to fiscal success, my values are set on making the work I make. There are people who are professionals in the world of art and expert at determining value, collectors and museums who confirm those values by acquisitions. I happily leave all that to those expert and stay focused on making stuff.
AC: Thank you Jan for participating in my research project with responses that have considerable depth. I’ve enjoyed the conversation very much.
JN:Thanks again for inviting me to have this chat with you!
When I researched Allan Gorman earlier this year, I concluded that his preoccupation with visual tension lends itself to mesmerizing compositions and paintings. In the following interview, Gorman reaffirms his fascination with superior aesthetics while elaborating on his transition from advertising to fine art, as well as, the addictive, altered state of consciousness that he experiences painting, his creative process, evolution, and more. I invite you to enjoy a candid interview with an exceptionally skillful artist.
Brenda Haroutunian: Welcome back to artcopyblog.com Allan. Would you like to introduce yourself? Who are you and what do you do?
Allan Gorman: Hi Brenda, and thanks for inviting me back. By way of introduction, I’m a realistic oil painter who focuses on finding interesting compositions within industry and architecture.
BH: I am wondering why you do what you do? Also, is there a special reason why you concentrate on industrial buildings, spaces, and so on?
AG: Interesting question. If you mean, why do I make art? I find the process addictive… if anything, for its meditative value. When I’m painting and in the zone, nothing else matters. All I think about is the task at hand. As a reward, when a work is finished, there’s a great sense of accomplishment and pride in accomplishing something to the best of your ability. I can think of nothing else I’d rather do. If the question is, why do I paint what I paint? That’s been an evolution and hopefully, will keep evolving. For the psychological answer, you’ll have to talk to my shrink. 🙂
BH: Maybe I should ask my shrink to speak to your shrink to get to the bottom of this. 🙂 Could you also tell me a little bit about your process and how you work?
AG: My work is derived from photographs. At first, I’m a curious voyeur, using the camera to find interesting and unusual compositions that I think would make exciting paintings. I search for abstract tensions created by, or found within, the reality I see.
For me, it’s not so much about what the objects are that’s of primary importance, but rather, what interesting and exciting designs are created by the placement of shapes, the light, the colors, and the tensions I find. Then I manipulate and alter my photographic images on the computer to give myself a good guide and reference for a final painting. I then project the image and trace it onto the painting surface with pencil. And then the actual painting itself is a process of building up layers and working out problems. From beginning to end, this can take weeks to many months, depending upon what I’m working on.
BH: I want to go home and try to try that. Do you feel that your style with its emphasis on refined composition reflects your personality?
AG: Absolutely. As a matter of fact, with any art, I don’t think the personality of the creator can’t help but show through. The idea is to be as authentic as you can be. If you’re faking it, that will show too. Personally, I’ve learned that if you do what you love, then your authenticity will naturally emerge.
BH: That’s an incredibly thoughtful answer. How do you feel that your practice has changed over time from your years in advertising to the present moment and your preoccupation with aesthetic tension and so forth?
Well, as I said in the last question. It’s about being as authentic as possible. So, when I began painting again – after a break of almost 25 years – it took me awhile to get to a point where I stopped thinking about whether or not people would like me and what I was doing.
Coming from a commercial background, it was important to please the customer, so back then I would do work with the thought in the back of my mind ‘I think they’ll like this!’ I was trying to please gallery owners and patrons. In that way, the work was a bit commercial and “wanna be-ish”.
But a few years ago, I came across a picture of a Holly Steam Engine that called out to me and made me want to do a painting of it. It took awhile to work up the courage – it was quite complicated, but it kept eating at me. So I convinced my wife to take a drive with me to Buffalo to take some pictures and then went away for a month to paint it. That became ‘SteamPunk’, and I consider it the first ‘real’ painting I made. The experience of working on it was cathartic and fun, and I’m very proud of the result. So now I’ve made the conscious commitment to paint purely for myself, and to keep trying to learn and challenge myself with each successive effort, the experience changed my attitude as well. Now, if people like the paintings that’s fine. And if they don’t, well that’s okay too. It was a seismic shift in perspective.
BH: These are fascinating and poignant aspects of your biography, I think. I was wondering if you would tell me a little bit about what you feel are some of the most inspiring things happening in your work at present?
AG: I was in Chicago last fall and found myself intrigued by the angles and shadows that are created by the rusty elevated train structures. I captured a bunch of photos and now I’m working on a series of paintings I call the ‘under the el’ series. I took some in NYC and plan on doing more of these. I’m using these as the foundation for a show I’m co-curating at The Nicole Longnecker Gallery in Houston, TX from Feb 25-April 1st, 2017.
The show is called ‘Industrialism in the 21 st Century’ and will parallel the great industrialist/precisionist painters from the last century (Charles Sheeler, Ralston Crawford, Lesey Ragan, et. al.) with some of the best artists from across the US and Canada who are carrying on those traditions today. Three of my under the el pieces will be featured in the show. I’m also working on turning this series into a museum exhibition. I’m very excited about the work.
BH: It is exciting. It’s also an interesting moment for art history with tradition connecting. Could you please tell me a bit about what you feel the artist’s role is within their community?
AG: I think good art makes people see differently and feeds their soul. Without music, books, theater, film and fine art, life would be pretty empty, don’t you agree? So we need artists to keep stretching the boundaries and feeding our spirit with their creations. My work, I hope, will do that in a non-threatening way I try to be generous and recruit others who might appreciate what I have to show and share with them. And there are also daring artists who hold up a mirror for us and use their art to create a better society. I’m not that lofty or politically motivated. But I applaud those who are. We need them too.
BH: I agree. Employment prospects for art history students are not good, but I too am addicted. I wonder what art that you most identify with most?
AG: My tastes are pretty eclectic and I like all sorts of things. But I suppose I identify most with photo-realists, modernists, and art that reflects industry. I’m especially fond of American realists and art deco, and trash-can school art from the earlier part of the 20th Century.
BH: Hmm. I see the tone and influence of The Ashcan School in your work now that you mention it. Interesting.! Where do you find ideas for your work?
AG: It usually flows naturally. One idea sparks another. But it all stems from what I see – either directly, or within a photograph or a movie.
BH: Is there anything that you dislike about your art?
AG: I still have a lot to learn before I can say I’ve mastered my chosen medium (oil paint). That will take years. But I often find myself frustrated by my inability to accurately and confidently depict what I see in my mind’s eye.
BH: What is your favorite response to your art?
AG: The best is when I get a new collector who will turn into a life-long ally and friend. To know that something I created will give them joy each time they look at it is the best validation and reward there is.
BH: Have you seen any good art lately?
AG: I attend the major art fairs in NYC when I can and give myself an assignment to find something I love and something I hate. Earlier this year I attended The Armory Modern Show and also Art/NY. I thoroughly enjoyed them both. I also try to get to the NY galleries a few times a year.
BH: What do you think that future generations will recall about the art world today?
AG: The business of art and making art are two separate things altogether. I don’t much care for the former and concentrate instead on my work. I don’t know what future generations will think and don’t want to bother thinking about that lest itinfluenceswhat I’m doing.
BH: What is your favorite city for seeing art?
AG: New York. Nowhere else like it.
BH: What artist do you feel is undervalued.
AG: Me. 🙂
BH: Thank you, Allan, for an honest and thoughtful discussion!
Are you an artist who would like to share your ideas and participate in a larger project? If so, I invite you to take part in an interview and ongoing research about how the contemporary artist operates in the art world today. You’re free to write as much or as little as you like in your response to the questions.
The method to the madness.
Artcopyblog.com is on a mission to collect and publish as many interviews as possible between now and midnight Halloween when I lace on my running shoes. The creative force of NaNoWriMo is a month-long 50k writing sprint that begins November first at 12 AM and ends 12 PM November 30.
Week one flies by in a whirlwind of ideas. I’ll routinely remember that I need to write at least 1667 words per day if I want to finish during week two. I’m ready to give up by week three but slog on despite the tedium. By week four, the finish line will be in sight. I will not be able to write fast enough. I’m on a mission and time is running out as I limp my way across the 50k finish line with the soundtrack to Chariots of Fire playing in my imagination.
I don’t mind doing interviews. I don’t mind answering thoughtful questions. But I’m not thrilled about answering questions like, ‘If you were being mugged, and you had a lightsaber in one pocket and a whip in the other, which would you use?’ — Harrison Ford
I’ve gathered a handful of questions to help me understand your art and you as an artist while avoiding hypotheticals that begin with you being mugged.
A warm welcome to artcopyblog.com. Would you like to introduce yourself? Who are you and what do you do?
Why do you do what you do?
What was the last show that you saw and how did you like it?
How do you work?
What art do you most identify with?
How has your practice changed?
What is the artist’s role within their community?
Is there a question that you are itching to answer?
What’s the last art object that you purchased?
Do you feel that your art reflects your personality?
What work do you most enjoy?
Do you have any creative habits or rituals?
What themes and symbolism do you employ?
Do you collect anything?
What do you think that future generations will recall about the art world today?
What are some of the most inspiring things happening at present?
Where do you find ideas for your work?
What do you dislike about your art?
Do you have any grievances with the art world and how it operates?
What is your favorite viewer response to your art?
How do you view creativity? What does “being creative” mean to you?
What is your favorite city for seeing art?
Have you always wanted to be an artist?
Which artist do you believe is most undervalued?
What do you wish to communicate with your art?
The anthology’s purpose is to examine each artist individually, in relation to others, and to the larger art world. Artist statements provide invaluable content for navigating National Novel Writing Month. Among other things, they tell me where you generally agree and disagree. Importantly, your responses will likely lead to fresh discovery.
Dear reader, if you are interested in participating, please write to me at firstname.lastname@example.org. I will begin editing the anthology in January of 2017. Feel free to answer the questions that interest you, while disregarding the others. Thank you very much!
I’m writing to recommend Mr. Juan Manuel Delgado – a young artist from Costa Rica — as eminently qualified to paint your official portrait representing you as the 44th President of the United States. After researching Juan Manuel’s portrait of Pope Francis for my online magazine artcopyblog.com, I concluded that his style was appropriate for a monumental portrait of an American president who has unequivocally changed the country and the world for the better. The artist’s portrait of Pope Francis exemplifies his ability to capture not only a likeness but also an individual personality.
Mr. President, you uplifted cynical generations on June 3rd, 2008 in your persuasive speech as the Democratic party’s presumptive nominee. In so many elegant words, you said that change wouldn’t be easy, but it could be done.
Those words will be remembered for generations:
if we are willing to work for it, and fight for it, and believe in it, then I am absolutely certain that generations from now, we will be able to look back and tell our children that this was the moment when we began to provide care for the sick and good jobs to the jobless; this was the moment when the rise of the oceans began to slow and our planet began to heal; this was the moment when we ended a war and secured our nation and restored our image as the last, best hope on Earth. This was the moment — this was the time — when we came together to remake this great nation so that it may always reflect our very best selves, and our highest ideals.
In truth, your presidency has revealed that there is more work to do to protect human dignity for every soul than most imagined at the time. Nevertheless, you defied considerable opposition and set far-ranging and lasting reform in motion, and have forever transformed the way that many of us see our communities.
Juan Manuel’s experience with and reverence for Pope Francis also speaks to the dreams of another humble optimist who is guaranteed nothing but presses forward anyway. His aspiration to paint and present Pope Francis with a portrait were not without real barriers, but he proceeded with faith and gratitude. Some miracles happened along the way.
As Shephard Fairey’s posters galvanized a hopeful nation on the verge of electing a great President, Juan Manuel would represent the likeness and personality of one of the most beloved Presidents in American history.
As Pete Souza has captured thousands of irresistible glimpses of a charismatic first family that make us smile and reflect, Juan Manuel’s style would bring grace and quiet drama to a transformational American Presidency.
In my online article, I argued that Juan Manuel’s portrayal of Pope Francis is evidence of his awareness of his place in art history, as well as his ability to portray monumental people who transcend time.
When Juan Manuel was in Rome to meet and present His Holiness with the portrait that he painted, he received an e-mail from the Post Office in his home country of Costa Rica who had seen press coverage of the event and wanted to include a picture of the artist’s portrait on a special issue stamp. These symbols of the exchange of love between His Holiness and the humble artist allow everyday people to hold a piece of this sacred embrace.
Mr. President, you’ve lived up to your promises. I suspect that many Americans would like to be able to buy a stamp symbolizing the moment when the world changed, much as the people of Costa Rica wanted to share in Pope Francis’s embrace with the humble dreamer. For these reasons, I hope you’ll consider Juan Manuel Delgado to paint your official portrait as President of the United States while capturing your transformational personality and a disarming historical legacy.
DeJuan Hunt II’s art coalesces around invention, play, and superhero creativity that expand definitions of art.
After exploring Hunt II’s stylistic invention New Persuasive Art earlier this year, I concluded that his art falls within the parameters of traditional art history. At the same time, it offers the possibility of lateral, rather than binary analysis. The artist sees himself within art history. He recently said that he’s going through his variation of Picasso’s blue period. The selfie of him meditating with Rodin’s The Thinker shows the artist playfully tapping into the creativity of another artist who questioned convention. His friends liken him to Raphael because he realized success at a young age. His fascination with inventing new styles is not unlike Da Vinci who saw himself first as an inventor.
While art history is easy to understand, it is often misleading. The art world traditionally defines art through a process of qualification and disqualification and retroactively plots the art object on an evolutionary continuum that begins with prehistoric art and concludes with contemporary art. Typically, a coffee table monograph summarizes art history in a big picture book that is easy to understand and asks few questions. In practice, it pairs glossy photos with narratives that rely on too much speculation.
The academic world subscribes to a similar invention. Unfortunately, we’re in quicksand from the beginning. While science provides general dates for prehistoric imagery, it knows little about the people who made it.
There are similar problems at other plot points. Ancient culture employed skilled craftsmen to make magnificent work that glorified the city-state. The medieval faithful created imagery that served devotional and didactic purposes. Neither the ancient laborer nor the medieval maker of religious imagery would be considered artists according to a modern definition of who an artist is, though the art world assumes it so. It’s inconceivable that these societies viewed imagery as a contemporary culture would. The notion of art as the residue of humanity’s creative impulse dates roughly to the time of Michelangelo. The idea has been reinterpreted by countless artists since.
Artists who don’t fit are excluded, or poorly represented. Artists from remote areas making modern abstract art, rather than preconceived notions of tribal art, are allotted an awkward slot in the archaeological branch of art history that takes explaining.
Ironically, these cultures manufacture objects for tourists interested in taking home a souvenir. Masks and spears are made and sold only as commodities. While these objects may be aesthetically appealing and well-crafted, they nevertheless do not reflect the local art community.
Finally, placing these objects in museum spaces for aesthetic analysis further supports a methodology that values easy categorization over nuance. While urban societies value technological advancement in their cultures, they expect faraway communities to remain fossilized in time. Although art scholarship has a legitimate stake in accurately defining art, the art world continues to perpetuate this myth of an evolutionary worldview.
In his book entitled, New Persuasive Art: an Art Style I’ve Invented, the artist challenges the binary order of things by shifting attention to an archaeology of meaning that persuades the viewer to see their world differently. He layers photographs, cut-outs, and written words on top of a painted canvas to create a unified image. He asks his viewer for an accidental or unexpected — rather than a calculated — response. Hunt II’s art reads like an inner monologue, or a directive, an alter ego, or any number of things, according to the audience’s imagination.
New Persuasive Art was exhibited in New York in January of 2014 at the Niagara Arts and Culture Center. In the video below, the artist says that every painting and drawing tells a story. He says that the title, Another Way Out, frames his unconventional approach. The style that he invented provided him with an avenue for creating deeply resonant art. New Persuasive Art gained international recognition in February with an exhibition at Flyer Art Gallery in Rome. Presently, Hunt II is working on new projects in New York in preparation for Art Basel.
Hunt II’s process offers an analog for art history. An archaeology rather than a false continuum permits fresh possibility. For starters, it challenges us to explore our bias. It allows us to be honest in acknowledging what we do and do not know about other people, about alternative artists and offers a valuable opportunity for new analysis. Instead of just comparing objects in aesthetic terms, it offers additional potential for learning about other people with a sense of wonder and respect.
Besides New Persuasive Art, Hunt II also invented and wrote about Real Illustration with books available worldwide. This invention outlines a fresh approach to illustration. It appeals to people of all skill sets and encourages everyone to be an artist.
The artist has also written graphic novels that feature miraculous inventions secret to man until this very moment. The artist describes Mr. Axe. Birth of a Titan, as a live action-packed story that also asks readers to look at creativity differently. In this way, he encourages his audience to consider a larger picture.
Finally, Hunt II is a community animator who makes art for cancer patients in Cleveland, Ohio. He feels that surrounding people with art give them strength as they undergo treatment. His community art, like his New Persuasive Art, sees love operating everywhere within the global community.
Of course, change is slow in the art world as it is in reality. Art history, an invention by white men for white men, is no longer viable within global culture. Scholarship did not analyze or examine women, people of color, or others until the twentieth century. History has not remembered these other artists. As a result, coalitions still struggle today for equal representation within disciplines that continue to emphasize white patriarchy. By displacing the notion of an evolution of art, with a layered approach would allow art history to step closer to truthfully recognizing people across time with available context.
It’s past the time to offer nuanced explanations that are easy to consume. Because we are competing in an academic world that values objective reasoning, we have more explaining going forward to avoid inventing exclusive histories that privilege a few, and find a correct slot for those who contradict its persistent white male bias. Art history can be respectable. Because it stands at the crossroads of multiple disciplines and offers a fresh vision to a contemporary global culture. In many ways, DeJuan Hunt II creates identifiable urban heroes who persuade the viewer to think differently.
Kaloust Guedel, the founder of Excessivism, sees Trump as the revolutionary movement’s poster boy.
As the founder of Excessivism and the writer of the movement’s manifesto, Kaloust Guedel sees art growing out of life experience and realization that includes consumer culture. Excessivism is a new movement with few twentieth-century precedents. Like other artists working in this style, Guedel’s art often serves as a commentary on commodified culture. The artist combines vinyl, glass, metal, and so on, to create art that appeals to the eye and begins a discussion.
While Excessivism offers a critique of material culture, there is a sense in which it also celebrates excess. Most of us like some excess, especially if it’s pleasurable. Guedel’s The Wall Standard with its elegant line of gold dropping to pool into a shimmering mass of folds against a dark background conveys a sense of lavish drama.
Celebrity excess — for better or worse — occupies the cultural spotlight 24/7. Kim Kardashian’s tremendous booty has been a source of interest and inane speculation for years now. Human interest in celebrity excess can nevertheless translate to profound art. Prince’s fans will likely sing his songs and admire the prodigal and abundant ambition that went into making his music until Kingdom come. Celebrity excess can also be dangerous. Everything about Donald Trump — from his hair to his demeaning insults — is excessive.
Guedel recently wrote about the relevance of Donald Trump — the ultimate celebrity — and GOP nominee for the 2016 election. In the article, he says with economic and political excessivism at the core of this new art movement; it naturally relates to Trump’s political path. While the artist acknowledges Trump’s relevance, he is nevertheless critical of the level of his excess. Trump appears as proof of Excessivism’s assertion that consumer culture is flawed.
The idea of a Trump presidency is scary. Trump wants to dismantle the safety measures that the United States has implemented in the wake of WWII. At the same time, he wants to start new wars that could involve nuclear weapons. Sam Kleiner, in a June article for The Atlantic, says the Republican nominee is effectively advocating the spread of arms, so destructive they haven’t been used since their horrifying debut over Hiroshima and Nagasaki in 1945. The Onion in one of its jarring serious moments reported that an alarming new global risk report published Tuesday by the United Nations .., presumptive GOP presidential nominee Donald Trump may be just seven months away from acquiring nuclear weapons.
Excessivism is appropriate to the moment. While Excessivism both criticizes and celebrates excess, it also asks its audience about how much is too much. Trump, viewed through the prism of Excessivism, appears as a caricature rather than a serious presidential candidate. It points instead towards the waste that it deplores, the existential threat that confronts humanity due to climate change, and the possibility of a new arms race.