A DISCUSSION WITH ARTIST MUEEN SAHEED

Art Copy is pleased to welcome Mueen Saheed, an artist from Columbo Sri Lanka, for a follow-up discussion about his art and creative experiences in 2016.

Earlier this year I examined the artist’s style and — among other things — concluded that the combination of abstract painting with its power to evoke feeling juxtaposed to figurative references that point to real life experience speaks to the human heart as well as the human intellect.

This photograph is courtesy of Mueen Saheed
“Independence Memorial and the new Nation,” by Mueen Saheed
Close up from "The Conquest of Galle," depicting the city during Dutch rule. This photograph is courtesy of Mueen Saheed.
Close up from “The Conquest of Galle,” depicting the city during Dutch rule.
"The King in the Coat and the Portuguese officer," close up from "The Conquest of Galle." This photograph is courtesy of Mueen Saheed.
“The King in the Coat and the Portuguese officer,” close-up from “The Conquest of Galle.”
Mueen goes to Europe.

During his sojourn last year, the artist painted, visited museums, met with friends and studied the European landscape.  He refined his emotive, symbolically rich style. His recent work is as nuanced in meaning as his savvy, abstract narrative paintings in Galle, Sri Lanka.  At the same time, he stretched his art in new directions.

Mueen Saheed painting all night in Zurich. This photograph is courtesy of Mueen Saheed.
Swiss Dentist’s painting, by Mueen Saheed. This photograph is courtesy of Mueen Saheed.
In Munich, a  favorite doctor and collector of Mueen’s art commissioned the artist to paint his office door.  Mueen was gratified by the possibility of offering relief to an ailing patient even if only for a fleeting moment.   He envisioned pastel tones that would be soothing to souls walking through the corridor to or past the painted office door.

"Painted

Painted door by Mueen Saheed. This photograph is courtesy of Mueen Saheed.

"Painted

"Mueen

By contrast to the paintings that he designed for the chic boutique hotel in Galle that include figurative references to the location’s history, the painting for the Munich commission is relatively abstract.  The symbolism is also different in the Galle and Munich commissions.  While the former refers to important moments in Sri Lanka’s history, the symbolism on the painting in Munich speaks to the power of healing.  The piece is mostly abstract and purposely therapeutic.  Nevertheless, the blue, dancing figures on the center panel represent souls dancing free in their imagination.

Mueen visits DARWIN.CAMP in Bordeaux — an art themed collective — that supports artists commitment to environmental protection.
 In September of 2016, Darwin presented The Ocean Climax Festival, a spectacular annual art and music event devoted to climate change and raising awareness of challenges to the well-being of the planet’s oceans.   The event was supported by Amnesty International,  the World Wildlife Fund, Greenpeace and was attended by over 30,000 supporters.
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The artist lives on an island that is celebrated for its beaches and therefore is familiar with the challenges that climate change poses. At one point in our online discussion, Mueen said: Climate change is one of the main issues of this day and age.  Water pollution, air pollution, disappearing species, disasters of horrifying magnitude plaque the earth and yet some like to deny the truths of the environment and of global warming. 

Therefore, when Darwin provided him with a studio within the collective and art supplies for a commission, he was compelled to paint for twenty-four hours, neither eating nor sleeping or taking his eyes off from his work.  Mueen describes the painting entitled The Two Oceans as a condensed expression of color and energy.

“The Two Oceans,” by Mueen Saheed. This photograph is courtesy of Mueen Saheed.
This photograph is courtesy of Mueen Saheed.

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The artist views former French Prime Minister Alain Juppe, as a leader of climate change in an age of deniers.
In turn, Juppe — also a fervent Darwin supporter — is captivated by Mueen’s painting and graciously signed a corner of the painting in a gesture of solidarity.

"Alain

"Alain

Mueen’s European experience reinforced his commitment to current events and concerns like climate change, gender violence as well as traditional themes such as history and philosophy. Indeed, he aspires to carry his style and message around the globe.

For more information, please see, www.mueensaheed.com.

AN INTERVIEW WITH ARTIST MARIE VARTENBERG

Art Copy is pleased to welcome Marie Vartenberg for an interview with an artist with an astonishing imagination.  She discusses the alternative world that she creates, how her art operates in a world gone mad, her inner need to be creative, and more.  In a recent article, Salon magazine asserted that in an era of uncertainty, art is humanity’s most powerful weapon against apathy.  Marie also stirs her audiences creativity by leading them into unchartered territory within their own imaginative selfs.  Please join me in welcoming an artist with a remarkable vision, style, wit, and who is never, ever, boring.

"Donaldine Crump," by Marie Vartenberg. Oil on canvas, 39" x 47", 100 x 120 cm. This photograph is courtesy of Marie Vartenberg.
“Donaldine Crump,” by Marie Vartenberg. Oil on canvas, 39″ x 47″, 100 x 120 cm. This photograph is courtesy of Marie Vartenberg.
"Hairy Strontanoids," by Marie Vartenberg. Acrylic, Spray paint on canvas, 70" x 63", 180 x 160 cm. This photograph is courtesy of Marie Vartenberg.
“Hairy Strontanoids,” by Marie Vartenberg. Acrylic, Spray paint on canvas, 70″ x 63″, 180 x 160 cm. This photograph is courtesy of Marie Vartenberg.

In his commentary of the artist’s work, Gery Van Tendeloo says:

She records, visualizes and critiques the global society and the world by creating highly personal beings, metaphors for humans, and a step further than humanoids, baptized ‘strontanoids.’  She creates disorder, chaos in a way, inviting the viewers to ask questions using their own imagination — like a subcutaneous injection — it really doesn’t hurt, but you feel it.  In her idiosyncratic content, she avoids any morality and messages.

Marie Vartenberg lives and works in  Antwerp Belgium.

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Art Copy:  Welcome to artcopyblog.com Marie Vartenberg.  Would you like to introduce yourself, who are you and what do you do?

Marie Vartenberg:  I create from an inner need, this is the best way I can express myself.  I would describe my creative process as very impulsive.  Direct from my mind to hand, immediately.  I never have a problem with finding subjects, my head is always full of stories, characters, etc.  I like to work with.  If we talk about painting the moment itself, I develop the painting to what I really like.  When I’m not satisfied, I paint it over the same day, until I’m satisfied.

I work with metaphors — my ghost-animals-beings resemble contemporary society, also the behavior of humans to each other.  I name my beings “strontanoids” derived from humanoids, with the addition of the shitty behavior we now see all around us.  Creating a non-existent world from humanity, or society has no message at all.  I don’t want to give people a message, I record what I feel around myself.

I believe that the best art doesn’t give a particular message, but that creating another world with other agents that tease the imagination in new directions.  Even the transformations of icons in our Western society, In Hillary Mice, Donaldine Crump, and other of my paintings, urge the viewer to think past the icon itself.

AC:  You don’t have to look far for ideas?

MV:  I don’t search.  These ideas come automatically to my brain every day.  I think it is due to the impact of a daily life mixed with my emotions.

"6908177," by Marie Vartenberg. Acrylic on canvas, 24" x 31", 60 x 80 cm. This photograph is courtesy of Marie Vartenberg.
“6908177,” by Marie Vartenberg. Acrylic on canvas, 24″ x 31″, 60 x 80 cm. This photograph is courtesy of Marie Vartenberg.
"6916177," by Marie Vartenberg. Acrylic on canvas, 39" x 47", 100 x 120 cm, This photograph is courtesy of Marie Vartenberg.
“6916177,” by Marie Vartenberg. Acrylic on canvas, 39″ x 47″, 100 x 120 cm, This photograph is courtesy of Marie Vartenberg.

AC:  It’s intriguing when an artist urges their audience to see in a different way, I think.  In the last century, we saw the power of the imagination realized in Einstein’s inventions with him guided by creative discovery rather than artificial intelligence.  I’m curious to see the results of the current advocacy of creativity suggested by observers like Salon cited above. For me, I’m curious if it will lead to a contemporary Renaissance, or if the market will be flooded with mediocre art or any number of things that are presently hard to predict.  Do you feel that your art reflects your personality?

MV:  Definitely.  There is no other way – I create in full balance with myself, in full contact — what is in is out.

"Hillary Mice 2," by Marie Vartenberg. Oil on canvas, 39" x 47", 100 x 120 cm. This
“Hillary Mice 2,” by Marie Vartenberg. Oil on canvas, 39″ x 47″, 100 x 120 cm. This photograph is courtesy of Marie Vartenberg.
“Hillary Mice 19,” by Marie Vartenberg. Oil and acrylic on canvas, 51″ x 59″, 130 x 150 cm. This photograph is courtesy of Marie Vartenberg.

AC:  What do you feel are some of the most inspiring things happening at present?

MV:  We are living in a particular time, unfortunately not in a positive way with so many current wars and conflicts.  I don’t believe in inspiration, but rather what is going on around us.  It has a huge impact on us whether we want it or not.

Even when center is dark, there is still hope, Acrylic on canvas, 51" x 59" , 130 x 150 cm
“Even when center is dark, there is still hope,” by Marie Vartenberg. Acrylic on canvas, 51″ x 59″ , 130 x 150 cm. This photograph is courtesy of Marie Vartenberg.
Strontanoids Limbs I, by Marie Vartenberg. Acrylic on canvas, 51" x 59", 130 x 150 cm. This photograph is courtesy
“Strontanoids Limbs I,” by Marie Vartenberg. Acrylic on canvas, 51″ x 59″, 130 x 150 cm. This photograph is courtesy of Marie Vartenberg.

AC: What’s the last art object that you purchased?

MV:  Several pieces from the installation, Jesus Had A Sister Production by Canadian artist Dana Wyse.

 AC: It’s interesting, for me, that you’ve collected from another artist who recognizes the absurdity everywhere around us.  While that style nods to strong graphic design and is amusingly kitschy, you express yourself with fine art painting.
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What was the last show that you saw and how did you like it?
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MV:  Carsten Holler’s Video retrospective with Two Lightmachines.  It was an interesting show.  His audiovisual work often focuses on scientific and sociological experiments with animals and people.  Experiments, involving for example,  birds, monkeys, children, friends, and tests with psychoactive ingredients provide the subject for several of his videos.
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"Who Is Afraid of Machines," by Marie Vartenberg. Acrylic and collage on canvas, 24" x 31", 60 x 80 cm. This photograph is courtesy of Marie Vartenberg.
“Who Is Afraid of Machines,” by Marie Vartenberg. Acrylic and collage on canvas, 24″ x 31″, 60 x 80 cm. This photograph is courtesy of Marie Vartenberg.
Society Loves You Sometimes, Acrylic on canvas, 39" x 27", 100 x 70 cm,
“Society Loves You Sometimes,” by Marie Vartenberg. Acrylic on canvas, 39″ x 27″, 100 x 70 cm, This photograph is courtesy of Marie Vartenberg.
AC:  What is your favorite viewer response to your art?
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MV:  There is no favorite response.  Every reaction is important to me.  When people try to describe what they see in my paintings, I’m surprised every time!  Silence is also significant.  And simply — “I love it!” also.
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AC:  What is your favorite city for seeing art?
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MV:  New York and Brussels
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AC:  Thank you, Marie!
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AN INTERVIEW WITH ARTIST CAROL ROULLARD

Carol Roullard is among a generation of artists recognized by Artspace Magazine who realized their profession relatively late in life.  The article likens them to a fine wine perfectly aged and ready to be decanted.  Carol enlarges and translates eye-catching visual landscapes that she discovers through her scientific lens into works of art that allow her audience to see the brilliant colors, textures, and so forth, made visible to her with a microscope.  In the below interview, she discusses her passion, process, experience, realization, positive vision, and more.

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"Jubilation" (Aspirin Crystals) by Carol Roullard. This photograph is courtesy of Carol Roullard.
“Aspirin Crystals,” by Carol Roullard. This photograph is courtesy of Carol Roullard.

Art Copy:  Welcome, Carol Roullard.  It’s great to talk to you again.  Would you like to introduce yourself further, who are you and what do you do?

Carol Roullard:  Right now I am an artist, fashion designer, mad-scientist, and author. I’m having a wonderful time being able to do what I always dreamed of doing.  I have a few more dreams and if I can figure out how to add them into what I am already doing, I will!

AC:  Why do you do what you do?

CR:  Dreams and passions can be difficult to deal with. They must be nurtured and managed or they may undermine one’s happiness.  I could not allow myself to get to the end of my life without trying to fulfill my dreams.  Even as a small child, I wanted to be involved in science and create art.  I became very interested in artistic photography around 12 years of age. I continued through college and then let it languish.  I had responsibilities. I focused on a career with stable income and health benefits.  But a time came when I could afford to retire and finally take the time to do what my heart wanted to do.

"Hydroquinone Crystals," by Carol Roullard. This photograph is courtesy of Carol Roullard.
“Sky Above” (Hydroquinone Crystals) by Carol Roullard. This photograph is courtesy of Carol Roullard.

AC:  How do you work?

CR:  My family and friends might say I’m all over the place. They might be correct. In order to stay focused and on-task, I make a ‘To Do’ list most every day. I assign the expected length of time to complete and then prioritize each task. I’m sure it seems anal, but for me it frees me up from having to remember what I need to do and prevents me from missing deadlines. I cross out each item when it is completed. This way at the end of the day, I know I’ve done something. Then the next day I have my uncompleted items and either copy them over to a new list or just add.

As for creating my art, I first research different chemicals. I need to determine if they will crystalize and if so, display color when I apply polarized light. Once I have one to play with, I experiment with different methods to grow the crystals and start viewing them through the microscope. I have my camera all set up so that if/when I find something I like, I can immediately start taking pictures. Might sound simple but I assure you it isn’t!

Many chemicals won’t crystalize. Those that do, might not be photogenic or display great colors. Those crystals that look good at low magnifications might not look artistic when using higher magnifications. And then even those that do won’t always translate into a printed piece. I have learned a lot about chemistry and making crystals. I have greatly increased my photographic, microscopy, and polarized light knowledge throughout my experience making art. I am forever looking to expand that knowledge.

"Ice Phoenix collage," by Carol Roullard. This photograph is courtesy of Carol Roullard.
“Odyssey,” (Collage of Urea Crystals,) by Carol Roullard. This photograph is courtesy of Carol Roullard.

AC:  Do you feel that your art reflects your personality?

CR:  Yes, I do. I’ve noticed personal trends. I always feel inspired by nature and gain a sense of spiritual connection. I love seeing nature’s colors and patterns, their juxtaposition, and flow. I feel intense wonderment when witnessing nature in motion, and amazement that it all exists around us. For me, life is full of opportunities to find beauty. When I first saw crystals through the microscope, I felt instantly enthralled and in love with the intensity, iridescent colors, and uniqueness. This was a hidden world that needed to be seen.

"Mountains ," by Carol Roullard. This photograph is courtesy of Carol Roullard.
“Mountains ,” by Carol Roullard. This photograph is courtesy of Carol Roullard.

AC:  How has your practice changed?

CR:  My art keeps evolving. I started with four chemicals to work with and now I have more than ten-fold the number. I started creating series like my Elements in Wine and recently started my Elements of Life series, which consists of amino acid crystal images. Soon after my first exhibition, people started to encourage me to have my art on clothing. Then I was asked about having my art on cell phone cases. Recently I was selected to present a proposal for a public arts project. All of these adventures are very exciting. I love a challenge and am excited to expand my art into these arenas.

Don’t get me wrong I love creating my art. But there is only so much I can create before my house and hard drive is filled. Part of my adventure is to find ways to do more with what I create. I recently created several collages by digitally taking parts of different pieces and combining them to form a new picture. I enjoyed the challenge and want to create more.

"Ray of Hope," by Carol Roullard. This photograph is courtesy of Carol Roullard.
“Ray of Hope,” (Vanilla and Anesthetic Crystals,) by Carol Roullard. This photograph is courtesy of Carol Roullard.

AC:  What are some of the most inspiring things happening at present?

CR:  The most recent inspiring occurrence was being selected as one of the five finalists out of more than 250 applicants nationwide for the University of Utah’s Crocker Science Center Public Art Project. Although my project was not selected, the fact that a very prestigious university’s science art committee recognized my art as worthy gave me great affirmation in the artistic and scientific value of my work. I am seriously considering looking for more public art opportunities. Proposing for public art commissions is very different to being invited into an art show. I know I still have a lot to learn.

AC:  That’s fantastic, congratulations!

Would you please tell me how you view the artist’s role within their community?

CR:  I might have a different view on this than others. Some people want to be at the forefront of their community and others wish to be more in the background. Everyone has his or her own comfort zone. My view is that artists should be like everyone else. They should participate in the community as they wish, subtly or substantially.

"Resting," (Citric Acid Crystals,) by Carol Roullard. This photograph is courtesy of Carol Roullard.
“Resting,” (Citric Acid Crystals,) by Carol Roullard. This photograph is courtesy of Carol Roullard.

AC:  Do you identify with a particular style?

CR:  Art that inspires positive emotion.

AC:  What’s the last art object that you purchased?

CR:  My husband and I don’t travel very much but when we do we try to purchase something from a local artist or artisan. Our last trip was to Utah where we purchased a plate painted by Tom Batey.

AC:  What work do you most enjoy?

CR:  I enjoy the hunt for a crystal image that will become my next artistic image. I love the anticipation and excitement of searching through the crystals. And then when I find a potential image, I enjoy trying to make it work by playing with the lighting and alignment. Sometimes I’ve got it and sometimes I don’t, but I love the process.

AC:  Do you have any creative habits or rituals?

CR:  I let myself freely doodle, particularly during phone calls, and always make sure to have pen and paper handy. My doodles are very simple and abstract. They often cover the white space on my to-do lists. I don’t actually focus on the drawings but just let my hand freely decide the shape and size of each stroke. I have done this for many years. My daughters used to collect them thinking they were art.

AC:  What was the last show that you saw and how did you like it?

CR:  Recently went to the local Moorpark High Street Theater to see the musical Footloose. Thoroughly enjoyed the show. For a small town live theater, they have excellent stage shows.

AC:  Do you employ specific themes and symbolism?

CR:  I believe many things affect your health and well-being, including art. I wish to create art that helps people feel good, helps to heal the day’s rough edges and soothes personal pain. I want to surround myself with uplifting scenes and strive to create them. So I select crystal images that make me feel good, optimistic that tomorrow will be a good day and/or helps to calm stressful moments with the hope that they will also help others.

"Tequila Sunrise" (Anesthetic Crystals), by Carol Roullard. This photograph is courtesy of Carol Roullard.
Tequila Sunrise (Anesthetic Crystals), by Carol Roullard. This photograph is courtesy of Carol Roullard.

AC:  What is your favorite viewer response to your art?

CR:  I enjoy hearing from my viewers what they see in my art. And I find their responses amazing. I quite often will see a scene in the crystals, like a flower. But sometimes someone sees something totally different. Those surprises are some of my favorite responses.

AC:  Could you tell me about your most memorable response to a work of art?

CR:  One person told me that they were fighting a serious illness and that they found my art very soothing and improved their well-being. I was incredibly touched by this.

AC:  That must have been truly gratifying, I think.

I was wondering what do you dislike about your art?

CR:  The only time I ever experience a negative emotion when working on my art is when I do not find an inspiring scene in a new crystal slide. I can feel my excitement build as I put a slide with crystals on the microscope’s stage. The anticipation grows as I turn on the microscope and adjust the objective lens. And then I start searching the whole slide looking for something that moves me. I rarely find a winning picture but I usually find something I still find moving. So when I don’t, I feel a bit let down and dismayed but it is fleeting, as I am so grateful for all the beautiful scenes I have captured through my micro-crystal fine art.

AC: One of the things that I love about your art is they way that you transport your viewer to another beautiful universe.

What do you think that future generations will recall about the art world today?

CR:  I believe future generations will look back at this time and notice the start of immense artistic diversity including the expansion of photography and digital art.

AC:  Where do you find ideas for your work?

CR:  Pretty much everywhere! I am constantly inspired.

AC:  Do you collect anything?

CR:  Yes, I collected teapots, baskets, figurines and unique plants when I was younger. But now I’m in the stage of reducing my material possessions and instead I focus on actively collecting wonderful experiences and memories.

"The 60s," (Hydroquinone Crystals,) by Carol Roullard.
“The 60s,” (Hydroquinone Crystals,) by Carol Roullard.

AC:  Do you have any grievances with the art world and how it operates?

CR:  Just one and it might sound petty. Some people separate artists and photographers. I’m not sure if it is one side or the other or just people trying to include everyone but I consider myself an artist whose art medium is photography. It isn’t a simple art medium and for many photographers such as myself, we have to first create and then stage our subject matter and then make the camera perform according to our artistic criterion.

No, it doesn’t sound petty.  When I was researching Allan Gorman, I was surprised by the lack of critical material about the hyperrealists. Big magazines like ARTnews promote this group while offering minimal commentary.  I digress.  I was surprised by the lack of conversation surrounding photography in the larger art world.

AC:  How do you view creativity? What does being creative mean to you?

CR:  Creativity is taking an opportunity or idea and building a solution or outcome. Creativity is not limited to just creating art. A singer/songwriter could come up with new lyrics or melody.  A computer programmer could design and code a new application. An author, chef or scientist can all be creative.

"Unexpected sights - Bear," (Adipic Acid Crystals,) by Carol Roullard. This photograph is courtesy of Carol Roullard.
“Unexpected sights – Bear,” (Adipic Acid Crystals,) by Carol Roullard. This photograph is courtesy of Carol Roullard.

AC:  Have you always wanted to be an artist?

CR:  Yes!

AC:  What do you wish to communicate with your art?

CR:  I wish to communicate inspiration, joy, hope, happiness, positive well-being.

AC:  Thank you, Carol!

For more information about Carol Roullard, please see:

www.CarolRoullardArt.com

AN INTERVIEW WITH ARTIST BRITTINI RENEE

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.

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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 fundraising campaign.

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:

www.brittinirenee.weebly.com

https://twitter.com/Brittini_Renee

https://www.instagram.com/artistbrittinirenee/

https://www.patreon.com/BrittiniRenee

AN INTERVIEW WITH ARTIST LORENA KLOOSTERBOER

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.
Acrylic on Canvas - 12 x 12 inches (30 ½ x 30 ½ cm) – © Lorena Kloosterboer
“Self-portrait” © Lorena Kloosterboer

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 stroke so 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?

Silent Rhapsody I - Acrylic on Wood Panel - 11 ¾ x 7 ¾ inches (30 x 20 cm) – © Lorena Kloosterboer
“Silent Rhapsody I,” Acrylic on Wood Panel – 11 ¾ x 7 ¾ inches (30 x 20 cm) – © Lorena Kloosterboer

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?

"Silent Rhapsody II," Acrylic on Wood Panel - 7 ¾ x 11 ¾ inches (20 x 30 cm) – © Lorena Kloosterboer
“Silent Rhapsody II,” Acrylic on Wood Panel – 7 ¾ x 11 ¾ inches (20 x 30 cm) – © Lorena Kloosterboer

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?

Tempus ad Requiem III - Acrylic on Canvas - 12 x 15 ¾ inches (30 x 40 cm) – © Lorena Kloosterboer
“Tempus ad Requiem III,” – Acrylic on Canvas – 12 x 15 ¾ inches (30 x 40 cm) – © Lorena Kloosterboer

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 2000 when 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?

Tempus ad Requiem IX - Acrylic on Canvas - 23 ½ x 15 ¾ inches (60 x 40 cm) – © Lorena Kloosterboer
“Tempus ad Requiem IX,” – Acrylic on Canvas – 23 ½ x 15 ¾ inches (60 x 40 cm) – © Lorena Kloosterboer

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?

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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?

Tempus ad Requiem X - Acrylic on Canvas - 11 ¾ x 9 ½ inches (30 x 24 cm) – © Lorena Kloosterboer
“Tempus ad Requiem X” – Acrylic on Canvas – 11 ¾ x 9 ½ inches (30 x 24 cm) – © Lorena Kloosterboer

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 course it 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?

Untainted Solitude - Acrylic on Aluminum Composite Panel - 11 ¾ x 8 ¼ inches (30 x 21 cm) – © Lorena Kloosterboer
“Untainted Solitude,” – Acrylic on Aluminum Composite Panel – 11 ¾ x 8 ¼ inches (30 x 21 cm) – © Lorena Kloosterboer

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?

Vitrum Umbrae - Acrylic on Canvas - 23 ½ x 15 ¾ inches (60 x 40 cm) - © Lorena Kloosterboer
“Vitrum Umbrae,” – Acrylic on Canvas – 23 ½ x 15 ¾ inches (60 x 40 cm) – © Lorena Kloosterboer

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).

AC:  Thank you, Lorena!

AN INTERVIEW WITH ARTIST BROOKE McGOWEN

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?

"Portrait," by Brooke McGowen. This photograph is courtesy of Brooke McGowen
“Portrait,” by Brooke McGowen. This photograph is courtesy of Brooke McGowen

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?

"Don't Stop Me Now," by Brooke McGowen. This photograph is courtesy of Brooke McGowen.
“Don’t Stop Me Now,” by Brooke McGowen. This photograph is courtesy of Brooke McGowen.

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?

"Rembrandt," by Brooke McGowen. This photograph is courtesy of Brooke McGowen.
“Rembrandt,” by Brooke McGowen. This photograph is courtesy of Brooke McGowen.

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 and flows 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 to the 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 may have 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?

"Evil Kneevil," by Brook McGowen. This photograph is courtesy of Brooke McGowen.
“Evil Kneevil,” by Brook McGowen. This photograph is courtesy of Brooke McGowen.

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?

"MrMosanto," by Brooke McGowen. This photograph is courtesy of Brooke McGowen.
“Mr. Mosanto,” by Brooke McGowen. This photograph is courtesy of Brooke McGowen.

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.

Thank you, Brooke!

AN INTERVIEW WITH ARTIST GAILENE MCGHEE ST. AMAND

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.

"Voodoo dolls," by Gailene McGhee St. Amand. This photograph is courtesy of Gailene St. Amand.
“Voodoo dolls,” by Gailene McGhee St. Amand. This photograph is courtesy of Gailene St. Amand.

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.

This photograph is courtesy of Gailene McGhee St. Amand.
“Theresa Maria,” by Gailene McGhee St. Amand. This photograph is courtesy of Gailene McGhee St. Amand.

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.  

This photograph is courtesy of Gailene McGhee St. Amand.
“Enlightened Whispers,” by Gailene McGhee St. Amand. This photograph is courtesy of Gailene McGhee St. Amand.

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.

This photograph is courtesy of Gailene McGhee St. Amand.
“Loving you forever,” by Gailene McGhee St. Amand. This photograph is courtesy of Gailene McGhee St. Amand.

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?

 

This photograph is courtesy of Gailene McGhee St. Amand.
Gailene McGhee St. Amand and a friend at Stella Jones Gallery. This photograph is courtesy of Gailene McGhee St. Amand.

Gailene McGhee St. Amand:  Stella Jones Gallery in New Orleans celebrated 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?

This photograph is courtesy of Gailene McGhee St. Amand.
“Anticipation,” by Gailene McGhee St. Amand. This photograph is courtesy of Gailene McGhee St. Amand.

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?

This photograph is courtesy of Gailene McGhee St. Amand.
“Threshold,” by Gailene McGhee St. Amand. This photograph is courtesy of Gailene McGhee St. Amand.

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!

AN INTERVIEW WITH ARTIST JAN NELSON

 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, the young performer. This photograph is courtesy of Jan. Nelson.
Jan Nelson’s first public performance. This photograph is courtesy of Jan. Nelson.

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. 

Jan Nelson in "Hello Dolly." This photograph is courtesy of Jan Nelson.
Jan Nelson in “Hello Dolly.” This photograph is courtesy of Jan Nelson.
Jan Nelson in "Oliver." This photograph is courtesy of Jan Nelson.
Jan Nelson in “Oliver.” This photograph is courtesy of Jan Nelson.

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.

Jan Nelson's set design for "The Chalk Garden." This photograph is courtesy of Jan Nelson
Jan Nelson’s set design for “The Chalk Garden.” This photograph is courtesy of Jan Nelson
Jan Nelson,"Townsend," graphite on rag, 1974. This photograph is courtesy of Jan Nelson.
Jan Nelson,”Townsend,” graphite on rag, 1974. This photograph is courtesy of Jan Nelson.
Jan Nelson, "out to Lunch," oil pastel and graphite on rag, 1975. This photograph is courtesy of Jan Nelson.
Jan Nelson, “out to Lunch,” oil pastel and graphite on rag, 1975. This photograph is courtesy of Jan Nelson.
Jan Nelson, "Bernheisel's Junyard", oil on canvas, 1974. This photograph is courtesy of Jan Nelson.
Jan Nelson, “Bernheisel’s Junyard”, oil on canvas, 1974. This photograph is courtesy of Jan Nelson.
an Nelson, "American Landscape," graphite on rag, 1975. This photograph is courtesy of Jan Nelson.
Jan Nelson, “American Landscape,” graphite on rag, 1975. This photograph is courtesy of Jan Nelson.

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.

"Port of Tacoma", oil on canvas, 1977, Terry O. Herndon Collection
Jan Nelson, “Port of Tacoma,” oil on canvas, 1977, Terry O. Herndon Collection. This photograph is courtesy of Jan Nelson.

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 track loader 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.  Like others, 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:

Jan Nelson and Randall Rosenthal. This photograph is courtesy of Jan Nelson
Jan Nelson and Randall Rosenthal. This photograph is courtesy of Jan Nelson

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:

This photograph is courtesy of Jan Nelson.
Image of a sculpture, by Jan Nelson. This photograph is courtesy of Jan Nelson.

Here is an image I sent of a mockup I made that Randall worked from:

This photograph is courtesy of Jan Nelson.
This photograph is courtesy of Jan Nelson.

And my prototype work with Randall’s sculpture living together as a set in my home:

This photograph is courtesy of Jan Nelson.
Jan Nelson’s prototype work with Randall Rosenthall’s sculpture set together in the artist’s home. This photograph is courtesy of Jan Nelson.

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 wonderful and 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 liberal in the amount of photos 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’.

"Pressure #1," by Jan Nelson. This photograph is courtesy of Jan Nelson.
“Pressure #1,” by Jan Nelson. This photograph is courtesy of Jan Nelson.

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!
Jan Anders Nelson
September, 2016
Gig Harbor, Washington

AN INTERVIEW WITH ALLAN GORMAN

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.

"Three Lights and a Horn." by Allan Gorman,
“Three Lights and a Horn.” This photograph is courtesy of Allan Gorman

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. 🙂

Gauche," by Allan Gorman. This photograph is courtesy of Allan Gorman
“Escalier Sur La Gauche,” by Allan Gorman. This photograph is courtesy of Allan Gorman

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.

"Cacophony," by Allan Gorman
“Cacophony,” by Allan Gorman, 827 x 1240. This photograph is courtesy of Allan Gorman.

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”.

"Steampunk" by Allan Gorman. This picture is courtesy of Allan Gorman
“Steampunk” by Allan Gorman. This picture is courtesy of the artist

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?

“under the el,” work in progress by Allan Gorman. This photograph is courtesy of Allan Gorman.
“under the el,” work in progress by Allan Gorman. This photograph is courtesy of Allan Gorman.

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.

"Catwalk," by Allan Gorman. This photograph is courtesy of Allan Gorman.
“Catwalk,” by Allan Gorman. This photograph is courtesy of Allan Gorman.

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 it influences what 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!

AG:  You’re very welcome.  It was fun.

AN INVITATION TO AN INTERVIEW

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.

an invitation to an interview

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.

An invitation to an interview
This picture is courtesy of nanowrimo.org

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.

An invitation to an interview
“Would you like to introduce yourself?”
an invitation for an interview
“What is the artist’s role within their community?”

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.

Interview Questions

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?

An invitation to an interview
This picture is courtesy of http://2.bp.blogspot.com/

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 61brenda@gmail.com.  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!

Best regards,

Brenda Haroutunian

artcopyblog.com