Monday, September 16, 2019

Oil Painting - Refrigerator Series: Group

Refrigerator Series: Group
Oil paint on Panel
16" x 16"
This is a continuation of my series of oil paintings on panel of food in my refrigerator. This is a particular grouping of canisters, bottles and such of a variety of food items. Although one aspect of these paintings is that we don't know what is in our food (the shelf rail blocks us from seeing the ingredients), I find it interesting that many people can still recognize the products in these paintings simply from the shape of the bottle and color of the label. Chalk that up to good branding. This is the fifth of five refrigerator door paintings recently hanging at the Hopkins Center for the Arts.

Friday, September 13, 2019

Recent Exhibits and Events

August was the busiest month of my life for exhibits. The last week of August I had art in four different exhibits. Two of those exhibits are now over and the Hopkins exhibit will be up until September 15. Here is a run down of what happened and what is soon to happen.

Minnesota State Fair

My painting Grassy Island Rocks won First Place in the Oils/Acrylics and Mixed Media category. It was very fun to receive this award and I am honored as the Fair exhibit is very competitive – Minnesota has a lot of great artists. I received many congratulations via my social media, at work, and it is always fun to stand in front of your work and hear people ooh and aah and say nice things. For what its worth, for ten days I could claim I was the best painter in Minnesota. 

Backus Center for the Arts, International Falls

This was a one week exhibit at the Art Center located in International Falls, MN. It was an exhibit with photographers Mary Ludington and Karen McCall and was part of an outreach initiative by the Ernest C. Oberholtzer Foundation. The whole enchilada was put together by singer Prudence Johnson. The exhibit ended Friday night with a performance at the art center by Prudence, Claudia Schmitt, Kevin Kling, Dan Chouinard,, Doug Wood, Marian Moore and Winona LaDuke. The evening included some wonderful music, funny stories and a lot of laughs. It was a hoot spending the week prior to the performance at Mallard Island with this group of people. We did some reminiscing about the 1980's, talked art and creativity, ate great food, played some cribbage and enjoyed hanging out in an idyllic historic northwoods setting. The Friday night boat ride back to the island after the performance including a stunning display of Northern Lights that were in the sky and reflecting on the lake - it was magical!
Edible/Inedible, Hopkins Center for the Arts
August 15 - September 15, 2019
The opening for this exhibit was well attended and it was very enjoyable seeing people's responses to my food paintings. The opening was during what is basically the Hopkins Art Crawl. There were a lot of people and events happening in the art center and along Main Street There were youth dance performances and I liked that many of the kids made their parents stop to look at my paintings of food. Nothing like a plate of Oreos to get a kid's attention. The exhibit has been well received, I hear people are appreciating the humor in the work, and will be up through September 15, 2019.
Prior to the Hopkins exhibit I had a reveal of the work at my studio. This was an opportunity for people to see and purchase any work before it became public. This opportunity was only granted to my newsletter recipients and a handful of invited guests. This is the first time I offered this type of event and was very pleased with the response. There was a steady trickle of people and toward the end of the three hour event there were 15 – 20 people in my studio talking art, chatting with friends (new and old) and enjoying some home-made biscuits (cookies) and wine and beer. The energy was really inspiring. I was having so much fun I forgot to take a picture to share here. I will be offering similar events in the future.
Upcoming Event: Saint Paul Art Crawl

The weekend of October 11 – 13, my studio will be open for the Saint Paul Art Crawl. Come on by and see some new work and, as always --- come by and see my work in person instead of on a small screen. You will be happy you did.

Whew - and that's all the updates on exhibits and events!

Monday, September 9, 2019

Throwback Thursday on a Monday

Mad Dog is a drawing I did in high school. I made several drawings of animals that were... embellished.  This was one of my favorites.

Friday, July 5, 2019

In the Midst of Creativity

I recently attended the American for the Arts Annual Convention (AFTACON) in Minneapolis. The pre-conference activities I attended revolved around public art. This included sessions and tours all day Thursday and sessions on Friday. It was enjoyable to share with outta-towners the great wealth of public art and creative public engagement that happens in Minnesota and the Twin Cities.

I have always known that the Twin Cities are a unique place for the arts, but seeing the breadth and depth of community engagement that happens here is really inspirational. The sheer amount of community-oriented arts activity is astonishing, and this doesn't include all of the studio artists and arts education folks in the Twin Cities.

The Twin Cities really are a leader in the arts in the country and should take great pride in that. I have been fortunate to be a studio artist and an arts administrator for many years. Creating programming at the Como Park Zoo and Conservatory was the beginning of my community-oriented experience. Through that programming, I met and partnered with so many amazing arts organizations and artists. Moving city-wide, in 2003, to become the Arts and Gardens Coordinator for the Saint Paul Department of Parks and Recreation led to so many more partnerships with bigger organizations, like the Ordway Theater for the Performing Arts. Now, my role with Metro Transit is leading me back to more partnerships with individual artists and entrepreneurs, as well as maintaining partnerships with new and familiar organizations. I love seeing so much of the Twin Cities art world through my daily work.

I also recently got together with comedian Colleen Kruse to talk about the Warehouse Districts in the 1980's. Much has been written about the Minneapolis music scene of the 80's. It was vibrant and put Minneapolis on the map. But, I will always assert that the music scene was just a part of an incredibly active warehouse scene in both Minneapolis and Saint Paul that saw great comedians, painters, sculptors, designers and creative folk rise to national attention within their fields. It was the "primordial ooze" of artists of all sorts rubbing shoulders that led to such an over-flow of creativity that it had to be recognized by the world.

I have often lamented the dispersing of that scene: the gentrification of the warehouses when stadiums were built, the technology-fueled rise of independence for creatives, and the cultural desire for urban "cleanliness." But, as I attended this conference, I had the thought that maybe that scene isn't gone. Maybe the warehouses are not empty of artists because the rest of society moved-in, but because the buildings themselves could no longer support the amount of creativity that has been unleashed.

One session I attended at the AFTACON conference was presented by Shanai Matteson. She began a bar called the Water Bar. It is an art piece, it is a bar, it is a bar that only serves water. The water they serve, for free, is from different places. You can try water from different places and see how it tastes... and get into a conversation about water. They "serve water to build relationships that transform culture." In Minnesota there are more than 100,000 people employed by the arts. The arts have moved into every corner of the state and are engaging a vast majority of it's citizenry. Ashley Hanson is working to transform small Minnesota towns through encouraging an arts economy. We have an amazing theater scene throughout the state, art centers are opening up everywhere and, of course, music is still a mainstay with more and more artists and opportunities.

I am so humbled to be living here in Minnesota amidst all of these many great artists and to share my work in places like International Falls, Hopkins and Western Wisconsin. I know my newsletter readers appreciate my art, but I encourage everyone to experience even more of this great art scene. Go to plays, listen to music, fill your home with fine art, make your own art, or... maybe just order a glass of a bar and get into a conversation.

Thursday, April 11, 2019

Exhibit at Westfields Hospital in New RIchmond, WI - now up

An exhibit of recent landscape paintings is now up at Westfields Hospital in New Richmond, WI.The art will be on display until early July, 2019. If you get a chance, stop on by and take a peek.

Tuesday, April 9, 2019

The Nebulous Act of Grant Writing

I started work at the Como Zoo and Conservatory in 1994 because I had written a grant and received money to initiate arts programming. Over the next nine years, I funded a good portion of the youth programming through $300,000+ in grants. I have not been nearly as successful with grants for my own artwork.
Grants are an odd pillar in the career of an artist. A majority of artists who make a living from their art have never received a grant. Many artists who have received grants, after a time, stop making art. Receiving a grant does promote one to a higher status within the art world, yet it often has little significant long term impact. Granted (pun intended), some recipients have had their lives changed. Their grant opportunity led to other opportunities or the grant allowed them to focus on their art, propelling them to a more professional approach. It would be great if that happened with every grant recipient. It would be great if every artist had that opportunity in their career.
Writing the grant is the tricky part. Some grants have guidelines that are very thorough while others are minimal, giving very little direction to the applicant. I have been on grant panels and I have to share that the panels are not consistent in how they interpret the proposals. On one such panel it was mentioned that we should not take an approach of selecting an artist because of their ethnicity or feel that we need to represent every ethnicity in our selections. Within a minute, a panel member suggested selecting an artist solely because of their ethnicity and most of the rest of the panel agreed. Guidelines are sometimes bent or broken. Other times, panels have ended the discussion of a particular proposal with a vague sense of what the artist was about, yet they felt that the work was powerful so they voted for it. Then, of course, sometimes artists will have a champion on the selection panel who supports them and tries to positively counter panelist's concerns about the artist. In light of all this subjectivity, how do you write a successful grant proposal?
I have always found that writing the proposal is onerous because it is asking me to define my art. I much prefer to leave the communication of my creative process a bit loose in order to let the viewer bring their own interpretation to the work. Also, there are many facets to the thoughts and feelings that go into a painting. I can't possibly relate all of these in a one page proposal, much less a three hundred word artist statement. How do you put an ocean in a bottle?
This is my problem, I don't know how to organize so much information into its most efficient form. My proposals, even short ones, meander because my art process is integrative, communal and extensive. It is not about doing one thing that is easily understood. My art making is layered and complex because that is how my creative brain creates. That brain, which is expected to write a concise proposal, just don't work that way.
This year I have decided to take a new approach. Since I have trouble organizing all that could go into my proposal, I am going to impose an exterior structure onto my writing. No, it will not be a sonnet or a haiku. When I was writing short stories for The Book of Bartholomew, I would use a structure familiar to short story writers where key events happen at certain points in the narrative. There is the point of despair, the overcoming of obstacles, the catalyst, etc. For my next grant proposal I will use this familiar structure to write about my art. The advantage of a structure is that it takes away some decision-making, which is my difficulty. Now, should I write the grant for my landscape paintings or my food paintings?

Monday, March 4, 2019

Oldie But Goodie: Molding Watermelon

Molding Watermelon
oil paint on canvas
24" x 24"