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"

Thursday, February 28, 2019

My Health: Breathing, Eyeballs and Art

As much fun as this last year has been with building a new studio, trips, lining up several exhibits, and making a lot of art, I have been battling some health issues. I have had sinus problems and a cough for the past year that I think is due to living in close proximity to my art space. I paint with oil paints and the fumes of the paint and the mineral spirits make their way into my living space. I didn't realize it at the time, but almost immediately when I moved upstairs to live (I started renting out my downstairs), I started having sinus and coughing problems. I began to suspect my studio this past fall. Once I had the new studio space completed enough to move all the toxic materials, I did. In the last several weeks my cough and sinuses have begun to clear. I still have a cough and sinus problems and predict it will take months to completely heal. But I feel like I am on my way.

The new studio has an exhaust fan for removing the fumes. I am also letting my paint rags dry outside instead of sitting on my paint stand until they dry. I feel much better about the new space, especially in terms of my health. Hopefully, some of these issues are behind me. My family has many members who have lived into their late 80's and into their 90's. My hope is to set myself up to paint for another 30 years. Ironically, it was while I was improving my health that my next health issue popped up.

I joined a gym and started working with a trainer to improve my strength, flexibility and general health (along with my tennis game). One day after working with the trainer and pushing to new limits with weights I tore the retina in my right eye. The tear crossed a blood vessel and I had some bleeding in my eye. The doctor said it was probably only a drop but, boy, can one drop of blood cloud up your vision!

Of course, the incident happened on a Saturday morning and I couldn't see a doctor until Monday. The doctor examined my eyes and informed me of what happened to my right eye and that he would have to operate on my retina the next day. It would be laser surgery to, basically, spot-weld my retina so it wouldn't tear anymore. The procedure takes about ten minutes. While he was in there he was also going to strengthen some "lattice weakening" that could lead to some more retina tearing later. I went home and rested my eye until the next day when my sister picked me up to go to the hospital for the procedure. As crazy as all this sounds, the doctor said I didn't need someone to drive me. My eyesight would be fine right after the operation and there would be no drugs. I still asked my sister to take me.
For fun, I found eight different times I had drawn or painted my right eye over the years.

I went the next morning for laser surgery on my right eye. The nurse was very friendly and pleasant. She dilated my eye while asking me a lot of questions. My blood pressure was a little high, understandably. When my eye was dilated enough, a nurse escorted me to a room that looked like a normal eye-examining room. Instead of the usual machine that doctors examine your eyes with, there was a slightly different machine. The doctor had me put my chin in the chin rest and lean my head against the forehead rest. He attached a large lens to my eye that kept my lids from closing and connected to the laser. He looked around in my eyeball to find the problem areas and then began zapping his welds into place. With each pulse of the laser there was a green flash of light. When he was really in a groove, the constant flashing of green light caused me to see the veins inside my eye as an after-image. A bit freaky, but cool. There was some discomfort, but not much. While in there, the doctor found another small tear and spot-welded that one, too. He looked around some more, didn't find anything else that needed to be secured and was done. He removed the lens from my eye and he led me to a room where the nurse would do a final check with me before I was released.

I was glad to have my sister there because I could see nothing out of my right eye. It was so dilated and dealing with the trauma of such intense light and lasers that everything was a blur. I could have driven home with one eye closed, but was very happy to let someone else do that for me. Once home, I ate a sandwich we picked up on the way home and then took a nap. When I woke up my eye was still dilated but I was starting to see a little better out of that eye. The worst of it is that the outside of my eye got scratched a little from the large lens. But that should be better after a good nights sleep.

In a day my vision should be back to normal and then I have about 6 - 8 weeks of not lifting really heavy things or doing anything that could inappropriately jostle my retina while the scars form properly. I trust the next several weeks will go by without any problems. I'm sure I will feel fine... until I get the bill.

 UPDATE: Its been 3 weeks since my eye surgery.  I still have days where there are a lot of floaters in my eye, but I would say my eye is about 90% and getting better everyday. Sometimes, in the dark, I see dull flashes of light where my retina was torn, but not like when it was torn. This is similar to dull flashes that I saw after I had Lasik surgery ten years ago. My eye is usually tired by the end of the day, but I can tell it is getting better. As for my coughing, it is still getting better and I had two great days in a row but, of course, the third day sucked. It comes and goes as it seems to steadily improve.

Monday, February 25, 2019

Abstract Landscape 3

Abstract Landscape 3
Oil paint on canvas
48" x 48"

Now available at my website

Friday, February 22, 2019

Current and Upcoming Exhibits

New Landscapes April 12 - July 9, 2019
Westfields Hospital & Clinic, New Richmond, WI

Come see my large scale landscapes in person, instead of on a small screen. My abstracted paintings of the Northern Minnesota landscape will be on display.

Healing Landscapes

July 17 - October 6, 2019

Hudson Hospital & Clinic, Hudson, WI

Some of my landscape paintings from the previous show plus some new paintings exploring the healing nature of the rhythms of the Northern Minnesota landscape.

August 15 - September 15, 2019
Hopkins Arts Center, Hopkins, MN

I am very excited about exhibiting at this venue. The work that will be exhibited are from my food paintings: Obsessions and Sinkside Compost Series. Hopkins has made a great commitment to the arts, even redesigning their downtown to emphasize the arts. Very happy to be exhibiting in such an art-friendly town.

Untitled Exhibit  
Last week of August - TBD
International Falls, MN

The details of this exhibit are still coming together. This exhibit is part of an exhibit/performance that is being coordinated by singer Prudence Johnson in conjunction with the Ernest C. Oberholtzer Foundation.
Landscapes January 17 - February 23, 2020
The Phipps Center for the Arts, Hudson, WI

It will be interesting to see what develops in my landscapes over this coming year. I am hoping with all the exhibits and feedback that my work will blossom into something even more powerful and expressive. Stay tuned for details about an opening.

Monday, February 18, 2019

Abstract Landscape 2

Abstract Landscape 2
Oil Paint on Canvas
48" x 48"

My large landscapes are becoming more abstract. In the spirit of Arthur Dove and Charles Burchfield, I feel nature expresses something deeper about humans and is a far more complex entity than we generally allow ourselves to experience. My recent landscapes are an attempt to provide insight into my experience of nature and, therefore, I am straddling a line between pure abstract and representation. I believe that it is the very pattern of water, which is expressed through water's physical qualities, that connects with a deeper rhythm within humans. Physical qualities of water, rocks, plants and sky are the results of processes that are common to our own physical and intellectual development. This is why we connect emotionally with nature. For me this is expressed best by sometimes painting a recognizable object and sometimes by painting the patterning or energy of an object.

I've recently added some more paintings to my website, check it out.