Recreating the Past

We went up to Portland for a week, my son graduated from Lewis and Clark, or at least he walked with cap and gown , he needs to complete one last French requirement, despite doing Physics. Its a Liberal Arts College and I am glad they have a language requirement, makes for a more rounded education. While we were there, we visited the Pittock Mansion, built by a newspaper magnate who owned "The Oregonian". As we walked through this huge house, there was much debate about the furnishings , not all of them were original to the house, some true to the era, were from different families in the locale. If you didn't have this information ,you might assume walking through the house that it was all historically accurate. It struck me that our memories are very similar, in our own lives we recreate the past and change the stories and refurnish sometimes with other people's belongings.

What memories are truly ours? We have all had the experience of seeing photographs of ourselves as children and having memories around that photographed event, did we truly remember or was this a created memory. For me there was an oft repeated story about how as a very young child ,I ate rat poison from one of the cowsheds on my Auntie Maribel's farm, there was much panic and amazement ,centered I think on the fact that this poison was bright blue and did not look at all appetizing. I now believe I remember this story, but truthfully I am not sure.  I really think that this interest in alternative viewpoints is why I am so interested in series in my work , because I can show more than just one version of the truth.

Why I work in Series

If you look at my art you will see that there’s often a series of drawings. This series tells a story, just like say, if you have a group of people together in a room ,the topic may be the same but everyone in the room has their own unique interpretation, or story to tell. My aim is similar, there may be a theme of five separate pieces, but every piece is unique in its own right, telling its own story, seen together, you can see the theme, of the whole story.

The same theme weaves through it and like every unique story, every piece is separate and every piece entwined. There is at the same time an incredible complexity, for me as the artist working with separate drawings, that need to work together, yet there is such a satisfying flow when it works as a series. Below you will see a recent series called "The Waterbabies Series", when I finished this piece something about the combination of colors reminded me of the illustrations in the book "The Waterbabies "by Charles Kingsley. I loved this book when I was a child , I haven't thought about it for years, somehow my subconscious dragged it up and out to my conscious mind to see some similarity, between my work and my memory of these illustrations . Our minds are truly amazing, skillful machines .

Concepts

Who is an artist ? Can you tell what a person does by looking at them? Not really I would say, except we all have concepts of what we think is the norm, we may only see men in a spiritual role because all we ever see is male gods-- Jesus, Buddha, Mohamed etc.. We may only ever experience rock musicians as wildly dressed ,tattooed extroverts. In fact we all carry ideas of who does what in our heads, these are our concepts and of course they can vary from person to person.

So when a friend of mine declared that I was too organized for this person to think of me as being an artist, I was a little surprised. Maybe she has only known artists who were all over the place. I think this is a fairly common concept of the artist. I am glad I go against the grain.

Here below is a photograph of#1 from the" Bladderwrack Two Series"

Hauser Wirth and Schimmel

Wow, walking into this new gallery space in the Arts District in downtown Los Angeles a few weeks ago was a startling experience. The gallery space is an old factory and the space is huge , more museum size than gallery size. The show "Revolution in the Making:Abstract Sculpture by women, 1947-2016" for me was like coming home, being surrounded by the work of my long admired art mothers, 34 women sculptors.

I want to thank the curator of this show for the breath and vision and for the sheer number of pieces on display, a joy to behold. To see a huge show like this is so affirming, to visually wallow in a sensibility, I so relate to ,is so damn nice. I had never seen a work by Lee Brontecou or Lynda Benglis who was a visiting artist while I was at RISD ,except in a photo. To see two beautiful Eva Hesse pieces was a real treat. I have long admired Magdalena Abakanowicz's work and Phyllida Barlow chosen to represent the UK in the upcoming Venice Biennial. And all the rest. I bought a catalogue something I rarely do, so I can remind myself of this work.

This is a gallery I would love to show my work at, big wall spaces with a lot of room for the work to breath. I show a sculpture of mine from the 1980's

 

 

Bladderwrack Series

Strange how a new group of work starts to appear. Its often a surprise for me. This series, started with me cutting a drawing in half horizontally and attaching a new piece of paper ,between the halves. This drawing was from a series, that I just couldn't get to work. I also had some tracing paper circle drawings ,using purple ink, which I attached to the center part as a focal point. I had this piece up for a while, visually it started to niggle me, it was so difficult to look at. Sometimes this niggle, is what it takes to attempt some way to improve the piece, also there is something to be said for disliking a drawing so much, that I am willing to try anything to make it work.

With the addition of some collage pieces and circles in white , the drawing seemed to be moving in an interesting direction. I started to think of the kind of seaweed ,I grew up playing with, on beaches in Wales, its called bladderwrack and has small little pods we used to pop. I had nine more drawings , so I was ready to experiment , could I follow the same recipe I used for piece number one ,to make two series of five each. Indeed it worked and looking back seemed so simple, it is not a simple task however, to make a piece of work with separate elements that work together effortlessly.

My friend said about this series ,"Your art is like a story , the same theme weaves through it and like every unique story of a human being , your art is a unique story, every piece separate , but every piece intertwined".

See the first "Bladderwrack Series "below.

Thoughts on Being an Immigrant

I am an immigrant to this country , its now been 32 years. I have lived here longer, than I have lived anywhere. I have lived in this house longer than any house I have ever lived in. I can't say I ever really planned to be here this long. I am a white ,Anglo, English speaker, but immigrant nonetheless. And there's the rub, I am not seen as foreign until I speak ,then the inevitable, "where are you from ? " comes forth.

Its a subtle thing to experience the feeling of not belonging, to a culture that has become home in many ways. I am an American citizen ,but I also miss my culture, the queues, the weather, the food , the people, the humor, and most importantly the landscape. I don't have the same reference points here , almost everyday something new, I don't know about this culture, comes up in conversation. I am not inside the bubble of the culture, I hover outside of it, and the longer I live here the more I am also outside the culture of my homeland.

I realize that hovering outside of this culture is a gift , most people don't get to experience. Its almost impossible for anyone entrenched as an American to experience this, its all they have ever known. Travel of course really does broaden the mind , but it takes a long time to really understand, how different a culture like the US is from the UK, there nothing quite like living here, to know all the subtleties, this entails. I can see quite clearly my cultural programming. As an artist this is a definite advantage, I seem to be destined to always be the observer on some level. Below I show a piece from the 1980's when I was still a fairly recent immigrant.

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Robert Irwin

TB and I went for a weekend in San Diego for our 23rd Wedding anniversary. He grew up there and lived in Kensington, we were married there and Kyle was born there, so we have a lot of fond memories of the place. We did some nostalgic driving around to all the places that have meaning for us as well as a celebratory meal at "Urban Solace".

I had wanted to see the permanent installation at the Museum in La Jolla by Robert Irwin for a while , it was installed ten years ago at least. Irwin, lives in San Diego, he was born the year before my Dad in 1928. I have always admired his work. I saw him give a series of lectures back at the end of the 1980's at Rice University , in Houston.

He is a wonderful speaker and a spectacular artist. The piece in La Jolla is stunning. He took a large window that goes round two corners, and cut three openings into the Plexiglas. It has the effect of revealing the beauty of the world, as seen through the clear window like spaces . The contrast of the Plexiglas ,that is covered with sea salt spray is very defined, he sets the stage to appreciate the revealed clarity of the ocean view.

I have a friend who is an interior designer , she uses a lot of neutrals and texture in her rooms, with very little window coverings so that the beauty of nature ,revealed though the windows are framed and highlighted. She lets us see nature and the world in a similar way to Irwin. I include two photographs of the Robert Irwin piece.

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Tokenism

After attending the Pre-Oscar show at the Egyptian Theater in Hollywood , hosted by Larry Mantel, I feel like I am more interested in the Oscar picks, than I was before. A lot of the critics really responded to the new "Mad Max Fury Road" movie, so I watched it. I do have a history with Mad Max 1 and 2. When I lived in London, I worked at a cinema in Hampstead as an usherette. I actually sold ice cream in the intervals, we had to wear a contraption and took the ice cream into the theater, I would stand st the front and a line would form, anyway they showed the Mad Max's as a double feature, so I probably saw them both, 50 times.

"Mad Max Fury Road" is an amazing film, what a exiting visual feast, a relentless chase, that turns around and does it again. All the actors do a great job, the costuming and effects are brilliant. My issue with the movie is that to use an amazing actress like Charlize Theron in a role where her gender is immaterial is not a move towards equality. The role created for her is that of a monosyllabic woman, who can drive like a demon and shoot and fight with ease, who also rescues a group of female sex slaves. Similarly to the way the character, Ray was used, in the recent Star Wars movie. It is not enough for film makers to use women in these roles that could interchangeably have gone to a man, and them pat themselves on the back for being gender inclusional.

When I first found out that both my husband and son use a female avatar when they play multiplayer computer games. I realized the only reason they did this is so they can watch a scantily clad female figure run about shooting other avatars. I think the same theory applies to the aforementioned movies.

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Art as Residue

I was reading an article recently about art, very cynical and full of labels, really treating art as a commodity, as only a product to be purchased. It is a tricky business because after all art is a commodity to be bought and sold. There are art investors who treat art as a for profit business, there are artists, who happily oblige, they even coined a phrase "zombie formalism", to describe these artists .

Frankly I find this rather difficult to deal with, because the business side of art is the least interesting part to me. Admittedly I do not seem to sell a lot of my work currently and I would love to sell more. I know the rush of sending someone home, with one of my pieces, knowing they will have that work, in their homes to enjoy for a lifetime.

Art making is always a process, a series of experiments. In some ways the finished product is the least interesting aspect, for the artist its always the end point, something to learn from, at some point the next puzzle takes over. Art is always a residue, for the artist, its a result of the striving to understand ones own creativity and process. Below is a sketch of a piece I have been working on for some time and can't seem to finish, the piece is about the difference between male and female energy. So in my analogy, male energy is the pyramid , a hierarchy, for someone to be on the top there has to be a vast support structure underneath. Female energy is more like moss or feathers, in my thought of how to express a very complex thought visually.

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Kara Walker

On my recent trip to The Broad Museum, I was walking around the galleries with my Scottish friend, she was unfamiliar with a lot of the work showing at the Museum and had never seen Kara Walkers work before. As we entered the Walker installation ,featuring her black paper cutouts scattered over a large curved wall, she expressed delight, as they carried some residue of childhood imagery for her. Almost immediately the realization of what these shapes actually represented ,sunk in ; images of rape, mutilation of lynching and whipping, my friend gasped.

I thought to myself , if I was Kara Walker, this would be the perfect reaction that I would want. The cutout shapes luring the viewer into a sort of seduction of form and the sudden gasp as the content is revealed. The subtlety or not of the racism expressed is revealed so perfectly in that pause . See below a drawing from my sketchbook, completely unrelated.