The above short was filmed at a recent solo show that included a dialogue with the artist, recorded on video.
“In my landscapes, I do not try to reproduce the symmetry and beauty of the pastoral scene, nor do I feel the need to replicate the color palette of nature. Color, form and texture help me reveal the essence of the subject, and then to interpret my experience of the scene.”
“I am enamored by the sky… the clouds in all their configurations; the sun in its’ early morning reverie and its’ glorious flaming decent. Many of my paintings arise from my desire to portray the individuality of each moment as reflected in the sky.”
“In the scheme of the world, our individual lives are fragile and fleeting. For what is left of mine, I will continue to be a woman artist whose soul is revealed in my art.”
“Passover begins at sundown the evening preceding the fifteenth day of the Hebrew month of Nissan. It is the great spring celebration of the Jewish people. Passover began as a nature holiday, celebrating new life. In the priestly and rabbinic traditions, it became a commemoration of the biblical exodus and the escape from slavery in ancient Egypt. This familiar tale, contained in the traditional Haggadah is retold each year at the seder, the Passover celebration.” -Society for Humanistic Judaism
Our family, as humanistic Jews, view the biblical Exodus story as one of the most powerful myths of the Jewish people, a tale that relates the courage and determination of a people fleeing slavery for freedom. Secular Humanistic Judaism views Passover as a time to celebrate the modern, as well as the ancient, quest for freedom. A humanist Haggadah includes both the legendary tale of the exodus from Egypt and the modern Jewish exodus stories, as well as the themes of its origin. Passover is also is a celebration of human dignity and the freedom that makes dignity possible.
The humanist Haggadah has guided our family for over forty years, from the time my husband and I were married by a Rabbi who was a Jewish Humanist and we entwined our families, ages 4, 5, 7 and 9 - my two daughters and his daughter and a son. We still use the original script even though it has been modified by others over the years. Our four adult children and five grandchildren now know the songs and the readings by heart. Even as we no longer live within proximity of each other, we celebrate wherever we are, still using the same Haggadah. One year, when our daughter, Laura, was living in Indonesia, she assembled a number of expats and had a grand seder.
This year, our table includes my husband Garrett and myself, two of our daughters, Michelle and Sharon, Michelle’s husband Steve, one granddaughter Alexa (age 16) and her friend Jennifer who has never attended a seder. This makes our dinner even more meaningful as she asks questions which give us new perspective on what we generally take for granted. We have an especially upbeat evening. The food is delicious, the conversation interesting and the company terrific. We laugh a lot, eat a lot and share our experiences, present and past.
There is a section in the seder readings entitled, “The Human Quest For Freedom.” It is my turn to read these six paragraphs. I choose to read the first and last paragraphs so as to get to the dinner more quickly (dinner is not served until most of the readings are completed); however, my daughter, Sharon, comes back to this section and says she thinks it is too important to be abbreviated and she reads it again, this time as it is written. I start to think about this reading. I remember how important this message was to our maturing children, especially when they became teens. I decide I want to post it in its entirety:
“Wise men among our people have advised us to respond to the Passover story as if each of us personally had been freed from Egyptian bondage. Yet, we know that most of this story is probably fictional. What then, can this ancient legend mean to us?
The course of every human life represents a quest for freedom. Children, much like slaves, are not their own masters. As children, we are provided with life’s necessities; we depend upon others for survival.
As we grow and mature, we pass through a wilderness of fear and self-doubt. Along the way, the risks of freedom threaten to overwhelm us. We look back on our youth with longing. We imagine the young to be free — free from the responsibilities that seem to enslave us. We tend to remember only the warmth and security of the past. We tend to forget that those who fed and clothed and loved us also planned, and sometimes, even thought for us.
A life of dependency is not satisfactory for long. The urge to break free — to dream our own dreams — to live our own lives — is irresistible. Each of us must eventually release ourselves from the bonds that tie us to the past, for even bonds of love can make us slaves.
Only when we find the courage to stand alone shall we earn the right to enter our “Promised land.” That land promises the incomparable dignity and fulfillment which accompany the mature acceptance of bondage. Responsibility for oneself is not a burden to be shunned of evaded, but a reward to be treasured and protected. Responsibility for one’s self is the privilege of one who has successfully braved the wilderness in his/her quest for freedom.
Our ancestors learned a lesson of value, and their legendary journey through the wilderness teaches a less of value to all mankind. Though the risks of freedom are great, security at the price of freedom is an impossible choice for any human being of dignity.”
Written for Congregation Beth Or by Rabbi Daniel Friedman & Felice Friedman, 1973
Today, the temperature is 9 degrees. I look out my windows and see frozen snow at least 12″ high.
It’s very still and quiet… no wind blowing. No people walking dogs. I am inside at my desk typing away with my favorite throw over my legs. My small electric heater stands by, should my fingers or toes turn white or become numb. It seems this winter started early and will go on, and on, and on.
Some might say this is a gift to an artist or writer, a consummate reader or any contemplative sort. The winter is time to create without distractions; it’s a time to ruminate about life. If you’re the hardy type (born and bred in Wisconsin) it’s also the time for outdoor activities, skiing, snowmobiling, ice fishing, et al. One friend of mine even plows through the ice and snow on his bicycle! He says, “just put on another layer.”
I however, can do without the cold and the snow. I was born in Chicago and was raised in a large apartment building on a street, chock-a-block with other buildings and small homes. My parents didn’t indulge in any winter sports and I honestly don’t remember having or making the opportunity to be out in the snow much. I do remember making a snowman with my father once, but I don’t think it was a regular part of our winter activities. Oh yes, I just recall sledding down a steep hill and being really afraid – of what? I don’t know. Maybe falling off the sled or being alone when I reached the ground. As I grew older, I never chose to partake in winter sports.
I became what is called a “hothouse flower,” one that grows indoors no matter the season. It is for this reason that I do appreciate my time to read, write, paint, cook and cogitate. I’ve painted snow scenes a few times, but in January this year, I finished one piece in colors not usually on my palette, which I call “Hothouse Flower.” Actually, another good friend suggested the name since she knew I referred to myself as a “hothouse flower.”
There’s no real way to describe how this painting came into being. I used the palette knife and found myself moving it around as if I was putting frosting on a cake. The colors, or lack thereof, were completely intuitive as I didn’t have my full palette laid out as I usually do when I paint. I finished it in a couple of sessions and put it aside to dry. As it sat on the floor, leaning against the legs of my easel, I grew to appreciate it and even “like” it.
Another painting (above), still to be named, is strange, even to me. I’ve never painted anything even slightly resembling it. The canvas is 30″ x 40″ and it was inspired by a photo of a floral arrangement which was dying, petals falling all around it – a work in process. What I have to do, is decide on background colors and how I’m going to insert them into the white space.
I doubt I will put this one in my portfolio unless, for some reason, I change my perceptions of it. That remains to be seen.
A great many of my paintings are 20″ x 30″ and I want to create the next few pieces on 16″ x 20.” Framing for the large paintings can run into hundred of dollars. I hope to …oops …I plan on …I will complete at least four new paintings between now and April 15. That way, I’ll have a couple of goals for the same date, by which time, the snow will be gone and I will be painting outdoors on the deck!
Throughout the late 60′s and early 70′s, major changes were taking place in society. Groups of people were standing up, speaking out and holding up the mirror of reality to those who asked as well as those who turned away. I was on the periphery.
My life was that of a young woman in a new marriage raising two children of mine and two children from my husband’s previous marriage. I worked full-time. I juggled everything I needed to do with energy and a zest for a full life. I could not, however, take part in the near-revolution which was taking place all over the country. What was happening called to me, but to no avail. I carefully observed the process, listened to the stories and gathered the news from the daily paper, taking in the angst and the hope of the thousands out in the streets and parks.
As my children grew older, I returned to school in the evenings, studied psychology, philosophy, history, political science and a host of other life- expanding subjects. By the mid-seventies, my husband and I were involved in the human potential movement – encounter groups, bodywork, hot tubs, Gestalt groups. marathon sessions with Werner Erhard and others.
In 1976, we met with the Maharishi, received our mantras and began meditating twice a day. I found that meditation boosted my energy level and I was able to get through busy and stressful days and nights as I worked towards my master’s degree and then my Ph.D. Meditation led me to yoga and the Tao. This was 37 years ago!
It is one hour and fifteen minutes to the New Year, 2013 and I have come full circle. In my search for inner peace, I have returned to the teachings of Lao Tzu and his book, the ” Tao Te Ching.” Once again, I read the words “shift of attitude” and once again realize the intrinsic relationship between inner and outer peace and planetary peace.
MAKE 2013 YOUR BEST YEAR EVER!
I would love to hear how you will make 2013 your best year ever. Please, connect if you are so inclined.
Here’s another more complete translation of the Rilke poem above…
“And now let us believe in a long year that is given to us, new, untouched, full of things that have never been, full of work that has never been done, full of tasks, claims, and demands; and let us see that we learn to take it without letting fall too much of what it has to bestow upon those who demand of it necessary, serious, and great things.”
R.M. Rilke, Letter to Clara Rilke, 1 January 1907
Translation: Jane Bannard Greene and M.D. Herter Norton
“What lies behind us and what lies before us are tiny matters, compared to what lies within us.” – Ralph Waldo Emerson
I sit in my studio-office looking out at the almost denuded trees. The sun is shining …not the bright golden light of summer, but the subtle light of late October. We turn back the clocks in a little over a week. November has always been, to me, the “brown” month. Trees are bare and darkness arrives before dinner. I have to boost my vitamin D to 5,000 mg. a day! This fall and winter, however, I anticipate a quiet time of artistic and emotional joy…my creative spirit rides high.
The past year has brought professional recognition to my work as a painter of intuitive, emotional abstracts. In September, I had a one-person exhibition of my latest work …twelve paintings of the last two years and three of earlier origin when I was attempting to figure out what “abstract” meant to me. The highlight of September was an artist’s reception at which I presided over a talk-back session. Any questions, asked by interested art lovers, give me a genuine opportunity to examine my own thoughts and feelings about the work I do. I find it exciting and challenging and at the same time, give me much to ponder.
“There are moments in our lives, there are moments in a day, when we seem to see beyond the usual. Such are the moments of our greatest happiness. Such are the moments of our greatest wisdom. If one could but recall his vision by some sort of sign. It was in this hope that the arts were invented. Signposts on the way to what may be. Signposts toward greater knowledge.” - Robert Henri
In August, I entered one of my paintings, “Red, Yellow, Black” (which previously had been on exhibit in The Hardy Gallery‘s ”49th Annual Juried Show” 2011) into a show featuring original works by senior artists from throughout the Chicago area. On September 16 I receive a letter telling me I was accepted into the exhibition, “Later imPRESSions 2012.” The show is now hanging in the RenaissanceCourt Gallery at the Chicago Cultural Center in Chicago through November. There are well over 100 entries and 45 original pieces of art chosen. I am honored to be a part of this group.
Two days before the Artists’ Reception is scheduled, I receive an e-mail from the coordinator of the show telling me a couple from Toronto, Canada are interested in purchasing my painting. She tells me they just happened upon the show when they entered the cultural center to get out of the rain. She gives me their contact information and says they will be leaving for home the next day, but I can reach them by phone or e-mail. The prospect of this being a serious offer seems slim to me; however, I e-mail them that evening and say I understand she and her husband are interested in my painting, “Red, Yellow, Black.” I ask her to confirm via text or e-mail and she does so within a half-hour. We work out the logistics of her payment and shipping costs. She acknowledges she is aware the painting has to continue to hang in the exhibition until November 27th, at which time, it will be shipped to her. I invite her to visit my website and online gallery to get to know more about me. She says she will look forward to it.
Two days later, I receive this message and it is with her permission that I include her response:
“I am beginning to think that artists are frustrated poets! What I find interesting (and I had to get to my 70′s to realize this) is that some people are visual and others are not. I see it in my children and grandchildren. Our grandson (age 7) will get out of the car at our place and tell me what a beautiful garden I have – our granddaughter will not notice it at all. My husband is the same – which makes it easy for me when I want to change the garden and move plants. As a gardener a plant will tell you when it is happy.
‘You are creating an incredible legacy for your family. I knit – not quite the same!
‘Five years ago I had cancer and I found that I could not live with black – and being a winter in the colour palette black was my mainstay. I needed bright colours around me. Now that I am healthy again I can wear black and welcome all colours. I realize that I like primary colours – there must be a reason why they are the jumping off point for the spectrum.
We look forward to our painting. We both liked it instantly so we know we made the right choice.” Norma
I am so moved by her sharing and so appreciative of her kind words. The fact that my creation, drawn from my feelings and energy can connect to someone else, in one sense a stranger and in another, a fellow traveler, fills my eyes with tears and my heart with love. It is my
pleasure to know something I created will bring joy to others for a long time to come. This is not why I paint, but it is the frosting on the cake. I am grateful.
I walk into the gallery where twelve of my abstract paintings are hanging and three are leaning against a wall. I am immediately taken in by a riot of color which surrounds me. Looking around the room I see heather, green, brown, black, red, yellow, blue, orange, gold, rust and more. I am amazed!
I was in Paris when the show was hung and my first impression is a mild shock. If you had asked me yesterday what I thought the most important aspect of abstract painting was, I don’t think I would have said “color.” Perhaps, I should have expected to be surprised. I had received email “hints” from friends who had already seen the show. All of them commented on the profusion of color …all quite positive and only one expressing a preference for the paintings with less bold colors.
Since all people carry their own history within themselves, color evolves as a very personal issue. I actually believe that my favorite colors lean toward the earth tones with neutral right up near the top. At least half of the clothes in my closet are black. Sometimes, a vivid scarf brings the blazing shades of autumn into my wardrobe palette. I absolutely never wear heather or and shade of green. Off-white walls throughout my home with black accents in accessories, any color is derived from art on the walls, books, pillows and plants. Fall, winter, spring and summer are seen through the vertical blinds of my studio.
In the analysis of abstraction, there is a style called “color field painting.” Yes of course, color is is an important aspect in all forms of art. But there are many other worthy traits: texture, form, line, concept and the act of painting itself. But whether I admit or deny it, color seems to be at the core of my work …the key to making a bold statement that draws attention to each individual piece.
This week, as I think more and more about abstract art, I am trying to capture the brilliant, and quickly fading, autumn colors. The trees, bushes and grasses reach out in their glory …I look only at the myriad of colors. There are shades of red, green and gold that I swear I have never seen before, even though I have been taking pictures of the seasons for years. I know these colors will inform my next abstract painting. I know it because the little voice in my head has been pondering color all week. I can’t keep it all inside me.
“Well, it’s about time I start writing again” …says the little voice in my head.
I’ve been hearing that refrain for about two weeks now, since returning from a very special trip to France. Now, there is so much to think about and integrate. Words and pictures fill my mind. I am unable to find any order in which to put my thoughts. To complicate matters, five days after arriving back at home, I was scheduled to host a reception as part an exhibition of my abstract paintings.
The show, “Abstracts +” had been on exhibit in the gallery since the beginning of September, but since I was out of the country, the reception event took place later in the month. To many people, abstract painting is a mystery.
They ask, “What does it mean? What am I supposed to see or feel? Why did you choose to paint ‘that’ way?”
I’ve given a great deal of thought to their queries, in one sense, to “educate” but, I cannot create equanimity through my words. My response as an abstract painter will not necessarily enlighten anyone. The individual’s response to really looking at an abstract is so personal and carries a host of baggage. So, what does one do in this digital age when confronted with a question she can’t answer?
Ask Goggle …and so I did. Here are some quotes I found very interesting and rewarding.
“An abstract painting is exactly what it purports to be, whether it be paint splatters or stripes, while a representational painting has to give the illusion of the paint being air, or flesh, or flowers …therefore abstract paintings are rather concrete while representational paintings are rather abstract” – David Leffel
“Abstract art requires something of the viewer. It demands contemplation, study, flights of fancy, feeling.” – Svante Rydberg
“Strong abstract design is created with rhythms and harmonies in shapes, lines, edges, and colors and is analogous to the rhythms in music and the harmonies between individual notes. This aspect of the painting is completely independent of the subject matter.” - Barry John Raybould
“You have to have time to be sorry for yourself to be a good Abstract Expressionist.” – Robert Rauschenberg
“Nature and abstract forms are both materials for art, and the choice of one or the other flows from historically changing interests.” – Meyer Schapiro
“Painting abstract expressionistic works are the most challenging as they entail all the elements of a first class realistic piece of work, namely composition, values, etc. which need to be addressed…” – Adrienne Moore
“For some, abstract art can be a burden …as even before one can draw a conscious decision as to what is being seen, physiological challenges are being made and processed by the eye and brain, reconstructing the shapes into patters of recognizable objects.” – Robert Lee Munoz
“I never wanted color to be color. I never wanted texture to be texture, or images to become shapes. I wanted them all to fuse together into a living spirit.” – Clyfford Still
Since my last Facebook Page post, I purchased eight tubes of acrylic paint and I am “playing around” with them using palette knife and brushes. I find them “lite” as compared to my water-based oils, and the colors too intense. This is not to say that I can’t use available mediums or texturizers to thicken the paint. In fact, I did try a couple of products however, I just don’t feel I can get what I need using the acrylics even though they are “heavy body.” For the moment, I am returning to my oils but, have enrolled in a beginning acrylics class at The Clearing in July taught by Sandra Place.
I have decided that I will return to some degree of “realism” in my latest painting (as opposed to the abstracts of the past few years), so I am embarking on a lovely landscape inspired by my favorite place to paint – Kiawah Island, S.C.. The marshes and grasses with their ever-changing colors and inhabitants inspire me in a way I can’t explain.
Using an old photo as reference, I sketch an early morning view of the marsh as seen through an upstairs bedroom in my daughter Sharon’s home on the Island. Essentially, they are horizontal lines of varying shades of green, blue, orange and earth tones. Today, I lay out my full palette, light cad yellow through ultramarine blue with ivory black and titanium white, assemble my brushes and knives and begin to paint, or at least I assume I will.
Suddenly, I am overcome by a growing feeling of dis-ease (you can call it anxiety if you wish). I don’t know how to paint the scene! I know, or think I need an undercoat or “wash,” which means an appropriate color, watered down, which will dry quickly and become the base or background of the emerging piece. I apply a light shade of lime green, leaving the sketch intact. Then, I ask myself, “Do I have to paint inside the lines? Do I have to plan my colors in advance? Do I have to use small brushes? Do I actually have to have a vision of the completed painting?”
I feel like I have forgotten how to paint and am back in kindergarten again!
I realize I have not completed a representational painting in at last three years after “evolving” into a painter whose passion is abstract art. My paintings have always been contemporary reflections of an evolving journey through a typical life – an equal mix of beauty, joy and love, challenged by frustration, fear and loss. I work predominantly with palette knives for the freedom they afford me. I paint while listening to jazz, salsa and standards. What I create, originates from my right brain, thinking without thought, spiritual and intuitive, more about process and flow, color, form, texture and energy.
Tomorrow, or next Wednesday, I will return to my easel and give myself over to that process once again as opposed to something which seems like a good idea in the moment but turns out to be my left-brain, challenging me to return to a place which no longer exists. I believe in the “whole brain” now, where knowledge and intuition go hand-in-hand; where learning doesn’t really take place without evoking the greater challenge – change!
My horoscope for the year 2012 predicts many major changes in my life as I know it now.
I usually read these forecasts with interest and skepticism. Nonetheless, over the years, I have experienced a high percentage of accurate readings. I could, of course, attribute this to intentions leading to behaviors, which lead to the creation of an anticipated outcome i.e., “The Law of Attraction.” That, however is another long, involved thesis.
Today, it is change and evolution on a very personal level which I wish to explore. I know intuitively, that the direction of my life is about to take a new and, as of yet, undefined path. I’ve felt it from day one of this year. It’s not a new feeling for me as I’ve experienced this knowing many times in my life. In fact, change has been such an integral part of my life that, at one point, I returned to the university in order to study “the management of change” and ultimately to become a “change agent.”
I think someone once said, “we teach what we need to learn.” I have always felt anxiety around the “change” issue and really wanted to relieve myself of this angst. Over the long-haul, I’d say I was about 75% successful… I have been able to push through or work around situations that challenge me. If I say I’m going to do something, I do it and I learn to do it well.
When I was a teenager and young adult, my father used to say I was a “Jack of all trades, master of none,” which was not a kind saying. He would admonish me to “put on the blinders and focus.” Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia says that Jack of all trades is “a figure of speech used in reference to a person that is competent with many skills but is not necessarily outstanding in any particular one.” It goes on to say, “The earliest recorded versions of the phrase do not contain the second part. Indeed, they are broadly positive in tone.” This might refer to a “Renaissance man” or a polymath or a generalist and is actually a term of praise. (‘Jack’ was a generic term for ‘man’ in Elizabethan English.)
I look back on all the changes in my life (as an eldest daughter, a salesgirl, a secretary, wife and mother, a student and academic, a hypnotherapist, an organizational consultant, a change agent, a motivational coach, a memoir writing coach, a successful entrepreneur, a grandmother and an artist) and, yes, I could be called “a Jacqueline of all trades” and master of many. I’m definitely not a specialist and wouldn’t want to be.
“Did you know: that learning 20% of a language’s vocabulary will enable you to communicate and understand at least 80%, learning 20% of a dance like the tango (lead and footwork) separates the novice from the pro, that 20% of the moves in a sport account for 80% of the scoring, etc. Is this settling for mediocre?” – Tim Ferriss
Boredom is, for me, inherent in skills pursued out of obligation and possibilities ignored for fear of the unknown. Creativity craves for exposure and “evolution” is almost a better word than “change.” Sometimes evolving means leaving ways and means, people and places behind. Sometimes change flows with a grace like the clouds above. Sometimes it evolves like the tumultuous waves in the sea. Most times, it’s somewhere in between and becomes a wake-up call to life and new ways of being.
How do you feel about change?
p.s. I forgot to confess that I’ve moved twelve times in my life. I just keep going, one breath at a time.
Do you remember when you were in high school or college and you knew in advance that a paper or report was due on a certain date?
I don’t know what your reaction to this kind of expectation is, but I do know mine. I shut down or balk or procrastinate or all three. This is definitely a self-imposed, negative reinforcement, the result of which is anxiety and being as Barbra Streisand says, “far klempt” – a Yiddish saying which translates into something like “uptight.”
However, all of that began a very long time ago, but my reaction to deadlines of almost any kind is still the same. This “blog” or “journal” evokes the familiar old response.
You might be thinking, “Well then, don’t write. Nobody is forcing you to do it.”
Well, that’s not quite true. You see, I have a muse and I have a little voice echoing in my head which reminds me when too much time has passed between posts (otherwise known as entries or articles). My muse (who is a real person) urges me to “keep writing.”
Uh, oh! This feels like an admonition! It’s not that I don’t think about writing. I do. Most days, I go over my experiences and search for the keywords which might indicate that some event or feeling is worth writing about. It’s not a question of whether there is an audience. I really write for myself. That’s why I prefer the word “journal” over “blog.” But, I always feel that my “sharing” does resonate with others. After all, we are sharing the human experience in one form and another.
When I was in my early teens, I kept a diary (with a lock on it, of course). My sense of having a private place in which to express my feelings and record my experiences was essential to my existence. Life sometimes seems overwhelming or confusing and the process of writing, in and of itself, is healing. My diary was an extension of myself as I evolved from childhood through adolescence. My reward is an everlasting love of words and language.
Over the years, I have kept a journal. I have at least a dozen little books that document my personal experiences and formerly ensuing emotions. My concern now is whether or not I should destroy them or keep them intact so that someday, my children and grandchildren will know the “real” me.
“Tis a puzzlement.” – The King and I
Once I sit down and focus, the words begin to flow, even though I do not always know where I am going. This is the best way for me now. I enjoy the free flow of thoughts and ideas… so different from all the papers I had to write in grad school which required foot-notes and bibliographies. I did have to retrain myself to “go with the flow” after I left my professional career as consultant and professor. It wasn’t easy. But, I did it and here I am, 499 words into this entry.