When is a Workshop…Well Not a Workshop? Part 2 Surrealists

 

My mentoring week with Katherine Chang Liu also included “programs” that she developed for the group. For an hour each morning we viewed and discussed contemporary art. I found myself really enjoying the work of the surrealists, which was definitely not the case before. Perhaps what made me appreciate this art even more was the work another artist in the mentoring sessions—Judith Visker.

According to her bio, Judith had a career as a nurse before studying art. She painted in stylized representational style for a long time, but is now “more concerned with where the materials take me, with color relationships, formal design and surface quality.” She has exhibited in museum shows, galleries and exhibitions and has won awards. She is the Gallery Director at The Wham Art Center in Surprise, AZ where she has her studio, shows her work, and teaches classes. She graciously allowed me to share a few images. You can find more at her website: http://www.judithviskerart.com/

Enjoy.

 

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When is a workshop…well not a workshop? Part

I just spent a week in Arizona working with Katherine Chang Liu, an internationally recognized artist and teacher. Katherine calls what she does mentoring, not a workshop, partly because she does not demonstrate techniques.

Katherine does not dwell on an artist’s deficiencies, instead she identifies each individual’s strengths and guides them by building upon these strengths to form their personal visual language. Her ability to discover the essence of each artist’s work was amazing. At least in my own personal case, it was positive reinforcement.

Although my work space was totally mine to organize and set up, I was fortunate enough to be near two incredible abstract artists, Nancy Dini, and Jackie Roliardi. Nancy was working with texture and Jackie with shapes. Observing the various artists and how they worked was an added benefit of the week. You can find Jackie’s work at https://jackieroliardiart.artspan.com/

No Destination

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“Untitled,” 16″ x 20,” mixed media collage on deep panel

The week has just started and I am tired. To say it has been difficult to concentrate on art the last few weeks is well…an understatement. Illness, my own upper respiratory infection and my elderly mother’s increasing anxiety, has consumed me.

Finding myself the bad guy is not a new role, just one that comes and goes. And no matter how you feel at the moment, you really don’t want it to return. You want all hatchets buried, all peace pipes smoked. But usually, life doesn’t work that way even with the most optimistic outlooks. To keep my own head about me, I paint.

Lately, I have been working on paper, which doesn’t create my usual amount of texture. But it still allows quite a bit, just more visual than tactile. And because there is less preparation, I can work in the moment. Luckily, most of the layers also dry a bit more quickly as well.

This one, as yet untitled, is likely part of a new series. I feel myself moving a brush, a pencil over the paper as if it is a landscape I want to explore—even though there is no definite destination.

Do we need one? Can’t we just begin a journey and see what will happen, where we will go if we follow a line?

 

 

Purple Deceiver

Where paintings take us

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“Purple Deceiver,” 16″ x 20″ x 3″, mixed media on deep wood panel, https://www.artsicle.com/artist/art/purple-deceiver/details

On an early morning hike just off the Blue Ridge Parkway, my husband and I noticed a purple mushroom. Several photographs later, I thought I might paint a simple abstract landscape, but alas, paintings take us “where they want to go” sometimes. And this one took me many places.

Before I started anything, I really wanted to identify the mushroom. I was so excited when I found the name purple deceiver, but a few minutes later a less amusing name appeared: purple cort or cortinarius iodes. So I stopped there because I really wanted it to be a purple deceiver and to take on the complexity that denotes a con artist. After all, this little beauty had definitely misled me. And being here in the middle of a political season that will not be discussed, but can certainly be defined as full of “deceivers,” I decided that no matter what, this painting was “Purple Deceiver.”

Nothing about it is particularly clear. Everything is suggestive.

Setting Boundaries

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“Setting Boundaries I,” 12″ x 12″ x 3″, mixed media on deep wood panel

Who doesn’t love a beautiful stonewall or a wrought iron fence? It makes everything seem contained, more civilized, safer. But do boundaries always keep us safe, or does they simply separate us?

Robert Frost in his poem “Mending Wall” questions this notion with his neighbor as they do a spring mend on a stonewall, each on his own side. The narrator considers this repairing an “out-door game,” since there is no livestock to contain. But his neighbor seems serious about the boundaries and quotes the proverb: “fences make good neighbors.”

As houses get closer and the noise louder, I too want to set boundaries—to live within a walled garden. I get up early not to hear the sounds of construction. But will a wall, garden or not, make me more tolerant? Will I sleep better at night with a 6-foot privacy fence? Possibly. Or perhaps it is more about what a fence symbolizes, because boundaries can be so many different things.

If boundaries alienate us from each other, can we name the boundaries? Are they simply differences in looks or opinions so that we draw lines of exclusion to feel more comfortable? Are they differences in values or religion? Or are they what we imagine of our “neighbors”? Frost says, “my apple trees will never get across and eat the cones under his pines.”

So I ask myself and you, does setting boundaries benefit us or keep us from crossing lines that might make a difference?

What Painting and Listening Teaches

I’ve spent a lot of time in the woods, and the time I’ve spent lately has included more listening. That means I’ve heard the difference in the sounds of water—depending on whether it is a small stream, a river, or a waterfall.

The connection between timpani or kettledrums came when viewing a PBS film on crafts that talked about how different drumsticks change the sound of the drum. Some sticks are made with harder tip, others have more, and softer felt. This last trip to the woods I’ve tried to notice why the sound of the water might be different. Is it the force of the water, the height of the waterfall, the number and type of rocks below the water, or even how those rocks or logs lay in the stream or river?

So the start of the 4-sided painting has become the first in a series about the sound of water. I love what painting and listening teaches me. Even a small waterfall can rumble.

 

Illumination

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“Illumination,” 7.5″ x 14″, mixed media on deep wood panel

I spent the morning with my grandson. After almost two weeks, it’s almost like seeing another child. While much of what he does remains the same, so much changes. He still doesn’t have a long attention span at four, but he will spend about 30 minutes painting, and he loves to see what marks can be made with my different “tools.”

Watching him making marks with a wide brush, a soft brush, an old membership card, a small roller, and a yogurt container he had saved for art was illuminating. It is difficult to remember if I had this same observation and clarity with my own children, but the process made me remember a small painting I did a few years back. It was a period of breakthrough—a big step toward abstraction, a journey I enjoy every day.