January 31, 2013

Mini-Show at TheMuseum

I brought five pieces in for a mini-show at TheMuseum in downtown Kitchener yesterday. I'm happy to have the opportunity to show in this fun child-friendly, innovative space, which will surprise you if you haven't visited it. Laurel, the Director of Programs and Exhibits, has amazing energy and ideas.

My work will be up until Feb. 18.

Quickly setting up. I say quick because Gustavo, the hanger, had the paintings hung and ready to go before I'd unpacked them.

One of the pieces I brought in. "Counterglow," 40"x30" mixed media on panel.

And another. "Anticipating 10," 36"x48" mixed media on panel.

January 21, 2013

The Brush Off was Crazy

A few shots of the action on Saturday at TheMuseum in Kitchener. For a play-by-play recap, the museum blog has a great post with more photos, including some of the work. I had an incredible  time. So much in fact it's taken me until today, Monday, to come down from the adrenaline rush and feel normal again.

I'd like to thank the staff for their very evident organizational skills and hard work, the sponsors for supporting the night, and of course the audience, for their overwhelming enthusiasm. I had no idea there was that much love for art in the area!

The first round was split into two. I went second, meaning I got a chance to snap this and, as a huge crowd swarmed and the artists advanced strongly into their pieces, to wonder just what the hell I'd gotten into.

Here I am getting going, trying to steady my hand from the jitters and sweating in my heavy coveralls.

Each round was half an hour, and while working people circled and cast votes for their favourite artist of the round. Unlike some artists who winged their pieces from memory, I wimped  out and painted from reference photos.

We had our baby with us. This must have been taken from the second floor where there was a good nook for breastfeeding.

On the podium, honoured to be up there not only beside the talented Meredith Blackmore and Jennifer Gough, but everyone.

January 17, 2013

The Brush Off

Come cheer me on this Saturday in Kitchener at The Museum. I'll be competing against 22 other artists in 30 min. rounds of action painting. Tickets are $15 a piece and can be purchased online. Hope to see you there! 


January 6, 2013

Book Review: Maggie Nelson, The Art of Cruelty



In 1972 the performance artist Chris Burden laid down on a busy street in LA, placed two flares around his body, covered himself with a tarp, and waited to see what would happen. What happened was the cops pulled up. Burden explained that he was making a sculpture; the police arrested him. Angry they had "wrecked his piece," Burden later settled the matter in court.

Or how about Marina Abramović? In 1974 she stood motionless for six hours with 72 objects, a gun, needle, knife, and scalpel among them, laid out on a table for audience members to use on her body in any way they saw fit.

Is this art? Kind of? Is it important to ask the question even?

I suppose it depends on your motivations, what you feel art should be. The definition is too fraught to pick sides. "Art should serve beauty. Art should intensify human consciousness. Art should revolutionize society. Art should make the everyday strange. Art should redistribute the sensible. Art should be an axe for the frozen sea within us," Nelson lists off some of the definitions that have been put forward over time.

Nelson isn't concerned with any old Sunday painter's art but the stuff called avant-garde, or at least once called that. And she's particularly interested in the question, "How do we reduce the violence and hatred that have so often marked human social interactions?" Of course there is no simple answer, for "compassion is not necessarily found where we presume it to be, nor is it always what we presume it to be, nor is it experienced or accessed by everyone in the same way, nor is it found in the same place in the same way over time. The same might be said of cruelty."

What I like about this book is how it puts violence and cruelty at the centre of discussion on what the shock troops of the art world are doing. Like an investigative journalist, Nelson wades into some grim spectacles (while gladly sparing us the details) and comes out reporting her findings, philosophizing, her humanity intact, and she expresses it all with a clarity that stands out from the typical swamp of arts writing.

I think this is brave. Beholding images, let along ones intended to provoke strong emotions, is not like listening to a slowly unwinding piece of music or reading a novel, which you can pull back on if it gets overwhelming. "One beholds an image all at once, which leaves the organism more vulnerable to assault," she explains.

Desensitization is a risk. She describes one performance. "As the first wave of emotion lifted, I felt angry. Then I felt disgusted. Finally, I felt bored."

I'd like to say I'm not crazy about uncomfortable, overly conceptual art, but then you're not supposed to be crazy about it. What about daring to look? Nothing is learned or changed by looking away. Rightfully, Nelson doesn't give the answers, but she does blow open the questions.

January 1, 2013

Thanks for 2012

First, a new baby. But also six fast painting contests, six exhibitions, five outdoor shows, a studio tour, and friendships with new galleries. Travels to Valencia in Spain, Porto in Portugal, Treviso in Italy, and Algonquin Park. Research on Goya and the Spanish Civil War in Aragón. About 40 novels read and the equivalent of a trip to Montreal and back in running. I joined a soccer team and volunteered at Immigrant Services. We protested migrant detention centres in Valencia. We settled O. into JK. Planted a garden and painted our house. We bought a BBQ, built a picnic table, and threw a few parties. We spent our first real summer in Canada since 2007, and it was great.

It was a stimulating, prosperous, whirlwind of a year, 2012. Its relationships, new and re-nurtured, the community, and family have made me wealthy. Thanks for sharing the time!