Saturday, April 6, 2019

Bucking Bronco 2019 (three versions)

 Version 1:  My husband, Bob, whose life is very much a kind of joyous wild ride

 Version 2: My eldest daughter who has a very stressful, high powered job, and while she loves it, it's pretty wild.

Version 3:  Me, on the wild ride as well, but more complacent or just resigned to it.

The entire image has been completed, except for the heads.  I'm leaning towards Bob's head.  Possibly it's the most fun.

Sunday, March 17, 2019

Making the Universe(Adam and Eve)and Making the Universe(the Beasts) 2010





One of the biggest problems I have, after 40 years of making images, is that I just have too much.  Too much to store, too much to keep track of, too much to leave to my daughters when I die. Today, while going through my digital files, I came across two pieces that I did in 2010.  I had decided they weren't good enough to keep, so they were gessoed over and then made into new paintings. Now, looking at the two, I find myself  thinking, "What the hell was going on with you? How could you have painted over these?".  I love the pattern paper that makes up  the background in both images, for both the physical reality of the lines and the conceptual one of using an image that is all about making something else.  The snake on God's very red chest, and the apple falling from his hand in Adam and Eve give us clear clues as to what this is all about. The stories are strong: at the same time that God is sending the two errant humans out of the garden, he is creating sky, trees, and birds and clouds as well.  With  Beasts he gently urges the elephants out of the flower they have been gestating  in while a huge yellow sun glows in the background.  In both images God is nerdy, but clearly well meaning(but maybe not the best dresser). There is nothing about these two paintings that I don't love, yet they no longer exist except as digital images. And at least now, there are two more paintings that I don't have to worry about.

Friday, March 1, 2019

Wolf at the Door 1998

To Keep the Wolf from the Door: to have just enough money to be able to eat and live, Cambridge Dictionary.

A few days ago we received a card from a long time friend.  Along with a picture of the family, and a recounting of the year's travels and adventures, it also stated that our friend had been diagnosed with (stage 2) ovarian cancer.  She wrote on the card, "Big white waves ahead for us.  And here we go!".  This is not the first friend to be diagnosed with cancer.  Recently, my husband counted four friends who, in the past two years, have been diagnosed and treated for cancers, all serious, including a young, recently married mother diagnosed with breast cancer.  On my side, I  have a friend's sister who is literally, at death's door, and another friend who died last year of pancreatic cancer. The wolf is at the door, although different for everyone. For my mother it is being made frantic at not being able to turn the TV off because she has confused the phone for the remote. For my husband it was a DVT in his leg a year and a half ago, and for a young friend it was his mother being hit by a motorist while on her bicycle, left in a coma for weeks. I could go on and on.  We all have these stories, they just seem to be coming faster and more furiously.  I don't think we can keep the wolf from the door.  He's coming.  Be ready.

 

Thursday, February 14, 2019

Bob Dreaming 1984



In every successful artist's life there has to be someone that believes in that artist 150%, and for me, that person has always been my husband, Robert Wilson. Not only does he care deeply about what I do, but he has been my subject hundreds and hundreds of times.  The photographs I take of him are awkward and odd, and then I do even stranger things to the photos once I start incorporating paint.  What happens next, once I start painting, has always been a form of magic to me since I have no idea what will come of these images. Something takes over and it's much bigger and better than me. The results speak to me of another world, another reality that I was somehow able to step into for a brief period of time.  Sometimes the images referenced parts of Bob and his personality, as in After the Operation, an image about kindness and concern, taking care of those things smaller and weaker than ourselves, and other times they might reference his being part of a different reality as in Bob as BlackieIn Bob Dreaming, I caught that moment when we go from our sleeping selves to our dreaming selves, separating off into another dimension. Looking back over the years of having made these images, I'm amazed at what we both have managed to accomplish--me with my camera and brushes, Bob with his support, his unconditional love, and his connection to the other side.


Thursday, January 31, 2019

Anderson Ranch Winter Intensive January 2019

Sophie Rex Symer with their two self portraits

As a graduate student at Arizona State University in the 70's, I was fortunate enough to have had, as one of my instructors, John Kacere.  A photo realist painter of woman's sexily glad midsections(but mostly of buttocks), John was a fantastic teacher. Short(he let us know that he wore lifts in his cowboy boots) and very intense, he made us all feel that each of us was that one special student. At one point, when John was talking to me about my work, he leaned in, and in his gravelly voice, insisted that I had to follow three rules if I were ever to teach. The rules were:

1.  Know the subject you are teaching inside and out--be very good at what you teach
2. Never give your students more than they can handle
3. Always love every student the same. 

I have gone on to teach now for 30 some years, always workshops in different art centers around the country, or at universities or with privately produced groups of artists who invite me to work with them.  I have found that all three of John's rules are something that I apply in each and every workshop I teach.  As a working artist, I have a depth of knowledge in the very narrow area that I work in:  combining paint with other kinds of imagery, and I've become especially knowledgeable about different transfer processes. I am good at and do know well what I'm teaching.  I have found that rule number 2 is very important, because by allowing someone to get in over their heads and then failing, they are then convinced that they can't do, and will never do whatever that thing is they are attempting. They think it's their entirely their fault, and they want to give up.  I back them out of the problem, and together we come at it from a different direction until they succeed. The last rule is probably the most important, because if someone feels that you are preferring one student over another, they will lose trust in you, even if they are that preferred student.  A class works as one unit, and if there is disharmony or if one  of the students feels left out or overlooked, it affects, negatively, the entire dynamic of the class. The students aren't just learning from you, but also from each other and they need that basis of trust. Finding one's creative voice is such a delicate process, that with any sign of of preferential treatment, that creative voice will go into hiding, and refuse to emerge. 

I would like to think that John, who died in 1999, would be pleased and proud of the way I've continued his legacy of teaching.  I'd like to think that I've helped people become the best artists they can be, just as he helped me all those years ago.



Sunday, January 13, 2019

Nancy Oakes Hall: 1957-2018


I first met Nancy as a student of mine at Anderson Ranch here in Snowmass, Colorado. She would eventually take four of my workshops:  two before she was diagnosed with breast cancer and two after. In the first two workshops she struggled to find her voice, but after she returned from her treatment to get rid of the cancer,  she was fierce.  In each of the two latter workshops she progressed rapidly, finding ways to express herself that were novel to all of us, but especially to her.  She worked hard and consistently, the old nagging voices of self doubt gone, replaced by confidence, curiosity, and courage.  In the last workshop she took with me she brought in large, 24”x24” panels, and proceeded to fill them with strange and beautiful landscapes using paint, dictionary pages, and contact paper.  She was focused, and worked about as hard as anyone can work in a room full of 12 other people, keeping her socializing to a minimum, not letting herself be distracted from her work.

On April 18th of this year, Nancy succumbed to her cancer.  She left a legacy, not just of her courage and determination, but two endowments to help other women in their own journeys.  One is a yearly scholarship to help woman in the snow sports(having grown up in Aspen, Nancy had been both a ski racer and a ski instructor), and the other, again, yearly, is for a female artist to take a workshop at Anderson Ranch. I hope I’m lucky enough to have one of those students in one of my workshops.