Sunday, May 26, 2013

Work by Norbert Schwontkowski (date and title unknown)

In avoidance of many things, I end up spending way too much time on Facebook.  One of the best things about my Facebook  "friends" is that most of them are either art artists or art related in some way, so, I have lots to look at, often portfolios of images that go on forever.  In this way I came across the work of Norbert Schwontkowski, a German artist born in 1949.  I wasn't aware of his work, so after seeing several of his images on a Facebook album I googled his name, found his "images" section,  and was then able to avoid even more by finding out as much as I could about this wonderful artist.

As a visual person, and as someone who makes images, I'm always looking for those images that speak to me. Schwontkowski's did just that.  He does what I do: combines paint that isn't precise with images that tell a story.  His figures are made with paint, mine with bits and pieces of the photos I've taken through my life.  I love the simplicity of his stories.   Often they are kind of goofy.  He has images with flying saucers and people doing odd things--a man sitting with his feet in a bucket, a woman pushing a shopping cart with lots of white stuff in it. His colors are muted and grayed out, what my students would call "Ugly Colors".  But mostly his work has a melancholy and a sadness that is very attractive to me.  When I look at Schwontkowski's work, I feel as if I have stepped into his dreams, and they are as clear and as honest as they can be. It's a difficult thing to do the kind of work he does--so much gets in the way. But seeing his work reminds of what I need to know and helps to keep me moving forward with the same honesty and clarity.  Thank you Norbert Schwontkowski.

Sunday, May 19, 2013

Jesus Waving 1984

Most Christians believe that Jesus was conceived by the Holy Spiritborn of a virgin, performed miracles, founded the Church, died sacrificially by crucifixion to achieve atonementrose from the dead, and ascended into heaven, from which he will return.[16] The majority of Christians worship Jesus as the incarnation of God the Son, who is the Second Person of the Holy Trinity.[17] 

My own personal Jesus is a guy who wears heavy sandals with thin, patterned socks that creep up to his mid calves and is always in shorts, no matter how cold it is outside.  He probably has a little more polyester in his closet than is good for him (all that out-gassing).  I think he's someone you wouldn't want to spend much time with the first time you meet him,  but a what a friendly guy.  It turns out he is someone who will help you change out your swamp cooler just from sheer niceness, who offers without being asked.  As your work on the roof together, before you know it, you are telling him about your problems at work with your colleagues, and how you got in a fight with your wife this morning and you don't know exactly why.  You tell him you didn't want to say all those mean things but you did and now she won't talk to you. He just listens quietly, and every now and then he'll make a comment that shows that he is listening, that he hears what you are saying, and you know he feels for you, shares some of your pain.  There is no judgement, just kindness and concern.  You keep talking, and before you know it the cooler is done, and you both have agreed that you need to get down off the roof and tell your wife how sorry you are, that you love her, and that you just didn't know where all that black stuff came from.  Maybe the problems with the colleagues...? Jesus suggests.  And you realize he's right.

Sunday, May 12, 2013

Screen Painting Baltimore 2013

 Painted window screen, Baltimore

Painted Window Screen, In situ, Baltimore

I made my first real trip to Baltimore this past week, staying with a good friend in his row house in the Federal Hill district. We made a trip to the American Visionary Art Museum, a museum for folk and outsider art that I've wanted to visit for years.  Among the many wonderful things I saw was an exhibit of screen art, a way of painting on window and door screens so that from the street you see a scene(usually bucolic), but from the inside, you have an unimpeded view out, privacy, and ventilation.   The art was not  my favorite kind of folk art, but I was touched by the artists and the movement(which has largely died off, but is still an important part of Baltimore's art scene).

The row houses, 12 feet wide and sharing the walls of the row houses next to it, open directly onto the street with only a stoop to step down from.  The front room is separated from the sidewalk by brick and glass; no lawn, no fence, no yard, no porch.  The screen art is a brilliant way of providing privacy and comfort and at the same time offering up the magic we need and love so much--images that speak to our fantasies and desires, in this case rivers and waterfalls, trees and mountains, swans and elk, lighthouses,small snug bungalows.  For me personally, it was an enforcement of all that I believe in as an artist: a strong and vibrant community of artists and art that matters.  So often in the world of contemporary art I feel so much isolation and loneliness that it did my creative soul great good to find art that had such a clear and comfortable place in the world.