Sunday, December 24, 2023

Man with a Squirel 2023


I have a problematic relationships with squirrels.  We have just a few in our neighborhood, but when I go to a place where they are plentiful, they make me nervous with their herky-jerky movments, and their lightening like ability to go up and over just about anything that is vertical. A student once brought me a dead squirrel wrapped in leaves (the same student had also brought me a dead snake a few days before which I scanned and then had to get rid of because of the smell), which is where the squirrel in this image comes from. The story is ominous to me, with the bare trees and the vulture like birds watching the man scurry off in a guilty way with the lifeless squirrel in hand.

Tuesday, November 28, 2023

Red Couple 2008

Although I don't usually feel that my images are political, I came across "Red Couple" recently.  Done in 2008, the skirt of the woman and the torso of the man are from a photograph of  Lee Harvey Oswald  holding a rifle The woman's torso is made from a design of different kinds of skeletons of humans and animals(just in case you missed the death reference with the rifle images).  Looking back, 2008 almost seems to have been a time of innocence.  It was pre Trump, pre COVID, pre the war between the Ukraine and Russia, climate change wasn't as dire, and now, most horrifically, the conflict between Israel and Hamas(although I'm sure there was violence in 2008 as well).  I almost never use red in my work, or red like this, a red that dominates the painting, but in this case, it's a clear reference to blood.  This morning, someone posted on my Facebook feed the image of five dead children from the Israel/Hamas conflict whose bodies had been laid out on a table.  It was too awful for words. 

Tuesday, October 31, 2023

Watch Dogs 2007

In December of last year I wrote about my friend Shirley's passing in Shirley's Ride.  Recently, her husband, Bob, held a gathering of friends and family to remember her by. It was one of those very good memorials: people standing up around a table after having eaten a lovely lunch with their memories of Shirley, all of us describing different pieces to the puzzle that was this complicated, intelligent, and wonderful woman. Shirley had collected a number of my pieces over the years, pieces that she saw in my studio and bought so that they were never exhibited but seen only on her walls. At her memorial service I sat across from her favorite niece, Taylor Curry, who Shirley had left the bulk of my work to.  And since my work is not everyone's cup of tea, I was delighted to find that Taylor was not only thrilled to have the work, but that I was as thrilled to have her be their new caretaker. Among other things, I learned that Taylor had just come back from hiking the Pacific Coast Trail--solo--five months start to finish.  Shirley had found the right home for these four wonderful paintings. 

Tuesday, September 26, 2023

Woman at the Beach 2017

Although I did this piece in 2017, I thought it was more appropriate for the current year, 2023, most probably the hottest year ever recorded. In this painting, there is no place for her to hide from the  oppressive heat and the ever present sun.  The woman is tattooed with marks from the sun, and her sunglasses and swim suit are all that protect her. Although waves crash in the background, they are distant and only serve to underscore just how hot it is for our lady, standing alone on the hot, dry, sand in her strangely inappropriate red shoes.

Wednesday, August 23, 2023

Yellow Elephant 2023

For almost a year now I haven't painted.  Many things are contributing to this, but one of the main issues is that, at 71, I have too many stored paintings. I lay awake at night trying to figure out what to do with these 600 babies that never fully fledged.   It's a strange place for any artist to be: our identities come with what we make, it's who we are, and what we do.  More than that, making is something bigger than us, more important and what connects us to what matters. Most artists of my generation, or older, are grappling with this. If we are lucky, the work is wanted, either sold or donated to Museums and art centers that will care for the art. But if we aren't so lucky, our heirs end up having big yard sales, give aways, or dropping the work off at thrift stores.  

Part of the way I've been combating this is to make work that lives in my computer.  Using Photoshop or, new to me, Affinity, I use my photos as the foundation for the image that is to follow.  In this case, an old black and white photograph of a life sized paper mache baby elephant taken 40 years ago that I added to and deleted from, the image reminding me of just how difficult it is to deal with the process of aging.

Monday, June 26, 2023

Dummy Deer 2023

While staying in a friend's guest house in Colorado recently, I discovered a dismantled "dummy deer" in a corner of the garage.  One leg was unattached and he was leaning against the wall, full of marks where he had been shot at, I assume, by a bow and arrow.  Aside from the detached leg, the antlers were also unattached, so I put him back together, took him outside, leaned him against the garage door, and photographed him. Besides the marks made from the target practice, there were also lines delineating his heart and lungs, which I assume would be the "kill shots" on a real deer. 

I took the images into Photoshop, took them apart and then put him back together, emphasizing the marks made from the practice shots.  There was something sad and surreal about working with this not real, but still beautiful animal, knowing his sole purpose was in being a target for people practicing to kill live deer, aiming for the square markings on his side that would come closest to killing them. The dummy deer had such dignity and composure, seemingly unaware of his tragic purpose as a kind of "Judas"deer.

Sunday, May 21, 2023

Man Kneeling 2016

 Automatic writing, also called psychography, is a claimed psychic ability allowing a person to produce written words without consciously writing. Practitioners engage in automatic writing by holding a writing instrument and allowing alleged spirits to manipulate the practitioner's hand. The instrument may be a standard writing instrument, or it may be one specially designed for automatic writing, such as a planchette or a ouija board. *Wikipedia

Although I didn't use an ouija board, I like to think of this style of painting as "Autonomic".  I start by covering the entire surface of a panel with acrylic paint. Then, while the paint is wet, after having dipped my bush into black India ink, I start a line drawing.  The process demands that I begin with an  empty mind(never an easy accomplishment) since I don't know what the drawing is to be until the lines start to reveal themselves.  If I make an error, or don't like a particular part of the drawing, then I have to start over, repainting the entire background over the wet ink lines.The process is both physically and emotionally taxing.  The paint dries quickly, so I have a small window of time to work in, and if any part of the drawing doesn't work I have to, essentially, begin again with only a faint idea of what came before--all this with an empty mind!  There is no erasing or correcting  because any added lines or erasures after it dries change the entire surface of the painting. But, the smudges and smears of the first, second, or third drawings make the surface that much richer and juicier even as I bemoan the loss of the drawing as I cover it over with new paint.

Sunday, April 30, 2023

Green Pony 2023

I purchased a Wacom tablet to help me create better images in my computer, but it turns out I like drawing with my bar of soap aka the mouse better.  Working with a mouse and a screen is difficult for me, with  almost no fluidity.  When an image does appear, it comes in fits and starts, coming and going, sometimes with my permission, sometimes not.  The layers of Photoshop are always jumping around, so as I'm working on one layer, some little demon pops up and shifts everything around. I'm also plagued by using a very old version of Photoshop, so that when something goes wrong I don't know if its me or if it's cranky old CS4. However, something does seem to be happening. I'm slowly beginning to gather the vocabulary and familiarity with the tools in PS to be able to make images that have their own life and their own idea of where they want to go.  The brushes are beginning to make sense, and more than that, the results are fun and often times, unexpected.  The colors are wild and wonderful.  As their clumsy conduit, the images are starting to tell me what they need and, more importantly, what they don't, and, as always, I'm listening. 

Sunday, April 16, 2023

Demon Head Smoking 2015

I use Adobe Photoshop on a daily basis, but that's not to say I'm any good at it.  I've taken lots of classes, but the problem is that, if you don't use what you've learned, POOF, it's gone, or at least gone from my very right brained mind .An instructor of mine compared PS to a very big, complex city, but that the only way to learn to get about in that city is to learn your immediate neighborhood, and go from there.  My PS neighborhood is about one block square and I only go out to the corner store for eggs, milk, and bread. With this in mind, in 2015, I went about trying to make my neighborhood a little bigger.  I started making images in Photoshop, in the computer, not painting, cutting and pasting onto panels as I'd always done.  The learning curve was huge, and my neck and shoulders would be frozen by the end of a four hour or longer work period.  I "drew" with my mouse, which is like drawing with a bar of soap, and at the same time learned about these magical "brushes" that would make strange and fabulous marks.  I had to learn to use layers, and not to forget which layer I was on as I stumbled along.  The one thing that was the same was the use of my photos.  I would always start these images with a photograph underneath, and then, just as always, I would use the interaction of photoshop and the under lying photo to build the image.  These images live in the computer, and when they exist outside of the computer, they are seen as archival pigment prints, with small edition sizes.  I stopped doing them because the world didn't seem very interested, but I do love them--quirky, strange--a wonderful combination of skill and blunder.

Wednesday, February 22, 2023

Man at the Table 1995

I have been going through my work updating images of the older pieces I have.  Originally I shot slides(Kodachrome), and did the best I could using a black cloth as a backdrop and natural light.  As I slowly entered the digital world, I learned to shoot digitally and to use Photoshop but I had 20 years of slides that had to be scanned and then transferred into my computer. It's these images that I am re-shooting now, 30 years later..

It's been an interesting journey for me, revisiting these older images.  I have been absolutely astonished at their power and beauty--their strength and complexity.  "Man at the Table" was made during the Bosnian war, and was about the "peace negotiations" which were ongoing and never ending. Everyday we would watch images on the TV of the violence, the destruction and the atrocities between the Bosnians and the Serbs.  And now, sadly, almost 30 years later, the same horrific images are filling our screens with the war in the Ukraine. This image, unfortunately, is still timely. 

Monday, February 6, 2023

Story: Real or Not so Much 2023

                                               "The Bear", Douglas McDonald, 7"x10" 1st place

                                            Story: Real—Or Not So Much

Juror’s Statement

Holly Roberts

January 20, 2023

 For four days I lived with 635 entries for the juried show, “Story: Real-or not so Much”.  Each morning and each afternoon, I would go over the entries numerous times, each time eliminating more artists from the mix and at night I would dream about the images.  My goal was to select 60 wall pieces and 4 sculptures because this is what the gallery had room for.  The process was blind—meaning I didn’t know the names of the artists—to help me be as objective as possible in choosing the work.  Having been on both sides of the fence with this process before, both as artist and as juror, I knew how hard it would be to receive the “unfortunately…” letter, and I also knew that the job of choosing was completely my personal vision in what I felt to be outstanding art.

I had a few rough rules: no more than one piece by each artist and anything that I felt that was sweet, or cute, or too pretty was out. What I wanted in this show was work that was fun to look at, that was beautifully crafted, honest in its intent, and professionally presented.  I was thrilled by the end result: a show that, while curated with my sensibilities, is far reaching in its scope. Because of the diversity of the  work that the title of the call, “Story: Real—or not so Much”, pulled in, it allowed for just about anything. I am a figurative artist, and because of this probably leaned more towards the figurative, but still found wonderful abstract pieces to include. It was not an easy task, selecting these 67 artists, but one that, at the end of the day, I was very proud to have been a part of.