Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Huge news!

Yesterday was a huge day.  After taking down Sacred Flesh after its two month run, I came home and wrote letters to my tutoring students to share with them my big news!

I've been working towards this decision for about a year now, though the desire has been with me for longer.  Chris and I have discussed it up and down and inside and out for quite some time.  In fact, one of the things that helped me fall in love with him is that he said he wanted me to be able to do this.

And now it's actually happening:  as of December 16, 2010, I will be working full time to actualize my vision of shifting people's perception of their and others bodies.  I will work to eradicate judgment about and prejudice towards certain characteristics.  I will help people find the beauty in their own form.  I will continue to paint images of women's bodies in all shapes and sizes.  I will continue to teach people for whom art has become a calling.  I will lead workshops and give lectures.  I will write books and publish articles.  I will give lectures about women's bodies and the gross misperceptions of beauty.
  I will lead the charge towards a kinder, gentler, attitude towards all people's appearances.  I will live life fully, boldly, following my heart and leadings each and every day!

Watch out, World!  Here I come!!!

Monday, November 29, 2010

Taking down Sacred Flesh after two glorious months!

Yesterday morning Chris and I went to Visual Art Studio and took down Sacred Flesh after its two month run.  It's so bizarre taking a show down...  After months of conception, planning, painting, advertising, talking, emailing, marketing, sharing, the show gets hung.  It's a long, arduous, 6-7 hour process, yet it's ultimately a very satisfying experience because the result is so gratifying - a opportunity to see all the work in one place - the concept comes to life!

Then the Opening Night!  What a thrill!  It's kind of like a wedding.  So many wonderful friends and family members take the time out of their busy lives to come see the work you've put your soul into for months/years.  It's an opportunity to share the work with the public and to gauge their reaction.  Openings are one of my very favorite things to do!

Then the show hangs for a month or two.  Sacred Flesh was up for 2 months.  There are scheduled artists' talks, luncheons, impromptu visits to meet friends.  The energy continues unabated, helped along by wonderful emails from people who have seen the show.  So many things have evolved from this show, but I'll talk about those in another post.

Then, finally, after all that time, it's time for the show to come down.  Before leaving home, we loaded the Highlander and the truck with cardboard and other packing material, tools, and containers and headed to the gallery.  The owner was on Thanksgiving vacation still so we let ourselves in.  I took some photographs to remember the show by then we started taking the pieces off the wall.  Down came the labels and the women's stories.  Down came the paintings.  We packed up the catalogs and prints.  Then we began hauling the work to the truck and the car.  What took 7 hours to do only took 45 minutes to undo.  We were home within an hour and a half of leaving!

We carried the left over paintings into the studio where we left them propped up against walls and easels and tables.  We waited until today to put them away neatly.

One of the things artists are sometimes (understandably) shy about talking about is that shows don't usually sell out so there is often artwork to store or to hang in ones own house.  I've noticed that I actually get depressed when I take down a show. I know I did yesterday.  I don't like the feeling of bringing home so much work into which I poured my soul and having to find a place to store it.  I want it to have found new homes!  To have been loved and cherished and taken home!  It's painful to put it away where it won't be seen for months.  I hang much of it up in my house, but I only have so many walls, and I have to have room for the furniture too!

So yesterday was a bit sad and depressing.  I didn't notice at first, but Chris and I were hanging some artwork (we bought a hanging system for our house and were working on installing it then hanging pictures on it) and I was totally grumpy.  I felt like jumping down his throat for no reason.  Finally I realized that I was feeling let down like I frequently do when a show is over.  It passes, and my vitality returns, but it hurts for a bit.  Thankfully Chris was kind and gentle and understanding (as he almost always is - I'm a lucky woman!) so it passed, but ouch!

It's a powerful thing to have an art show. To be see so thoroughly by the public.  To have ones soul scrutinized, analyzed, judged, admired, despised, reviled, loved.  It's a vulnerable thing.  Fortunately I believe in my work completely so the negative comments generally roll off my back, and the positive ones serve to reinforce the rightness of what I'm doing.  (Some might call it selective hearing!  That's not a bad thing to have as an artist!)

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Sally kissing Susie

A couple of weeks ago, I received an email with information about a show in DC at the Foundry Gallery called Celebrate Gay Marriage.  As has been the case at other times, I felt a very strong call to enter the show.  But that would necessitate having a piece to submit! 

No problem - I sent an email to a friend of mine who is the go-to person at the Gay Community Center of Richmond and she let folks know I was looking for models.  Within an hour, a woman had written me to offer herself and her wife as models. 

We got together about a week later for a modeling session.  They were wonderful!  They're young and clearly really good together.  They went to Canada and got married about 18 months ago after a several year courtship.  It was lovely seeing them together and getting to know them.  Really nice people.  That's one of the wonderful things about doing this work - I get to meet such cool people who sometimes become dear friends.  I'm definitely in the right line of work!

I took a couple of hundred pictures as they and we tried to figure out good poses and they tried to get comfortable in front of the camera.  It's difficult to pose naked in front of someone you don't know sometimes!  I got some very cool shots.  I'm looking forward to painting several of them, but so far I've only had time to paint one.

I haven't had time to paint or blog much lately - my mom had a knee replacement surgery the 16th so I've been spending a lot of time with her when I'm not working.  It's been very, very busy.  Yesterday though, I had a day when I could be in the studio all day.  Such a luxury!!  I immediately looked at the images of the couple, chose one, cropped it and placed the grid on it, then contacted them to make sure they were OK with it.  Susie is awesome at following through on things and got in touch with me almost right away.  The minute I got off the phone with her, I began preparing the canvas and painting.  It felt so good to be applying paint to canvas again.  I miss it when I don't have time to paint.  And it brings me so much joy when I do.

I sent the entry to the Foundry Gallery today.  I'll post here when I find out whether the piece gets accepted or not.  If it does, the opening will be in DC in January.  Wish me luck!

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

I love boobies, and getting suspended from school for doing so

My darlin' hubby Chris found an article for me the other day about a couple of middle school kids who got suspended from middle school for wearing bracelets that say, "I love boobies!" on Breast Cancer Awareness Day.  On first hearing, it sounds absolutely ludicrous.  Of course, though, there are several sides to the story.  The bracelets had been banned a couple of days earlier because the teachers found the message offensive because the boys were going up to girls and saying, "I love your boobies!"  Folks felt the bracelets trivialize the trauma of breast cancer by using slang.  Others feel it helps younger people become more aware of it by meeting them where they're at. 

I find it a bit crazy to suspend kids from school for something which should clearly fall under the right to free speech, but I'm well aware that schools restrict many, many things these days in an attempt to help kids learn well.  It's a difficult road.

Here's the link if you want to know more:

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Another post about Boys dressing like Girls for Halloween

Here's another blog post about a 5-year-old boy who dressed like a girl for Halloween and his mom's reaction to other mothers' reactions.  People are SOOOOOOOOOOOO ridiculous sometimes!


Friday, November 12, 2010

A friend sent me a link to an article saying that a painting of a nude by Modigliani sold for $68.9 Million!   Boy, am I delighted to find that nudes are selling so well!  Now it's only a matter of time before mine will be flying off the wall for a mere pittance!  Just think what you can get for $3500 now and sell for millions later! 

Interestingly, Modigliani, I believe, lived the "typical" artist's life - alcoholism, poverty, suffering - and now his paintings sell for more than he ever could have imagined.

I've chosen to live differently - I'm not an alcoholic; I'm not miserable and suffering; I'm not living in poverty surrounded by filth in a nasty hovel.  I hope one day that the image of the suffering artist gets turned around and artists are expected to live well, supported by society, fully appreciated for the beauty they create in the world while they're still alive!  Wouldn't that be a lovely legacy?

If you're inspired by the price differential between the Modigliani and Woman in a Red Chair, send me an email and we'll see what we can arrange!  I'll be happy to ship the painting anywhere in the world!

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Petersburg Regional Arts Center

I had great news a couple of days ago which I heard in a rather roundabout, funny way!

I was reading through Facebook when I got a message from my son, Dylan, who's away at college.  He said he had read on my mother's Facebook page that I had won First Prize for a piece I entered at Petersburg Regional Art Center!  All that before I even got a phone call from the center itself!

The piece I won for is Bling Lady.  The awards ceremony is tomorrow night, but I can't be there because we're going to the Outer Banks for the weekend to celebrate my birthday and to relax a bit for a few days.  It is a wonderful feeling to get a prize for my artwork.  To me it means that other people have seen what I'm trying to do with my art.  Perhaps they don't get the exact same message I want to be giving, but apparently they see something which moves them in a good way.  That makes me feel good.

I'm aware that once I put my work out into the world, it is no longer mine.  I might still own it, but it is on its own, just like my children are, doing its own work, sending its own message, moving people on its own. 

One of my students asked me the other night if it's difficult to let my paintings go when I sell them.  I asked my stepmother the same thing when I first started doing art.  She told me that it wasn't hard for her at all because she had done so many pieces (she used to paint portraits).  I told my student that at first it was very hard.  I still have the first drawing I did because I'm still completely attached to it.  But now that I've been painting for a while, I'm very happy to let my work go into the world.  I love it, but I love for it to find a new home too.  My assumption, if someone is putting out money for it, is that they really like it and will get pleasure from having it in their home.  That makes me happy.   Again, it's like with my kids.  I couldn't love them more, but I'm delighted to see them getting out into the world and finding their own happiness.  I don't want to keep them here at home with me as they move into their 20's.  It's time for them to go out and make their own mark on the world!

So, paintings, time to fly off the walls and into your own loving homes!!

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Lasting Impressions V

A friend just wrote to share some of her experiences with people speaking about her body.  She is one of the most beautiful women I know.  She glows with spiritual depth and wisdom from her core.  She has a voice more beautiful than any other I've ever heard.  Her eyes shine, and her compassion moves me to tears when I share difficult stories with her.  I hurt that she has experienced these remarks.

here are some of the things that have been said about my body: 
about my breasts:  "What is that one --the feeder tit?"  (this was said to me by a female massage therapist about the size difference between my two breasts)
"I've never seen a size differnce as bad as your's"  (this said by a nurse practitioner during my gyn appointment)
"Jesus, you're lopsided"  by a gay male friend in college
"Have you had a mastectomy?"  -- by a female friend
"Flat as a board and never been nailed"  "Do you want a medal or a chest to pin it on?"  by a boy in junior high
"You don't need a swimsuit -- just two bandaids and a cork'  -- by my father when I was twelve or thirteen
There have also been numerous remarks made about my crooked spine from health professionals "the worst curvature I've ever seen" said a chiropractor  (clearly he had not been to an old folk's home).
"I didn't realize your thighs were so chunky"  -- from my sister-in-law at the pool
On the other hand, no man I ever slept with ever made a derogatory remark about my body. My one of my high school boyfriends named my breasts "Jan and Nan"  (Don't ask me why...we didn't have sex, but he liked what we did have... my college boyfriend Stan described my body as "elfin, delicate, exquisite"    Tom has always said complimentary things about all of me.  He might nitpick about housework, but he doesn't criticize the way I look.  He gets big points for that.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

More Lasting Impressions - Gym Class Trauma

Thank you to all of you who keep sending in stories of statements or events which have stuck with you.  Here's another one I just got last week.  Thank you for sending it:

When I was in middle school (aka junior high back then) they didn't say anything directly about my body. It was more the implication that I was worthless physically when teams were being chosen in gym class. Each team took turns picking someone out of the crowd to be on their team. When it got down to one person, it was usually me. Sometimes, nobody would even call my name, since I would just walk over to the team that ended up with the last pick.

I had the same experience.  And, of course, assumed I deserved it.  Ouch, ouch, ouch!  Wish I'd had the chutzpah to prove them wrong, but I had way too much belief in the rightness of their decision.  Thank goodness the teacher sometimes chose me to be the one who chose people!  Then I didn't have to be last!  (But I realize now that I also didn't turn things around by choosing people who were normally chosen towards the end like I was.  That would have been interesting!)

Have you had experiences like this you'd like to share?  I'm curious to know how universal this gym class thing is.  I noticed that communal showers caused more than one young man distress.  What else has gym class wrought??  Stories, anyone??

Monday, November 8, 2010

Paragons of health and aging

I have two friends who are paragons of health and well-being as they age.

Lynn is 66 and will be climbing Kilimanjaro in February.  She was running marathons frequently until last year when Plantar Faschiatis sidelined her a bit - she still swims and bikes several times a week and even slows down a bit to walk with me a couple of times a week.  I love her attitude towards life and her can-do attitude.  I want to be Lynn when I grow up!

Frances is my other role model.  Everyone in Richmond knows Frances.  She is 91-years-old now.  She founded the dance departments at both U of R and VCU, if I have my story right, and she is STILL teaching dance and performing!  She even performed in London last year.  She posed for me for my Sacred Flesh series then was bold enough to be at the openings to talk to people about her paintings.  She said she didn't feel embarrassed at all - it's just a body,and bodies are meant to be used.  I want to be Frances when I get to be 90!

These two women are showing me a different way to age than I understood when I was younger.  When my grandmother got to a certain age, she stopped doing things to take care of herself.  For example, her teeth were giving her trouble.  She said it wasn't worth doing anything about them.  She was 84, I think.  She lived another couple of years.  It's about attitude, though.  If you feel like it isn't worth maintaining your body because you're not going to be around much longer, then the chances are probably very good that you won't be!

My former in-laws were amazing.  They lived into their 90's and were still riding adult tricycles up until shortly before they died.  He had prostate cancer.  She had breast cancer.  Each had many ailments, but none of the illnesses or injuries stopped them one bit.  They were just as ornery and strong-willed and fit at 90 as they were at 70.  Two more very inspiring folks.

My intention as I age is to stay fit and to pursue my passions wholeheartedly so that there is more to get up for tomorrow than there was today.  I intend to be creatively engaged on a daily basis and to share my passions with others.  Why else am I here?  I've got this one life - maybe I'll have others, but I can't know that - so I may as well get as much out of it as I possibly can.

Saturday, November 6, 2010

The West Prize

I just spent several hours applying for The West Prize.  Apparently there's a place in PA which has had a contest for the last 3 years for artists.  Here's the information from their website:

2011 West Prize Overview
In 2009-2010 5,500 artists from 78 countries have applied to the West Prize in order to become part of the West Collection, and in those two years 20 innovative artists have been added to the West Collection. Again in 2011, the West Collection annual acquisition budget of $125,000 is being offered to ten artists. Artists have from today until November 1, 2010 to apply for the 2011 West Prize. There is no fee to apply. After November 1, 2010, West Collection curator Paige West will go through each and every application and narrow the applicant pool to 10 innovative new artists who will be announced on January 1, 2011. Each of the 10 artists will receive $10,000 in acquisition funds to have their work purchased and added to the West Collection. The West Collection will produce a 10 Artists Catalog, and have a 10 Finalist Exhibition at the West Collection facility outside of Philadelphia. For 2011, in order to win the Grand Prize ($25,000 cash award), each 10 West Prize finalist will be asked to make a proposal to Curator Paige West for how they would use the $25,000 Grant. The uses of this Grand Prize Grant could include realizing a large art project, travel funds to inform their work, or even starting a residency program for artists in their area. At the 2011 Finalist Exhibition Opening the 10 finalist's works will be exhibited in the gallery and then during an announcement by Paige West one of the 10 finalists whose project proposal is deemed to be the most worthy use of the grant funds will be awarded the Grand Prize winner.

As you read, there are well over 5000 artists and only 10 prizes so I realize the chances aren't great, but if I don't apply, I certainly can't get it, and the odds are better than the lottery, at least!

Wish me luck!

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Lasting Impressions VI

Another generous friend has shared her experience with her body image and a statement a loved one said to her which left a lasting impression.  This one has had more positive ramifications than others folks have shared:

As an overweight woman, I have spent a lifetime struggling against the Mean Voice in my head that looks in the mirror after a shower and spews out some variation of "Ugly/Fat/Stupid/Worthless."  One of the most transformational things ever said to me about this was (of course) Sam saying as we made love, "Making love with you is like driving a Ferrari.  Your body is so responsive!"  Now sometimes that voice can overwhelm the Mean Voice.  I love being a Ferrari. 

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Show up by Dawn Layne

This is a poem written by a friend of mine here in Richmond.  Dawn Layne.  I really love the sentiment and how powerfully it is written.  Enjoy!

Show up
by Dawn Layne

It’s time
to show up
fully engaged with life,
making eye contact with God and really seeing.
You must show up naked and willing to be seen.
You must show up with your raw edges showing, your scars visible,
your crude or well-crafted walls in rubble at your feet.
You must show up.
You must show up as willing to open your mouth as you are to keep it shut,
as willing to raise your voice as you are to cage it.
You must show up willing to share what you know and who you are.
You must show up and open the doors to your cave and meet your tribe
fully engaged, making eye contact with God and seeing, really seeing his presence in each one of them.
You must show up awake and alive,
willing to light candles when they step near your fire,
willing to create space and hold it open so that truth can flow through it.
You must show up and be a bridge from where you were to where you are
or at least share the map.
You must show up
even when real is bruised and tired.
You must show up
even when you haven't gotten what you think you want, that ever-elusive thing,
when you are running on the edge that separates heaven and hell,
even when, especially when, fear is still present.
You are not here to be anything other than fully engaged
anything other than connected
anything other than who you are.
Show up.
It’s time.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

So much fun painting!

I had so much fun painting today, I can barely contain myself!  I finished working on my new piece which is as yet untitled - it's the one on the right.  I enriched the colors on the body because they were too pale/white and toned down the background so the designs on it wouldn't compete with the model's body.  The colors are better in person than they are on the screen - either that or I'm fooling myself and I need to go back into it the next time I get into the studio.  There's always more than can be done!

In preparing for Sacred Flesh Part II yesterday, I pulled down all the artwork I wanted to put in the show and found Dancer's Demeanor.  When I looked at it anew, after a year or so of not seeing it, I realized it just wasn't strong enough to display.  That made me want to do something about it, so today I went back into it and re-did it.  I re-painted everything - background, body, hand, hair.  It was so much fun!  I can tell that my skills have improved a lot since last year, so it was wonderful to be able to confidently take on a piece and make it so much more pleasing to my eyes.  I might end up re-working it yet again some time, but I like it better for now!  I think the skin tones are more beautiful, the light is more interesting, the contrast is more satisfying to me with the dark background, and her hand is mountains above the one I'd done before.

I won't be able to get back into the studio for a week probably - my mom is having surgery in a couple of weeks and we have an appointment to learn more about it tomorrow - then I have to tutor, and the preview and opening are taking place Thursday and Friday.  Possibly I can paint some this weekend, but I'm not sure.  It might be next Monday before I get back to this very, very fun adventure!  Hope I don't get too cranky in the meantime - that happens when I don't get to paint frequently enough - my kids will look at me and gently ask, "Mom, do you think it might be a good idea to go out to the studio and paint?  Maybe you'll feel better."  They know me well!

Adios til later!

Monday, November 1, 2010

hanging the show

I'm guessing some of you haven't given much thought to how an art show at a gallery happens, so I thought you might be interested to learn a bit about it.

Yesterday Chris and I re-hung Sacred Flesh at the Visual Art Studio here in Richmond.  I had a showing of it in October, but, because I have a lot of paintings, we decided to put new pieces in for this month's opening/exhibition. 

This past week I took some time to try to arrange the paintings on the virtual walls I created in Adobe Photoshop so I would know which paintings to take and, perhaps, how I would hang them.  I also typed up the models' stories and printed them out so I'd have them ready for the show.  Still to come, I need to send the gallery owner, Anne, an Excel file with titles, mediums, and prices in it so she can print out the labels.

At 2 PM we began loading the minivan with canvases then went to the gallery to show my brother-in-law the exhibition.  (He was in town for a mere 23 hours, so we had lots to cram into such a small amount of time!  What a joy to see him!)  After he left, we loaded a few paintings into the minivan then headed back home to get the rest of the paintings, the computer, and the tool box with hammers, hooks, nails, tape measure, level, etc.

Returning to the gallery around 3:45, we unloaded the car then began what turned out to be the most difficult part of the process - figuring out where everything should go.  I think it's exceedingly important to place the works well so the viewers get led around the room in an interesting way.  I also want the pieces to relate to each other in terms of color/size/subject matter/scale or any of several other ways.  The schematic I had developed in Photoshop was a good place to start, but what we ended up with was NOT what I'd designed there!  We had to work around windows and heat returns and thermostats and light switches and all sorts of things like that.  Being there is the only real way to be able to set up a show.

The left wall was the hardest to hang because there are two windows which we covered with cardboard and sheets then hung the pieces using fishing line from hooks in the ceiling - not quite the safest-feeling way to do it, but so far it's worked.

Another challenge to this month's show was that we decided to group the pieces a bit more tightly and to double-hang some.  It took some time to figure out at attractive grouping of the pieces.  I ended up feeling delighted at the groupings and how handsome they look.  This image of them doesn't really do it justice because they're not laid out just quite accurately, but it'll give you a feel for it until you can come see for yourself!

After we got things laid out and the first part of the above wall hung, I was out of energy, so we walked down to a restaurant for some restorative repast.  That was very helpful - it is Restaurant Week in Richmond, so many of the best restaurants in town are offering a $25.02 three course menu with $2.10 of each meal going to the Food Bank.  Nice!  We weren't hungry enough to go for that, but we profited from their outstanding offerings and enjoyed our meals greatly.

Then back to it...  The front wall, the one you see when you enter the gallery, was next.  There were light switches and a telephone jack and wall outlet plus the lettering to work around on that wall, but I think we came up with a terrific design.  I love it that people see Frances' Joyful, Joyful when they walk in, flanked by new life in Lolly's Pregnant and Waiting, all accompanied by Lara, a woman who's inbetween the two women in terms of age and where she is in her life.  Chris framed Lolly's Pregnant for me this week, and it looks amazing.  I'm thrilled with how beautifully it turned out.

The right wall was next.  There we were working with a heat return and a window as well as a very small space to the left of the return.  There is a nice stretch of open wall between the return and the window, though, so I made the most of it!  I had planned to put another painting in there as well, but Chris felt it was too crowded with so many paintings, and I had to agree (even though I didn't want to!), so we took one out and allowed the pieces some breathing room.  Several of these pieces (Mother and Daughter Jocks Bound by Caution, Yes, this is me, and Sleek Back, Saucy Shadow) were in the show last month, but the rest are new this time around.  The one to the left of the Jocks, Classical Beauty is brand new.  I just finished it last week! 

The only other space we had to fill was the front window which I don't have a picture of, but I put Woman in a Chair and Don't Mess with Me! in there.  I really wanted to put Don't Mess with Me! in the gallery itself, because I don't think people take the time to really examine the window pieces as much as they do the wall pieces, but it just didn't fit color-wise.  The colors in it are so different than the others that it really  needed its own environment.  I figure both of those pieces will also do a great job attracting folks to the show (unless Don't Mess with Me! scares them with her look!)

After all that, we were DONE!  In more ways than one!  We got home at 9:30 PM, ready for relaxation and rest.  Of course, I didn't quite give it to myself - instead, I wrote emails to the models to let them know which pieces are in the show so they'll know if their piece(s) is/are in it, then sent out an invitation to people about the show.  There's a lot to do to launch a show, so much that the viewers don't realize, which goes into making it a beautiful, interesting, intriguing experience for each person who walks into the gallery. 

Sometimes I wish being an artist were only about painting and drawing, but I think that's nothing more than a fantasy.  I realize I also like the marketing efforts which go into it as well as the public aspects of talking about my work and having shows.  It felt very satisfying, too, to have created a beautiful space last night.  I'm happy with how the pieces look all hanging together.  It's great having the women on display for all to see.

Thanks to each of you for helping me realize my vocation of being an artist.  I am grateful to you each and every day.