The Green Artist / Amazing Art from Ordinary Things

Monday, March 10, 2014

Say "Cheeseboard" and Put some Bling On It!

Over the years, I've done a series of whimsical African-American masks from cheese and cutting boards. This one was purchased by a local collector, and patron of the arts,who--though no longer with us--was held in high esteem in the Pittsburgh arts community. Title: It Caught Her Eye.

Saturday, March 8, 2014

When Art Comes Home

Adam and Eve by C. Bethea
     Whenever I make a piece of art, I rarely imagine it will be installed in my home. I don't know why that is, except maybe I see my art--in my mind's eye-- on gallery walls and not my own walls. But lately, I have started rethinking that assumption.

     For years, when I visited fellow artists--many using their own work in their decor-- I'd think "how nice they can do that." But for me personally, it seemed slightly egotistical...or at the very least, too much like "eating your own cooking."

     One day while assessing someone's art in residence, I panicked. I started to wonder: "Don't you think your work is GOOD enough?"  But it wasn't that, I decided. It was more: "I like all the art I collect, too and after all, I only have so many walls...."So, it came as a slow-dawning surprise that I never seriously considered my own home, my own spaces as plausible alternatives for displaying my work.

     In retrospect, I know THAT was an excuse. An excuse, not to curate, to love and enjoy what I have created with my own two hands. It also became the excuse for not creating more work, How can you make more, I reasoned, when you have no idea where to house all that art when it isn't being exhibited.

     To ease into the idea, I've researched some sites and magazines for new ways of living with art. Interior design is of great interest to me, and so needing inspiration was a great excuse to read articles on bending the rules and not blending and matching to hard. As for a decor theme? Forget about it!  Now the  plan is to rotate my art with all the others on a seasonal basis. That way all the artists--myself included-- get maximum exposure. 

     Finding more time in my life for making art has also moved to the top of my agenda, and yes, I'll display it right where I live. 

     What took me so long? The joy of coming down stairs, through halls and sipping tea as you meet and greet your creations on a daily basis is priceless. It's a gift. And charity, as they say, begins at home.

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

From My House to Theirs

Tuesday, January 7, 2014...Cold, cold, cold.. We've become a nation of Popsicles. So what do you do if you are me? Make a quilt, of course! I'd promised a gift to my neighbors recently back from a post holiday visit.  Didn't give it a lot of thought, but I knew I'd make it from my own hands. I was catching up with their daughter who gifted me earlier in December with a wreath for my front door. So this is a belated reciprocation. I went through my stash of nifty fabric bundles--any excuse. I must have hundreds of old fabrics in boxes and drawers or stacked in my closet; mostly from vintage clothing that I like to recycle. I never dared count the actual number. (If you count, you have the responsibility to clear some out.) They are what paints are to a painter, beads are to a beader or nails to a carpenter. No, you can't have enough of them. Plaids made the perfect roof and brick walls; a splotchy beige for doors and windows. I always cut out greenery for scenery, and an orange peppermint stripe for walkways and window trim. It all came together fairly quickly and gave me just the creative jolt I needed to take me out of this day's winter doldrums. Never mind that the gift is late...It turned out nicely and I hope it will be an addition to their decor for years to come. My neighbor's daughter's eyes lit up with joy when she saw the wall hanging.  "Mommy, it's our house!" 

And so it is. From my house to their house.



Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Kids! Make the Most Amazing Art!




True story....a young man in my quilting class, came up to me after a session and said, "I really like your class. Wish I could you buy you a slice of pizza." Then he drew one for me on the chalk board. I took the eraser and wiped off  half of it. "Thanks! That was good!" I said. 

It's not the teacher that makes the class, but the students. Every class is different. In sound. In texture. In intent. But the students, no matter what their demographics and circumstances, make the class what it is. Some students come along through the creative process willingly; some kicking and screaming. But once they "get it" the art happens quite naturally. I invite you to enjoy this picture taken from a class I did at a local elementary school. The project was "His story, Her Story...What's YOUR story." As you can see, the kids produced wonderful fiber art story panels. Heres to children and art. It takes a child to raise a village!

    

Sunday, December 15, 2013

Keeping Up with the ARTes

Often, when you are creating art, you barely have time to think of it once it's done, let alone record it. Take this installation that I did at Sweetwater in Sewickely, PA last year. I was proud of it, but I never took a single picture. Fortunately for me, curator Elizabeth Ashe Douglas did. Elizabeth challenged me on this one. "Fill in those awkward spaces with something beautiful," was her mandate. It did not come naturally at first, and then so naturally, I was to wonder why it never occurred to me to try an installation before. To date, I consider it one of my finest artistic efforts. The installation is based on my interest in "cause and effect" and artistic portayals in a similar vein--like the work of Rube Goldberg.  You see, art can come not only of your own will, but the will of others who can spot your potential better than you can see it in yourself. Ms. Douglas, a nationally known artist and performer continues to be a source of encouragement and inspiration to me.


Thursday, March 21, 2013

An Open Letter To My Fellow Arts Educators

I'll be working for at least two summer camps in 2013. I don't do this because I have to do it. I do this because I need to do it. I have learned that art-making with children revitalizes an artist like nothing else. It test your mettle both as a person and as an artist.

Some children will follow everything you say in your classes to the letter and come out with a very smart project. Others will defy you and your instructions, and still manage to come out with a very smart project. The difference? The latter outcome gives YOU as an instructor much more than the former. When a young artist questions your techniques or makes changes for changes sake, you can either punish them, or allow them the freedom which you had when you first created the project. This does not mean letting them go completely willy nilly. I'm not talking about behavior here, but process. What's wrong with them painting something you never intended to be painted; or gluing on buttons, or using the orange rather than the blue thread. You have to think and to ask yourself--"Does it really matter?" If it truly does not, then allow for some artistic rebellion. Art is a personal thing, even to a student and an arts educator has leverage few other teachers have: The gift of discernment. One and one can equal two to two thousand in art. Art is subjective; so stop drinking your own Koolaid. Sometimes, as an arts educator, you have to let go...and let art happen.

One of my classes, "Fashion Cents" is at the Irma Freeman Center from June 17-21 from 3 pm to 6 pm.
For more IF camp info click here.

Monday, March 11, 2013

Branching Out




My installation "Free Forms"  created with found objects is currently at the Feminine Aesthetics exhibition, curated by Elizabeth Ashe Douglas at 709 Gallery, downtown Pittsburgh through March 31, 2013. The wire breast piece is part of  antique dress mannequin that was almost lost to me when it was lifted (by accident?) by my landlord and her janitors, who had decided to help me "clean up" my studio; the wonderful dried palm skeleton was found on the streets of Miami after a storm while I was vacationing. I dug the wooden barn blocks from the earth at a salvage site in Pennsylvania. My intentions: create a bond between disproportionate matter while channeling Asian experiences. Above, a page from the exhibit's catalog. For one review of the work, click here.