Thursday, July 31, 2008

Wishes - the Penny Project update

I haven't brought up Wishes since announcing that it has its own blog, so here are some updates.

Yesterday I announced this project to Critical Mass, one of St. Louis' best resources for finding out about what's happening in the visual arts. It will be announced in the upcoming edition of Art Space in upstate New York as well. I had previously informed my email list of around 100 people and posted it to the St. Louis Chapter of the Women's Caucus for Art's Yahoo group. Please help me spread the word.

I have also created a penny template that wraps the blog web address around the edge of the penny so that penny-finders can learn more about the project, check out other wishes and report found pennies. The template can be found on my web page.

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Pumpkin Pie Trifle

Mary Beth Shaw's recent post about using pumpkin in brownie mix got me thinking about food. I have done many things with canned fruit and pie filling, not as a healthy alternative (but is this really a goal in a good dessert?).

One of my favorite easy dessert concoctions is for Pumpkin Pie Trifle. Be forewarned, this makes A LOT, and I only tend to make it when I'm having a bunch of people over. It can be a great alternative to pumpkin pie if you want to try something different for a change.

You will need:
1 Spice Cake Mix with no pudding in the mix and its required ingredients (eggs, vegetable oil, etc.)
1 regular-sized can of pumpkin (not one of those giant cans)
2 regular packages instant vanilla or butterscotch pudding mix (or 1 big package)
1 package whipped topping (like Cool Whip), thawed
a dash of ground cinnamon
1 trifle dish (you can substitute a clear glass mixing bowl or punch bowl if you don't have a trifle dish)

Start by making the cake mix as directed, except substitute the can of pumpkin for the water. (You can use less vegetable oil in doing so as well.) Because of the pumpkin, the baking time will likely be longer than originally assumed, so be prepared to leave it in longer but check on it frequently so it doesn't burn, especially if you're using less vegetable oil. After the cake is done and tester toothpicks come out clean, allow it to cool completely.

After the cake has cooled, break it apart into the trifle dish in one-inch or smaller chunks. It will be very crumbly and should break apart easily. Don't worry if it just breaks into crumbs in the dish, that's okay. Make the pudding mix as directed, pour into the trifle dish and mix with the cake crumbles. Allow to set up in refrigerator.

After the pudding has set up, top with whipped topping and dust with cinnamon for presentation. Keep refrigerated. Serves around 12.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Exhibition Announcements & Printed Materials

The art community is in love with glossy art cards, myself included. And I can't say that I blame us - they're shiny, relatively inexpensive as far as publicity goes, easy to distribute and really show off our work. But we simply don't think enough about them.

There is a lot of paper waste that results from this practice. Contrary to what we might hope, much of the paper content in these cards is not made from recycled materials. Also, the cards need to be distributed and are often mailed out as invitations, which uses yet more resources in transporting them. I am well-aware that there is far more wastefulness from other sources, but I don't see this as requiring an all-or-nothing solution. We should all do what we can to help.

In my own practice, I have been trying to limit my reliance on art cards and much prefer email invitations. I try to send out invitations for solo shows almost exclusively via email and print off only as many cards as people are likely to want, erring on the side of too few rather than too many because I can always print more. If I am participating in a group show and am asked prior to printing how many cards I want, I usually refuse them or get only a handful of cards for myself and request a pdf that I can email instead. Nowadays, I also try to sign up for gallery email lists when I can and have even been known not to provide a street address when one is requested to avoid getting physical cards sent to my house.

When I do offer printed cards at solo shows, I tend to print them off myself with more eco-friendly materials, such as ink from recycled/reused printer cartridges and mostly recycled paper stock or whatever I have laying around leftover from some other project. It is extremely difficult to find 100% post consumer paper that is appropriate for this, since the paper fibers are naturally compromised in the recycling process and these fibers become more so the more times they have been recycled. (This is part of why recycling isn't the best solution and we should consider alternatives to paper in general.)

If you don't want to give up your glossy art cards, consider printing somewhat generic cards featuring a signature piece that can be used to promote yourself at several events as opposed to quickly outdated announcements for specific shows. There's no reason you can't print different cards for different shows, but if you do so in a generic manner you can do more with the overage later. Such cards can be easily distributed or even sold as postcards outside of an exhibition setting. This is true for galleries as well if they work it out with the artist beforehand.

You can always attach a printed sticker label to such generic cards with whatever show information you want to impart, creating only as many announcements as you actually need. Admittedly it may seem less professional to use sticker labels to convey show information, but that's partly because no one has made a point of doing so and thus recipients assume that the cards were either printed wrong, rushed or reappropriated. This practice will become less obtrusive the more times people encounter it, especially if they know where it originated and why. (Seriously, what's wrong with reusing excess cards anyway? I think it's brilliant, both in regards to minimizing the overconsumption of resources and lowering show costs.)

Monday, July 28, 2008

Competition in Art

There is naturally a lot of competition in the arts. Artists compete with one another for sales, jobs and/or grants in addition to opportunities to show and display their work. Commercial galleries compete for sales, art buyers and patrons, and for the right to represent artists and work that appeal to their audience. Non-profit galleries and institutions compete for grants and funding. And everyone competes for publicity, reviews and other opportunities to promote themselves.

Don't get me wrong, competition is healthy because it encourages us to strive for more and to work harder but, all in all, a lot of artists and institutions seem to be fighting with one another to divvy up what opportunities, monies, patronage and press coverage is available. Constructive criticism is good because it causes us to reassess what is available, what purpose is served and whether or not we meet our objectives, but dissing something just because it is different is counterproductive.

Some people have voiced that they think the art world should be more limited so that there are less things competing for "a slice of the pie". (Chuck views this mentality as myopic because it focuses on solely the "pie" already available rather than seeking or creating a bigger "pie".) Perhaps some things should be reassessed and scrutinized that are unsuccessful at meeting their own goals and objectives. But I think that different things play vastly different roles and that individual artists, galleries and institutions need to determine where they fit and be true to their visions rather than imposing their needs and desires on everyone. I don't think that everything should be judged on the same terms because those terms may or may not apply. Not all of us have the same goals.

As an artist, I recognize that some opportunities have more to offer me than others. But I still think that the others are important and need to be fostered. Not everything has to exist within the limited scope of where my work fits and what my goals are because my work is not indicative of everything that the art community has to offer. Who am I to say that I am so much more important that all opportunities and events should sync up with what I'm doing? And yet, a lot of people fall into these judgments, thusly fostering more competition than collaboration.

I have spoken time and time again about celebrating diversity in the arts and offering a wide range of opportunities for artists, from low-key cooperatives and grassroots organizations focusing on emerging local artists to nationally-acclaimed institutions showing internationally-recognized works. I strongly feel that we should encourage and foster as many different opportunities as possible so that artists of all levels working in a diverse range of media have someplace to exhibit and so that there is a breadth of venues and experiences available to appeal to the general public.

Simply put, sometimes competition can get in the way by causing us to see things in very constricted ways that suit only our visions and needs. But there is so much out there that we all have to offer. I most certainly won't agree with or like everything that I see, and that's okay. I don't have to like and agree with everything in order to try to celebrate the scope of what is going on and to encourage freedom of expression.

Sunday, July 27, 2008

Saturday, July 26, 2008

Claude Goes to the Bevo Mill

Claude swings by the Bevo Mill, one of the finest German restaurants in St. Louis.

Friday, July 25, 2008

People's Republic of Capitalism

Chuck and I just finished watching the Discovery Channel Koppel special four part series, The People's Republic of Capitalism. I have been looking forward to this for awhile, since my interest was piqued by our earlier discussion of an interview with Ted Koppel on The Daily Show, the end effects of which were previously posted here. Having now seen it, this series provided a very interesting glimpse into the economic boom that is happening in China today. For all that I felt the program was biased, both from the standpoint of us viewing it through the lens of democracy and from the fact that the Chinese people are very discreet in their responses, the interviews with people of various positions and economic status offer some idea of what the people are thinking.

One of the things that interested me most is how much faith the people have in their government to do what's best for the country. People have been long taught not to openly question their government and to voice their opinions publicly (those that did so often disappeared to be reprogrammed in remote areas), something we take all too much for granted here. Currently, the government has placed a huge emphasis on the economic boom, and this has caused a greater tolerance for corruption and a horrible double standard wherein government officials taking bribes are severely punished while those offering bribes are not because the government doesn't want to lose the development and investments.

Another point was the value of children in China. Due to the strict restrictions placed on family size, children are now seen as very precious and educating children is one of the top priorities of many families, both rich and poor. Peasants recognize that, by sending their children to boarding school, the children will be able to seek out better lives than they ever could imagine or have any chance of attaining for themselves, and many poor people are willing to endure a lot for that opportunity.

The economic boom is raising the standard of living for many, but there is a huge gap between the rich and poor and many people are still willing to work at trying, difficult and dangerous jobs for very little pay because the labor supply so exceeds the demand for labor. Nonetheless, the general consensus was that times are better now than ever because there are so many more improvements. For example, a lot more people can afford automobiles and are driving, something that was unheard of only a short while ago. I don't know how biased this opinion is, though, because a lot of the people seem afraid to speak anything bad about the times that they live in and especially about the government, and I'm certain that they would not do so on a program that will be seen worldwide.

The environmental impact that this will have is tremendous and difficult to even fathom. The need for energy to power all of this development is enormous, and the country is relying predominantly on coal, known to be polluting and dangerous to obtain, as a source. So many more automobiles on the road means so much more pollution as well. And it seems that a lot of things, like environmental impact, worker safety and human rights, are being filed away to be dealt with later so that economic development can thrive, and this will have an impact over the entire world and not just in China.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Juried vs. All-Inclusive Shows

There are benefits to both juried and all-inclusive exhibits. A lot of artists take up issues with one or the other, for reasons that I will touch on as I discuss the pros and cons of both. I am not including invitational and other curated exhibitions in this discussion because they tend to fall into their own category someplace in between by requiring that the artist be invited to participate.

What are some issues artists have against juried shows?
Juried shows are limited by what someone selects as good art, the opinion of which varies from person to person, and that can eliminate a lot of good art that doesn't fit within the juror's ideal. A lot of juried shows require an entry fee which goes towards show expenses and jurying fees regardless of whether or not an artist was accepted, and a lot of artists feel that the system is inherently unfair and that such shows take undue advantage of those whom they purport to serve by charging them money for nothing more than a chance at exposure. (Some galleries are doing what they can to get away from this by charging exhibition fees upon acceptance instead.)

What are the pros of juried shows?
Juried shows are typically more prestigious than all-inclusive shows because there is a method of elimination involved. Because of the process, juried exhibitions have a more cohesive feel overall and flow much more smoothly between pieces. The level of craftsmanship is generally higher and the artwork presented more professionally. The end effect is that the likelihood that any one artist's work is undermined by his/her neighbor's due to a radical shift in focus or differing levels of craftsmanship and presentation is much slimmer.

There is another factor that arises with the juried show, and that is dealing with rejection. People in the arts (including writing, theater, music, visual art and so on) have to deal with rejection on a regular basis, much more frequently than non-artists, and this is especially true for emerging artists who lack the experience and exposure necessary to find a following. Rejection can be particularly hard on such artists, discouraging them from participating and getting their work out there where it can be seen. (All artists must learn to deal with rejection, and I have posted about this here.)

What do artists have against all-inclusive shows?
All-inclusive shows offer up an anything-goes environment for artists to participate in, regardless of the level of professionalism that they exhibit both in their artwork and in how they manage themselves. If everything is accepted for show, then well-crafted works can be shown alongside of poorly executed ones. There may not be a strong theme or current flowing through the exhibition tying everything together, and as a result the overall show can appear scattered and disjointed. Oftentimes, the whole show appears less professional and is thusly not regarded highly.

What is good about all-inclusive shows?
All-inclusive shows provide emerging artists with opportunities to show their work apart from the juried show circuit. Some artists starting out feel very uncomfortable with the professional gallery setting and don't try to get their work out there where it can be seen for fear of rejection. This intimidation prevents a lot of very talented, strong artists from exhibiting and does not affect just those whose work is less professional or poorly executed. Also, all-inclusive shows offer venues for edgy, experimental work that does not fit within the boundaries of what is typically accepted as art, thus allowing artists the chance to create and to speak their minds about things that would otherwise not be shown or expressed.

All-inclusive shows may not be the best resume-building exercises, especially for established artists, but they do provide artists with the chance to experiment and to get their work out there where it will be seen and where viewers can judge it for themselves without having been presented a biased opinion to start.

I think that both juried and all-inclusive shows are essential because they fill very different roles. The art community as a whole benefits from both. Juried shows offer a higher standard of professionalism which gives credence to the art community, while all-inclusive shows offer the opportunity to redefine the boundaries of what is and isn't art and to explore new and different ideas.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Concerning Viewer Disinterest

My husband and I had an interesting discussion this morning concerning art and viewers. He questioned whether there was any true cause for the general population's disinterest in the arts. He argued that throughout the course of history, a vast majority of people were not exposed to art except through public art projects and that today is no different. Anymore nowadays, huge industries (such as the music and film industry) have formed to sell products appealing to the masses that the general population can afford. Previously most people's exposure was limited to public projects that were produced to convey ideas and ideals especially in regards to restricting and/or celebrating religious beliefs or announcing political authority and power.

There are numerous factors at play that can prevent people from enjoying contemporary art, including a lack of strong art education programs (especially in grades K-12), people occupying their time and money with other endeavors, the potentially alienating settings in which art is shown (which I have discussed here), and the lack of marketing aimed at getting the general population involved in the visual arts. But many people are simply uninterested in art, even some who have received an art education as children. The question then arises of how to resolve this problem and get people more involved in art rather than trying to figure out what brought it about. So how can we go about this?

Many people do not expose themselves to contemporary art and have never even set foot in an art gallery, but art fairs and festivals can help bridge that gap and invite the public in for all that many people do not attend such events either. Programs are being offered to promote art to younger businesspersons among the larger museums and institutions, inviting entrepreneurs and potential future patrons for cocktails and other social events. Various groups, like the River City Professionals, also host events in such settings. And some programs are offered as exclusive events for members of certain groups, such as the Young Friends of the St. Louis Art Museum. Major institutions also offer numerous family and educational outreach programs to increase exposure to the arts. But what can we do beyond this? How can we as artists help?

I think it is important for artists to integrate their work into other settings. A lot of artists are disinterested in showing their work outside of the gallery setting because such opportunities are seen as less prestigious, but it is important that art be shown in a variety of venues. Community centers, libraries, bookstores, restaurants, office spaces, doctors' offices and other businesses often offer artists opportunities to showcase their work. As a result, people who may not see said artwork in the gallery setting are exposed to it while going about their daily activities. Many art organizations offer programs to artists to place their work in such venues as off-site exhibits, and artists should be sure to take advantage of such opportunities. Two strong off-site exhibit programs are offered through Art St. Louis and ArtDimensions as a service to their members, for example.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Things That Matter

If you haven't yet checked out the Things That Matter show in the Children's Gallery at the Sheldon Concert Hall, you should make a point of doing so. This exhibition features work by children and adolescents with autism.

Overall, the show gives the viewer an insider's look into what these children and adolescents find important and how they communicate. There is one piece in particular by adolescent Jonathen L. which I found rather telling and poignant. This work, aptly titled The Future, shows a strip mall with Walmart front and center, taking up the field of vision. It bespeaks an awareness of the world that we live in that few adults are willing to admit and few children and adolescents notice.

Not only does this show offer a glimpse into the lives of these artists, but it demonstrates how art is important as a means of communication and connection, something that can be lost in the all-too-frequently esoteric world of contemporary art.

Monday, July 21, 2008

Immersion in D&D

The topic of immersion came up when I discussed my miniatures and creativity post with my husband tonight, and I really got to thinking about the paradigm shift that is happening in gaming.

Many older seasoned gamers do not want to game with younger gamers, and I think that some of this has to do with immersion. A lot of seasoned gamers want to get into character and stay in character, to experience the game through the eyes of the character that they are playing. In contrast, some of the younger gamers seek different interactions and are not necessarily driven by the need to be in character the whole time. Why is this?

A lot of younger gamers have grown up playing video games in which they controlled a character and manipulated an icon of that character through the game in the third person. I grew up playing Nintendo Mario Brothers and Legend of Zelda, watching an 8-bit icon of Mario or Link interact with the world around them at my discretion. Don't get me wrong, I also played pretend with my friends growing up, and we would be horses and cats and fantastic mythical creatures, but as I aged the video games started to better shape my interactions with the fantastic.

Although a lot more first-person video games are becoming available and the wii is changing all of this, many people still want to see their characters in the third person because they are used to interacting with the game world through their character from a more voyeuristic standpoint. I think that it becomes harder to immerse yourself in the game and to act totally in character when your past experiences have been based on acting as the observer pulling the puppet strings. So immersion becomes harder to do and less necessary to your enjoyment of the game.

I think that 4th edition D&D, in looking to expand the RPG audience, has focused less on immersion overall, perhaps in the hopes of attracting a younger generation of gamers. Therefore, it comes as little surprise that several older gamers don't like it, even beyond just being fixated on a previous system that they understand inside and out.

The Green Center

At the Contemporary Open Studios on Sunday, in the blisteringly hot alternative space, I met a number of interesting people. During one of these meetings, I learned about The Green Center in University City. The Green Center is dedicated to "connecting people with nature through science and the arts."

Well, I stopped by there today to check it out and was very impressed. The Green Center has two main sites. Their headquarters are located in a beautifully restored older home originally built in 1932 by Aubrey and Ruth Green. They also have a prairie-wetland complex that I hope to visit sometime in the future, as I did not have time today. The prairie-wetland complex is a native habitat that has been restored and maintained through the many environmentally-based educational programs offered by The Green Center.

While I was there, one of the summer camps was meeting, including two groups: a group of younger children which focused on art and had a poetry workshop earlier in the day and a group of older children in a photography camp aimed at documenting the younger ones. These programs are offered as educational opportunities for urban youth as a means of exposing them to nature and the natural habitat beyond the city. While in camp, the children, typically in 2nd - 6th grade, participate in science and art programming, tend to the prairie-wetlands complex and take field trips to various other parks and gardens.

The Green Center also features changing art exhibits and had sponsored a plein air painting event on its grounds earlier this year. It was wonderful seeing both artwork and hands-on scientific displays in such a beautiful building, and I hope to be involved with The Green Center in the future.

Sunday, July 20, 2008

D&D miniatures & creativity

After a weekend of art and studio tours, I am totally exhausted and my mind needs a break from that scene.

We have been gaming with the D&D miniatures for a good while now. It makes it much simpler to track what has happened each round. And in many ways, it's easier to get into the game with the minis because you can better envision any given situation. But I am beginning to wonder if it is limiting our creativity because we are getting used to seeing everything "by the grid".

Using minis may enhance player creativity because it is easier for the players to keep track of what's going on and really get involved in the game. Players are more likely to respond to cues that they otherwise may forget are there, such as room layouts, ledges, furnishings and other equipment, if they can see them on a map and see how the enemies are positioned in relation to them.

At the same time, I think that using minis might lessen DM creativity because it encourages DMing to the minis. We tend to trade off DMing, and there are a lot of creative people in the group that come up with some really neat ideas, but I think that, to some extent, we are planning adventures around what can be mapped out and what monsters we can use so that it will work with minis we have or can easily acquire.

So I'm not certain what the overall effect of gaming with minis is. It is easier to envision things, which seems to enhance player responsiveness and, consequently, creativity. But using minis also makes DMing to the minis seem like second nature. It is an unfortunate set of circumstances, if this truly does limit DM creativity while encouraging the players to be more involved, because it means that the players are more engaged in what may be a less interesting game.

Saturday, July 19, 2008

Friday, July 18, 2008

Open Studios Is Almost Here!

Please check out the Contemporary's Open Studios this weekend! It's a great way to support the local art scene and to see what some of the artists living and working here in St. Louis are doing. I will be at the alternative space at Chouteau's Landing, just south of the stadium on 4th Street. Hope to see you there!

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Dr. Horrible's Sing-Along Blog

Dr. Horrible's Sing-Along Blog

This has to be one of the funniest things I've seen in a long long time. If you've been wanting a super-villain musical starring Neil Patrick Harris, Nathan Fillion, and Felicia Day and created by Joss Whedon, then look no further!

The casting is brilliant and the timing is perfect. I'm not sure what the parental rating would be if you care - there's no foul language but some innuendo and some violence but no blood. (I know you're probably now thinking it's a snoozer, but seriously check this out. It is way too funny. Thank goodness I wasn't drinking milk...)

Globalization of Food

As I'd mentioned before, I first got into blogging because of the On Tap discussion in June. Well, it's that time again, and tonight the On Tap discussion will focus on the topic of the globalization of food.

I hope that there is some mention of sustainable agriculture and where we can purchase locally-grown foods. It is often difficult to determine what is and isn't grown locally because we import so many things that could be grown locally and even some of the so-called farmer's markets offer foods that didn't originate here. Also, I hope that there is some sort of information regarding area restaurants that support sustainable agriculture, like Schlafly Bottleworks (you can even tour their garden in back), so that we can take it into consideration when dining out as well as in. A great resource for this kind of information is Slow Food.

This is an important topic that touches all of us because it addresses rising gas prices, limited resources, environmental stability, economic attitudes, and food safety. Please feel free to attend - the discussion will take place at Llywelyn's in Webster Groves from 7 - 9 PM.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Opportunities for Local Artists

I know that a lot of local artists feel underrepresented by the larger institutions, but it seems to me that a lot of artists don't take advantage of the opportunities that are available. I have seen this happen time and time again in numerous art organizations throughout the city; it is not solely limited to the larger institutions. I have discussed this before here.

Some people don't participate because they feel that the opportunities offered are beneath them. They aren't interested in participating if they cannot hang their work in an upscale gallery or museum setting. It's as if they are waiting for someone to discover them and offer them that dream space or nationally-acclaimed exhibit in which to showcase their work. But how can anyone do so or even know that there are these amazing artists making this great work if no one sees it anywhere?! As artists, we have to promote ourselves - we cannot expect anyone to just stumble into us.

Others are disappointed with what little is offered, and I will openly admit that the institutions could do better, but we artists need to uphold our end as well by being involved, prompt, and professional. If we do not either take advantage of opportunities or make it known as to why we are not taking advantage of them, then fewer and fewer opportunities will be made available because the feedback is so poor or the interest just doesn't seem to be there.

Also, a lot of artists tend to forget that the institutions don't necessarily owe us anything. They don't have to showcase or support local art if that focus is not keeping with their goals and directives. Some of them, having been pressured by local artists to do so, have offered programs directed at promoting local artists, but as a result a lot of these programs feel like an afterthought created to appease the art community and win back its support. Some such programs are even geared more towards creating competition rather than fostering collaboration to bring about a thriving and vibrant art community. If an institution is not focused on local art, then local artists should not try to impose that focus upon it. Likewise, that institution should publicly acknowledge where its focus lies and not purport to support or exist as a major resource for local artists.

As long as local artists complain about what is offered without doing anything towards those opportunities, it will only further the rift between the local artists and the institutions. The local artists come across as whiny, demanding and difficult to work with, playing into the cycle in which they are excluded because the institutions don't want to try to work with them. It's one thing to complain - it's another to act. Don't get me wrong, criticizing the existing system is a great way to incite change, but only if you're willing to follow through. Bickering privately amongst friends and colleagues won't actually resolve anything.

Simply put, if the passion for local art is not there, on behalf of both the institutions and the local artists themselves, then we need to do more to foster it. We need to come together in a spirit of collaboration to incite change rather regarding ourselves in constant competition for the few things that are available. We need to take advantage of what is offered and work to better the opportunities available rather than merely complaining amongst ourselves about what we don't have.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Happenstance Art

We need more happenstance art in the urban scene. Some refer to this as street art while others refer to it as guerilla art. In both, people have been moving beyond graffiti to create many different works in various media that engage the viewer outside of the gallery setting. I refer to it here as happenstance art because I am most interested in the happenstance aspect of how the viewer stumbles upon the art while going about his/her routine.

I first became aware of this direction when studying under Adam Frelin at Webster University. Unfortunately at the time I didn't appreciate it as much as I should because I was still "bright-eyed and bushy-tailed". I wasn't as disillusioned with the art world beyond the university setting. (For some reason, I thought things would be more open and varied when I got out of school but I've since come to learn that, in all too many ways, there are even more limitations.) I also wasn't as disenfranchised by the lack of public involvement because it's hard to see these interactions when you're pulling all-nighters trying to get things done for class. And, after graduating, I needed time to myself for more introverted philosophical speculation.

I recently picked up Street Renegades: New Underground Art at Left Bank Books while getting ready for my Point of View solo show. This book really got me thinking about urban art beyond graffiti and hearkened back to my class with Adam Frelin at Webster University. Now I am really starting to look more at the world around me, and I think we need more happenstance/street art. I have a hard time coming up with things that I want to do in this setting for several reasons, though. 1.) I have always been rather painfully shy and never really imagined that I'd go out on a limb to put my thoughts and ideas out there where anyone and everyone can see them. 2.) I am not, by nature, destructive - I don't want to permanently damage or vandalize anyone else's property in the process of creating work. And 3.) I have always been afraid of getting caught whenever I have done anything out of the ordinary and have done my best to seem as "normal" and "civilized" as possible.

Right now, my biggest goals in regards to working in this direction are to develop Wishes, the Penny Project and to further Claude's travel journal. I think it's equally important to work in institutional critique because it encourages artists, patrons and exhibition spaces to reassess both how art is shown and what is shown as art. I also need to make a point of getting out more and just taking in the world around me. I think all of us could benefit from experiencing more of what the world has to offer - it's altogether too easy to get wrapped up in our daily lives.

Monday, July 14, 2008

Beauty in Art

There seems to be an ongoing debate about whether or not good art is beautiful. A lot of artists don't see the expression of beauty as a worthwhile pursuit unto itself anymore. Others see little point in creating anything that does not reflect upon the beautiful and amazing things that this world has to offer. Should art be beautiful or not?

I think that it is difficult to deny the role of beauty in art. It is not the only matter worth pursuing, but over the course of history artists have sought to better define and reshape beauty ideals in their work, building upon previous ideals while finding beauty in new and different things. As this occurs, cultural ideas of what is and isn't beautiful are reshaped and reformed into new ideals. Many viewers enjoy beauty in art because it allows them the opportunity to enjoy and reflect upon something better than, or at least different from, the humdrum of their daily lives. Art has always provided both a respite from and a better awareness of the everyday by offering a glimpse into a life other than our own or a view of the things that are taken for granted, and many means of expressing these ideas center around conveying or contemplating the beautiful.

The other questions that arise concerning the topic of beauty lie in how we determine what is and isn't beautiful. A lot of this is influenced by cultural presumptions of what is beautiful. For example, the female body has become an iconic symbol of beauty while the male form has been all too often neglected in our mainstream culture. This was not true in ancient Greece - both male and female nudes were portrayed. And even now other cultures view very different things as beautiful, some focusing less on the human form and more on pattern or landscape. Thus we all convey beauty in very different ways.

Even within our culture, not all people find the same things attractive. Some are drawn to darker subjects and find beauty in the macabre. Others find beauty in organization, pattern, repetition and/or rational thought. Still others find beauty in pure moods and feelings, responding to colors and movements that elicit an emotional response. And many find beauty in more traditional forms such as majestic landscapes, expressions of human joy, flowers, still life paintings, and so on. Beauty is as unique as the individual determining what is beautiful, for all that his/her sense of beauty is likely influenced by the culture in which he/she resides.

For my part, I believe that not all good art needs to be deep or unattractive or brooding or difficult to understand - it can be beautiful. I find myself drawn to different things depending on my mood. This affects how I approach beauty in my own work as well. In regards to the more conceptual pieces, if an idea would be best conveyed in a beautiful manner or as a reflection upon beauty, then I find creating something beautiful to be an integral and necessary part of my work. Sometimes I find it nice to just focus on making something beautiful for beauty's sake as opposed to expressing some loftier idea, and there is nothing wrong with that approach either. Much of my jewelry arises from this desire. And at other times I want to express something dark and brooding or something that I perceive to be wrong or disjointed in our society, in which case I may actively seek to avoid making beautiful art (unless that idea would benefit from the contrast). So, even in my own work, beauty plays very different roles but is still a consideration regardless.

Sunday, July 13, 2008

Claude Goes to the Donut Stop

This morning, Claude went to the Donut Stop at Lemay Ferry and Telegraph. The Donut Stop is a little family-owned business that has some of the best donuts ever.

Saturday, July 12, 2008

Creative Commons projects

As many of you know, I have two Creative Commons projects, Wishes, the Penny Project and Art Is Everywhere. But just what is a Creative Commons (or copyleft) project and how does one go about creating such a thing?

Creative Commons is a non-profit organization that enables people to mark their creative work with the freedoms that they want it to carry. Instead of offering your work "all rights reserved", you can pick and choose what freedoms you wish to impart so that others can copy, distribute, perform and create derivative works based on your copywritten work so long as they abide by your choice of the following criteria.

Attribution - Anyone using your work gives credit as you specify.

Noncommercial - Your work may be used for noncommercial purposes only.

No Derivative Works - Copies must be made verbatim.

Share Alike - Others may only distribute derivative works under an identical license to that which governs your own work.

The benefit to this system is that it allows for an immediate exchange between artists so that we can build upon what others are doing and allow others to do so. Anymore nowadays there are so many legal concerns to consider when creating work, and sometimes it is difficult to tell where one person's rights end and another's begin. Essentially if you want people to legally be able to be involved in your work, you must give them permission to do so.

10 Ways To Make Yourself Miserable

This list (How To Feel Miserable As An Artist) has been circulating online for some time now. For all that I first came across it in something more recent, I tracked it back to Keri Smith's blog in March 2006 although I don't think it originated there either.

Anyway, a lot of these things really do hold true, and I was amazed at how easily we can all be found guilty of them at sometime or another. This is not solely limited to artists since people from all walks of life can make themselves miserable basically following these examples, so perhaps it would be more appropriate to call this list 10 Ways To Make Yourself Miserable.

So anyway, here's the list of How To Feel Miserable As An Artist (or 10 Ways To Make Yourself Miserable):

1.) Constantly compare yourself to other artists.

2.) Talk to your family about what you do and expect them to cheer you on.

3.) Base the success of your entire career on one project.

4.) Stick with what you know.

5.) Undervalue your expertise.

6.) Let money dictate what you do.

7.) Bow to societal pressures.

8.) Only do work that your family would love.

9.) Do whatever the client / customer / gallery owner / patron / investor asks.

10.) Set unachievable / overwhelming goals, to be accomplished by tomorrow.

Friday, July 11, 2008

Claude Goes to DDALW

Claude went to the opening reception of Darkest Dreams a Lighted Way at Fort Gondo today, where he met Aunia Kahn. Claude was deeply moved by the dark psychological subject matter but demonstrated the resilience of the human & monster spirit to continue to smile despite adversity.

Please go and see this important show - it raises awareness of a lot of important issues that all too often go unnoticed or unsaid.

This Week

I'm not normally one to toot my own horn, but I wanted to invite everyone to some of the art events that I am doing.

First, I am participating in Darkest Dreams a Lighted Way, which opens tonight at Fort Gondo, 3151 Cherokee, St. Louis, MO from 6 - 9 PM. Please come out and see this thought-provoking show of psychologically-imbued work. It is important that these ideas be expressed, seen and talked about!

I am hanging my City Life solo show this afternoon at the St. Louis Development Corporation, sponsored through Art Saint Louis as an off-site exhibit. This show will be open during business hours on weekdays and will come down on September 5.

My Point of View solo show at Left Bank Books, 399 N. Euclid, St. Louis, MO will be ongoing until July 20.

I also currently have two large sculptural pieces featured in the Members' Only show at Chesterfield Arts, 444 Chesterfield Center, Chesterfield, MO through August 16.

Thank you so much for your continued support.

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Wishes, the Penny Project, has its own blog!

I have created a blog for Wishes - the Penny Project in the hope that others will join me by stating where they have dropped or found pennies and some of the wishes that they have created and/or picked up. Please feel free to participate.

Penny Project Documentation

I've placed yet more pennies around the St. Louis metro area and have gotten a lot of feedback from people who have done so or are doing so as well. My husband thinks it would be interesting to put my penny page from my website on the pennies somewhere, perhaps circling the edge of the penny in super fine print that would require it be professionally printed to be read. I'm not sure about this idea, though.

I really like the notion that people could check out other people's penny ideas and wishes that they've dispensed and/or found, but I don't want to put an extra step in the production of pennies for those who would like to be involved. The simplicity of just needing a pen and label paper allows for more open participation.

And I'm not doing this for publicity, so I don't feel that my name needs to or should be attached to every penny that goes out. This isn't about that - it's about connecting with people and letting go our wishes and wants in order to better understand ourselves, to critically analyze the world in which we live, to provide a means of social commentary and to let go of things that we might otherwise not be able to.

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Art & Materials

A lot of artists feel bad about getting hung up on their art materials and equipment, thinking that true art should not be about that. But artists need to have something to create with, and what we choose to work with can take on an even greater importance as we use it.

Artists' materials can transcend their physical presence through their use as we create art to heal, to express our innermost desires, to provide a means of commentary or to just relish in the experience of working with the materials themselves. They become like old, reliable friends who are there when you need a shoulder to cry on or someone to listen when no one else will.

Thus it comes as little surprise that we, as artists, can become attached to those materials, and this attachment is something we should never hold against ourselves.

Jeane, I am so sorry about the loss of your camera.

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Lest We Forget the Viewer

I know that I've ranted about this topic before, but it is something that I feel very strongly about.

As an artist, I tend to make art first for myself, as a means of expressing my grievances and concerns. Many artists make art for themselves with audience as an afterthought, which is good because it allows for personal expression and self-reflection and the work tends to be more true to itself and to the artist's vision. But some artists seem to think that they do not need to connect with the general public and don't have to care what people think at all. Now that really depends on why the artist is creating his/her work, but if he/she wants to exhibit then this is something that needs to be considered.

A lot of the general population feels alienated by modern and contemporary art and the often austere gallery setting in which a lot of art is shown. Many people feel that there is an underlying elitism which implies that they are not worthy of viewing art because they don't understand it. And several galleries and museums are cold and unwelcoming which only serves to perpetuate that response. But why should artists care?

For one, those same people are apt to complain about their tax monies and other investments going to support art that they do not understand, and if they are vocal enough about it they can and will incite change for the worse, cutting funding to galleries, grants, art education, outreach programs and so on. And as art takes a less important role in education due to the loss of funding and public disinterest, the audience that understands and appreciates much of contemporary art will shrink, furthering this cycle of misunderstanding and disinterest. Whether or not we like it, we need the general public to take some interest in the arts - we need the patrons and grants and so on, not just as individual artists but so that we have someplace where we can show our art as well.

We need to get the general population more involved in the arts somehow. I'm not saying that we should cater to the masses by making art that matches people's sofas, but we need to offer a range of expression in less cold and austere settings so that the casual observer can find something that he/she is drawn to and hopefully take an interest in some of what is going on in the arts. Casual observers can become regular viewers and even patrons over time, once they feel more welcome. They may even jump at the opportunity to learn something new and to see things in different ways. Art shouldn't be easy to understand and it's perfectly good to have some work that is difficult and potentially inaccessible, but there needs to be a balance.

Monday, July 7, 2008

Art as Object

I have always seen art as a means of communication. Thus, my work rarely focuses on materials and processes for their own sake and typically develops from an idea that I wish to convey. That's part of why I work in so many different materials - I don't want to limit myself to conveying my ideas in solely one means that may or may not be suited to the idea I am expressing. And sometimes I will convey an idea using many different media and techniques while looking for the materials and methods that seem to best suit that idea.

Not that art can't exist solely as object as well, it's just not something that I am personally interested in pursuing to its own end. There are a lot of rich interesting artworks out there that have focused on materials and techniques. There are also a lot of artworks that focus on the act of markmaking and on the marks made. And not all of these works are abstract (as an uninformed observer might readily assume), but they all have the commonality that subject matter and/or concept is secondary to technique.

I would like to learn to better appreciate this approach because it is so opposite of what I do. I think that my own work probably needs to strike more of a balance between the two approaches and that I need to make more work solely for the sake of playing with materials and techniques. When I explore other means of creating art, I become better informed when I approach my more conceptual work because I develop and seek out new methods of conveying ideas.

Sunday, July 6, 2008

D&D 4e Wizard Class rocks!

I'll admit that I'm more of a social gamer than a seasoned one who has been doing this forever, but as a result the Wizard class had always intimidated me because it seemed overly complicated and difficult to keep track of. My group had been gaming predominantly in 3rd edition D&D and Iron Heroes until now, as we are switching to 4th edition.

I have decided that I like really the new 4th edition Wizard class, though. I know a lot of seasoned gamers hate the new system because it seems overly simplified and, as some would put it, "dumbed down" from previous editions, and I do definitely feel as though my options for character development are more limited and less enticing. But I really like the new Wizard class because it is simpler and I can better keep track of what I can do in relation to what is going on so that game play is smoother overall.

The Wizard spells may seem limited, but they do allow for creativity in their uses. I even used Mage Hand twice to turn some traps against some kobolds because of how they rigged them. And Flaming Sphere is actually worth something now (it used to be pretty lame for all that the idea seemed cool).

The main thing that I do like about 4th edition is that there is more of a spirit of collaboration as party cohesion takes precedence over individual acts of heroism. We have switched to group initiative, which also fosters this. But both things work to keep everyone engaged and involved so that the game doesn't drag on so much, especially in combat.

So, for all that I may be dismayed that I can't create the characters that I would have in 3rd edition, I have found that other things (like the Wizard class) are pretty cool and that I just need to look at everything anew.

Saturday, July 5, 2008

Claude Goes to Ted Drewes

Today Claude indulged himself in a St. Louis tradition by going to Ted Drewes for frozen custard.

Friday, July 4, 2008

Local vs. Non-Local Artists

A lot of local artists feel underrepresented by the larger art institutions, university galleries, museums and so on. But a lot of the institutions are trying to expand the horizons of the city by bringing new experiences in order to provide outreach educational experiences and to define the city's place in the national art scene.

And the institutions are doing things to support local artists, offering opportunities to be involved in gallery tours, studio tours, have work in a catalog system and even giving large awards. But many local artists don't become involved in these programs, seemingly forgetting that their responses are important and necessary in order for these sorts of opportunities to continue to exist and for more opportunities to be made available.

Don't get me wrong, the institutions could offer many more opportunities to foster camaraderie with the local art community, but local artists need to take advantage of the opportunities available to them before placing the blame solely on the institutions.

Claude Finds a July 4 Friend

While visiting Jefferson Barracks, Claude finds a July 4 friend.

Claude Honors July 4

Claude honors July 4 by visiting Jefferson Barracks.

Thursday, July 3, 2008

Claude Goes to Schlafly Bottleworks

Claude got to join us after dinner at Schlafly Bottleworks in Maplewood!

Claude At Art Hill

Here's Claude at Art Hill in Forest Park, in front of the St. Louis Art Museum!

Max Schumann at the Contemporary

If you haven't made it by the Contemporary to view Max Schumann's installation in the Front Room, I would highly recommend it. But there isn't much time left - this installation only runs through July 6.

Max Schumann has created a number of exquisitely well-crafted paintings depicting people from television ads (especially those for pharmaceuticals), photographs of soldiers in the Irag war, and other mass media images. Due to the nature of the subject matter, images are often repeated from one painting to another with some distinguishing characteristics identifying their place in an ongoing narrative.

Each painting is created on cardboard and can be purchased for a remarkably low price (between $1 and $10). When a painting is purchased, the cash used to buy it is pinned to the wall in lieu of the piece. This experience provides a wonderful commentary on our consumer culture and on the commodification of and our desensitization to visual stimuli within the mass media and advertising.

I purchased two pieces from the exhibit - one of a woman sleeping with the text "A full night = 8 hours" and "Lunesta" and another depicting a shirtless male torso with the text "dramatization".

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

Plastic vs. Canvas Bags

I think that stores need to start charging money for plastic bags. Many people have switched to using reusable canvas and fabric bags, but the plastic bag still remains an easy, convenient commodity and a lot of people simply won't go out of their way to change their habits. It's true that plastic bags are recyclable, but even recycling them uses some energy and resources that wouldn't be used if we just didn't use them in the first place. And all too often the plastic bags simply become litter because they are lightweight and can be easily swept around.

In regards to the video, Tim Minchin is a comedic genius and a favorite of mine for his sarcastic and intellectual humor.

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

Dealing with Rejection

Art can be an extremely trying career choice. There is a lot of collaboration, but there is a lot of competition as well. And there are a lot of really talented people out there trying to make a name for themselves.

My high school art teacher once said that showing your art is akin to hanging yourself on the wall naked. Expressing yourself, your innermost wants and desires, and then displaying them can be very difficult. It can be even harder when people don't like or relate to what they see. However, due to the nature of the art world, artists have to learn to be able to cope with rejection because they simply will not get into every show or gallery that they try for.

It can be really hard being rejected from a show, but it can also be a learning experience. Oftentimes a lot of really good work gets submitted and it's up to the juror to pick and choose. That can come down to personal opinion, but it can also be greatly influenced by how cohesive the show as a whole will be and how appropriate the submitted work is to the theme or venue.

I submit work to a lot of different things of different levels. I know that I will constantly have to face rejection as a result, but I also feel that I cannot expand my horizons and reach out to new people if I limit myself to only doing the things that I feel comfortable with and where I know I'll be accepted. To me, that kind of limitation is a lot like just preaching to the choir, and I have little interest in that because I want my art to connect with as many different people as possible.

That said, if you want to avoid rejection, do your homework first.

Research the venue and see if you'll be a good fit. For example, if you're a landscape painter and you're submitting to galleries without looking into what they are interested in then you can expect to be rejected from a space that highlights portrait photography. And you likely wouldn't have bothered submitting materials to that gallery if you had just looked into it first. Also, by researching the gallery, you can get a feel for how that organization is run and what kind of presence they have to determine if they are suited to your level and needs.

Research the juror. It's always good to see what the juror does so that you can get a feel for how they perceive things, as that will influence how they approach the show subject and how they look at the submitted work in relation to the subject. Some jurors have obvious likes and dislikes while others do not, so you can never be assured of anything, but it helps to get an idea of how they think.

Think about appropriateness. I'm not an advocate of censorship and believe that anyone should be able to voice their concerns and grievances so long as it doesn't injure or inflict harm on others, but some things simply don't belong in some places. This relates back to researching the venue. Does your work fit the theme or are you trying to force the theme onto it? Audience is a big deal and can greatly affect what is shown in any particular venue. Is it a family space? Is it a community or religious center? Is it a public space? Is it government or corporation-run? Is it an outlet for provocative work? Is it a commercial gallery? Do they rely on sales, government funding or patronage from donors to stay open?

Present your work professionally. Outstanding work can be degraded if inappropriately displayed. Likewise, work that is not as good can appear great if professionally presented. You can frame your work so that it looks professional at a low cost, so long as you're willing to invest a little time. Just make sure that your frames are consistent, even if they're actually different from one another. I know a lot of artists who repurpose wood frames they find at thrift stores by repainting, carving and/or burnishing them, and, as a result, the frames are better suited to the artists' work and better match one another.

Always follow directions! Get your work in on time and present it according to their specs. A lot of places won't even look at work if it is not submitted as outlined in the time frame given. And if you're submitting pictures of your work instead of the actual work, make certain that the pictures do it justice, are in focus and you can tell what's going on.

Just don't take rejection personally. It's really easy to do, but I have worked check-in at a lot of different shows and am always amazed at the caliber of work submitted and am often surprised by what does and doesn't get in. Some of the best pieces submitted simply don't go with anything else in the show and stick out like a sore thumb. And remember, it's a matter of opinion and not everyone may share your aesthetics.