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New artist’s statement – feedback welcomed!

June 28, 2009

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ARTIST’S STATEMENT

I like to work with simple, traditional materials on simple, traditional surfaces because they give me complete control for minimum investment in technology/energy sources.  The substances are mineral, vegetable, occasionally animal, in any case sourced directly in the natural world.  I’m interested in how these substances can come to life thanks to the intervention of my hand, eye, and brain, in response to some stimulus in the outside world – a photograph, a shadow, a fruit on a table, a feeling of being in the ocean.  I work on the painting until it has a life of its own, a kind of personality, until it elicits a response from me I’m comfortable with and want to look at.   The paintings I really want to see don’t exist, so I have to paint them for myself.

I’ve been working on our relationship to nature for years – how to connect our bodies to the nature that gave birth to us.  I feel the human body is the subject par excellence for an artist.  Why ?  well, it’s the container of the contained.  We are nothing without it.  Yet we feel separate from it, as if we are inhabiting it, as we inhabit the world, the planet, the earth, a house.  As we move around in the world, using our body, our awareness also moves around in the body.  Our emotions are felt in the body, our hearts beat more strongly when we are moved.  We enjoy using our bodies, feeling our muscles stretch and contract.  Our bodies take us where we want to go and show us everything we need to see, hear, touch, taste, smell.  In painting women’s bodies in water I want to explore how we can both see and feel the body in relation to the environment.  The freedom of movement in water, the upholding, surrounding, is particularly conducive to painting poses that express not rest, as in traditional nudes sitting or lying or standing, due to the limitations of painting from life, but rather freedom and emotions — excitement, passion, curiosity, ecstasy, fear, anger, or peace, thanks to the aid of photography and in particular underwater video.  A whole new field for expression is opened up, using darkness and light in wholly new ways, shadows created by moving water and sunlight fading in the depths.

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Thoughts on women in water

June 28, 2009

The women in water cycle

Painting is about seeing.  “Edibility… has more to do with seeing. The rest is manual, it’s no problem.  Anything can be painted.  It’s mroe difficult to see whether what one is doing is any good or not.  But that’s the only thing that counts.  As Duchamp showed, it has nothing to do with craftsmanship.  What counts isn’t being able to do a thing, it’s seeing what it is.  Seeing is the decisive act, and ultimately it places the maker and the viewer on the same level.”  Gerhard Richter

“Once I used to think I ought to paint like the “great masters” and of course I couldn’t.  I felt it to be a terrible lack in me, I though I basically wasn’t a painter at all but a fraud, just pretending to be one.  I twas a long time before I realized that what I do – the desparate experimentation, all the difficulties – is exactly whay they all do: that’s the normal nature of the job.  That’s painting.” – Gerhard Richter

“… it has a special function in the cycle, because you see it in relation to the others.  But all the fifteen pictures relate to each other.”  — Gerhard Richter

OK, so if I make a cycle exhibit, how to do it…

Chronological?  not relevant.

Filmatic sequence?  tempting but too constraining, and not relevant.  Painting is not film.

Related to core search for meaning in painting?  definitely.  Core search for identity?  Definitely.

Repression – repressing the emotion and then releasing into the light of day allows the emotion to enter the unconscious/group mind and be integrated by the universal memory, then when dredged up and released, has connected with other memories and resonances.  Am I painting the process of repression?  Are the paintings about repression?  All that underwater imagery certainly evokes the unconscious.  All those missing heads…

How to connect this with insights in the Tao of Equus and recent “borderland” voyages?  Somehow making art has to connect with these processes, or I’m not interested in making it.

Apparently making art IS connecting with these processes.  Clearly it involves a dialogue between the mind and the body, where what I “see” passes through my body in creating a piece of art, and the dialogue between what I paint and what I see makes me see more of what I paint and see more of the painting.

The “cycle” is just going to be the process of learning how to do that.  The “subject matter” doesn’t really matter, it just has to be sufficiently compelling to me to encourage me to continue talking about it…

Perhaps what the painting evokes is also the process of wandering in the borderlands.  This would help with the “this is finished” decision!  I have to be able to focus on the special “seeing” that I connect with.  I remember after starting aikido I suddenly “saw” my drawings in a completely different way and my drawing “style” took off.  Then the same thing happened when I was wrestling with a painting, suddenly I “saw” it differently.  Both were triggered by aikido.  Also happened with the fruit and flower paintings, when I could only paint them when it became “obvious” what I had to do next, and at some point everything clicked…

Onwards!

Childbirth art

June 28, 2009

Review on Birthrites show in Glasgow — I’m sorry, can’t find the reference

Leo rules children and creative fecundity; and currently at Glasgow Science Centre, Scotland, till September 1st, there is an exhibition, dedicated to the birth experience. It was originally inspired by two women, artist Helen Knowles and art history graduate Phoebe Mortimer. They decided that childbirth (a major experience in life) was sadly under explored as a subject for artistic response. All other human powerful experience and emotion such as love, pain, passion, suffering, war, sex, death, and angst are all plentifully explored in the arts, but there was a crucial gap in the market. Hence the exhibition Birth Rites was born. Five artists shadowed obstetric and antenatal staff and then recorded their responses to their observations on canvas and via the medium of photography and video-art. This exhibition is both sensitive and graphic. This is not just an all female affair, two male video-artists reveal through their work the mixture of alienation, confusion and overwhelming involvement of the father in a birth environment. The juxtaposition of the impersonal technology and gadgets with the emotions of childbirth and especially the essential emotional isolation of the mother, despite being surrounded by people, is poignantly documented.

It is interesting that this show which moves to Manchester museum, England, in September, is confined to science venues. Knowles has found a reluctance of galleries to want to get involved. She says “what we are finding is that there is still a lot of fear around the subject matter” For such a ubiquitous, fundamental and undeniably profound phenomenon as child birth, this surely is odd.

Sexuality and childbirth are curiously separated in our culture; the former is explored and exploited ad nauseum, the latter strangely disengaged and demoted. It is sometimes easy to forget that they are so intimately linked. The means have been hugely elevated (no pun intended) above the ends: the definition of Anomie.

The period of time from Scorpio (sex) to Cancer (birth) approximates to the gestation period.

A propos of oceans, consciousness, and Green

June 7, 2009

Andrew Marvell

“The Garden”

What wond’rous Life in this I lead!

Ripe Apples drop about my head;

The Luscious Clusters of the Vine

Upon my Mouth do crush their Wine;

The Nectaren, and curious Peach,

Into my hands themselves do reach;

Stumbling on Melons, as I pass,

Insnar’d with Flow’rs, I fall on Grass.


Mean while the Mind, from pleasure less,

Withdraws into its happiness:

The Mind, that Ocean where each kind

Does streight its own resemblance find;

Yet it creates, transcending these,

Far other Worlds, and other Seas;

Annihilating all that’s made

To a green Thought in a green Shade.


Here at the Fountains sliding foot,

Or at some Fruit-trees mossy root,

Casting the Bodies Vest aside

My soul into the boughs does glide:

There like a Bird it sits and sings,

Then whets, and combs its silver Wings;

And, till prepar’d for longer flight,

Waves in its Plumes the various Light.

Madagascar crisis

March 16, 2009

This was supposed to be an art blog, but given the events in Madagascar, I need to post  an entry on that!

Following is the letter to the editor I have sent to several English-speaking newspapers.

March 16, 2009

Wife of the current Ambassador of Madagascar to Italy, previously Ambassador to France, an American citizen but with great admiration and respect for the Malagasy people, in light of the current crisis in my husband’s country I feel an urgent need to provide another perspective on events.

What disturbs me the most is the fact that some of the international media reporting of the “opposition”, led by former mayor of Tananarive Andry Rajoelina and backed by politicians from the former regime, is far from accurate and perhaps even biased. They have consistently used violence against the population of Tananarive, hiring criminal elements to loot, pillage, and commit acts of violence. They have consistently refused dialogue with President Ravalomanana. They have consistently demonstrated irresponsibility in « appointing » a « transitional » government with absolutely no authority of any kind and inundating internet and the traditional media with false information to willfully mislead the Malagasy people and the international community. These people are also backed by Ghadaffi and his supporters in the African Union in yet another move to put more power into the hands of those that would keep Africa a backwards and exploited continent. Madagascar’s rich natural resources, especially the oil and mineral wealth that have recently been discovered and exploited, make the political stakes so much more crucial and do much to explain the current move by these unscrupulous people at this point in time.

The Malagasy people and President Marc Ravalomanana are motivated by the traditional Malagasy wisdom of « fihavanana », a word perhaps best translated as solidarity, mutual respect, and tolerance. An objective look at the record, especially at the history of the electoral crisis of 2002, will demonstrate that President Ravalomanana is a man of peace who has consistently shown willingness to dialogue with the opposition and has shown exceptional restraint in handling the current crisis. He has proposed a referendum to allow the people of Madagascar to demonstrate clearly and freely who they choose to defend their interests. It will be interesting to observe the actions of an opposition that has, time after time, demonstrated their willingness to go to any extreme to take power illegally from the legitimately elected chief of state, including attempts to foment civil war. Already Andry Rajoelna has refused the referendum. Doubtless he is less interested in the opinion of the people since he is afraid of losing. Fortunately the Malagasy people and President Ravalomanana are not going to give up that easily. As President Obama would say, “Yes, we can.”

I would also like to add some information on the achievements of President Ravalomanana and his government since 2002. Over 6,000 kilometers of roads have been built, roads capable of resisting the heavy rains that pour down in much of the country (a first for Madagascar) to connect the main towns and cities of the country, improving economic exchange of agricultural and industrial production. No media has yet mentioned that President Ravalomanana has also modernized the health care system, opening health centers throughout the country and leading an effective fight against AIDS and malaria. As for education, he has opened many schools throughout the country, ensuring that all school-age children can go to school at least through grade school and 78% currently in high school, providing the school materials they need. (Prior to 2002, children used to beg tourists for pencils and paper for school.) He has modernized agriculture, extending intensive production of rice, the stable food of the population, and eliminating speculation, allowing Madagascar to once again become self-sufficient in providing rice to the population, for the first time since 1971. Madagacar is the only country where the price of rice decreased when the price of grains and rice was rising worldwide.

Ironically, given the rhetoric of the opposition politicians, President Ravalomanana has made the fight against corruption one of the keystones of his administration through the Independent Anti-Corruption Bureau (BIANCO), created in a partnership with international institutions. No media has yet informed the general public that this fight has allowed producers to sell their merchandise in a secure environment, protected from the shady operators who proliferated under Didier Ratsiraka from 1975 onwards. No media has yet spoken of President Ravalomanana’s Madagascar Action Plan (the MAP) designed to implement and sustain the economic and social development initiatives undertaken during his first term of office from 2002 to 2006 following the devastating economic consequences of the electoral crisis resulting from the refusal of Didier Ratsiraka to peacefully hand over power to the legitimately elected Marc Ravalomanana, instead fomenting civil war and only overcome by the remarkable maturity of the Malagasy people and the unceasing efforts of the ecumenical organizations of Madagascar to maintain peace. (Indeed, Madagascar is a model of inter-religious cooperation at all times, a testimony to the philosophy of fihavanana.)

Although the media have underlined that Madagascar has been opened to foreign investment under President Ravalomanana in the sectors of tourism, telecommunications, mining, and agriculture, what they have omitted discussing thus far is how this investment can and does benefit the country. Since 2004, following a disastrous 2003 at -11,9 percent growth in the wake of the 2002 electoral crisis, in spite of economic recession worldwide and huge rises in the price of oil, GDP has grown every year, at 6% in 2004, 5.5% in 2005, 5.1% in 2006, 4.7% in 2007, and in 2008, a rise of 34% to 6.3 %. Clearly the President must be doing something right. In addition, the International Monetary Fund, the World Bank, the United Nations, and the European Union all have recognized that President Ravalomanana has fostered transparency, investment security, and a consistent commitment to sustainable development.

I trust and hope, in the spirit of fihavanana, that this brief reminder of certain facts will be useful to everyone in situating the current conflict in its geopolitical and national context, taking us beyond a vision that sees the crisis a conflict of interest between political “equals” and rivals. A strong opposition makes a strong country, but only where that opposition acts in respect of the constitution and the legal institutions it claims to defend.

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February 14, 2009

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