What does your art say?

What does your art say?

This is a question that comes to me regularly. Often it is helpful in deciding which imagery to pursue because it forces me to ask if it is visually or emotionally compelling. Recently the question has been asking something else…

When the question is critical and challenging

What difference do your brightly colored nature-pattern images make to the world? Why didn’t you work harder on your silk screen skills, or learn letter press? Then you could make art that really SAID something. This line of thinking is disquieting, and has been with me as I have carved and printed a long, narrow linocut inspired by waves and fields. Here’s the progression of the work…

layer 1layer 2layer 3layer 4

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Sometimes art gets political

This has been a hard week to make art. Printmaking isn’t a media where you can get physical with your materials, like ceramics or painting. Sometimes I wish it was. As I completed all of the mundane tasks that the studio required, I tried to identify the particular things that were nagging at me and causing stress. Honestly, I feel that the in-coming administration is going to be catastrophic for the environment. Our environment is the entire reason for my art…


I don’t want to just make pretty art

I despise the word pretty. As a woman, it feels dismissive and demeaning. Things that are pretty are not important. Just because I do not sling black paint on canvases or incorporate headless torsos into my work doesn’t mean that I create artwork to be purely decorative. The images I select to carefully carve and laboriously print are my interpretations of our most precious gift, the natural world. Trees, mountains, streams, flowers, creatures — all of these things spring up not from our human efforts, but because of this amazing ecosystem into which we were fortunate to be born. Continue reading “Sometimes art gets political”

When art really moves you

July was walk-about month for me and my family. I look forward to these trips because they are a time to look at new things, have different experiences, and generally refresh my artistic brain. We decided to go to two very different European cities — mostly because they offered activities that would please both forty-something parents and newly-minted young adults.

Our time in Amsterdam yielded two museum experiences that I enjoyed. A Matisse paper cut-out exhibit at the Stedelijk Museum felt so familiar, as I remembered the reproduction that hung on my bedroom wall throughout my adolescence. I admired Matisse’s use of white space. An early morning visit to the Van Gogh Museum took us through the artist’s development from dark and realistic, to brighter colors and abstracted perspectives. I could clearly see the influence of Japanese woodblock printing during one period of his painting, where shapes were darkly outlined, as if in an homage to a key block.

Lovely to see… but not earthshaking. We then traveled by train to Berlin. In a past life, I studied political science, took Russian, and learned a great deal about Eastern Europe and the Soviet Union. Our AirBnB 1901 apartment was in Prenzlauer Berg — an area that was part of East Berlin. I imagined the people living in this apartment — with its soaring ceilings and thick walls — during the second World War and the time of the Stazi.

Our first real site in Berlin was an evening trip up the dome of the Reichstag. The former dome burned in 1933 and provided the impetus for the Nazi party to seize political power. The current glass dome was not completed until 1999, nine years after German reunification. Access to the site is free, but requires advanced tickets procured with your official documents. Inside it is quiet as people gradually ascend up to the top, where you can lean back on a circular wooden bench and watch the clouds go by. In a country that has known such conflict and pain, the dome provides a sense of peace and a hope for clear-eyed action in the future.

A view of the ascending and descending ramps in the dome of the Reichstag in Berlin, Germany.

Continue reading “When art really moves you”

Incomparable Wonder in Louisville

I ventured two hours south last Friday to bring my work to the Roberta Marx Gallery at the Thomas Jefferson Unitarian Church in Louisville, Kentucky. I crossed snowy fields covered with a strange fog — even though the air temperature hovered around 10 degrees F. Other fields had rows of corn stubble peaking up, fodder for future prints.


The Roberta Marx Gallery at Thomas Jefferson Unitarian Church.
Photo by Jill Baker

The atmosphere at the church felt much warmer, with modern architecture and a clear appreciation for the natural world. The late winter sun streamed in through a round skylight.

I titled this exhibit: Incomparable Wonder: The Intersection of Spirit, Science and Art. The idea of exhibiting in a place of worship appeals to me. In centuries past, places of worship used stone carvings and later stained glass windows to communicate important stories to the congregation. Today, everyone can read stories from sacred texts. Art can take on a whole new role of asking what we value today. In my mind, what could be more important
than considering our natural world – both its beauty and fragility?

My newest work finds a bright wall. Photo by Jill Baker.

I had intended to make a return trip to Louisville two day later to join the congregation for its service, and a pot-luck reception afterwards. I even baked my white cheddar cheese biscuits with sage. (Full disclosure, this is a Martha Stewart recipe, and I am happy to share it.)

Alas, even though I make work considering the forces of nature, I am still amazed when nature affects me directly. The morning of the reception dawned with seven inches of new snow outside our window and travel advisories issued for the counties we needed to cross. The threat of freezing rain later made even my Montana-born husband demur from making the trip.

Bubble images are brightly lit by the round skylight and late
winter’s sun. Photo by Jill Baker.

Thankfully my work was wonderfully introduced to the congregation by artist and member Jill Baker. I enjoyed hanging the work with Jill on Friday and hearing about her journey as an artist. Advice from successful artists is priceless. I was sorry to miss meeting the good people of Thomas Jefferson, but am glad that my work can have a home in their gallery for the month.

Time to head back to the studio for a new series…and to try to forget that the cheese biscuits are residing very close by in the basement freezer.