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the artist's idea factory

the reach of art

When I was ten years old my father took me to the Modern Museum to see a surrealistic exhibit on display at the time. It was then I saw the painting “Hide and Seek” by Pavel Tchelitchew, an American artist of Russian birth. This large oil painting with its vivid colors and its hidden imagery of children’s figures integrated into a tree was to haunt me thereafter. It was a strange painting. Yet, I never forgot the painting and the day I spent with my father, who is now long deceased. What I also didn’t realize was how that painting would become part of my future.

I recently went to the Modern Museum to see the Matisse exhibit and was surprised by the crowds of people that jammed the lobby. I was overwhelmed to see an artist celebrated like this. The place was filled with school groups, families and people from all over the world. It seemed as if very little English was spoken here and it was an eye opener. I’m used to seeing this kind of crowed at sports events and movie houses, but not so much for an art exhibit. There were families with young children spending the whole day here. It took me back to that time so long ago when I came here with my father and learned to appreciate art at his side.

So imagine my surprise when I saw the painting “Hide and Seek” on display in the hallway on the 5th flour leading into the Surrealist’s exhibit. I felt my father beside me as I looked at it. In a way it brought me back to that ten-year-old girl. I can’t help thinking how that painting may have been the catalyst for my own surrealistic works today. It also made me think how important it is to expose our children to the museums and art galleries at a young age. It's true not all the children will grow up to be artist’s, but they just might grow up to be art appreciators.



listening to the creative voice

If you saw my studio you would think a bomb went off in it. It’s not just  the mess but the explosion of art that has taken over the room. In pushing myself out of my comfort zone I have discovered a new way of reaching for ideas. It’s so simple, I’m almost too embarrassed to say it. For the first time I started listening to that voice in my head that has the far fetched notion that anything is possible. It’s that voice that keeps saying “what if you tried this?”.  It’s the experimenter, the manipulator of materials, the problem solver. It’s that voice that is positive and unafraid to take risks.

It all started with my love for collage. Something was awakened in that creative part of my brain that allowed me to understand how to tap into my most uninhibited self. You might say I finally started listening to my instincts. It also awakened a new kind of trust in myself and the way I allow myself to seek out inspiration. The trick was to act on an idea and not put it off for another time. If I didn't move on a thought at the moment I had it, I wouldn't act on it at all. It seems simple enough, but this is an important point in unlocking creativity.

It’s been an interesting journey this past year with my artwork. While I may have complained a bit about how hard it is to keep bettering myself, it’s in tenacity and perseverance where the breakthroughs lie. To work towards an illusive goal, one that isn’t quite clear, yet remains an aching underbelly to everything I aspire to is what motivates me. I’ve come to understand through working a system with my collages how to let go of conscious will and let ideas come to me without forethought. It’s as if my brain is now on fast-forward, something very new for me. I can’t turn off the ideas.

So, if the voice in my head says yes I can do it, I listen. However, the minute that voice turns negative I turn it off. There are no mistakes. A failed idea only forces me to find different answers. Either way my work benefits. The bigger the problem solved, the greater the art.





art play

Just because I want to innovate and work past my last painting or collage, the reality is, it doesn't work that way. I spend hours in my studio trying to push past what I already know, and yet, the next step doesn't come without the hours of play that dominates the process. My husband accuses me of playing too much. To him it appears as if I'm just puttering around wasting time. I find myself defending what I do, even though, I often don't know why I'm doing it as well. There's neither rhyme nor reason for the impulse to create. All I can do is step back and give into it.

I like the concept of play. It sounds less ominous and less predictable. If I'm allowed to play, it doesn't matter what I do, there's no one waiting for results. I have no expectations of what can happen, except the knowledge that deep down I'm onto something. The underlining fact has to be that I know I have the talent and ability to find my next step. This is not arrogance. If I felt I was wasting my time, why would I continue putting myself through all the ups and downs of being an artist? Finding that subconscious state of freedom where nothing is impossible and anything goes is a gift I give myself every time I let myself play.

When I go to the galleries and see art that I've never seen before, I get excited. Great art has an ambitious obsessiveness about it which is not taught in classrooms. It comes from hours of experimenting, and yes, playing with a kind of childish freedom. In school I was told everything has been done before and yet it is up to the next generation of artists to reinvent what's already been done.

So, as I play with collage and push the imagery into a more three dimensional composition, I'm seeing new possibilities. My art is becoming more sculptural and that opens up a whole new way to express myself. 


the wangechi mutu influence

I’ve locked myself in my studio these past months working with blind faith that in time their will be a new kind of clarity to my work. I’m absorbed by it. It’s what I think of day and night as I continue to determine the direction I want my collages to go in. It’s a journey that has no map or blueprint, just pure trust in allowing my impulses to guide me. To find a new way of seeing takes patience and determination…a tenacious will that won’t give up. Most days I feel as if I’m just playing, which does have it’s moments of fun.

To fuel my imagination even further, I was fortunate enough to have seen the Wangechi Mutu exhibit at the Brooklyn Museum last week before the show closed. To say I was overwhelmed by the scope and imagination of her art is an understatement. She’s a Brooklyn based artist born in Nairobi, Kenya who has developed collages that have paint and found objects incorporated in them. She combines the female body with animal, plant and machinery parts using cut magazine images. These collages done on mylar are large with themes both political and sexual in nature. I can only imagine the hours of play and discovery she had to put into them to come up with such imaginative work. When imagery comes together like this it becomes an experience rather than just two-dimensional art. It made me proud to be an artist.

What I take away from this is the joy of creativity. Every artist who has achieved any kind of status in the art world has at some point worked through the growing pains of finding a next step. So when I see the end product of another artist’s struggle, it encourages me to keep working. And by the way, I hope I’ll always have that sense of curiosity that keeps my work changing. Only the limits I put on myself can stop me.


what mindset are you?

My art is struggling along with moments of breakthroughs, but mostly it’s hard work with much anxiety. This experimenting is expensive and there’s no guaranty about what results it will bring. Still, I forge ahead knowing in my gut I’m moving towards something that will change the way I see and make art. My experience tells me the more open to experimentation, the more likely I’m going to discover something new.

I wasn’t always this way. I have always been a rule follower who tried not to make mistakes. I studied what was being written in the art magazines and tried to emulate what was being shown in the New York art galleries. While this might be a good way to find inspiration, my own art lacked that sense of urgency and originality. There was definitely more to this process I wasn’t getting as a young artist.

I recently came across an article taken from “Mindset: The New Psychology of Success” by Carol S. Dweck Ph.D which talks about the two mindsets people develop and the way they determine personalities. This article really spoke to me when it talked about a “fixed mindset” as opposed to a “growth mindset.” I know well what it feels like to have a fixed idea in my head, because, as I said, I was a rule follower and knew how to avoid failure by following what has already been proven true. I found it very hard to change this mindset, which showed up in my skilled but uninspired art. I wanted to work smart and not make mistakes, or maybe, I might be deemed untalented. In my defense, this is how I was taught as a young child to fit in.

However, the “growth mindset”, which sees failure as an opportunity doesn't allow for mistakes. These people only see challenges that force them to conquer and advance beyond what already exists. To them it's in trial and error where real inspiration lies. 

I for one don’t want my art to have a “fixed mindset” and that’s why I’ve opened myself up to share what I’m going through. By working with collage I’ve discarded all the rules I once followed as a painter. There are no guidelines for what I’m doing now, except the immediacy of the art process. I keep repeating in my head, “There are no mistakes, just opportunities. There are no longer rules to follow, just instinct and experimentation."