Then: Complicated

acrylic mixed media collage on panel
Then: Complicated- Acrylic mixed media collage on panel, 9″ x 12″, $200

The next piece in the series Then. Life growing up was complicated. With a huge extended family, something was always going on, both fun and challenging. It was a crazy time. I was always left trying to figure out what was going on.


Beyond the Story

Beyond the Story: Exploring Visual Memoir
Sept. 5 – October 30, 2014

Hillsboro Public Library, Main Branch 2nd floor
2850 NE Brookwood Parkway
Hillsboro OR 97124

Opening celebration:
September 7, 2014 2:00- 5:00 PM
artist talks at 3:00
http://www.facebook.com/beyondthestoryart

Two weeks until show time

abstract mixed mediaTwo weeks from today I’ll be hanging Beyond The Story: Exploring Visual Memoir with Rebecca Shapiro and Lisa Sonora Beam.

I had planned to write a post about how the collaboration came about. My mind is swirling with so many details of things that need to get done. I’m finding it hard to pull out of the to-do list to allow the writing muse to come forward.

Does all my work suck?

I’ve been working on this show for two years. It’s gone through a number of phases and at some point I had to commit to what my contribution to the show was going to be. Now that I have done that all the voices of fear are visiting:

  • what if the work sucks?
  • what if no one gets it?
  • what if everyone hates it?
  • what if no one comes to see the show?
  • what if no one comes to the opening?
  • what if nothing ever sells?
  • what if I wasted two years of my life?

This is just pre-show anxiety

I’ve done shows enough to know that I always hate the work just before I show it. I think it might be a crazy thing I do to protect myself. It feels vulnerable to do a show like this that is so personal. My professional self knows this is all just stuff I need to put aside and get over. It’s almost impossible. It’s part of the process to walk with it. Not let it take over and get in the way of getting things done.

What do you do?

I find it easier to cope with the fears when I name them and even laugh at them. Know their cycles. Here we are again— right on time. Sometimes I write about it (I guess that’s what this post is all about,) sometimes it helps to talk with others. Other times I have to take a break and do something totally unrelated.

Do you have a good way to manage your feelings before you put yourself out in a big way?

Then: Surrounded

mixed media collage on panel
Then: Surrounded- Mixed Media acrylic collage on panel, 9″ x 12″, $200

Part of my series, Then. Inspired by my childhood. I was surrounded by lots of things. Some were great, lots of love and family. Others not so great. It’s all a part of who I am.


Beyond the StoryBeyond the Story: Exploring Visual Memoir
Sept. 5 – October 30, 2014

Hillsboro Public Library, Main Branch 2nd floor
2850 NE Brookwood Parkway
Hillsboro OR 97124

Opening celebration:
September 7, 2014 2:00- 5:00 PM
artist talks at 3:00

http://www.facebook.com/beyondthestoryart

Then: Source

mixed media acrylic collage on panel
Then: Source–Mixed Media acrylic collage on panel, 9″ x 12″, $200

This is the first of six panels and two spacers that will be displayed together in a series I call Then. They have rich layered surfaces, with flashes of metallic. It’s a set that emerged from thinking about my childhood. So many things happening all the time.

Source is about the beginning. Origin. My parents. All that goes with that.

[hr/]

Beyond the Story

Beyond the Story: Exploring Visual Memoir
Sept. 5 – October 30, 2014

Hillsboro Public Library, Main Branch 2nd floor
2850 NE Brookwood Parkway
Hillsboro OR 97124

Opening celebration:
September 7, 2014 2:00- 5:00 PM
artist talks at 3:00
http://www.facebook.com/beyondthestoryart

Changing show direction midstream

How does a show go from one media and style to another?

watercolor and acyrlic paintings
20 ” x 30″ Watercolor on Paper to Abstract Acrylic on 18″ x 24″  Panel

I’ve been working on a show about visual memoir for over two years. Creating work focused on a topic– a series, a body of work, a show — is different than creating a singular work of art. There have been many styles and phases as I have walked through deciding how I want to share a slice of my life publicly. Each stage of the work has led to the next, the pieces I am creating now could not exist without those that went before. Sometimes the threads are obvious. Other times not as much.

Getting out of my usual space

Sitka Center
Sitka Center for Art and Ecology

I did a three week artist’s residency at Sitka Center for Art and Ecology in May 2013.  I had lots of preliminary work done  on the story I wanted to tell in written and painted form.  This was an opportunity to dive deep and start the work I wanted to show.

There is a unique magic that happens in creative retreat. Getting away from the distractions of daily life allows openings to occur that I have found fruitful over and over in my career. It’s best when I allow whatever to happen that bubbles up from inside and avoid getting caught up by a need to produce brilliant finished work.

Carving stories into the paper phase

detail of words in painting
Detail of painting with layers of words, watercolor, and colored pencil

I was writing stories from my past into watercolor paper with a bamboo skewer. Painting over them. Incising another layer. Paint, stories, paint, stories. Colored pencil to pull out more of the texture. I wrote each story many times by hand. Pressing the words into the paper took effort, my hand would cramp by the bottom of the page. I’d get a break on the painting layer. A rest as the paint dried. Then I would start again.

Transforming story through process

Writing the story felt hard. By the time I had carved a story several times I was over it. Not just in an I’m bored way, more like the emotional charge it held was gone. I found myself with a new level of empathy for others in the drama. The tight hold I had on my version of the story released. I could see other viewpoints, sometimes for the first time.

What am I communicating?

mixed media painting of tree
Adapted to the Edge, watercolor and colored pencil, 30″ x 18″

I took a few writing classes before I went to Sitka. I had a lot to learn about the narrative form. I wrote a lot while I was away and finished a series of paintings. I was struggling with the structure and arc of the story. I took another class to get help.

When it was time for me to get feedback on my story structure I presented the words and with small images of the paintings to the class. I felt something important about the story emerging from the space between the visual and the verbal. The class wasn’t much interested. They wanted another story. A comedy perhaps? Set in group therapy, a story looking back on how my life unraveled.

It felt like they were looking for a story about the train wreck of my life. Yes there were gnarly details, but it was a tiny part of a much larger story that was about the transformation of my family’s lives. One of the class members sent me feedback where his conclusion was unless I focused on answering the question why I didn’t leave, no one would care about anything.

I stopped writing and started looking for artists who work with the visual and verbal. I was missing the mark and very annoyed that I was once again being asked to explain. Not to mention, I did leave, a long time ago. I didn’t want to create work about being surrounded  by addiction and violence. I wanted to create a show about healing and moving beyond it.

Back to the Studio

picture of studio
My studio

The studio is a place of refuge for me. I went back to my most comfortable visual language. I needed a place that felt productive, where I could find flow.

I needed change. I didn’t know how to get from where I was to where I wanted. I decided to change media, moving into painting first in oil, then in acrylic on panel. I moved to the abstract, to find the essence of what I was trying to express.

Ultimately I found what I was looking for. The work that is part of Beyond the Story: Exploring Visual Memoir is just that. The stories don’t appear at all. Instead the work starts on a gelli plate where random unexpected things occur. I’m faced with a series of choices about how I embrace or reject the print.

  • Can I make it beautiful?
  • Can I find a place where it fits?
  • Can I accept what has happened and integrate it to create something new?

 Importance of an Artistic Community

When I was feeling so frustrated, I started looking for artists who were writers. Specifically people who were working on visual memoir. I had been following the work of Rebecca Shapiro and Lisa Sonora Beam for a couple of years.  I was able to meet each of them, and asked them to collaborate on a show. The talks we have every couple of weeks over a year have deepened my understanding of what I am trying to do.

I  leaned on my artistic community. I sought out people who would understand what I was wresting with and who could talk about the integration of the stories into the visual. They helped me see the essence of what I was trying to say visually. The conversations about what I was trying to do were critical to my ability to break into new places with the work I was creating.

Inviting you to share your story

The whole point of this show is to celebrate a wide range of ways we can share our stories. I’m creating opportunities for others to experience the transformation I have lived many times over the years by going to the places between the visual and verbal. One of these will happen at the opening of the show. More to come soon.

[hr]

Beyond the StoryBeyond the Story: Exploring Visual Memoir
Sept. 5 – October 30, 2014

Hillsboro Public Library, Main Branch 2nd floor
2850 NE Brookwood Parkway
Hillsboro OR 97124

Opening celebration:
September 7, 2014  2:00- 5:00 PM
artists talks  at 3:00