Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Can you start an artist's salon in a ranch-style house?

Would the Ramones, Patty Smith, or the Talking Heads ever existed if CBGBs had been a bar in a Howard Johnson's in Newnan, GA?  This is of course provided the likes of those folks would have ever lived in a town like Newnan.  Or if CBGBs had been a bar in Howard Johnson's somewhere in New York City?

Could the Surrealists have convened at a Wafflehouse and still have made the impact they did? 

Is part of the allure and the mechanism for creativity and intense philosophical debates reliant upon where they take place?

When I had my art gallery, I had grand designs of it being a place where people could meet and exchange ideas, where people could come and be inspired, awed, disturbed, and happy.  I wanted to have classes, host multi-art events - in short, I wanted to be able to engage people in art and artful conversation.

But the gallery was not an old warehouse, or a brownstone, or a former Victorian apothecary.  It wasn't located in a particularly artsy part of town.  Part of a strip mall, it was off of the main street that runs through the middle of Savannah clear out to I-95.  Devoid of any noteworthy architecture, it had formerly been the site of a gas station which had simply been added to over time with a large expansive showroom emanating from the center, once home to a piano store and a lamp shop.  

For a gallery space, it was more than adequate, lacking only in a higher ceiling which would have been more spatially appealing.  While it was mostly three walls of plate glass windows, which cut down on hanging space, it gave a sense of openness and allowed the people whizzing by glimpses of art if they happened to look in a westerly direction.  

Formerly OC Welch dealership sign
Photo credit esywlkr

The gallery was nestled in between a popular breakfast chain and a used car lot.  While the car lot might have been a total downer, it did have a really huge, neon sign circa the 1960s.  

If the restaurant had been hipper - we might have had something worthwhile going on.  But alas - we just weren't able to garner interest. No amount of  press, events, or networking could get people to come on a regular basis.  So there was no envisioned salon.  No birth of an art  movement.   No  lasting impression on the Savannah art scene. Now, it's a pawn shop.

I have very romantic notions of the salons of old, of the Salon Dada, the Pre-Rafaelite Brotherhood, or the Algonquin Round Table.

Algonquin Round Table by  Natalie Ascencios
I will be hosting bi-monthly meetings of artists structured around the book, "Walking in This World" by Julia Cameron, a follow up to her successful "The Artist's Way".  

None of us are ground-breakers in the art world.  Only a few of us have had formal art training.  A couple of us are teachers.  There are no men among us - though we welcome anyone who shares our way of thinking and creating.  I live in a ranch house - the sort of structure from which you could make a fairly accurate 3-D model using only a shoe box and some strips of cardboard to section off the rooms.

I don't know if it's the sort of space that would inspire or infuse a sense of creativity.  Our meetings will be in the breakfast nook which overlooks my very unkempt backyard.  I hope something lasting and meaningful comes from our bi-monthly meetings; I'm sure our discussions will be very lively if nothing else, a handful of 40-somethings re-embarking on a quest to put art and creativity back at the center of our lives.  I should think of it in less grandiose terms, less of a salon, more of a play date.  

And looking at the big picture, there's nothing wrong with that.

Saturday, September 8, 2012

Why am I up this early...?

Titus, my cat, woke me up this morning.  He'd been out patrolling his "'hood" and apparently was extremely famished after chasing away the potential threats to his territory.  He'd been let in as Jason was on his way to work - at 6:30.  On a Saturday.  Not cool.

Titus in his natural state.
Titus is a rescue cat, more than likely part Maine Coon if not full, based on his size and several distinctive characteristics.  I will know better come winter provided it's cold enough and his winter coat comes in.  We live in Georgia and it's still pretty hot.

According to the papers I received when I picked him up at Pet Supermarket, he was spayed after he'd reached adulthood, so subsequently his head is massive and his neck and shoulders give the impression he's a heavy for the kitty Mafia.  We affectionately nicknamed him Jughead.

I don't know who owned Titus before animal control got a hold of him, but I suspect they were probably older, perhaps male, and let him have full run of the house.  He was a jump on the counter/table/food prep area kind of cat, if you know what I mean, but since coming to live with us he understands this isn't acceptable behavior in our house, so he's stopped lounging on the coffee table and being a general nuisance in the kitchen.

When we first got him he was fairly quiet and apart from the coffee table and counter issues, the territory marking in the bedrooms, the ear mites, and the tapeworms, he was a pretty laid back cat, no trauma, no latent psychosis, no behavioral issues.  Seriously, this cat acts as though he'd lived here his whole life.  No one's a stranger and he doesn't seem to care who it is, he will follow everyone into the kitchen.

Lights are no deterrent from a proper nap.
However as the weeks went by, we discovered that Titus actually talks a lot.  And he is very very loud.  Because, why?  Because he was spayed in April and because that's one of the traits of Maine Coons.  They are vocal.  Yay.

I can hear him when he's terrorizing another cat on the next street.  I can hear him at the back door when I'm in my room with the door closed.  When he's in the hallway and is not sure where I am, he lets everyone in the neighborhood know.  He has no concept of "inside voice".  Or shhhh.  Or "Would you shut the hell up already?".

While Titus has a very distinct personality which is pretty much flopping wherever he is in danger of getting trampled thereby providing whomever is in his vicinity the to opportunity to give him attention, he loves loves loves reusable shopping bags.  He plays with them, lays on them or in them, and generally enjoys the hell out of them.  Cheapest cat toy I have next to the catnip banana which he also enjoys.

What I wish I was doing right now.
By and large though, Titus has proven to be an awesome and utterly cool cat.  My son adores him.  I adore him.  Mostly.  When he's not getting me up at 6:30 in the morning.

Guess I'll go make some breakfast.

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

What I saw over the weekend...

I saw this brilliant piece over the weekend.  It's part of a traveling exhibition from the Talladega College's murals that were part of commission by the artist, Hale Woodruff.

This exhibit is sensational and not only documents little known historical moments in American history, but also showcases a huge talent.  That he's African American only makes his work even more amazing and how the artist gained prominence and rose to recognition at time when the civil rights movement wasn't even an idea is inspiring.

What's interesting about the murals in particular is that the artist drew heavily on Mexican art , drawing on the dynamics and bold color so often found in the art of that time and location.

They've been beautifully restored so the color is vibrant and seemingly painted with in the past year, never mind the past century.

What I found most fascinating were his linoleum and wood cut prints, some depicting the gruesome and barbaric nature of lynching.

"Returning Home"


If you're in the Atlanta area - I highly recommend going to see this exhibit.  It was more than a treat.

Inundating you with posts!!!

I hope I can make this a habit.  I hope that there's so much going on in my life that what I share with you, intrepid reader and die-hard encourager, is interesting, amusing, or some combination of terrifying and idiotic.
Like the RNC.  Oooops!
Diane Arbus - Child with Toy Hand Grenade

Anyway, I wanted to share what I have managed to do over the past year.  I am helping to organize a Sci-Fi/Fantasy and Gaming Convention here in Savannah called GnomeCon.  This is the brainchild of a very dear friend of mine, someone to whom I helped introduce the world of geekdom many many moons ago.

Very slowly my friend ensnared me to help her with small things - a logo, networking, marketing.  Then I got shanghaied to be on the Board.  Now, I am Secretary.  But that's ok.

We had our first con in April 2012.  It went extremely well; the turn-out was double our expectations and everyone said they had a great time.  The Board of GnomeCon couldn't be more chuffed.

Which is why we're certain GnomeCon 2013 will be even better.  We're trying to get artist/director/writer/actor Larry Blamire to be our official Guest of Honor (GoH).  Larry could potentially have a con unto himself being that he's such a prolific creator and is an extremely funny and talented human being.  I would definitely attend LaBlaCon if there was such a thing.

If you've never heard of this guy -'re totally missing out.  Here are some links to check out:

Larry's Art
Stuff About Larry
More Stuff About Larry
One of Larry's cinematic masterpieces!
I am a really hugish fan of this guy if it's not already apparent.  The fact that he was taught art by someone who was a second generation student of Howard Pyle is enough to blow my mind.

Anyway, if we can get Larry as a GoH I am really not sure how much better GnomeCon can get except to continue to grow.  We'll probably have to build our own facility after awhile since Savannah doesn't afford much in the way of proper space for a con.  This was the most frustrating part about hosting the event - finding adequate space.  Cons require a lot of real estate - especially with gaming being the backbone of GnomeCon.  Big draws to cons are also the dealer's room and the art show, both of which require lots of space.

Incidentally - GC 2013 will mark our first art show!  Please go to GnomeCon Home where you can find out more info about the art show and also see what we're all about. 

Art I've been doing.

I mentioned in my previous post that I was back making small works of art.  Here is an example of what I've been doing.  My first series of ATCs in at least 2 years.

I also finished this commission which took forever.  I enjoying painting animals, but throw pillows?  Not so much.

I think I'm back...

Embarrassingly, it's been a number of years since I've posted anything on this blog.  Lots of life changes, loss of creativity, lack of focus or purpose, and personal upheaval probably did not contribute positively to making or writing anything meaningful here.

But what I can only describe as a sort of metamorphosis is taking place.  I can feel something slowly unfurling wherever my creative center is located.  Things that let me know I may be coming out of this creative hell:

  1. I am starting to enjoy looking at art again.  It used to be, even when I was in a creative low - I could still enjoy and appreciate the art of others.  I found sometimes that immersing myself in someone else's creativity was a reprieve from the lack of mine.  You would think that this exercise would promote a sense of inadequacy or lowered self-confidence, but it seemed the opposite - looking at the art of others made me curious to try new techniques or gave me a new perspective on my own art.  So this weekend, at the prompting of a good and dear friend, we embarked on a weekend full of art.  We went to the High Museum in Atlanta - which I have to say has vastly and significantly improved I recommend it to anyone visiting Atlanta.  From there we managed to make the  Sketchbook Project exhibit.  If you've never heard of it - you must go educate yourself and then participate.  I am making one for 2013.
  2. I have bought new art supplies.  Sometimes the simple act of getting new paper or a brush or new pencils helped to invigorate me creatively.  Part of being a Creative is the process of creating, and in the case of me as an artist, having new tools or trying out new substrates or techniques is exciting.  Over the past 2 years, I had purchased nothing.  Now I have some fabulous water-soluble graphite sticks and water-based graphite by ArtGraf I've been having a good time getting to know.  Also bought some awesome paper - Rhodia, a smooth, creamy paper from France.  Similar to Paper for Pens by Borden and Riley.  Exquisite.     
  3. I am making an effort to get back to writing.  In the past, when I would begin to feel a waning in my artistic interest, I turned my creative pursuits to writing.  I joined a local writer's group and began to write a novel (or 3) flitting back and forth when an inspiring jag hit me.  But my latest depression even impacted my desire to write - which was perhaps the oddest and most difficult part of my depressive process.  Realizing I am hardly an adept writer, I still found the act of writing less daunting and not as fraught with anxiety, so it was a welcome escape when my art was boring me.
  4. I am doodling and making small works of art.  I think one of my personal obstacles, the one that I inflict on myself the most, is the idea that every single piece I attempt to create must somehow be meaningful.  Whatever that means I couldn't begin to put into words.  It's intangible and frustrating to say the least and bogs me down even before I get started.  I'd forgotten how to doodle.  I'd forgotten how to let my mind wander and I'd totally missed the point of just letting random things appear on the paper.  So now I feel kind of stupid and somewhat sheepish that such a small, relatively insignificant exercise is so crucial to the creative process - something I'd known but had shut out of my creative mind along with a lot of other things.  I have also returned to the online art trader community of which I have made mention in older posts.
  5. I have begrudgingly started confirming to myself I am an artist.  Even in relatively high points of my creativity, telling people I was an artist often made me feel like a charlatan or a sham.  I didn't have trouble telling people I was a writer, perhaps because words belong to everyone and we use them to communicate - thus a sense of "public domain" and not so egregious.  But when it came to the label "artist" there seemed so much more weight to it, that I felt I didn't measure up.  Perhaps it's me, well - I know it's me, projecting my ideas of what an artist is or should be and realizing I have no right to be in that camp.  My standards are too high and I don't measure up.  But then getting self-conscious and then embarking on some sort of explanation of what I think a true artist is starts becoming tedious and self-defeating.  So I have resolved to try and shake that idea and just get comfortable with the notion that I am an artist.  I. AM. AN. ARTIST.
The sketchbook that I purchased to participate in the Sketchbook Project is sitting next to me on my desk, innocuous and completely unassuming.  I can't wait to get started.