Art Mimics Life

Standard

img_7927

Can you tell I’m hiding out on the peaceful shores of Lake Michigan? Here is Clay Cliffs, a Leelanau Conservancy-protected land. 18 x 18 oil painting

The most fascinating thing about art history is the context.

Artists respond to current events. The Renaissance literally means “rebirth”; artists were responding to the Dark Ages, saying “no more” and looking towards enlightenment. And so it goes throughout the history of art: Impressionists were responding to years of constraint in art. The invention of tube paint and the camera gave a newfound freedom to get outside and paint plein air, leaving literal interpretation to the camera. With such freedom, they made bolder, freer art. The establishment hated it. The Post Impressionist took that even further.

img_7930

Sleeping Bear Dunes National Park is another treasure of Michigan, and a favorite resting place. 18 x 18 oil painting

In America right now, current events are blowing up all over every day. Movements are forming and the “unprecedented” is happening everyday. So how are artists responding? I don’t know quite yet. I only know that they are, and they will.

I am wrestling with this issue almost daily in the studio. I don’t know how to respond with art. Almost a decade ago, I made a choice to keep art as my happy place, to make art that brings about a smile. To make art that celebrates the landscapes I love so deeply. And to save the issues that matter most to me for writing and personal exploration. I have long been an activist, a philanthropist, championing for children’s rights for a quality education in Ethiopia. Equality and justice matter deeply to me. Now this struggle is on my own front door … that is more complex to share than boarding a plane to Ethiopia. When it came to Ethiopia, I choose to celebrate the beauty and dignity of the culture in my art. That was what was truest to my heart. It remains truest to my heart to keep art a riotous, joyous celebration.

img_7936

More Sleeping Bear Dunes National Park goodness. Here, the view overlooks the Glen Lakes. 18 x 18 oil painting

I’ve heard it said, “Leave it to the artist to explain the why.” I cannot explain to you the why, or tell you why life is simultaneously hard and unfair and beautiful and resilient. But I can share with you the struggle: You’re not alone, and neither am I. And I can tell you that this American struggle is deeply on my mind; as a private citizen, I am extremely active and engaged, and I think we are all called upon right now to be so. Even if it’s just putting more kindness into the world — do that!

As for my art, for now I rest, steady in the knowledge that the mere act of making art is enough. The celebration of art is a rebellion. And I promise you this, I will keep making and celebrating art at the top of my lungs, though the words of Nina Simone haunt me: “You can’t help it. An artist’s duty, as far as I’m concerned, is to reflect the times.”

What do you think? As always I love when you join in the conversation on Facebook and Instagram. I’ll see you there!

img_7946

The skies over Lake Michigan are as glorious as the shore, and never overlooked by my artist’s eye. 14 x 14 oil painting

The Single Most Important Ingredient in Great Art

Standard
secretingredient2

24 x 24 oil painting — the one I worked on for two days, then scraped off the paint to start over. I’m very happy with the end result, but it was hard fought!

This past week, I spent two days working on a painting — only to scrape all the paint off and begin again. It wasn’t working. The more I worked it, the worse off it was.

This happens. It’s not the first time, and I doubt it will be the last. I’m a bit distracted: There is so much going on in the world right now to distract us. And each of us has enough in our daily lives, even without the political drama.

Art is a jealous mistress. She demands all of you. So I begin again. That is the secret: Just keep at it. Showing up is the secret, and not giving up.

As for eliminating the distraction, that is for each of us to figure out. I’m not sure there is a magic answer, except to begin again.

I’d love to hear your ideas. But above all, if you show up, and keep showing up, and always begin again, if you do that in your commitment to anything, that is where mastery lives. And maybe the only place mastery can be found. What do you think?

As always, the best conversations are on Facebook and Instagram. I love hearing from you there and keeping the discussion going.

I’ll leave you today with this quote from Carrie Fisher: “Take your broken heart and make art.”

secretingredient1

24 x 24 oil painting from this week