Tag Archives: post-impressionism

Art Mimics Life

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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.

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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.

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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!

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

Italy: Great Art, Fresh Eyes and Inspiration

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While walking through the many art-adorned churches, palaces and museums of Italy on a recent trip, I had the great honor of having my mother with me, and she brought fresh eyes with her. You see, I am a lover of art history — I mean, I’m really a geek about it. In college art classes, I sat at the edge of my chair, hanging on every detail, every word. After college, I got my hands on every book on the subject I could. My appetite for the details of the history of art never slowed down. It’s still one of my greatest joys, poring over art books. I’ve even been long known — and I’m a wee bit embarrassed by this — to pile books upon books by the side of my bed. Why so many? I can never choose just one — I love them all.

imageSo, back to Mom and I in Italy. As I was explaining different information and details to her, I had a revelation about my own process.

I love art history because it’s world history, but it’s also about ideas. Historically, artists and art movements became famous by being the first to change something, to choose not to follow the status quo but instead begin to play with another idea.

The Renaissance translates to mean “rebirth,” and the idea was humanism. Europe was coming out of the Dark Age and celebrating in full color, with man as the subject matter of prime importance. Florence is a living breathing tribute to the movement.

Impressionism was about the value of light: the ability to get outside (thanks to newly invented tube paints) and record light as it was reflected everyday life and landscapes. In other words, what mattered most was a reaction to this new ability to get outside, work quickly and record light. Post-Impressionism was the freedom to take the Impressionists’ abstraction even further. With the camera invented and working well, painting no longer need to serve as a record of events, and artist could play with paint. Each movement in art is playing with a new idea.

7113road41313This came full circle for me in explaining to my Mom what ideas I am playing with in my own work. Inspiration might come from subject matter, but what excites me in the actual process of painting is about movement, color and paint … when the motion of my hands pushing paint across canvas creates something interesting with color, something I have not seen before. It’s much more about how I feel than what I see. Seeing is secondary; painterly expression is at the forefront.

History of any kind relates to what ideas people are interested in, and art history helped me understand myself. How has history or art met you at your own front door? What ideas are you most interested in? It’s all part of the process. Comment below or come chat on Facebook!

Cheers to the art of understanding!

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