Tag Archives: photography

Art in Hospital

After the Happy Little Tree House art reception on Tuesday, Brandon Hall took Karmin and me to see his other hospital exhibition.  It is in the cancer center wing of Upstate Medical Center and will be up for a couple months, I think, or at least until the end of May.

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Brandon is an art teacher at Fayetteville-Manlius High School.  He scours flea markets and garage sales to find discarded photograph albums and situates these unknown strangers into wallpapered assemblage landscapes peppered with texture and color.  They are mounted on wood and double-lacquered to prevent fading.  They are really exquisite and priced at only $250!

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Also in this show are Heidi VanTassel’s photography and paintings by Kate Renetta.

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The Cuban Phenomenon

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John Dowling’s inaugural art exhibition at the Dowling Art Center is nothing short of phenomenal.  I attended the opening reception on Thursday, June 23, 2016 – the show will be up all summer (if you didn’t get a chance to make it there yet).  The new gallery is located at 1632 Hawley Avenue, Syracuse, New York (13206).  It is home to John’s photography studio where he creates his own art, as well as providing archival inkjet printing and fine art reproduction services, and is home to this impressive gallery space, which he plans to both house art shows he curates and rent the space to artists for shows, workshops and meetings.

The theme for this exhibition is Cuba.

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David Creedon is from Ireland.  He and a Spanish-speaking assistant travelled to Cuba to photograph the people.  John Dowling purchased rights to the photographs and reproduced and framed them for the art show.  Although none of the artwork in this show were yet labelled for sale, John said these are available for $300 each.

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Here I am speaking with the artist – he told me that the Cuban people were really friendly, happy people.  They welcomed him into their homes and allowed him to snap whatever he pleased.  The one of the car in the living room is particularly stunning, isn’t it?  Viewing the photographs makes me desire a trip there – as Tina Fey says, “I want to go to there.”

David said the food is delicious and the atmosphere is sort of a throw back, almost like a 1950s meets modern-day.  The people don’t make a lot of money but there are a lot of free services, like PhD level education, health care, and food and other items are not expensive so it is all relative.

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See more work by David Creedon at www.davidcreedon.com.

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Abisay Puentes, like John, is one of my Facebook and Linkedin friends.  Unlike John though, I had never actually met him until this show.  His artwork has a surreal flavor and is hauntingly beautiful!

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Here I am with Penny Santy.  We are listening to Abisay’s original instrumental music, which accompanies his work.  In this way, he creates a sort of phenomenological encounter, engaging all senses.  He has videos on youtube that you must check out!

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The other artists in this show are a combination of locals who are from Cuba – most of them live in the Eastwood section of Syracuse near the gallery, or the work has been shipped in directly from Cuba!  It really is a must see!

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Contact John Dowling for more information about the gallery space and this show specifically, including hours of operation – (315) 466-8189 or jdphoto@twcny.rr.com.

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Treasure in the Trail

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Some say there are no coincidences in life.  That everything in front of you is either a gift or simply put there as a lesson.  And it is up to you to figure it all out….

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When you check your surroundings, you can immediately be in tune to how you are feeling.  Life is a reflection of you!

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So what does it say about me, the woman who paints hearts, surrounds herself with hearts, says I-love-you all the time – even using it as one of the steps in a plaster of Paris lesson, lol  (my students know what I am talking about) that I am seeing hearts on the trail at Green Lakes?

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They are EVERYWHERE!

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It doesn’t seem real.  I mean, I never noticed them before, you know? And yet, here they are – hearts in mulch, in leaves, in stone….

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It’s just so beautiful and adds another dimension to my happy place!  I guess I am in love with love.  It is so special.  I am soooo grateful to have Green Lakes State Park in my life. It is the best! ❤

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Seeing the Light

At the artist reception on Wednesday night at Light Work, I fell in love.  Yes!  This is something that I seem to do easily lately.  I am in love with life, so what can I do?

In this case, the objects of my affection are Ben Altman’s photographs, which are hanging in the hallway of this beautiful venue (316 Waverly Ave., Syracuse, NY).  They will be there until July 22, 2016, if you want to see them in person.

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Here is a link  to the whole shebang on the Light Work website –

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Altman uses an old-fashioned camera to take photographs of people using their cell phones to photograph memorial sites around the world.  He is sort of a voyeur looking over the shoulders of these tourists to create images that have an eerie-beauty to them.  The memorial site is blurred but we can see a part of it through the tourists’ viewfinders.

So, you kind of say – ohhh, that’s pretty – then you read the title and you are looking at a picture taken at Auschwitz or one taken at the site of the Oklahoma bombing.  It is just this startling feeling of, like, OMG, I just thought a place of utter sadness was so beautiful.  Then you feel totally weird for liking it.  So you go back and look again with the new knowledge and feel super weird, because it is still so hauntingly beautiful.

And by you, I mean me.

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What a profound experience.  The photos are very large.  They are all the same size, framed the same way, which alerts us to the fact that they are equally important.  I just love the concept, the follow through, the process of capturing frame-in-frame shots that are all different, yet remain in harmony.

Here is his artist statement –

“Tourists at iconic sights almost automatically photograph with their smart-phones and cameras. This act becomes more complicated at memorials, sites, and museums that commemorate episodes of mass violence. Over the past few years I have photographed visitors and their screens at many such places. The people in my images are strangers who are mostly unaware of my intention, even though I use a hand-held 1940’s 4×5 press camera. My vintage equipment fits well with thinking about the present in terms of the past.

“Raising a device between oneself and a site of atrocity can be seen as distancing and reductive. However an impulse to manage and diffuse what these places mean is understandable and perhaps necessary. Often the memorials themselves depict the appalling, chaotic events they represent with unwarranted coherence or with the blankness of preserved artifacts. They invite engagement but also obstruct it. The memorials and the photography each suggest questions: how to see these sites; how to empathize with the unknowable experiences of the people who were caught up in the events; how to understand the ways in which past horrors configure our present world; how to live with our knowledge.

— Ben Altman, March 2016″

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When I was in Jersey City, NJ, I took a picture at the memorial they have honoring the New Jersey residents who died in the Twin Towers.  It is two walls of granite with names on each side and when you walk through towards the waterfront, the Freedom Tower sits between them in your sight line.  It is an emotional experience to stand there and witness.  As a tourist, I took a picture exactly the way Ben Altman explained in his statement.  But my photographs contain my own reflection. I guess in this way, I become one with my empathy and that is a good thing.  Altman’s detachment invites the viewer inside in a way that allows us to see the light of beauty in darkness.

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For more information on Ben Altman, find his website here.

 

Combo Lesson

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Studio in Art is one of those jack-of-all-trades courses.  I cover drawing, painting, sculpture, ceramics and technology.  I teach still life, landscape, portrait and abstract concepts as well, so it is a little bit of everything.

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Every so often I do this sculpture/installation/photography project based on the work of American artist Sandy Skoglund.  I love how this lesson has so many concepts all rolled into one.

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First, students create the armature then plaster and paint a rat sculpture.  I’ve always done it with rats because they can be simplified and look both uniform and unique – usually students create a tail that makes their rat easy to identify in a “police line-up” of rats, lol.

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I usually give students a small Gatorade bottle then show them how to add newspaper or paper towels and masking tape to shape the armature, adding tagboard for ears and aluminum foil for the tail. This year I drank a bunch of Simply Orange and Simply Cranberry and we used those bottles to make giant-sized rodents.

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I have fourteen students in class.  They painted the rats gold – there were three hues from which to choose.  Every time I do this lesson the rats are a different color.  We’ve done them in red, blue, yellow and green, so I thought the gold ones would look fun.  Plus, I just bought more metallic paint.  It is Sargent’s metallic acrylic. Love it!

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Next, we take a tour of the school to spot areas that we travel everyday – to make the invisible visible.  We look through viewfinders made out of index cards to see the space from a number of different angles.  There are some wonderful bits of architecture in our school that make for great photographic landscapes!

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I have the students create storyboards – just a sketch of what they want to do for their photograph and I give them a hand-out with some questions to help them solve the riddle of this project.  For example, what emotion will they convey?  Will it be funny?  A depiction of social injustice?  Romantic?  Who will be in it?  What will they do?  What will they wear?

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In addition, we talk about POV – will the camera be at eye level or above eye level (w/ photographer standing on a ladder or standing at the top of the stairs looking down) or will it be at rat level?  And is it an active or passive photograph?  Is the viewer directed to what the people are doing or what the rats are doing?  Or is the viewer looking at what the people are looking at?

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You see, there are a lot of options and a lot to think about.  Sandy Skoglund’s models wear the same color to create rhythm and harmony.  Successful images would be ones where the photographer coordinated their models to do the same.

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I assigned the dates for their photographs, which were taken during class or after school if they wanted to take the shot upstairs (no one did this year). The rats were housed on carts that they rolled out to the installation area.  They did this unsupervised (I know!  Can you believe it?  I am actually letting go of my inner control freak!  It’s a slow process but it is happening!).  I gave them the camera and they came back with the rats and several shots. They told me which one they wanted and I printed them.

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While this was going on, the rest of the class worked on a wood sculpture lesson based on the work of Marisol Escobar.

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All of the photographs are on display in the school hallway.  In addition to seeing great art, the fun of it is to view and search for their rat – is it a star or a supporting player? And of course, it is fun when they see themselves as models in their friends’ pictures.

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Artwork is assessed as follows – how closely it resembles the storyboard vision, composition, which includes how well they have utilized foreground, middle ground and background concepts, and if characteristics of the work resemble Sandy Skoglund’s.  The rats were assessed separately (armature, plaster application, paint application).

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Yeah – this lesson encompasses so much, I think.  They must create a sculpture then create an image with a point of view, make that image come to life…and there is a lot of freedom, and yet, there is also tremendous responsibility.  So many of the images were nearly spot on from the original storyboards!  It was a really amazing experience this year – for my eighth graders and for me.

 

Macabre, Meet My Friend Humor

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I’m not going to lie – Land of the Lost was my favorite TV show of the 1970s.  I watched it on Saturday mornings at around 10 or 11 am.  There were not that many episodes, so I am sure I watched re-runs of re-runs dozens of times until the shows were ingrained into my skull, which is not a bad thing, lol…right?  Loved the whole concept – it was the first time I had heard/learned the word paradox.  The show might have bad special effects by today’s standards, but I think it still resonates for me (of course, I have the series on DVD, duh). Each episode was written by the premiere Sci-Fi script writers of the day.  I mean, it was a great show.

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I also loved/still love Planet of the Apes!  OMG, again, the idea of a paradox.  In Land of the Lost, the only way they could escape the matrix was to have another them pop into it, thus continuing the cycle (paradox).  And if you watch all five POTA films, you discover that time travel causes the paradox and sets the whole ape takeover in motion (whoops, spoiler alert!).  Love that stuff.

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Lori Nix likes it too.  She’s a few years younger than me and she’s from the mid-west (Kansas), and so her formative years created for her a fascination with destruction of civilization as we know it.  Pair those two TV/film phenomena with Towering Inferno, Logan’s Run and life in tornado alley and you will come to understand this artist’s obsession with the comedy of demise.

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Once in 1993, I borrowed my mom’s car and spent the night at a friend’s house.  It was about a month before the Blizzard of ’93 so it was a brutal winter.  In my defense, my car’s door was frozen open, so the only way I could drive it is if I drove with my left hand and held the door shut with my right.  Anyhow, I got blamed for my father’s car accident because he had to drive Mom to work the next day because I had her car. (It was a minor fender bender).

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Nix has a similar story only hers is really more the stuff of legend.  Her mom dropped her off at a movie theater the night of a horrendous tornado that just missed her mother whose car had just pulled into their driveway. She rolled down the windows and ducked for her life, like a character in a horror film, just as the tornado passed over her.  That storm managed to take out every other house on their street.  Lori Nix’s father blamed her for nearly killing her mother.  It’s like we lived in a parallel universe!

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And yet, that’s where the similarities end.  I am happy go-lucky me who never watches the news, crime shows or that lot, and steers clear of negative circumstances.  Nix dwells on the eery, macabre damage and destruction of standing at the peripheries of doom, but takes it all  in stride with her immensely dark humor.

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NIx and her partner work in tandem, both creating these especially detailed little vignettes – of cars plunging in the drink, of apocalyptic subway cars and laundrymats, of  beautiful places turned yucky-yucky.

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This work is painstakingly slow, intimate and fun, similar to creating little puppet theaters.  Apparently, their home in Brooklyn is a bit of a construction site with two cats finding their way into the “environments”.  These were my favorite pictures in her slide show and I have to say, they made me enjoy her talk all the more.

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The work is whimsical and silly and yet there is a seriousness to the dedication with which they create the art.  I love that commitment! She is doing a two-week residency at Golden Artist Colors, Inc. in New Berlin, NY, and that’s where I met her.

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Nix photographs her vignettes using an 8″ x 10″ camera and these photos take days – to get the lighting just right and to remove any excess cat hair caught in the crossfire.

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The photographs are quite large – 30″ x 40″ and bigger, and have been exhibited all over the nation and the world – Italy, Germany, Australia, and Canada!

Check out her website here.

 

Captive Audience

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Every year I install art exhibitions in the Chittenango Middle School library in Chittenango, New York.  I seek out professional artists in the region – four per year as follows:  September – November/Thanksgiving-ish, November – February/Winter break, February – April/Spring Break, and April – June.

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It’s a captive audience scenario.  They go into the school library to get books, use the computer, take classes, have a study hall…and in addition, they are subliminally bombarded with art/aesthetics and all around good taste.

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They are the very people artists target – students who can learn to appreciate art at a young age and become life-long patrons of the arts – as artists themselves, hobbyists or consumers who appreciate…or all of the above!

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Steve Pearlman is my current artist-in-residence with fifteen photographs showcasing his interest in Syracuse, travel, fashion and an amazing eye for contrast, composition and perspective.

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He will give an artist talk to students during our after school time/tenth period (2:20-2:50 pm) on Tuesday, October 27, 2015. I’m sure he will share what he told me – that aside from his family, he has no greater love than the love he feels while holding his camera, pointing the lens and capturing a unique image that freezes time.  Art is sometimes the most beautiful gift you can give to yourself.  When I spend time talking to other artists about their contributions including hopes and dreams for themselves, it really feels amazing – we are more similar than different with regard to the love of creating.

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I was just talking about this with my students yesterday.  The importance of emotion as a component in a work of art.  It is always the hope that students will make these connections to their own lives in order to be happier, and in order to lead supercalifragilistic artistic futures.

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