PREVIEW SHOW CATALOG, http://www.artblend.com/catalogs/markethamptons2018/
Below are the opening remarks I shared at the University of New Brunswick Art Centre's, celebration of Ed Burtinsky's photographic exhibition, A Terrible Beauty: The Seductive Lens of Ed Burtinsky, comprised of about 25 photographs donated to the Centre's permanent collection, under the direction of Marie Maltais.
“A Terrible Beauty,” great title, isn’t it? Two perfect words, sitting side-by-side strike at the heart of this exhibition, and much of Ed Burtinsky’s work. Words that compel us to engage the complexities they betray—complexities that reside in the work absolutely, but also, and perhaps a bit terrifyingly, in us.
What is significant here? How something can at once be terrible and beautiful is the fundamental question, or thing we are asked to reckon with I think. Hovering in liminal space, it is at the threshold of anxiety and exhilaration that we tentatively, but eventually surrender, because through the seductive lens of Ed Burtinsky, we have no choice.
Fortunately the hierarchical divide, the riff or better still, the midriff, between a valorized masculine sublime and a demonized feminine beauty, ranging from roughly the mid-18th to the mid 20th centuries, that resulted in the silencing of any talk of beauty in art and criticism has, since the millennium, been bridged by artists such as Burtinsky, who understand that it is the very fact of beauty, wily though she may be, that we spend any time at all looking at these images. The argument against beauty went something like this,
The sublime rejects beauty on the grounds it is diminutive, dismissible, not powerful enough. The political rejects beauty on the grounds that it is too powerful…[that it so] overwhelm[s] our attention…we cannot free our eyes long enough to look at injustice. (Scarry, 1999, p. 85)
Yet as Elaine Scarry (1999) explains in On Beauty and Being Just, and what Edward Burtinsky demonstrates here, is how beauty renews our search for truth and our concern for justice.
Burtinsky’s images elevate the mundane and like any powerful work of art make the ordinary extraordinary. Terrible though it may be, they rely on beauty to do so. Beauty is why the political import of his work is not lost on us. It is why our eyes don’t glaze over when for example, we submit to Densified Cans #20 Hamilton, Ontario the effects of which surface with subsequent visits to our local landfill.
China Recycling #10 –like Jackson Pollock’s “drip paintings” inspire larger interpretations including the implied threat of global atomic destruction.
Car Terminal Ritthem, Zeeland, The Netherlands speaks to the
manufactured circuitry of social and cultural interdependence at the expense of nature, and I am reminded of Ed Burtinsky’s own words, taken from his website, that “[we] come from nature.…There is an importance to [having] a certain reverence for what nature is because we are connected to it... If we destroy nature, we destroy ourselves.”
Alberta Oil Sands #6, speaks to this dimension
of Ed Burtinsky’s artistic vision and fulfills what sociologist, Dennis Cosgrove describes,
"[His] is an unalienated, insider’s apprehension of the land: of nature and the sense of place, together with a more critical, socially conscious, outsider’s perspective: what Cosgrove calls, a landscape way of seeing” (Cosgrove, 1984, p. xi).
Beauty is significant here. Beauty is the sign. It signifies. As Dave Hickey (1999) in The Invisible Dragon explains, beauty is the signature that underscores the grace and beneficence these images bestow (p.21).
Cosgrove, D.E. (1984). Social formation and symbolic landscape. Madison, Wisconsin: The University of Wisconsin Press.
Hickey, D. (2012). The invisible dragon: Essays on beauty, revised and expanded. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.
Scarry, E. (1999). On beauty: And being just. Princeton and Oxford: Princeton University Press.
Over a lifetime of painting, landscape, love and longing, joy and celebration too, have been constant themes in my work. The question however, of what value is such a practice has traveled along side it and comes to the fore, especially at times when personal, political and world events create in me a mistrust of its worthiness. So much ugliness. Historical and contemporary. Charlottesville last weekend, Barcelona today, the race riots of my girlhood, the memory of domestic violence and early loss can conspire in my psyche to shut it down. Then somehow, either by divine intervention, or universal consciousness and the making of the paintings themselves, Anthony De Mello's writings come to me, in particular, returning love in the face of hate. That phrase has stayed with me, challenged me over and over again, and has given me courage to continue painting as I believe I am called to do. Here are 3 new works for you to consider...
We were in Maastricht and Rome at the start of June for two weeks and I decided to reinstate the practice of making watercolour sketches. I had forgotten how much pleasure there is in making these. Less precious than "making art", but nonetheless valuable. Documenting my experience in small, immediate sketches makes it possible for me to quite literally be in a new or familiar place. To take in and mean it when I say I've seen the Pantheon.
Out Beyond Ideas
Out beyond the ideas of wrongdoing and rightdoing
there is a field. I’ll meet you there.
When the soul lies down in that grass,
the world is too full to talk about.
Ideas, language, even the phrase each other
doesn’t make any sense. Rumi
Work in progress, May 2017 pictured here (on the left) in my studio is the first of four canvases in a new series, the title of which is too early to know. What I do know is that Rumi’s words in Out Beyond Ideas speak to me in profound ways, perhaps even more so given the current political landscape.
While love and longing continue to be themes within my landscape work—feeling states I somehow recreate in paint on canvas that unconsciously rely in large part on memory and intuition—there is much about making and experiencing paintings that cannot be said. Words simply fall short, or worse get it wrong. The earth, air, light and life that surround the studio that surround me, grant endless possibilities for me to make sense of things, and I am ever grateful.
With little correspondence to literal patches of land, the images I make take shape in fields beyond knowing. They may begin with marks made about branch and brush, but their sensibility betrays colour and sound that emerge in the course of painting—in the dance between seeing and marking, marking and seeing—in paint on, paint off. Between ability and inability, knowledge and ignorance, somewhere out beyond ideas, beyond wrongdoing and rightdoing. I invite you to meet me there.
I'm delighted to have had 3 root vegetable landscape paintings invited into the BEAT show and auction at the Stationery Factory in Dalton, Massachusetts.
Roots in the Wind
Landscape, love and longing, ever present themes in my work, have led me into the contested nature of the idea of landscape in historical and contemporary visual culture, and in matters of environmental sustainability. That is why I am particularly grateful to be included in BEAT’S, Berkshire Environment Action Team’s, 1st Annual art show, Wild Berkshires opening 21 April with a silent auction 13 May 10am-6pm.
From the vantage point of my Keswick Ridge studio, in the three root vegetable paintings on exhibition and pictured here in the Artful Mind, you will see that mine is as an un-alienated, insider’s way of seeing and re-presenting land as the setting for life and work. The carrots, beets and turnips depicted here were harvested (and eventually cooked and eaten) from our organic farm, https://www.facebook.com/JemsegRiver/ Jemseg River Farm. Despite my urban roots, since childhood the stuff of the natural world, recast as landscape, has been my go to place for personal and social understanding.
When I am asked, “Were you thinking about all of this when you made these root veggie paintings?” my answer is always a resounding, “No!” I had just completed a commissioned painting. Although it was an unexpected aesthetic and spiritually rich learning experience it was also soulless—an experience that took me away from myself, I was left feeling bereft. Without thinking I asked my husband to grab a bunch of carrots and beets so that I could get back to my palette. It was only on reflection that I realized my off handed request for root vegetables were not just about colour, but colour as a way for me to get back to myself, a way to heal. These works exude good health and celebrate the miracles that root vegetables are, but they remind us too that the health of the environment resides in each of our hands.
I quite like New Yorker Magazine's Peter Schjeldahl's art criticism, even as I take issue with his choice of the word nurture to describe the way women devoted themselves to the career of Alexei Jawlensky. Sacrificed may be more accurate. Of course had he used sacrificed I would have been differently predisposed. Closed, not open for discussion or thought on my part, certain, definite, already locked into a way of seeing. Nurture makes me think. Makes me consider and reconsider. Makes me want to know more, to question, to look for evidence in Jawlensky's work, for any trace of nurture. Finally, like all really good re-creative criticism, Schjeldahl re-presents the works under discussion in ways that assist me in seeing them more vividly and imaginatively.
Then he turns to what he describes as the most beautiful and bracing show in NYC at the moment. The works of Vija Celmins, who is 78 and described my Schjeldahl as an artist, "who is not only esteemed but cherished in the art world, as a paragon of aesthetic rigor, poetic sapience, and brusque, funny personal charm." About her work he says they, "evince meditative dedication." It's at times like these, when I need to jump start my practice that I marvel over the grace I experience that an article like this should cross my path. When I need to come home to myself as a woman painter of 63. One who insists on the value of recreating subtle landscape imagery on canvas wiht oils, in the face of more obviously politicized, feminized and socially critical art making practices and materials. Home to the confidence and veracity of my own practice that I am uplifted by the much needed coincidence of Schjeldahl's words and Celmins art.
Returning to work after a long break can be daunting. Thankfully I had this diptych to work back into,
It's 4 January. I've swept, I've cleaned, I've thrown out the trash. Canvases are in their places. It's time to paint! Always daunting after some time away. Seven years ago I stood in front of an 8' x 6' blank canvas and 5 hours later, Winter Sky 1 stared back at me. It doesn't always work that way.
We'll see how today goes. In the mean time, I am grateful to have Early Winter Redoux in the January issue of the Artful Mind.
To imitate, emulate, or take as a model for oneself, is the greatest praise. And so it has been for about 10 years now that I have been memorizing Mary Oliver poems. To test my aging brain yes, but by the acts of committing to heart, to find my way into her creative worlds so that I better understand my own, hers and others. At its most fundamental that is what art does. It may lay claim to a good many things, personal, social, cultural, political and spiritual, but there has to be something about it that compels us to stay with it, engage it, live with it as though it were our own. Indeed make it our own. I chose Walking Home From Oak-Head to accompany Early Winter Redoux as it so fully embodies my lived experience of snow laden skies, in winter, in the late afternoon. I chose Early Winter Redoux hoping you will live with it awhile, that you will look and look, and look again. Commit it to heart, and look out onto the world and see it and yourself anew. It is after all, a New Year!
How lucky am I to have a space like this to work in? VERY! I have been living and painting on, from and with Keswick Ridge for nearly 25 years. First from a room in our house with a long view of the ridge beginning in 1993 and from the studio pictured below since 2007. After years of juggling my painting practice with the demands of university teaching, research and service, I finally call myself a full time painter. I was until two years ago a professor of art education at the University of New Brunswick in Fredericton, New Brunswick, Canada. I look forward to conversations about living life in the arts as I share with you reflections on my practice; insights, joys, frustrations, and I welcome feedback.
Before I go any further, I would like to express my heartfelt gratitude to Jennie Malcolm of Malcolm Design+Consulting. You can reach Jennie at, http://jamalcolm.tumblr.com/. Jennie is not only a visually talented designer, but has excellent written and oral communication skills. She is smart, inventive, patient and a pleasure to work with. Thanks Jennie!
There are compelling northwest . . .
and northeast views. The power lines dissuaded other buyers. Not us.
I love the studio in winter.
There's nothing like a wood fire to take the chill off and warm the spirit . . .
A small works group Holiday Show opens today thru December 31, at Diana Felber Gallery, http://dianafelbergallery.com/, in West Stockbridge, Massachuseets and I am delighted to be participating.
Art&Psyche Sicily's Beautiful Dreamer: Landscape in Memory is now on the ARAS site!
Thank you Craig Stephenson, Mary Wells Baron and Ami Ronnberg. I'm very grateful for this dream come true. I'm delighted too, to share this honour and issue with Sarah Berry Tschinkel.
Work in progress, June 2015-16
. . . I leave the studio thinking, “I’ll return tomorrow at the same time” knowing full well that minutes, let alone a day can shift the light. What I did not bargain for was three weeks of rain that followed!Read More