Every now and then, when perusing social media, I will come across a story or video about a blind artist. This brings up questions immediately: How do they do it? And also, why? Is it to show us the blind can do anything the sighted can, or is it a manifestation of creativity that can’t be expressed any other way? It’s an interesting topic to think about for a visually oriented person.
I am taking part in a group exhibit at the Mount Baker Neighborhood Center for the Arts that includes at least one blind artist. This relatively new non-profit gallery in the Mount Baker ArtSpace Lofts building has a mission to bring together artists of all levels, and provides opportunities for artists with disabilities and the under-served community. I heard about their exhibit, “Flowers, Flores, Ubaxa,” through a call for art notice, and thought it would be an opportunity to put back on view one of my flower pieces from a few years ago. I occasionally participate in exhibits in neighborhoods in the greater Seattle area, in part because I have a good inventory of paintings and it’s gratifying to have them appreciated, and in part to explore and to meet the dedicated people working to put these shows together for their communities. When applying for this exhibit, I was intrigued to see they requested a visual description of the art along with the image, not the more esoteric artist’s statement. When I dropped off the painting in Mount Baker, I met the director, Barbara Oswald, who has very little sight, and she introduced me to a blind artist who would be exhibiting a painting for the first time. The artist had made a small acrylic painting of poppies floating on a blurred, textural background. The colors were unusual but harmonious, the contrast good, and she had achieved a delicate translucency in the petals.
I learned from a casual search on the Internet that many people classified as blind can see a bit of light and form, which answers some of my questions. But there is one well-known blind painter in Turkey, Esref Armagan, who was born completely unsighted, and is self-taught. His work could be characterized as child-like or primitive, but the work of the late British artist Sargy Mann is quite sophisticated, despite increasing blindness that started early in his career. At the end of his life he was painting completely blind, by touch. As he said, so much of art goes on in the head.
I also learned of a sighted artist, Roy Nachum, who incorporates poetic messages in Braille into his large oil paintings. The striking, realist images in minimalist color schemes have bumps sculpted under the paint so they can be read by touch. I wonder if, since color absorbs and reflects light at different wavelengths, if a method could be devised to experience color on a surface by variations in temperature.
My own eyesight is not strong; I have worn glasses since second grade. A couple of years ago, I attended a touring Blind Café, where in a totally dark church basement, diners ate and listened to a concert, assisted by blind servers who shared their experiences with us. Those of us with normal vision are amazed by the skill with which the blind cope with everyday life, but they prefer we not be. When I try to imagine what I would do with my life were I to become blind, I assume I would concentrate my efforts on sculpture and/or music. Painting is difficult enough when I can see. But maybe it would be freeing, and take away some of the value judgement, to try it with the eyes closed.
The exhibit “Flowers, Flores, Ubaxa 2016” will be at Mount Baker Neighborhood Center for the Arts April 1 through 28. There will be two receptions to meet the artists, Friday, April 1, from 4:30 to 7:30 p.m. and Sunday, April 3, from 3:00 to 6:00 p.m. The gallery is located near the Mt. Baker light rail station at 2919 Rainier Avenue South.
I have a painting included in Gallery 110's 6th Annual Juried Exhibit, which will be on view for the month of February. The exhibit was curated by Melissa Feldman, a faculty member of Cornish College of the Arts. After choosing from over 1,500 submitted works from around the nation (they used the Call for Entry online submission system), she titled the exhibit "Beam Me Up" and noted the process was "like receiving messages from sentient life on other planets." I imagine sorting through that many entries would be fascinating but exhausting. Trends she recognized included the "zen aesthetics of minimalism", which I would say my piece, Murmur and Sigh, represents.
Gallery 110 is an artist-run, nonprofit space in Pioneer Square's Toshiro Kaplan building, one of the best places to find a full gamut of art in Seattle. The gallery has just been remodeled and will be fresh and bright for the installation of the new show. I look forward to seeing the other works in the exhibit. Other than regular hours, Gallery 110 will be open for the First Thursday Artwalk this week (Feb. 4) and there will be a reception and awards presentation on Saturday, February 6, from 5 to 7, to which the public is also invited. For more information, go to Gallery 110.
I enjoy participating in themed exhibits when the theme relates to my work; it's fun to see the variety of viewpoints on the subject and how my entry contributes. Curators Megan Somerville-Loomis and Ted Loomis of ArtEAST have chosen one of my paintings along with 27 others for an exhibit that explores clouds-- "Mirroring our own brief journeys, clouds’ temporal existence reflects our dreams and drives our imagination."
I helped the curators to install the artworks in Blakely Hall, community center of the Issaquah Highlands, about 30 minutes east of Seattle. With diversity in size, media and mood, it was a challenge, but the final arrangement complements the works. There will be a reception with live music, a poetry reading based on the paintings, and a talk on creativity by Obadinah Heavner on Saturday, January 23, from 6 to 8 p.m. The exhibit will be up until March 14. For more information, go to ArtEAST.
At left: Pirouette, oil on canvas, 40" x 24"
A beautiful hardcover book on landscape painting has recently been published by Watson-Guptill that incudes four of my paintings as examples. Suzanne Brooker, artist, teacher and author, wrote The Elements of Landscape Painting: Techniques for Rendering Sky, Terrain, Trees, and Water. It is getting good reviews and is currently the number one bestseller among oil painting books on Amazon. Suzanne is also the author of Portrait Painting Atelier and she teaches painting and drawing at Gage Academy of Art in Seattle. She breaks landscape painting into component parts with lessons on how to approach each, as well as how to put them all together into a harmonious whole. Included are fundamentals such as tools, surfaces and color mixing, as well as less frequently addressed specifics of brush handling technique for achieving various effects. The stages of the painting process from drawing concept onward are covered, with step-by-step examples. Throughout the book are lovely works of art by contemporary painters, several from Seattle, and I am pleased to be in their company. I think this text is a valuable asset for the painter's library, beginner or intermediate.
For those in Seattle, I invite you to a celebration and book signing by the author, with several of the artists in attendance, at the Magnusen Park Studios building art gallery on Saturday, October 10, from 1 to 6 p.m. There will be original paintings on view and refreshments. Address: Building 30 West, 7448 63rd Avenue NE, Seattle.
Feeling the unusually tropical heat in Seattle this summer? Visit the Coastal Kitchen restaurant in Capitol Hill for their Caribbean Seas Tour and some spicy seafood. To go along with the currently featured island region's menu, the restaurant's curator chose three of my paintings for an exhibit decorating the dining rooms. The works will be hanging through November 8, 2015. The popular restaurant is located at 429 15th Avenue East. Go to Coastal Kitchen for more information.
I will be exhibiting a small group of recent paintings at Fountainhead Gallery in Seattle for the month of March, along with featured artist and fellow landscape painter Christine Gedye. The paintings are part of my ongoing investigation into the border between reality and imagination as it applies to nature scenes, and some technical experimentation in color and texture. The dream, daydream, meditation, or fleeting thought at the edge of perception can paradoxically put us more in touch with our surroundings. I am particularly interested in what happens in the transition from daylight to dark and the effects of low light on vision. In some of the compositions I represented this phenomena with a violet underpainting (a hue that can easily shift from warm red to cool blue), which inspired the title The Violet Hour.
There will be an opening reception on Saturday, March 7, from 5 to 7 p.m. and the exhibit will be up until March 29. For more information go to Fountainhead Gallery.
Fountainhead Gallery in Seattle has its annual holiday season group show up this month. Titled "Glancing Back, Moving Forward," the exhibit showcases works chosen by director Sue Peterson from previous shows by 25 long-term and new gallery artists. My paintings "Murmur and Sigh" and "Florida Landscape with Rocket Launch" are hanging. There was a nice opening reception on December 6 with several of the artists in attendance, and the exhibit will be on view until January 25. It's a nice show, stop by and see it! For more information, go to www.FountainheadGallery.com.
Summer in the Pacific Northwest is lovely and this year it was warmer and longer than usual. Since it had been a few years since I had done much oil painting outdoors, I signed up for a 3-day July workshop taught by Mitchell Albala, author of Landscape Painting: Essential Concepts for Plein Air and Studio Practice. The location, Orcas Island, has beautiful views everywhere one looks. Mitch's lessons in a systematic and logical approach to tackling this complex subject helped me to be more efficient and effective in capturing my surroundings. We students in the painting group, and my family members who accompanied me, had fun, too! Back in Seattle, I bought myself a new compact pochade box that attaches to a camera tripod and took it out for a few short local excursions. At right, Pochade box in action, Gasworks Park, Seattle.
What is so enjoyable to me about plein air painting, along with the pleasure of being outdoors, is the opportunity for direct response to and engagement with the subject, along with the limited time available to dither about. In this way, it is similar to working from the life model. I don't worry about the concept other than the purely visual factors of composition and color, and I go for a straightforward interpretation of the scene in front of me. It is Fall now, but the weather is still nice; I hope I can get back out there a few times before the rains set in. Left, Small sketch on paper of the river bend at Bothell Landing Park.
In the earlier months of this year, 2014, I had a one-person exhibit at the Edisto Island Museum in Edisto, South Carolina. This was an exciting project for me, preparing and shipping fourteen paintings to this small museum located on the scenic island home of my forebears. The Museum Director, Board members and visitors were appreciative and complimentary about the results.
Here in Seattle, I was invited by an artist/curator friend to exhibit several works along with a small group of artists at Gallery 4500 in the University District. In late summer I exhibited a specially-created a painting (at right) on the theme of the struggle for women's reproductive rights, for the invitational show titled "Who Did She Think She Was?" at the Toshiro Kaplan Building in Seattle's Pioneer Square.
I will post an announcement as soon as I have my next exhibit scheduled. In the meantime, you may see examples of my work at Fountainhead Gallery in Seattle.
Here I will keep you up to date on my exhibits and other artistic endeavors.