Sunday, August 30, 2020

Thought for the Day

When loves goes wrong, the survival of the spirit appears
to stand upon endurance, independence, tolerance, solitary grief.
These are tremendously moving qualities, and when they are
called upon, it is usual for the heroine to overshadow
the man who is the origin of her torment.
~ Elizabeth Hardwick

Quoted from Elizabeth Hardwick, Seduction and Betrayal (Kindle; NYRB Classics, New Edition, 2011)

Elizabeth Hardwick (1916-2007), American Novelist, Essayist, Short Story Writer, and Literary Critic

Sunday, August 23, 2020

Thought for the Day

What we do to each other is compounded
by what time does to us.
~ Luiza Flynn-Goodlett

Quoted in Luiza Flynn-Goodlett, "The Quiver Inside Each Atom: A Review of Ellen Bass's Indigo",  in The Adroit Journal, April 10, 2020

Luiza Flynn-Goodlett, Editor-in-Chief, Foglifter; Reviewer, The Adroit Journal; Poet

Thursday, August 20, 2020

New Artist Watch Feature at Escape Into Life

Sue Mooney, The English Pilot
© Sue Mooney


August's dog days are upon us, and that means it's time for a new "Dog Days" feature at Escape Into Life, the international online arts magazine. This month's Artist Watch brings us the vivid and humorous portraits created by Minneapolis-based Sue Mooney.

Sue is a self-taught digital artist and acrylic painter who swapped out one career for another and has never looked back. In addition to dogs, she makes witty portraits of cats, birds, and horses, as well as wild animals; landmarks and urban landscapes; flowers; and a range of other subjects. She also accepts commissions.

Today's Artist Watch features seven images of Sue's dog portraits, her Artist Statement, and a brief biography. Sue's social media sites are posted along with past "Dog Days" columns to enjoy again.

Sunday, August 16, 2020

Thought for the Day

Where is our comfort but in the free, uninvolved, finally mysterious
beauty and grace of this world that we did not make, that has no
price? Where is our sanity but there? Where is our pleasure but in
working and resting kindly in the presence of this world?
~ Wendell Berry

Quoted in "God's Simple Pleasure", Center for Action and Contemplation, July 2, 2020

Wendell Berry, Author of Dozens of Works of Fiction, Nonfiction, and Poetry; Environmental Activist, Cultural Critic, Farmer

Sunday, August 9, 2020

Thought for the Day

[. . . ] start with simple: living
is not possible 
without life
~ Rosamond S. King

Quoted from Rosamond S. King, "sometimes" in Hyperallergic, June 21, 2020

Rosamond S. King, Performance Artist

Wednesday, August 5, 2020

Artists Talk About 'The Divine Feminine'

A Conversation with the Artists

I had the opportunity and pleasure on July 29, 2020, of talking with painters Elizabeth Hudgins, Linda Maldonado, Elise Ritter, and Deborah Taylor, whose work appears in the online exhibition "The Divine Feminine", hosted by my parish, St. Michael's Episcopal Church (Arlington, Virginia), where I established the Arts & Faith ministry about a year-and-a-half ago. Our interview, the first since creating the ministry, was recorded live on the ever-ubiquitous Zoom. With much of the conversation captured on paper as well, I offer the artists' responses here for those who missed the live presentation or prefer the written word over audio or Zoom. (This version of the interview has been edited lightly for clarification, style, and grammar.) In an effort to give time to each of the artists during the live, hour-long discussion, I directed my questions to one or the other, and sometimes all of them. I have retained that format here.

All of the images illustrating this conversation are the artists' own and appear in the online exhibit.

Links to the artists' websites can be found at the end of this feature.


Maureen Doallas: How did the four of you come to know each other and begin exhibiting together?

Elise Ritter: We all met years ago, through our wonderful community arts organization Arlington Artists Alliance, where each of us has held leadership positions. The Alliance has an art gallery called Gallery Underground, in Crystal City, and we all have shown there.

Around 2017, I read in a number of arts magazines and online that there were going to be many events in 2018 celebrating the centennial of Gustav Klimt and his group of artists in Vienna, Austria. I spent a semester abroad in Vienna, and discovered that I love the work of Klimt and the Secessionists. So, this [centennial] was going to be a very big deal in Europe, and in New York and Boston. I thought, why not Arlington? I sent out an email to some fellow artists in the Alliance to see if they would like to participate in a group show that we would name "Vienna Gold". [See "Vienna Woods and Klimt" on Elise's website.]

Thus was this group of kindred spirits formed. We had a successful exhibition at Gallery Underground, after which our work was shown by the Arts Council of the National Methodist Church in Washington, D.C. Maureen [Doallas, the interviewer] attended that exhibit and was able to see our different painting styles.

MD: How many exhibits have you done together?

ER: Formally, we have done two as a group entity: "Vienna Gold" and "The Divine Feminine". But we also have shown in various formations for many years. For instance, Linda and I had a duo show around 2014 called "Illuminations". Beth and Deb organize yearly winter art shows at Fort C.F. Smith Hendry House. Beth, Deb, and I once had a studio together at a gallery in Clarendon [in Arlington], and Linda and Beth had a duo show in 2006!

One of the best aspects of these theme [exhibits] is the challenge offered us: getting us out of our comfort zones. It's easy for an artist to stay the same, to create paintings using subjects and techniques that are familiar, especially if you have had good sales or have won prizes with them in the past.

All of us believe that art is about growth — and about pushing ourselves to try something new.

MD: Who typically takes the lead in coming up with an exhibition theme?

Elisabeth Hudgins: That is a group decision. One person often takes the lead in organizing the details of the exhibit once our theme is set and a rough timeline is worked out.

MD: What is the source of the concept of "The Divine Feminine", and how did you decide on it as a theme for an art exhibition?

Linda Maldonado: The idea of focusing on the feminine was kind of a natural with this group of women. The "Divine Feminine" concept itself is such an old and honored one that it sort of floated into our consciousness and seemed like a good fit, with plenty of room to accommodate our different approaches. And there is a large body of literature that provided us with considerable inspiration.

MD: One aspect of the show that I very much like is that each of you has taken a different approach to how you interpret the concept. At the same time, you've created four micro bodies of paintings that could stand alone yet work especially well together. To what do you attribute the cohesion? Was there much back-and-forth discussion on what would work and what would not?

LM: Yes, we came up with the idea of a "campfire", to meet monthly to discuss, share, review, and critique each other. We were supportive of each individual's own style and vision. Early on we agreed that our subject matters would range widely.

MD: How long did it take to put the entire show together?

Deborah Taylor: A lifetime!

EH: That's true! Every artist puts a lifetime of experiences into her work. We started researching the concept in the spring of 2019, with plans to show a year later.

MD: I'd like each of you to speak a bit about your individual creative processes, and whether you found yourselves impelled or wanting to experiment with new techniques or materials for this exhibit?

LM: I've been pursuing an intuitive approach, meaning I don't begin with an image or detailed plan. Instead, I might begin with specific colors and textures and just play with paint and paper till I get a sense of where the painting wants to go. At some point, [while thinking about this show,] I realized that my results were focused on the natural world, and, in particular, waterfalls, which I'd never much painted before.

DT: My creative process started with the notion of exploring what "The Divine Feminine" means to me individually as an artist, a mother, and a therapist. Mother Nature and flowers played heavily into the concept, as did the idea of women as "containing vessels" for those around them.

EH: My process for this show was very different from my norm. I was at a remote cabin, without my art supplies or the internet, but surrounded by a wonderful Virginia landscape. Spending time down at a stream, I started stacking stones into cairns, and noted how some took on the feminine form. I was reminded of the many pre-historic "Venus" figurines, which are some of the earliest figurative artworks. After taking pictures, I went back to my studio and  tried to re-create those rock cairns. When it came time to paint, I began experimenting with a technique using extremely thinned acrylic paint, poured on paper and allowed to dry untouched. When dried, the pigment formed very watery layers, which felt exactly right for these images.

ER: I usually paint spiritual themes — angels, spirits, and landscapes. But I was inspired to try something new for this show. I was fascinated with my fellow artists' subject matter — Mother Nature, waterfalls, vessels, primitive formations, flowers. I thought I would try figures — paintings of women in relationships. For me, "The Divine Feminine" is connection and relationships. I have been helped immensely by my friends, and wanted to portray the love I felt for them.

MD: It's traditional for an exhibiting artist to provide some kind of Artist Statement for viewers to read. The four of you have gone further, including as part of the show the sources of your inspirations, which include poems, cairns, quotations, and more. Why did you decide to add inspirations as part of the exhibit?

EH: For this show particularly, we felt that it was important to have viewers understand our processes. We spent such quality time time bouncing our ideas off of each other that we felt it might be interesting for viewers to get a glimpse of how artists' minds process ideas.

DT: It felt important! The exhibit and the process were meaningful to me; adding inspirations was a way to express that meaning. I see painting as a meditative process that is crafted in the same way that a poet crafts her poem or a dancer drafts her moves, each stroke holding concentration and meaning.

MD: How did you present these when the exhibit was on walls?

ER: We printed [the inspirations] on card stock and hung them next to the paintings, along with title cards that gave the [artist's] name, media used, and price of the artwork. 

A guest could spend a lot of time there [at Gallery Underground, where we were exhibiting], viewing the art and reading the inspirations. 

Interestingly, our opening was the first Friday of March 2020. Attendance was great and sales were good, as well. But within a few days, the gallery was shut down, it turned out, for many months. [This was because of the pandemic.]

MD: How do your documented inspirations serve the exhibit and the viewer?

DT: The inspirations and the artwork help explain who I am as an artist as well as a person. This is the thing about art: It is impossible (at least for me) to separate myself, consciously or unconsciously, from what I produce.

EH: The inspirations add depth to viewers' knowledge of how an artist might go about interpreting a theme. They make the exhibit much richer and deeper, so that it becomes more than just a visual presentation.

LM: Once we had put the paintings together with the title cards and companion text, we were all pleased with the reactions of viewers, who took the time to read our inspirations and see the visual responses they created.

MD: To what extent did your inspirations affect how and what you created?

LM: Early on, I spent a lot of time studying inspiring quotations and poetry. Once I finished a painting, I selected my title and companion quotation after finding a connection between the artwork and the words. In two cases, I discovered "emerging" from the paintings a feminine face or figure that I didn't consciously create. I definitely felt that the cloud of inspiring words and ideas affected what my brush painted.

DT: The inspiration of "The Divine Feminine" totally influenced what I painted. The Mary Oliver quotes went hand-in-hand with the paintings. I had read a lot of her poetry in the past and re-read it in conjunction with this show. Sometimes, favorite quotes inspired what I painted and sometimes what I painted inspired the quotes I chose.

MD: Before coming to St. Michael's, the exhibit had been shown in traditional form; that is, on the walls of Gallery Underground (in Crystal City, Arlington; now known as National Landing). St. Michael's had scheduled a September 2020 showing in its Parish Hall. Then the pandemic hit, changing everyone's immediate and future plans. Eventually, because of the virus's prevalence and all the changes that brought, we decided to present the exhibit earlier and virtually. What concerns, if any, did you have about migrating this exhibit from the walls to virtual space?

EH: At first, having to take the exhibit to a virtual experience seemed like it might be limiting. You feel like you miss seeing people's reactions, in having [viewers] come face to face with an artwork in a gallery. 

We also knew there were advantages. Viewers might spend more time with the work "from the comfort of their own homes"; they might come back multiple times; they might explore more of the background material.

DB: Knowing that so many things, art exhibits included, were going online then and now, I was keenly interested in how it would be pulled together. The way that the show is presented on the St. Michael's website took away any concerns I had.

MD: What were your reactions to seeing the show for the first time online?

LM: I was so excited to see the way it was organized, each painting [given] its own space for being perceived. I heard from a number of friends who viewed it that they appreciated the way it was displayed.

DT: I love it! It is beautifully presented. The presentation opened my eyes and thoughts to many possibilities in the future.

EH: It was really a revelation. Maureen had done a fantastic job in organizing the show to make it coherent and seamless. It was as though I was seeing the exhibit in a new, fresh, more cohesive light.

ER: I liked the fact that [online,] all of our paintings were the same size and carried the same weight. At a physical [bricks-and-mortar] gallery, so much depends on how the show is hung and where  the paintings end up.

Also, I was fortunate to be a part of Maureen's first online exhibition, which was about artists' responses to the pandemic. I knew the results would be incredible.

MD: What do you most miss about being unable to present the show in a traditional way?

EH: Interacting with the viewers. Being "surrounded" by the work.

DT: I miss the people and the receptions, and being able to interact with viewers and being asked to answer questions. It is a different experience, not better or worse — just different.

MD: Do you see virtual exhibits as part of your futures, and the future of art exhibitions more generally? Or do you think virtual exhibitions such as this one are here to stay?

EH: Yes. I think the limitations we are living with have opened new doors. I hope that in-person art experiences don't go away but this has shown how a virtual exhibition can enhance and add to an art exhibit. It makes the exhibit much more widely accessible. We, as artists, want our work to be viewed by as many people as possible.

DT: I definitely think that the virtual exhibit is here to stay for many reasons, with the pandemic being just one. I think that virtual exhibits do reach a larger audience, which is nice. They reach more people geographically, as well as more people who are strapped for time, and those who otherwise might not go to an art gallery.

ER: I think the virtual art gallery might actually afford for artists more creativity and experimentation. The bricks-and-mortar galleries demand, and rightfully so, strict standards for matting and framing and presentation — and fees. These costs and the time involved are primarily the responsibility of the artist. Online exhibitions might free up the artist to present more art, and art that isn't necessarily framed. It's important for the artist, we are learning, to provide dimensions and information about the frame and mat, if included or not.

MD: What do you hope will be viewers' take-aways from "The Divine Feminine"?

DT: The ideas of feminine power, energy, hope, continuity, and history — Divine Feminine past, present, and future.

EH: I hope it will make viewers think of all the ways The Divine Feminine touches their lives. I hope viewers pause and think of what The Divine Feminine means to them.

MD: What's next for each of you individually and as a collective?

EH: During this stay-at-home time, I have been busy doing a few commissioned pieces. One was a large-scale painting, which I really enjoyed doing, so I plan to experiment some more with working on a larger scale.

DT: I will continue my practice of doing art every day. I find that I can experiment with a lot of different styles and media, as well as explore diverse subject matter. Inspiration can be found just about anywhere.

LM: I will continue as president of Potomac Valley Watercolorists, and continue to create with collage and papers.

ER: I have been spending this summer in the Pacific Northwest, close to family. It seems like one of the few safe places to be, in this time of Covid-19, is out in nature. We've hiked a number of mountain trails; observed and heard rushing streams; and smelled and saw fields of lavender. I have a feeling these elements will make it into my paintings in the near future.

In terms of our group, we are closing in our next theme. We are very excited about having a new goals, a new direction. Plus, we are working with Chuck Kipp, owner of Sterling Framing in North Arlington's Cherrydale section, to create an ongoing gallery there that features all of our work and that of artist Kat Jamieson. This should open after Labor Day weekend.

We will show at various exhibitions through the Arlington Arts Alliance as well. And any time we can continue to work with Maureen through the Arts & Faith ministry at St. Michael's, we would love to do so!

Note: Current and past online exhibitions can be accessed on St. Michael's Arts & Faith page.

Sunday, August 2, 2020

Thought for the Day

You can make the society you want to live in.
~ Marilynne Robinson


Quoted from Online Conversation, "Story, Culture, and the Common Good with Marilynne Robinson," The Trinity Forum, July 24, 2020 (Robinson made this comment in response to a viewer question at the end of the conversation, which is 51:19 minutes long.)

Marilynne Robinson, Award-Winning Novelist, Essayist and Nonfiction Writer

Marilynne Robinson on Facebook