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Archive for July, 2013

For reasons unbeknownst to me, I never watched the acclaimed television series, The West Wing. In the years since it was last on, I have had several friends, who’s opinions and tastes regarding tv and movies I trust implicitly, tell me I’m an idiot for not watching it.

Thanks to Netflix and a Roku, that wonderful streaming device I gave myself for Christmas, I am now able to catch up on all the amazing series that ran through the years while I was obviously in some sort of cave. I did watch the Sopranos religiously, I should get some sort of credit for that. I seem to have a skepticism when it comes to tv in general so I wait and take my time shopping for where I want to invest my viewing hours. Unfortunately, while I catch up on The West Wing, looks like I will eventually have to catch up on Mad Men, Downton Abbey and Duck Dynasty. Again, thank God for Netflix.

The West Wing is on my mind since I have plopped myself onto the sofa the last few nights working my way through the end of season 2 and beginning of season 3, which took place in 2001. For those of you who followed the show, you may be wondering what does the show have to do with art? Certainly the set designers went to great lengths to create a decor that pays homage to the real White House and oval office. There are amazing works of art popping up in the scenes, the portrait of George Washington, various murals, the Remington sculptures throughout. But what I am really referring to is the amazing storytelling at the root of the show, and how it gets translated (the dialogue, actors and their relationships within the scenes) in an allegorical way. To me, that’s painting!

Art is a projection, an expression of an idea, a story. Painting uses a visual language of symbol and metaphor to tell that story. And one of the biggest metaphors for me, personally is a map. One of the themes that underlies my work is liminality, being in between. I have had several experiences along the way that have left me questioning “where am I?” – both literally and metaphorically. I have moved a lot and require a certain sense of stability of place and time. On the flip side is my love of travel and geography so there’s something to be said for my desire to explore new spaces/places…as long as I have said map.

How many times have we become complacent in our “space” to suddenly have something happen that knocks us off our axis? Have you ever trusted a bad map? (see “Apple Exec Fired Over Maps”) I was reminded of that question while watching the show, as several back to back episodes dealt with just that. I felt an immediate connection to these concepts, obviously I am not the only one who questions their place in the big scheme of things.

Using the presidency and the White House communications office as the backdrop is a brilliant way to paint a picture of humanity, hubris, the desire to be heard, the need to feel that what you believe is real and true. The particular storyline in these episodes is that the president has MS but has kept that fact from the public and the staff. As if that wasn’t a big enough breach, at the same time, parallel sub-stories, all with the underlying theme questioning fidelity, that we can never take trust, or what we believe for granted, are also playing out.

A fax comes in from NASA that a satellite will be falling back to earth. To some, this could have potential tragic consequences. Satellites die? What if it hits a populated area? One of the character’s is dealing with the fact that his father has been having an affair for 28 years. Another staffer is killed senselessly driving back to work in their brand new car by a drunk driver. What all these characters realize is that none of them were where they thought they were. And in a stroke of genius, the show plays out a scene that humorously, yet poignantly slaps us in the face with this revelation when the Organization of Cartographers for Social Equality makes a plea that the map of the world often shown in schools is archaic and incorrect. Check it out, from Season 2, Episode 16, “Why Are We Changing Maps?”

We take our space/place in the world for granted every day. We rely on a false sense of trust  and assumption that isn’t really there. As if a premonition of what was to come, ironically these episodes aired in May of 2001, three months before 9/11. How many of us were knocked off our axis by that?

In the wake of the Zimmerman trial and a death this week of a young actor who appeared to have every potential for success in his pocket, I think it’s important to look at these events with the perspective that we function and move through the world based on a lot of illusions and assumptions and biased perspectives. It’s only natural to build a personal reference map in this way. The stories of our humanity are played out not only in our art, our television shows and movies, but on the evening news. Wait, take that back…on the 24-hour news cycle that is really, truth be told, just another fictionalized tv show.

How are you going to tell your story? What is your map of the world? Is it one that is racist, hateful and dark? Is it rosy, optimistic, hopeful? Maybe both. Do you feel safe if you own a gun? Would you think your children were safer if they were home-schooled vs. public school? Does your map offer short cuts and alternative routes or is there only one way to get between point A and B? Do you even need a map? Do you stay in the same spot for fear of what is around the corner?

Art in its many forms has an impeccable way of mirroring back these questions. These are the stories of Homer, Shakespeare, Dickens and Frost. They are our stories, played out over and over again. As artists and storytellers, we can decide who gets to be the hero of our tale. Will it be you, with all your warts, and all? Or a masked being in red cape and super powers? Maybe both.

I highly recommend the show for its insights, its humor, amazing acting and certainly its storytelling. Perhaps it can inspire a new perspective and angle of view. I know it has for me.

Happy painting!

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My love of art can only be rivaled by my love of travel. I honestly believe the two feed each other, inspire each other and I cannot be a happy, healthy me, an authentic artist, without my adventurous spirit and need for exploration. My home studio is my haven, a refuge but sometimes constricting to my creative energy. I can feel the presence of four walls very quickly which makes me yearn for a change of scenery. I am used to time in nature, ever since I was a kid living on a farm, surrounded by animals, gardens, hay and corn fields, and the imagination that rural living provides. I am spoiled by having parents that wanted me and my siblings to appreciate languages, culture, natural resources and personal growth that comes from travel.

As I stand at the halfway point of 2013, I realize the two best trips of the year so far have been island escapes, one to Anguilla and most recently to Bald Head Island. The two are equally unique. While I often get wrapped up in thinking I have to fly somewhere to feel like I am on vacation or for it to be a true getaway…the truth is I have an amazing island escape right here in my back yard.

Anguilla is a Caribbean paradise, but difficult to get to. It’s a minimum of two flights to St. Martin, the main hub for the various islands of the Lesser Antilles, and then a thirty minute boat taxi to the island. Depending on arrival time, I had to spend a night in St. Martin, a delay of gratification, for sure. The pace and tourist noise of the gateway is a stark contrast to the peace and calm of Anguilla. It was a vacation of pampering and relaxation for sure. Art was not far from my mind as I recognized a great opportunity to amass photo references and soak up the flavors of the local color. I could not get enough of the aqua blue water and white sand beaches. Timing was perfect for traveling at the end of February, the winter doldrums and dreary rain of southeast North Carolina was weighing heavy on me. I highly recommend it as an island escape.

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Viceroy Resort Anguilla

Bald Head Island, on the other hand, is a barrier island just off the Cape Fear Coast that boasts an historic lighthouse, sprawling marshland, miles of beach, and the wonderful lack of motor vehicles. There is a great little art gallery, All About Art, owned by two full-time residents that boasts an array of classes for locals and visitors along with a bounty of rich work by regional artists. I feel fortunate to now be represented there.

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Bald Head Island

All About Art Gallery

With the invitation to be an exhibiting artist, I was faced with the logistics last week of delivering over 25 pieces ranging in size from 4 x 6″ to 12 x 48.” Since there is no bridge to the island or cars allowed, the only way to arrive is via a twenty-minute ferry ride. My years of world travel came in handy as I packed two large tote bags, a backpack and wrapped four large canvases in bubble wrap for the journey. One must learn to be their own art Sherpa in times like these!

I’m sure I was quite a site as I boarded the ferry but not surprising, people are intrigued and engaging when they see you are an artist. After dropping off the art and taking care of business details, I enjoyed an afternoon escape of lunch at Mojo’s and great conversation with the owner, Andrea. It was immediately apparent to me that while I was an hour from my home, I felt like I was worlds away. I think there’s something to be said for having to alter the routine, taking into consideration the limited accessibility of visiting an island, that makes it so appealing. It took planning, which created a feeling of anticipation.

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The best part of all was the renewed energy to get back into the studio and think about the next series of paintings waiting to come from the island escapes, and off the easel.

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