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My gallery, Art in Bloom, in historic downtown Wilmington, NC, started a series, Covid-19 Studio Views, as a window into their artists’ studios during self-isolation. It’s always interesting to get a peek into artist work spaces, what I refer to as our creative laboratory. I am grateful for my gallery family and opportunity to share some insights to my creative space. It has been busy as I prepare to install a new exhibit, as one of three featured artists and two featured photographers at the gallery. Visions of Inspiration runs June 12 – July 19, 2020. Join us!!

Please check out all the new work and the studio views at Art in Bloom Gallery

Here are my thoughts as part of the series:

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“Art in the Time of Corona”

As an instructor and adventure traveler who designs artist getaways/workshops…the seismic shift that is Covid-19 brought me out of the clouds and back to earth rather quickly. As well as back into my studio. My home studio is small but gets lots of light. It has become my haven, a cove in which I have settled into a daily routine of art-making. This was not the case before. Outdoors, the various air bnb’s that make up my temporary homes away from home and all the classrooms I teach were my primary studio spaces. I had learned to be efficiently mobile with my art supplies.

What I am enjoying in this time of quiet and stay-at-home, is a reconnection to what I love about a disruption…it feeds our creativity and sends us into imaginative problem-solving mode. There is much entropy in my studio these days, a sea of plastic storage bins scattered about, tubes of paint, brushes, craft papers, paper towels and lots of paint drips on the floor. The ever-present tripod and video setup greets me each morning as I transition my space into a virtual classroom and multimedia production studio. Multiple canvases in progress leaning against the wall waiting their turn for time on the easel. I love that I have that easel time, and my favorite tools at my fingertips. Now if I can just get it better organized! My studio always feels like the laboratory of a mad scientist. I didn’t always give myself the daily permission to focus on my art-making, there was always another work distraction. A wearer of many hats. Amazing how we artists tend to get into a rhythm of neglecting our own process while encouraging and sustaining others. I am finding a balance and staking a claim.

I’ve always been aware that artists and creatives thrive on disruption, perhaps why I enjoy the challenge of travel, plein air painting, mixed media experimentation. We have to adjust and think on our feet. It provides new perspective, new colors, new layers on our world and history and space. As an anatomist of the world, I am embracing the unknown, making new art, and…staying home.

 

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My art collection began at a very early age, with the gift of several Dr. Seuss books and my beloved copy of Richard Scarry’s “Biggest Word Book Ever.” I wouldn’t fully appreciate that Geisel (aka Dr. Seuss) was such a fascinating and revered artist but I knew as a child that the line quality and colors of the illustrations were exciting and fun. The rhythm of his word play and rhyming scheme complimented the whacky and whimsical nature of the art.

I credit Richard Scarry with my wanting to become an illustrator. His themed landscapes and word labels not only taught me to read, but instilled a desire to draw and create pictures that were charming and informative.

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For a long time, stamps were my art and collecting luxury. I had several international stamp books and to this day maintain an abundant array of beautiful stamps from around the globe, to use in collage, mixed media, handmade cards and book arts. The same goes for other ephemera that has found a place in my studio, home…and heart. Shells, rocks from travels, bowls…what is it with me and bowls?? There are the love letters my mother saved from my father that I keep nestled among receipts, old school reports and handmade greeting cards that made up my mother’s own “art” collection. All of it, art to me.

At some point, our art tastes mature and we may inherit or begin to purchase works that have personal significance. Does it need to be original to be in a collection? For years I could only afford the commemorative poster from museum exhibits as a reminder of my favorite artists. And books, of course continue to find their way onto my shelves. I began to collect experiences, not so much things. The tokens of those experiences, memories, have become totems on my studio shelves.

In recent years, and especially with the economic shift of Covid-19, small works shows and virtual offerings remind me that art doesn’t have to be expensive or large or made by a noted artist to be worthy of purchase and admiration. More and more galleries are offering small works for that very reason – what better way to begin one’s own art collection than to start small? In a way, it’s homage to our nomadic prehistoric ancestors, with their carved figurines. They were portable, could be made into a pendant, a lucky charm in their pocket of sorts.

I love working in series of small works, seeing how the lines, shapes and colors speak to each other. They can be grouped together in a fun array, or be a dramatic note to a special spot in our interior space. Small can be big, especially when it comes to supporting your local artists and claiming a statement piece to last a lifetime…and beyond.

New small works can be found at www.kirahfineart.com or www.aibgallery.com.

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It’s been quite a while since my last post. It was an homage to my sister, Kathy, a eulogy of sorts, and since then, I took a breather, a break, to keep hold the thoughts and events since that loss. One year turned into two, and three…

Those years have been rich with adventures and amazing connections. I was reminded then, and everyday, that life is short. I have always been aware of that and feel I live a life that reflects that. Since that last post, I stepped into the artist cave, found inspiration in studio time, in my home in North Carolina, and beyond. The “beyond” includes multiple life-affirming journeys around the world, and Kirah Fine Art, Inc has grown in ways “beyond” belief! Along with short snippets on social media, the blog is revived and I’m excited to share all that is to come…beyond the art, the travels, the classes…beyond the edge of tomorrow. And the next day. And the next.

Join me!

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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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I have been following one of my favorite artists practicing today, Nicholas Wilton, on Facebook. I discovered his work on a desk calendar I bought several years ago and enjoy his posts on art-making and  him sharing his beautiful work. He seems to get that painting is a process that connects us to each other, our cultural history, to nature and speaks in the visual language of metaphor and symbolism. It resonates with me and my own personal relationship to art.

For several years I have been working on a series of mixed media paintings inspired by liminality, the in-between space that gives rhythm and meaning to being human. It is often a much ignored and oft anxiety-inducing “place” to be. Someone recently described it as stepping off a train in a strange town. I associate it with being adrift, at sea. I believe we have all felt like we were on a precipice of choice and change and unconscious of the fact that it is not only a part of our macro world, our psyche but also working on a micro level, too. It is the moment between inhalation and exhalation, the threshold from the past to the present.

With that in mind, I was delighted to see Wilton’s recent post about the in-between. He discusses the idea of working hard and how working hard all the time may not be the most efficient approach to being. I always wondered….what is the gauge for working hard? As artists, aren’t we working all the time? Observing, being, absorbing, expressing? Our society teaches us that if it doesn’t earn a paycheck, if we aren’t going to an office and producing tangible widgets, we aren’t working. Here’s what Wilton had to say:

“Working hard is something I have forced myself to get good at but now I think that maybe this was not such a good thing to get good at after all. Listening to the poet philosopher David Whyte speaking in San Francisco a couple of years ago I jotted something down in my sketchbook that he said regarding learning. He was talking more metaphorically, probably larger in terms of learning from our life – how to live, rather than art making, but it resonated with me. It was a quick sentence and at the time I didn’t really understand, so I wrote it down so later I would. He said, “…Visitation, absence, visitation, absence, visitation, absence, (this repeated over and over again) is how we learn.” In other words the time BETWEEN the periods of effort, the pauses in-between are fundamentally as important as the periods of work. He believes that this “on, off and on again “ process produces more consistent, more substantial results.” 

I like the words he chose, visitation and absence, as in being present to the work, and then being present to the space. There is rhythm, an ebb and flow that is stepping away, taking a pause. I find it reflected in the concept of positive and negative space in art and design. The space around objects are just as important as the objects themselves. They are both characters in our personal story, and in our art.

How does being in-between affect you? Is it comfortable or make you anxious? Can you ride the wave across the unknown sea?

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Nicholas Wilton’s Symmetry – Mixed Media on 20 x 54″ panel

Stremmel Gallery, Reno, Nevada

www.nicholaswilton.com

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Wilmington Art Association Spring Show Registration

Calling all artists!! Registration for the Wilmington Art Association Annual Juried Spring Show held during the Azalea Festival is now available. Check out the prospectus at the association website for submission requirements and show schedule. 

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What does taking a vacation mean to you? Does it have to be to a beach, or foreign country? Or perhaps it’s turning off your cell phone and simply not checking emails from work for two days. I assume vacation means many things to different people.

This week I decided to take a vacation within a vacation. Pretty indulgent, right? But the truth is, I never saw my travels this summer as a vacation in terms of frivolously whiling away my time under a palm tree drinking rum cocktails with paper umbrellas. I guess that’s a very stereotypical take on what many picture as a vacation activity.

Travel, the process of going away and exploring parts unknown, has become an essential part of this artist’s life. Its part of my work, my vocation, how I find inspiration and ideas for educating and sharing with others. It just happens to be the kind of work I happily wake up to every day. But I don’t work 9 to 5 and people assume because I like what I do, it must be a hobby. Unfortunately, anything worth doing, is never easy. I often work for sixteen hours straight, or stretches that run from 2-7 a.m. And the time in front of the easel is just the tip of the iceberg.

For the last two weeks, I worked fourteen days straight researching, viewing, listening, tasting, touching, hearing, breathing, smelling, making, talking about, arguing about, throwing out, tearing up and dreaming about art. I decided I needed/wanted a change of scenery to recharge the batteries. I did what Italians, and other Europeans of late do to get away for a summer break, I hopped on a high-speed ferry (www.venezialines.it) out of Venice and dropped myself onto the Istrian coast of Croatia. For several days, the equivalent of a long weekend, I will call Rovinj (pronounced ro-ving, or ro-vin-ya) my home away from my home away from home.

Ironically, this is an artist town. The colors reflected off the Adriatic and medieval cliff side buildings are stunning. These narrow cobbled streets are home to amazing artists and their studios/galleries. It’s understandable considering the inspiring landscape in their backyard. As I put finishing touches on my thesis work, centered on the boat symbol in our culture and psyche, I was pleasantly surprised to discover the Batana Boat Museum. Rovinj is at the center of a historical flat-bottom boat making culture. I’m pretty sure this has just become a working vacation!

In a sense, if a vacation is vacating one’s regular life to step away from every day comforts, to learn, to open your heart and mind to the unique riches of the world, then I’m in for one wild ride. The truth is, though, we can all take a vacation any day of the year. Just take a different route to work today, sign up to help out a local charity or take a new class. In fact, when was the last time you went and sprawled yourself out in your backyard grass? Made cartoon animals out of the clouds?

Who’s to say that’s not taking a vacation, if not for a few moments each day?

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Painted Ceilings

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There are many painted ceilings in the art world, Michaelangelo certainly being the most noted artist with the Sistine Chapel at the Vatican in Rome. Most churches and many, many homes of nobility had ceilings painted, putting them closer to Heaven, perhaps?

I recently had the pleasure of stepping into the main police station in Zurich. No, I didn’t get into trouble…but read that the ceiling was painted by Augusto Giacometti, uncle to Albert Giacometti, famed sculptor. I hate to pass up on seeing the work of a famed, local artist.

The main entrance area is a teaser, part of the ceiling begins there, but after showing an id to the officer on duty, you are free to explore the main hall. Once an orphanage, the building was renovated in 1900 into a municipal building. In 1923, Giacometti was commissioned to paint the walls, columns and ceiling to add vitality to the otherwise, dimly lit space.

The results are spectacular. There are beautiful red, orange, yellow and pink flower designs lining the many vaults. There are four murals, two on each side of the main entranceway, depicting science, math and various forms of labor. It is such a rich space, I could have lingered for hours. The terra cotta hues are soothing, warm and hinted at ancient ancestors, a time of discovery and spiritual awakening. I would definitely put this on the top of the to-do list whenever travels bring you to this beautiful city!

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