In an area about 5” square on a 30x30” panel, this is what I get after building up many layers and scratching through them at various phases. Along with color, texture and depth are qualities I explore in my paintings.
In two weeks, artists, collectors and art-lovers of all types will gather at the Bemis Center for Contemporary Art for the Bemis Benefit Art Auction. I'm pleased to have a small framed painting on paper included in the mix. "Fire and Ice #2" was inspired by the M's Pub/Mercer Building fire in January 2016.
I've become much more selective about where I offer artwork to support fundraising activities. In many cases, I choose to simply make a cash donation. Offering discounted artwork depresses prices and undercuts the professionalism of artists who are handling multiple aspects of a complex business. Adam Price, former executive director of the Bemis, wrote a powerful article for The Reader about raising money at the expense of artists. You can read it here.
I believe each of us has an obligation to help one another, and there are so many ways to do that. Everyone I know supports local nonprofits with cash, time and energy. I'd like to live in a city where art-lovers and collectors truly valued the professional artists working alongside them in all these activities by expecting to pay fair prices for artwork.
Full disclosure: I bumped up the price of my painting offered in the Bemis Auction by 30 percent so that if it goes for the minimum bid, I still get a fair cut -- to cover my expenses for materials, professional framing, time and expertise. It's still less than what I'd receive if selling it directly, but I'm also supporting the activities and mission of the Bemis. Adding this cushion is not uncommon, and seems to me a reasonable way to participate in such fundraising efforts while not feeling cheated. And if the piece doesn't sell, I take it back to the studio and offer it at the same price as the others in this series.
Although I posted images of this on my Instagram feed, I thought some viewers might be interested in knowing more of the backstory.
On trips to visit family in Kansas, I drive through the Flint Hills, and it's a landscape I find inspiring and compelling. As a college student at the University of Kansas, I most frequently saw the hills from the turnpike as I drove between campus and the Wichita area. My trips from Omaha may still include a leg on the turnpike, but more miles are spent on county roads, stopping in small town cafes, and appreciating the beauty of the hills with walks in areas such as the National Park Service's Tallgrass Prairie National Preserve or the Nature Conservancy's Konza Prairie.
On one of those trips, I hiked and took photos at the national preserve. After returning to studio, I was eager to start a painting based on the photo.
I had a 12x30" panel that I thought would be fun to paint as a vertical view with all the sky above the old schoolhouse in the prairie.
I got the major areas blocked in and set it aside for a few days. While I liked the gradation of blues and golds, I didn't think the cloud shapes were working, so I changed it.
It stayed like this for weeks while I worked on other things and yet it nagged at the back of my mind, and I was just completely bored by it. So I covered it up:
And then painted over with looser strokes and a little more color -- purples in the sky, greens and rusts in the foreground.
it's all a bit looser now and I like it better. There is some subtle variation in the sky where you can see underlying texture. I incised a few more lines into the foreground, smoothed some of the color transitions in the mid ground and buffed the sky portion to give it a bit of sheen and to highlight the visibility of the texture. I've moved it now from the working side of my studio to the display area. Come on in to see what I think is the now-finished version!
Because we had such a good experience collaborating a couple of years ago to create a substantial artwork, Marcia Joffe-Bouska, Tom Quest and I are doing it again. We three continue to explore rivers in this new work. The resulting collaborative work will debut in the Omaha Public Library's Michael Phipps Gallery as part of Omaha's First Friday art celebration in November and will be on display through December.
The large collaboration will feature an undulating line of "riverstones" made of ceramic, plywood and mixed media and ranging in size from about 4x5" to 5x8". Panels that are each 24" wide and of varying heights will hang above and below this line. We expect the final piece to be complex and interesting, with multiple textures, materials and ideas to consider. Individual works will support and amplify our themes. Here are samples of each of our stones, as well as "Rivers, Roads, Remains," the artwork we made together in 2015.
"Rivers, Roads, Remains" was a work and a show we did in 2015 when we all were members of the Artists' Cooperative Gallery.
I love spending half an hour in the studio after all the visitors have left. Recalling shared conversations or intertwining harmonies in songs fuels inspiration. Open houses are for me both exhilarating and exhausting. I enjoy sharing stories about making my work with curious visitors. Selling pieces is always a thrill. Comparing notes and spending time with fellow artists is lovely. It's quiet now, and we'll welcome visitors again tomorrow from noon to 5 p.m. You might even catch a song or two between studios. Come see work by me and thejadedog.com in studio 311.