Guards at Boston Museum of Fine Arts Protest More “Militarized” Role

15 MFA-statues

Museum of Fine Arts – Boston / Massachusetts Office of Travel & Tourism

For the past three weeks, guards who usually serve to protect the treasures of the Boston Museum of Fine Arts (MFA) have instead been walking the pavement outside. Members of the Museum Independent Security Union (MISU) object to changes that museum officials want to make to reduce flexible scheduling and the coverage they’ve provided inside the galleries to assist patrons and protect the art. According to Hyperallergic.com this week, MISU president Evan Henderson explained the guards’ position saying the proposed changes are “pushing guards out of their positions,” and would “reportedly be less focused on providing artwork protection and guest support within the galleries, and require them to cover shifts in areas of the museum like the attic, offices, or outdoors.”

Henderson was quoted in the Boston Globe saying, “They want us to be more like unlicensed cops, in which we’ll be more militarized…. We’ll be doing, like, drills in the morning. They want us to not focus on the artwork and be able to fight things like active shooters.”

Protecting visitors and property in public venues is increasingly complex, and according to R. Michael Kirchner, chairman of the security committee for the American Alliance of Museums, there’s no single template. “It varies worldwide because of the different size of facilities and resources.” Each museum has its own security challenges and priorities.

Boston MFA’s public relations director Karen Frascona explained the museum’s stance: “In today’s environment, it is critical that our security workforce is prepared to protect our staff, students, volunteers, visitors, and the collection in a variety of situations. Industry-standard training in areas such as emergency preparedness, conflict resolution, and security operations is included in the MFA’s current plan.” But Henderson and the nearly 100 guards who are opposing the changes are concerned the new policies would hinder their ability to aid visitors and provide them with a friendly experience.

According to the Globe article, “Frascona declined to describe details of the MFA’s security system, citing its sensitive nature.” But Steve Keller, a museum security consultant, said, “The MFA is in the forefront of a broader trend among museums to adopt technologically advanced security systems.” Keller added, “The museum uses a predictive video monitoring system that incorporates ceiling-mounted cameras and video analytics to sound an alarm before a person actually touches an artwork.”

He said the MFA’s system goes “beyond what most museums do,” by enabling the museum to statistically analyze audience movement patterns to determine which artworks (and even which parts of an artwork) are vulnerable to damage.

But Henderson and others are not convinced that even such good technology can do the job well. As one guard put it, people don’t always respond correctly to alarms, even when they hear them. Then there’s the personal touch they feel will be lost. Henderson said, “Customer service was a huge aspect of the job. We all take great appreciation in the artwork that we’re around. We’re very knowledgeable.”

He’s quoted in DigBoston, saying, “With the ‘new security model’ and ‘take it or leave it’ schedules, people are being laid off through attrition,” since many work their schedules around childcare or other jobs.

Currently, according to the Globe, “Guards can work shifts of varying lengths. Frascona said the museum was working to standardize the guards’ schedules, creating regular day, evening, and overnight shifts, starting Jan. 3rd.” According to the guards’ current contract, the museum “retains the right to alter the guards’ schedules independent of negotiations.”

In response, Henderson is considering filing a complaint with the National Labor Relations Board. And this Saturday, December 19, the Massachusetts Jobs with Justice coalition is sponsoring a rally from 12 to 2 p.m. to support the guards.

[This article first appeared in Non-Profit Quarterly]

Share

Pitch Perfect Music and Glass Art

Nina Falk, Musician and Glass Artist

13 Nina Falk art

1. When did you start working in glass?

In 2003 I started working in glass, as a result of attending a show at the Glen Echo Park in Maryland. I saw a beautiful bowl, made by Zayde Sleph, and bought it. Shortly after, I learned that he taught there, and that he and his wife taught many of the glass artists in the area. Not only that, I learned, to my happy surprise, that there is a thriving community of glass artists in the Washington, DC area. This rich community gave me many opportunities to study more, and before long, to exhibit publicly.

2. What brought you there from music?

 I am still a performing musician. It is not unusual for a person to be drawn to more than one form of artistic expression. The sense of hearing and sight are closely aligned because of the vibrations they each create. The longtime concertmaster of the National Symphony, William Steck, took up quilting after his retirement and made gorgeous pieces.

For me, a passion for both art and music were present since childhood. I was blessed to have parents who were attentive to notice my interests and to provide me with opportunities to develop them. When I was eight I began to feel very serious about music, and studied at the Juilliard Preparatory Division with a teacher I adored, who nurtured my love for music. When I went to the Oberlin Conservatory, I was very committed to my life as a musician, but I took classes in sculpture and printmaking. In graduate school I made time to study weaving and bought a four-harness loom. I was a Fulbright scholar in London and Rome, where I studied violin-making. I loved working with my hands, but found that violin-making was not as creative as I wanted to be. It was illuminating to learn how the instrument was made, that I spent so many hours with as a player. Until I found glass, I found different avenues for creative expression in visual forms, but never focused on one in particular. Once I fell in love with glass, which happened almost immediately, I pursued it with the same intensity of purpose that is required for a musician to develop. I went to workshop after workshop, bought my own kiln, bought a second kiln, began to enter shows. I exhibited at the American Craft Council Show in Baltimore, the Washington Craft Show, the Northern Virginia Craft Festival, The Buyers’ Market for American Craft, and the Glen Echo show that had lit the fire to pursue glass.

Since I chose kiln-formed glass, it was not that difficult to maintain my musical life along with the glass work. Once you load the kiln, there is usually around 24 hours before the complete cycle is back to room temperature, depending on what process you are doing. During that time, I am able to practice the violin, rehearse, and play concerts.

3. How do you see the connection between the two areas of art for your work?

The inspiration for my work is in the oneness of all life, whether you see this as a secular or sacred phenomenon. This is seen in both art and music, and especially in nature. Since I am not a composer of music, usually the music inspires the art, rather than the art inspiring the music. But there are patterns that can be noticed in both, such as repetition, contrast, flow, and different forms…these exist in art, music, and nature. Unlike literature, much of the music I play is abstract, so the opportunities for inspiration are limitless.

4. What were some of the challenges starting to work in glass?

Besides needing to learn how to use the material, in terms of technique, including how much heat, how little, how long…there are many possibilities to consider. I am fortunate to be working in glass at a time when there is a lot of information out there that is shared by artists who came before me, as well as local colleagues. However, one challenge I think that affects all glass artists is that it is easy to get distracted by technical issues—the “how”—rather than “what” and “why”. It is very important for an artist to be true to his/her imagination, to develop it, and to listen to what is speaking inside, and not abandon that pursuit in the cause of technical skills. This is an issue, of course, in music performance, that many musicians are aware of. Virtuosity for its own sake does not hold interest over time. It is important for glass artists to stay true to whatever vision animates their work, and not let technical concerns be the driver of the piece.

5. What’s a typical day like?

It all depends on what stage I am at, in the development of a piece. It starts with an idea, or a client’s idea, and moves to a sketch, and then to tests, and finally to actually producing the piece. That production phase involves lay-up of the design elements, and multiple firings. For my tree pieces, it means creating the wood elements and working out how they will interact with the glass. For the large undulating wall pieces, after the series of firings, it means adding the installation hardware. The most exciting phase is the actual creation of the work, because it is such a pleasure to see your idea come to fruition.

7. How do you handle marketing?

Like many artists, I am sometimes introverted and not comfortable selling my own work. I am fortunate to have found a marketing assistant who has helped me with all aspects of selling, including pricing, and most important, getting my work seen. She sends e-mail blasts periodically to designers, galleries, art consultants. Sometimes I place an ad in one of the better craft magazines, which are often made available at shows as well as in bookstores and subscriptions.

8. How much time do you spend on exhibiting and on the business of promoting your work?

Because of my assistant, I spend only a small portion of my time exhibiting and promoting. Last year, I did a show with two colleagues in a cooperative gallery, and plan to do another in about a year. That will take a lot of time and energy, but it’s a great incentive to get new work accomplished, and I am eager to work on new tree ideas and new and larger wall pieces.

9. What tips do you have for others, organizations you’ve found useful, courses?

Even though the economy hasn’t recovered fully, it is good to do some shows, especially if you are starting out. You learn so much from other artists, and there is nothing that can replace the information you get from observing people notice your work. You get to see what gets the most reaction, the least, where they linger. It is important not to isolate yourself too much in the studio. And as I mentioned earlier, the Washington area glass guild is a fantastic community. Join whatever guild is near you, and connect with other artists. I also benefitted a great deal from taking courses (in design, for example) from non-glass artists. This strengthened my understanding of design basics and helped me to separate the artistic issues from the technical ones.

Nina Falk approaches her glasswork as a visual expression of the rhythms, patterns, and lyricism of both music and nature. The artist studied violin, sculpture, and printmaking at the Oberlin Conservatory in Ohio and won a Fulbright Fellowship to explore violin making in Europe. She studied kiln-formed glass at the Corning Museum of Glass and at the Pilchuck School. She is a founding member of the Arcovoce Chamber Ensemble. She was artist-in-residence at the Wesley Theological SeminaryEnhanced by Zemanta. For more information, visit www.ninafalkglass.com.

Share

Glass Art and Business: Artist Martin Kremer

13 Martin Kremer art

Martin Kremer discovered glass art at college, though not through an art program or formal lessons, but because one of his housemates got bored with the glass class he was taking and Martin took his friend’s scraps and his hobby and began to learn about glass on his own.

He bought a book on the topic and also began learning from others who worked in the field, one was a third generation glass artist, another taught him soldering, and other artists provided gentle corrections along the way. His experience taught him you can learn a lot when you’re not “spoon-fed,” but have the chance to struggle through the artistic roadblocks and learn what does and doesn’t work.

Kremer’s work began as a hobby, and then grew over time. He had additional good fortune when his wife got a great job offer in the early 80’s, which allowed him time to pursue his art seriously. Shortly afterwards, he started picking up wholesale accounts for his stained glass jewelry boxes, and he got involved with a craft co-op where he learned the arts business, including how to work with galleries. It took time to build, with places ordering 4 to 6 pieces at a time.

“Working with the craft co-op was helpful, and it was also important to get out to smaller retail shows” says Kremer. “But if I were starting today, I’d try to work with Buyer’s Market of American Craft and the American Craft Council Shows which both have mentor programs, since the major gift shows are harder to get into. It’s also good to connect with galleries and catalogue producers.

“Really, you need to get one good client to give you an economic base,” explains Kremer, “though you have to be careful with that because it can be a trap. There are two reasons: the first is that they often want you to do the same things again and again because that’s what they’ve found will sell; and secondly if you come to rely on that income, it’s easy to get lazy and to not explore new things. I advise people not to get in too deep with any one customer, so you can afford to leave when you’re tired of producing the same thing.”

“In my case with the jewelry boxes, I eventually turned the work over to one of my subcontractors, which worked out well. I also found over time that I’ve priced myself out of some markets – so you might find that you move from selling to craft shops to selling through galleries up to selling more expensive commissioned work.

“These days, the economy has made it more difficult for artists, from what I’m hearing from my peers. There’s a shift in the market because of the aging of the craft buyer. A lot of collectors are aging, and people are downsizing, which means they don’t have as much space for art as they used to. Also, kids are not buying big things to live with – so the demand is for more functional things that can sell in the $50, $60, $130 range.

“So, you can plan to cater to that audience, or choose to go the high-end, specialty route, though that’s a difficult market to crack. In my case, I’m doing furniture that combines steel and wood bases with glass on top. These can sell in the $5000-$8000 range for a console or occasional table. I’m finding with these that I enjoy the opportunity to collaborate with other artists on some of the pieces.

“My advice to beginning artists is to make the art that resonates with you. If you try to create for the market, it’s very hit or miss. Then take samples or models of your work around to decorators, architects and others who can recommend you to show what you can do. It may not be easy to do the legwork, but good work does come out in the long run.

“Local art centers can be a good place to start educating yourself because they’ll have beginner classes where you can learn – often how to fuse glass, because that’s easier, but also how to blow glass. Stained glass used to be in vogue, since it’s an easy entry point, but it can be limiting.

“There are also a handful of good schools that specialize in this area: Penland School of Crafts in North Carolina, Arrowmont in Tennessee, and the Pilchuck glass school in Washington State. Another good place to learn more is on the Warm Glass website, which is also connected to a studio that offers classes.

Martin Kremer is an award-winning artist who has studied blown and fused glass at the Penland School of Crafts, at Urbanglass in Brooklyn, NY and at the Corning Museum of Glass Studio in Corning, New York.

He started fusing by translating pattern to glass, with inspiration from Native American fabrics, Venetian tiles and marquetry patterns. That work led to the Ventana series of vessels, studies in contrasts: opacity/transparency, matte/glossy, all played out on a vividly colored palette. That series has recently taken a sculptural turn in the direction of walls, Paredes, and other structures incorporating fused glass with the same contrasts but with the addition of an architectural tension between free-standing pieces. They might be seen as models for large public monuments.

Share

From bulldozers to fine art with David Gelfman

 

David Gelfman, Metal Sculptor

“A visitor to my studio is just as apt to find me repairing somebody’s bulldozer as creating fine art,” says David Gelfman. “To me, the activities are not as different as they sound”. Indeed, Gelfman’s work delivers an exciting fusion of the industrial functionality of a bulldozer, and the form, delicacy and taste expected from fine art.

David Gelfman was immersed in the mechanics of creating at an early age. In his adolescence, Gelfman spent summers working for a metal fabricator, picking up tricks of the trade along the way. He also shared his father’s wood-shop in his own basement, and explored furniture design, along with many other skills. Gelfman’s insatiable fascination with machinery and farm implements has followed him since childhood. As a ten year old, he developed this interest, and continues to collect a range of machinery today. Gelfman realized his destination as an artist during his undergraduate education at St. Lawrence University (New York) and graduated with a BA in 1989. During the pursuit of his MFA (Rinehart School of Sculpture at the Maryland Institute, in Baltimore), Gelfman “began to focus in on the mechanics of creating the imagery that had previously just inhabited [his] imagination.” Since 1994, Gelfman has worked out of his studio in Ridgefield, Connecticut. The studio is a large barn, filled with a collection of mid twentieth century machine tools, as well as Gelfman’s in-progress works.

David Gelfman’s work flourishes from his expertise in manipulating materials. Through his ability to physically construct, Gelfman has produced a myriad of different types of work. Gelfman describes one piece, designed for and displayed at the Aldrich Museum of Contemporary Art (Ridgefield, CT): “Many of the largest works Iʼve done are the result of [my] preoccupations with older technologies. One piece I did was a submarine which was in a show at The Aldrich Museum of Contemporary Art. We were asked to create works that were site specific. I made up a little dreamlike situation of the tide  leaving this submarine behind. I often have a childish beginning to a piece.” Gelfman’s sculptural work is based in concept, as well as the artist’s mental imagery constructed in quite a physical manner. In his purely sculptural work, Gelfman’s inspiration seems ever-changing, but draws from interests in antique machinery (submarines as well as tractors, sawmills and steam locomotives), geometry, and his six months a year spent managing commercial fishing expeditions. He has worked on pieces that are interactive, and considers the relationship between the sculpture and the viewer to be significant.

Along with working on purely sculptural pieces, Gelfman has worked extensively on functional creations. With the advantage of education in both materials and visual art, Gelfman pours much of his focus on artistic architectural metal work: staircases, railings, custom furniture, fans. Although these pieces are as functional as any piece built in a factory, Gelfman’s artistic taste and style shine through; his ability to create a form that balances artistry and operation is truly unique.

As a creative, Gelfman recognizes and speaks on the struggle that a career in the art world presents: “Art-making can be a compulsion that is difficult to control and it can go on hiatus.” Gelfman suggests a “healthy dose” of activities not based in creating art in order to stay balanced, and states that much of his time is spent working technically. However, it is hard to believe that this routine does not, at the end of the day, benefit his art, both in terms of skill and concept. The continued technical exposure to machinery informs his functional designs and influences his sculptural forms. This back-and-forth interaction gives Gelfman’s work the advantage of impeccable craft and the attraction of being conceptually unparalleled. While his sculptures are delicately constructed from the basis in large-scale machinery, Gelfman’s artistic architectural metal designs are decorative and entertaining, yet undeniably conceptual and of course, completely functional. David Gelfman’s harmonic integration of industrial mechanics and artistic finesse allow his work, sculptural or functional, to succeed and grow through his career. “I would say […] that I have been able to create unique things and demonstrate a singular style that is gratifying. I find that my work and materials do evolve…”

Gelfman has exhibited work in galleries in Connecticut and New York. Two large-scale steel sculptures remain on permanent display at the Connecticut Childrenʼs Medical Center in Hartford, CT. Gelfman has worked on private sculptural commissions, custom interior and furniture design and fabrication. He also recently finished renovating his own home.                                                                                  –contributed by Jordan Marker

 

Share

“One price fits all” at this fundraiser event for a local art league

By Sherry Truhlar, President, Red Apple Auctions

Artist auction display - sketch

Last February (2012), two friends of mine headed to Old Town, Alexandria, VA to participate in The Art League’s Patrons’ Show.  For a $175 ticket, they each came home with an original work of art.  It was a sold-out night with almost 700 people attending.

I haven’t yet attended this event myself, but it’s gotten some good P.R.  My friends had read about it in Washingtonian Magazine’s “Best Of” issue where it had been featured as the “Most Fun Art Fundraiser.”

I share this concept (as told to me through their experience) as the idea might resonate with you.

This annual event features hundreds of original pieces donated by Art League and Torpedo Factory Art Center artists.  The number of tickets sold matches the number of works donated, so everyone goes home with a piece of art.  Some of the selections are worth $175 … others are valued at thousands more.

(You can see photos of the 2012 artwork on Flicker here:  http://www.flickr.com/photos/theartleague/sets/72157629236975371/ )

For reasons which will soon become obvious, guests are encouraged to view the works online and in person in the two weeks prior to the event.  They are advised to jot down the numbers of the pieces they find most appealing.  (The reason being is that they won’t have much time to decide at the event!)

On event night, ticket-holders crowd into the art space, taking up all three floors.  Seating is limited.  The announcer stands on the ground floor in the atrium area so he can be more easily heard and seen by those in the second and third levels.  Some guests lean over the railing to see and hear.

Tickets are randomly drawn as the event gets underway.  When the name of each ticket-holder is announced, he has a few seconds to shout out the number of the piece he wishes to claim.

If you’re lucky enough to be one of the first ticket holders drawn (my friends were in the 200s and 400s, respectively) it can be a short night for you.  Otherwise, the process takes several hours.  You’ll need to listen to each number called so that you can cross it from your list, should the chosen piece be on your list of favorites, too.

Though other prizes are randomly awarded throughout the night (e.g. tickets to shows, gift cards to restaurants and hotels), the focus is on the art.

Does it sound like the right fit for your growing art consortium?  My friends had fun and it’s a neat way to acquire an original piece of art.  It might just work for you.

see also 1/7/2013

 

Share

Artful Original Thoughts: Artist Joann Mettler

[vimeo 23783486 w=500 h=281]

Joann Mettler has followed her artistic passion through a variety of mediums and has found some surprising and delightful subjects along the way. From whimsical pigs and cows to bowls full of flowers with hidden images; from the contents of her colorful shoe closet to capturing facial expressions and making them into a crowd of people-sized faces on wheels, her work is playful, discerning and insightful.

For her, being an artist involves active engagement with the process and her emotions as each work evolves. Here she shares some of her thoughts, entitled My String of Pearls.

 MY STRING OF PEARLS

Artful original thoughts – Joann Mettler

I paint to lift the human spirit.

Love empowers (a work of art). It’s all bits and pieces but in the end it is something that is deeper than the surface.

You are limited only by your imagination.

Painting is like a lottery ticket; scratch the surface and you’ll find a painting.

I try to find what is in a painting rather than putting it there.

I never know where my work is taking me…I just keep watching, working and following its path.

Creating is like walking through a cloud.

Painting is a process where you construct, deconstruct and then reconstruct.  What’s left is the painting.

To make art YOU need all of your emotions to make sense of your senses.

Artist choices tell the story of themselves; completely personal and inspired by all they have touched, felt and seen.

Art is visual thinking.

Paintings need quiet places.

Painting is my silent music.

In painting, you can’t get away from being yourself.

If you’re not you then who are you?

Your painting is your humble opinion.

Respect your creative hands and don’t expect perfection.

Don’t make it so right that it’s wrong.

I do what I do for you (the viewer)

Your art shouldn’t reveal everything.

A state of mind:  Just being there, No dimensions, No before, No after.

Clouds are like patterned smoke.

It’s not simple to keep life simple.

Is this the rest of your life, or are you resting for the rest of your life?

It’s not what happens to you in life rather it’s how you react to what happens to you.

A sale purchase unneeded is expensive.

Don’t make a decision if you don’t know what decision to make.

I’ve smiled a lot through the years and they’ve made some impressions.

There will never be another you.

Common sense adds up to more than dollars and cents.

I always read the fine print; it is here that you find some important information.

If I didn’t see out of the corner of my eye I wouldn’t see anything.

I try to show you something other than reality.

New isn’t necessarily better; better is better and not necessarily new.

YOU are responsible for your own boredom.

Be there for yourself

So much damage can be done with the turn of a screw.

For every curve there is an opposing straight on the human body.

I’ve seen the power of courage.

Death is the resolution to life.

I COLLECT SHAPES they give me information to recognize an object.  Simple shapes are distillations of objects which become metaphors for the actual objects and can be very descriptive.  I don’t paint things as they are, rather, I paint my perception of how they are. I take shapes out of context.  The outside shape doesn’t have to be related to the inside.

©Joann Mettler 2013

//

Share

Considering a benefit auction to raise money for your art league? Hint: Don’t sell art.

by Sherry Truhlar, President, Red Apple Auctions

13 Artist auction display

You and your colleagues in the art collective want to raise a little money.  Maybe you want to have some cash available to help each other with scholarships to attend art classes.  Maybe you want to upgrade the A/C in your studios.

While you sit around debating how best to raise the money, someone mentions the idea of a benefit auction.  Chances are, you and your friends have been asked to donate to those types of fundraisers before, so it’s only natural that you’d be familiar with them.

“Everyone can donate a piece of their art,” someone suggests, “We’ll sell tickets to the night, and we’ll auction the donations.” In principle, it sounds like a good idea.  After all, you’re an art league and you like art.

But here’s the hard fact:  In many cases, you’ll raise more money if you don’t sell art.

Benefit auctions raise the most money when the items they offer have mass appeal.  You don’t want to sell just anything.  You want to sell items that many people want to own.

Auctions are based on the concept of scarcity.  It’s that old principle of high demand and low supply.  When a benefit auction offers limited, desirable merchandise to many interested buyers, they raise a lot of money.

But sadly, some auction planners begin to think that “more is better.”  They fill their auction tables with anything, thereby creating a garage sale mentality among guests.  Stuff sells cheap.

As an artist, here’s the challenge with making the benefit auction all about art:  Your work (in most cases) doesn’t offer mass appeal that guests are willing to overpay to get. 

What sorts of things are in “high demand” in a benefit auction?  What types of things offer mass appeal?

  • A 5-course meal for six prepared in your home … it could be used for an anniversary dinner, birthday celebration, or a promotion party.
  • A long weekend in a private home on the lake …it can be used for a family retreat, a romantic getaway, or a quiet sanctuary.
  • Two seats to the always sold-out pro-football game … it can be used as a thank-you gift to a star sales representative in my company, a birthday present for my husband, a surprise treat for my son-in-law
  • Unusual, “once in a lifetime” activities (such as serving as Grand Marshal in a parade or taking a helicopter ride over your house) … it can be used as a memorable anniversary gift, a story for my next blog, a check off the bucket list

These are the types of things that many people enjoy doing or would like to do.  Each item is attractive to multiple people for multiple reasons.

In contrast, your mixed media piece “Shark Study I” doesn’t offer that same broad appeal.

So what should the art collective do?  How can you raise the funds for that new A/C unit?

Go ahead, plan a benefit auction.  And do what others do — seek donations like those listed above for your live auction.  To raise big money, stick with “known quantities.”

And when it comes to including your art in the event, sell it in a different way.  For instance, set up a bucket raffle whereby guests can buy multiple tickets and drop their ticket/s into the bucket of the art piece they like most.  Should they be the lucky winner drawn from the bucket, they would be able to take home the art for the price of their raffle tickets.

Remember: Offering items with mass appeal will raise you more money for less work.  Unless your artwork has mass appeal – and most art doesn’t – it won’t generate the returns you were hoping to achieve.

To learn more about benefit auctions and charity auctioneer Sherry Truhlar, visit www.RedAppleAuctions.com. The site includes her forward-thinking blog, free teleclasses, and a complementary download of her annual Auction Item Guide™– that reveals the top 100 items sold in gala auctions last year.

Enhanced by Zemanta
Share

Documenting Protest: Granny Peace Brigade Art

Regina Silvers, Visual Artist and Art Organizer

[youtube=http://youtu.be/EM4J1vQfPTI]

I draw, paint, and have been exhibiting my work since the ‘70s. Right now I’m engrossed in the most exciting art project of my career: The Granny Peace Brigade series.

In 2005 a friend of mine was arrested, along with a small group of older women– all members of various Peace groups like Code Pink and the Gray Panthers— for demonstrating at the Army Recruitment station in Times Square. They were cuffed, jailed, and eventually tried and acquitted.  Out of this experience they formed The Granny Peace Brigade. I’ve been a supporter and ardent admirer since then.

I drew them during their trial and later began to photograph them while I marched and demonstrated with them. After a while, I began using these photos as source material for new work.

Much of my previous work of the past 20-odd years had focused on nature-based motifs. Working from sketches made while hiking upstate NY, I created large close-ups of the rocks, weeds, waterfalls, and woodlands, drawing attention to their “ordinary” beauty and vitality.  At the same time – initially because I am devoted to drawing the figure – I created the ”Placard” series: paintings and drawings derived from images of protesters I found in newspapers. This however was a different matter.

As an older woman, and an activist since the days I marched with the Women Strike for Peace against the Vietnam War, this project is more personal and vital.  It gives me an opportunity to merge my aesthetic, political and social concerns, through personally meaningful, timely, subject matter. It’s been challenging and exhilarating.

It’s been said that “…the eye witnesses, the hand records.” As an artist I am following a long roster of artists who “bear witness” (think Goya, Kathe Kollwitz, Picasso, Ben Shahn, Leon Golub). While I’m not intent on painting a political polemic, I do want to pay homage to these feisty peace activists, and transmit their message that “Democracy is not a Spectator Sport”.

As I participate in documenting this piece of our history, I  show, close-up, what it’s like to be in the midst of the energetic Grannies, visually expressing the view that older women are concerned, and can have an active voice in our society.

To make a piece of art that conveys the energy, immediacy, and spirit of the narrative, I work quickly, making many large pieces for each motif, varying the composition, the approach, and the materials. The works range from 20 x 30” to 36 x 72”, in pastel, charcoal, acrylic, and/or oil paint. Some become finished “products”, others remain studies. I feel privileged to be able to hone my approach to making art while visually expressing something of such importance to me, and hopefully supporting the efforts of these heroic women.

I will be exhibiting this work in a one-person exhibition at Saint Peter’s Church (Citicorp) NYC in May, 2013.


Regina Silvers has been involved with fine art for her whole adult life- as a visual artist and an art organizer. Originally trained as a NYC art teacher, her varied career includes jewelry designer, gallery director, curator, art consultant, museum publicity/advertising manager, and always, practicing artist.

She was a founder and President of TOAST, the TriBeCa Open Artist Studio Tour (2000 to 2010), and co-founder and Director of the Gallery at Hastings on Hudson (1976-84).

Silvers has maintained a studio in TriBeCa for more than 20 years and, until recently, a studio in Woodstock, NY. Her work appears in corporate and private collections throughout the United States, and she has participated in more than 40 exhibitions nationally.

Enhanced by Zemanta
Share

Artists in Support of the Armed Forces

Karen Loew, Chair of Coast Guard Art Program, Visual Artist specializing in soft realism

Karen Loew and the artists who participate in the Coast Guard Art Program (COGAP) and the art programs of other branches of the country’s armed forces immortalize in paintings the bravery of men and women serving in the U.S. military.

The artists are, according to Loew, “visual historians, morale boosters and fan club”. Artists work as volunteers, and they donate time and talent to create works of art depicting the varied missions of the military. “The paintings depict experiences of danger, the suspense of the unknown, the anxious moments of search and rescue, the relief of a successful mission, and the emotions of a return home,” says Loew. Each work of art is a gift from the artist to the Collection.

“Emails I have received thank us for capturing their memories and experiences, and for portraying the Coast Guard in a very positive and remarkable way. I chair the COGAP Committee at the Salmagundi Club, which is an artistic and cultural center that’s been here for over 140 years and is also the proud sponsor of COGAP. When I joined COGAP in 1999, I did not have expectations of what would become of the art I would donate to the Collection. Rather, I was just thrilled to be accepted and have my art included. Since then, I have observed that the art of the Collection does have an amazing public life, educating the public about the missions and history of our Coast Guard through displays at museums, libraries and patriotic events. Art is also displayed in government offices and at Coast Guard locations around the country.

All the branches of the United States armed services have art programs:

The United States Coast Guard Art Program was co-founded in 1981 by combat artist George Gray and John Ward of Coast Guard Community Relations. COGAP welcomes requests for public displays of artwork and inquiries from artists to join the program.

Management of the United States Air Force Art Program and Collection is the responsibility of the Secretary of the Air Force, Office of the Administrative Assistant. The Air Force Art Program Office handles day-to-day administration of the program. The office is charged with responsibility for the Art Program.

The United States Marine Corps Art Collection, held in trust at the National Museum of the Marine Corps, document over 230 years of Marine Corps history. The mission of the Museum is to collect and preserve in perpetuity, artifacts that reflect and chronicle the history of the Corps. The more than 60,000 uniforms, weapons, vehicles, medals, flags, aircraft, works of art and other artifacts in the Museum’s collections trace the history of the Marine Corps from 1775 to the present.

The United States Navy Art Collection has over 15,000 paintings, prints, drawings, and sculpture. It contains depictions of naval ships, personnel, and action from all eras of U.S. naval history, but due to the operation of the Combat Art Program, the eras of World War II, the Korean War, the Vietnam War, and Desert Shield/Storm are particularly well represented. The Branch manages the art collection, produces exhibits, loans artwork to museums and institutions, and provides research assistance on the art collection.

The United States Army Art Program or United States Army Combat Art Program is a program created by the United States Army to create artwork for museums and other programs sponsored by the US Army. The collection associated with the program is held by the United States Army Center of Military History, as part of their Museums collection.

Karen Loew is Chair of the Coast Guard Art Program Committee of New York’s Salmagundi Club, and she serves on the club’s board of directors. In 2002, the Coast Guard sent her to Guantanamo Bay, Cuba (GTMO) to document activities of Coast Guard Port Security Unit 305. She is frequently a speaker at COGAP events, most notably for the opening reception of the COGAP exhibition in Vlissingen, Holland in 2009. In 2011, she was given the Coast Guard Distinguished Public Service Award, the highest recognition given to those who have made outstanding contributions in advancing the Coast Guard’s missions.

Loew’s art has been featured in the book American Women Artists in Wartime, 1776 – 2010 as well as The New York Times, and Professional Artist. Her paintings are held in private and public collections.

Share

Championing Chinese Shadow Puppetry – Annie Rollins

Annie Rollins, Puppeteer and recent Fulbright Fellow in Chinese Shadow Puppetry

[vimeo http://www.vimeo.com/41524173 w=500&h=281]

How did you get involved with Chinese Shadow Puppetry?

Chinese shadow puppetry is the sum of all my independent interests and, of course, so much more.  As a part-Asian puppet lover with a penchant for the historical, Chinese shadow puppetry has sustained my interest in all of those things and continues to inform my personal and professional life.

How does shadow puppetry differ from other performance arts in its approach?

It is similar to other folk art performance forms in that its main purpose is to transmit oral history to a largely illiterate class and to educate and community build through entertainment and a collective experience. It differs from other traditions insofar as its incredible artistry has really pushed boundaries both with the figures themselves and performance techniques.

What about this art form is important to the heritage of China and to yourself?

Chinese shadow puppetry is an amalgamation of Chinese culture in both content and aesthetics as seen from the masses. While most elite and upper class art forms are well documented and preserved, Chinese shadow puppetry is lesser known and understood but more informative as to the majority’s ideology and beliefs at any given time. In a broader context, this is Chinese shadow puppetry’s most important heritage.

I consider it a high art form in its own right, with regional differences in nearly every province that reflect a rich inheritance of idiosyncratic tradition and craft.  My particular focus is practice-led research in traditional shadow puppet making methods in the three main regional styles and that has remained largely uncovered in research both in China and internationally.  Because the methods and aesthetic significance was largely overlooked until recently, many of the remaining masters have passed already with no apprentices in place and many others threaten the same scenario.

How does this influence your artwork?

My research and creative work have a symbiotic relationship – both inform the other and not necessarily in any particular order. Through research I find questions that can only be explored through creation and vice versa. Currently, my work is almost wholly focused on both Chinese shadow puppetry and how that learning is processed through me as an artist with a very different background than the traditional learner. With permission from my masters, I’m creating my own pathway to modernizing the form that fits within my understanding of how best to honor the tradition.

How is shadow puppetry being preserved in China?

Other than commercial endeavors, little has been done to preserve the form in China. With the official induction into UNESCO’s Intangible Cultural Heritage project in 2011, there is much more attention and support currently being focused on traditional Chinese shadow puppetry, but the long-term results remain to be seen. Little, if any, funding is being given to two designated members of a nominated troupe (equal to a peasants’ monthly wages) and no funding or support for students or apprentices. And, while this greatly eases the stress for shadow puppet artists in the aging stages of their lives, it does little to answer the more imperative questions about lack of students to carry the tradition through to the next generation.

Some people have criticized China for their lack of effort to preserve this and many other dying traditions as their country races towards a progressive modern future, but I find that they are doing what all countries have done at one point or another – prioritizing.  Folk art forms are in this position worldwide.

Are there any schools or programs that specialize in Chinese Shadow Puppetry?

Sadly, there are no formal institutions that teach Chinese shadow puppetry, save a workshop here or there.  The masters who are still working are very open to students – even foreign ones – who show an interest. Because it is a folk art form it is unlikely that Chinese shadow play education would become formalized anytime soon.The hope is that the form will garner more support to continue teaching as they always have – through hands and hearts.

If anyone has interest and will be traveling to China shortly, feel free to contact me for connections. Additional puppetry information is at: http://annierollins.wordpress.com/links.

Annie Rollins is a puppeteer and recent Fulbright Fellow in Chinese Shadow Puppetry. She has a MFA in theater design from the University of Minnesota and has been studying traditional Chinese Shadow Puppetry in different regions of China for the past year. Annie considers herself an artist first, creating experimental puppet shows, design and teaching workshops when she isn’t studying puppetry in China. Recently, she was invited to speak at the Chinese Shadow Puppetry Symposium at the Ballard Institute & Museum of Puppetry at the University of Connecticut.

Share