Saturday, October 31, 2009

Self-Analysis and the Artist Statement

Here's a scary subject to write about for Halloween: what to do about my artist statement.

As I continue to execute the arduous task of rewriting my artist statement I've realized that my greatest obstacle in this whole process is me. I am my own worst critic and my own worst enemy. I have spent the years since my failed attempt at an MFA in fiction writing doing less and less writing. Some time during my failed first attempt at grad school, I came to loathe every word I typed or printed on the page.

I hadn't started out that way. Writing had become quite pleasurable for me. I kept journals. I wrote short stories, took writing classes every time I had a chance to, and spent the majority of my high school and college years writing (and re-writing) a novel. Eventually I got to the point where I wanted my work critiqued by increasingly more important people. It was not enough to have the people I know and love analyze my work. I wanted validation with more authority behind it. And that outlook left me open to a sense of crushing defeat when I was inevitably rejected. I my fiction classes, I began to feel that my stories were too boring for anyone to care about, and too foreign for anyone to relate to. Now I realize hat I eventually reached a point where I believed that no one would care about reading what I rite. And that is why the thins I write have become shorter and shorter. Not because of a Hemingway-like flair for concise prose. But because the fewer words I write, the less there is for anyone to criticize. Hence, my extraordinarily short artist statement:

I like to push the boundaries of what materials are acceptable for use in fine art while still creating work that is visually pleasing. My improvisational and intuitive style is all about adaptation, making beautiful things out of trash. I am gathering the fragments of consumerism, the disposable detritus of a one-time-use society. Cardboard boxes are meant to ship things, plastic bags are meant to carry things, LDPE and bubble wrap are meant to cushion things in transit from factory to store to end user, but none of these things are typically thought of as things in and of themselves. Seldom are they used as a material for making art. By using these otherwise disposable materials to create art, I am giving permanence to the impermanent. I am making the byproducts of the products we buy artistic products in their own right. It is a kind of alchemy. It is not just about salvage. It is about redemption.

I really don't know what else to say about my work, but I know it has to be longer.  So why do I paint what I paint?  Sometimes it is all a mystery to me.  I am trying to take the time to analyze the possible motivations behind what transpires in the studio.  Sometimes it all seems so automatic, almost inevitable.

Why do I use the colors I use? Because I like them.  But why do I like bright colors?  I think it could be because of the weather in Chicago.  From October until April, the sky is generally dull and grey.  It left me feeling depressed and uninspired, until the winter of 2000, when I started working in bright colors.  I think the colors I choose are a counterpoint to the bleak oppressiveness of winter in this part of the country.

Am I an environmentalist?  All I know is that I feel guilty about throwing things away and not reusing or recycling them.  And I do find myself gravitating toward recycled products.  But it's not just a philosophical choice.  I really do like the aesthetics of found object art.  I like the unexpected combinations of color and form that arise from using reclaimed materials.

Is my art a reaction to consumerism?  I suppose in a way it is.  Perhaps even a reaction against the rules and regulations forced upon me while working in retail sales.

And I did put this into my thesis:

As for the concept of Post-Consumerism, I think it comes from personal and artistic concerns. First, I have always been fascinated with the idea of using unlikely art materials. From the first time I made crafts out of Popsicle sticks and clothespins, I became aware of the fact that objects can serve more than just their intended purpose. Using found objects is also a practical choice, costing me nothing at all and requiring less money spent on art supplies. Additionally, it is a decision born of concern for the environment, as many of the materials I use are often items that would be discarded. My use of plastic bags, in particular, is motivated by the news stories I have seen and heard about the scourge of plastic bag pollution on the ecosystem. I could also say that my frustration with working in retail during the six years between college and graduate school drove me to seek out cardboard and shopping bags as art materials, two things that constantly surrounded me when I labored in the various circles of retail hell. I get to tear up the boxes and melt the shopping bags with a hot iron, and it gives me an incredible sense of release.

But I wonder if that is too long for an artist statement? Who is going to want to read all that, anyway? So much of this re-writing process depends upon one's willingness to analyze oneself. Sometimes I don't feel like doing it, but I have to. So now I'm off to do another rewrite.

Friday, October 30, 2009

Friday Featured Flickr Group: Gapers Block A/C - Chicago Arts & Culture

I'm closing out this month's series of Flickr groups related to Chicago Artists Month with Gapers Block A/C - Chicago Arts & Culture. Gapers Block is a local news blog and its Arts and Culture section holds a wealth of information on upcoming cultural events throughout the city. The Flickr group allows members to post photos taken at cultural events, as well as share original artwork. These photos stream on the Gapers Block A/C blog, and may even be featured there, as one of my paintings, Fever Dream, was.

As you view the slide show below, you will probably see pictures taken at many of the Chicago Artists Month events.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Weekend nature walk

This past weekend I took time to get out and experience the fall weather. The dreary greyness of the cloudy weather we've had has been foreboding, but I had errands to run on Saturday. Along the way, I found some beautiful leaves. The colors really inspire me.

It made me think about the nature walks we used to take when I was a Girl Scout. A little Brownie told me recently that her troop went to a spa for manicures and facials. And when I heard that, I immediately thought it sounded like something the scouts in the classic 80's movie Troop Beverly Hills would do. We never did anything like that. The main thing I remember us doing is hiking, usually at the Indiana Dunes National Park. I miss doing things like that. Fortunately, the Nature Museum was free on Sunday, so I had another opportunity to reconnect with nature. On the way from the car to the museum, I had many beautiful fall photo opportunities.




When I got inside, I finally got a chance to see where the butterflies live. I had been meaning to visit for a long time. It was amazing. Also, it's quite hot and humid in there. My lens fogged up when I was taking pictures. But here is a clear shot.


On my way back to the car, I saw more ducks in the pond.


And here is a little squirrel friend. He came when I called him, probably expecting a treat. I'm sorry I didn't have anything for him, but glad he stood still long enough for me to take his picture.


I can't stop making paper flowers!

Some people drink, some people overeat, some people smoke or bite their nails or pace the floor, but when I am stressed, I generally escape into a virtual world of my own creation using games like Civilization or Sim City. Then there are times when I immerse myself in actually creating something real. Over the weekend I learned how to make paper flowers from a few different articles online, and now I cannot stop making them.

I am reminded of the main character of Like Water for Chocolate, who tried to console herself in the lonely hours she spent away from her one true love by crocheting. Eventually the quilt she made seemed to go on for miles and miles.

photo found at Vickie Howell's blog

I can relate. I feel like I am on the verge of so many changes in my life. The stress is getting hard to bear. I am drowning my anxiety in piles and piles of paper flowers. Something about the repetitive process of folding and cutting paper out of my junk mail and old magazines is very soothing. And now I have more paper flowers than I need, so I plan to sell the extra ones on Etsy.

I suppose I never mentioned what I need the flowers for. It's a surprise, but you'll find out on this blog eventually. In the meantime, if you want to while away the hours making your own paper flowers, get instructions at the links below:

Friday, October 23, 2009

Friday Featured Flickr Group: Just Chicago Art

Just Chicago Art is just what it says it is, art by Chicago residents. According to the group admin, the rules are as follows:

Art in Any Medium by Chicagoans
Chicago residents only.
a) Your photography as art
b) Photo of your personal non-photographic art
c) Photo of public/street/another artist's art
d) All of the above
Hooray Quality :) Boo...Quantity :(

Because of these rules, it is very well-curated and thoughtfully put together. Just Chicago Art is another great destination for emerging local artists and a great source of inspiration.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Swamp Thing

This green oobleck colored monster is made of painted polystyrene and low-density polyethylene.

Olive Green, acrylic on Styrofoam and foam packing material

Its numerous craters were formed by drops of acetone, which dissolved the polystyrene and left traces of foam behind.

Olive Green, acrylic on Styrofoam and foam packing material

It still doesn't have a title, but last night after I worked on it, I saw part of a B-movie before I fell asleep, so I decided to nickname it "Swamp Thing" for now. Ultimately, I plan to go over it several times with metallic green and gold glazes. And perhaps a little more nail polish remover. Watching Styrofoam dissolve is fun.

Olive Green, acrylic on Styrofoam and foam packing material

Friday, October 16, 2009

Friday Featured Flickr Group: Chicago's Emerging Artists

Continuing the theme of Chicago Artist Month, this week's Friday Featured Flickr Group, Chicago's Emerging Artists, is a group that highlights the work of emerging artists from the Chicago area. The group was founded by artist Nando Leira and its mission is as follows:

A new group for emerging artists looking for galleries in the Chicago area... we may gather to set up a group exhibition or even get a contact to share a studio... new art projects... etc.

Let's exchange knowledge... and see each other's work...

If you are an emerging artist in the Chicago area or want to show your work here, this would be a good group to join and contribute to.

Friday, October 9, 2009

Friday Featured Flickr Group: Chicago Artists

Since October is Chicago Artists Month, I thought I'd share some Flickr groups dedicated to the work of Chicago artists. So my readers who don't live in the Chicago area can still participate virtually, even if you don't get a chance to get out and see the artwork in person.

This week's group is Chicago Artists. Here's what the group's founder has to say:

I wanted to create a space for Chicago Artists who are known, unknown or unshown. A place people could show their work and maybe network with each other about shows, or places looking for artists or simply meet and say hello to fellow Chicago artists. All mediums are welcomed...painting, photography, sculpture, etc etc!
With over 3,000 pictures contributed by local artists, this group is a great place to get a virtual tour of the Chicago art scene.

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Jonathan Adler + Barbie = a match made in design heaven!

By now most of you regular readers know I am an avid Barbie collector, and some of you may also know that I am a fan of ceramicist and decorator extraordinaire Jonathan Adler. Over the summer I heard about the opportunity he had to design a real life dream house in honor of Barbie's 50th anniversary.

I felt a wave of hot pink envy. Why wasn't there a way for us collectors to own a piece of this memorabilia? But it turns out that we can. I found out about this development thanks to Typhanie at Shoebox Decor. There is a Jonathan Adler loves Barbie line available at the Jonathan Adler store!

At $49.95, the sofa above is a fraction of the cost of the real thing. There is even a 1:6 scale version of My Prescription for Anti-Depressive Living, which Ana, Mia, and Lolita need to read.

Want to take a virtual tour of the life-size dream house?

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Widget Wednesday: Pingg

While I began to plan how I would send out invitations to my graduate show, I found myself faced with a mind-boggling assortment of options. Of course, there is the old standby, Evite. Unfortunately, it's just not as Web 2.0 as I'd like it to be. I wanted an option fully integrated with various forms of social media. Pingg does all of this and more. Not only can you integrate it with Facebook, but you can also use Pingg to contact your guests via text message, and even send out postcards in the mail for a nominal fee. And as a grad student who is frantically trying to take care of all the last-minute details of graduating, I love being able to delegate some of my tasks to the computer.

In addition to all these great features, Pingg also has invitations designed by talented artists for their designer series:

When it comes to creating digital invitations with great style and functionality, I think Pingg could be a party planner's best friend.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

The LEGO architecture series

As a kid, I always enjoyed building houses out of LEGOs. Now the beloved manufacturer of interlocking plastic bricks has developed a new series for grownups: the LEGO architecture series.

Choose from landmarks like the John Hancock Center, Seattle Space Needle, or the Empire State Building.

And if you have ever wished you could own a Frank Lloyd Wright, how about Fallingwater or even The Guggenheim Museum?

Read more about it at the LEGO architecture series website.

Monday, October 5, 2009

Transcendental Violet

I have finished my newest painting and given it a title: Transcendental Violet.

Transcendental Violet - violet purple sculptural bas relief abstract avant garde contemporary recycled cardboard assemblage painting by Tiffany Gholar

I went back over it today with more Brilliant Purple, and added Midnight Blue for shading.

Transcendental Violet - violet purple sculptural bas relief abstract avant garde contemporary recycled cardboard assemblage painting by Tiffany Gholar

Next time, I have to start on a new piece.

Friday, October 2, 2009

Design Chicago 2009 at Merchandise Mart

This week The Merchandise Mart rolled out the zebra print carpet for Design Chicago, which featured a cocktail reception, luncheon seminars, and portfolio reviews. What I enjoyed most was having the opportunity to keep up with developments in the design world without having to pay design school prices. That's right, this event was free for designers and design students to attend. All of the presenters were very knowledgeable and informative. But the three I am writing about below really impressed me.

Jackie Jordan from Sherwin-Williams gave a presentation about the color trends for 2010, Sherwin-Williams Colormix 2010. I was excited about the color scheme below, which was inspired by African, Aboriginal, and Native American indigenous styles. Sherwin Williams turned to these particular cultures for inspiration because more people feel a desire to be a part of a tribe.

In addition to this delicious array of colors, the Robert Allen Beacon Hill showroom where the seminar was held served delicious mini cupcakes from Sugar Bliss Cake Boutique.

This was my second opportunity to have the pleasure of hearing Susan Szenasy, the Editor in Chief of Metropolis magazine, give a presentation. The title of her presentation, as well as the film (which she directed) that was part of it, was "Brilliant Simplicity." The video features 15 innovative young designers with truly visionary ideas, like living glass, which has gills and opens and closes in response to air quality, biopavers, which have plants growing in them, and street lamps that respond to ambient moonlight and dim accordingly. All of the designers featured in the video are winners of the prestigious Metropolis Next Generation Design Competition. Szenasy made some points that stayed with me, proclaiming that no profession has all the answers, which is why it is important to collaborate with people outside of the design profession. The questions we ask, she said, are too complex to be answered by just one profession. If you ever have the opportunity to see Brilliant Simplicity, I'd definitely recommend it. In the meantime, here's a video about it:

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Happy Chicago Artists Month!

If you thought the "night of a thousand openings" was crazy, Chicago Artists Month will blow your mind with more than 200 events! These events include "exhibitions of emerging and established artists, openings, demonstrations, tours, open studios and neighborhood art walks," according to the website. A full list of all the events can be found here.

These are a few that I'm particularly interested in:

At the 22 in a Million show, several artists I've featured on here before, including Jeff Stevenson, Erin Waser, and Vanessa Vargas, will be exhibiting their work. The show runs from October 2 - 31, with an opening reception tomorrow night from 5:30 to 8:30pm. The Coalition gallery is located at 2010 W. Pierce in Wicker Park.

I also liked this ad on the back of the Chicago Artists Month brochure:

While Lunch With An Artist does not appear to be an official Artists Month event, I think it's a fabulous idea. And having it at a Lettuce Entertain You restaurant sounds even better! FYI: I'd be glad to discuss my art with you over lunch, especially if it includes some mashed potatoes from Wildfire or some sesame shrimp from Ben Pao.

And while it is not officially a part of Chicago Artists Month, The Chicago International Film Festival is another cultural event in October that has something for everyone, even moviegoers who want a chance to meet directors and actors. It will be held from October 8th to October 22nd at the AMC River East 21 theater. There are so many great films this year, and they make it convenient by allowing you to create a schedule of all the movies you want to see. But don't be surprised if you end up double-booking yourself!

All of the events for this month give me a great excuse to get out and enjoy the weather before Chicago starts to freeze over for the winter.

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