Authenticity in Life & Art

Staying authentic.
This was the important message relayed to me by an artist teaching a workshop I attended early last fall. She said it in reference to one’s own artwork.
Her message resonated much too clear in my personal strive for career success, and one way I chose to look at this idea of staying authentic was not forcing my creativity for the sake of anything.
Let me explain more thoroughly.
I see beauty everywhere and one of my goals (now) is to bring that beauty to the forefront of others that may not have it so clearly or as often as I perceive it. This bit has been a hard intention to admit, even to myself, because I felt guilty. Why? Because it didn’t feel important enough to do just that.
I’ve always felt the need to be part of the struggle against the many injustices of the world. Children going hungry, third-world countries being exploited by the developed world, the damage to our environment for the sake of profit, etc. Within this context, beauty just did not rank high enough, and I couldn’t base my artwork on this sole concept.
And so I found that my idealistic views were getting in the way of my creativity. Every time I set out to make artwork I would mentally beat myself up about how to make it transmit a message. How do I amplify these literal injustices through my work to make others more aware of them? And when I set out on these seemingly impossible tasks and fail miserably it would send me into depression mode. I thought to myself “I just have to keep focused and with more experience and effort I’ll find a way.” And the cycle would begin all over again.
At the end of the aforementioned workshop, the artist/teacher looked at the work I had produced and said to me “you have a heightened sense of beauty, so you should keep making beautiful things.” A confirmation that made me happy yet at the same time scared that this was all I could do.
Since, I have had a bit of time to reflect on these thoughts and I’m coming to terms with my own capabilities as well as my limitations. So now when I circle back to this idea of staying authentic, everything makes more sense. I believe if one stays authentic to their inclinations in life that the path to all you need will come. Nothing needs to be forced.
Therefore, if I concentrate on making beautiful art I can not only bring meaning to my own life but through that Vessel I may contribute to the struggle against those injustices I do wish to end rather than just bringing it to other people’s awareness. After all, I even find beauty in the fight for justice because it is the beauty in a just life itself which I want to preserve.
The sculpture pictured above was developed during the workshop. In the realm of my work this piece was such a freeing experience.
Are you an artist? Can you relate? Have you ever been road-blocked from the thing you do best because your intentions (as good as they may have been) were not aligned with your most authentic self? Please feel free to share or comment on my experiences laid out on this post.
Happy New Year 2017! (Since this is my first post of the year after a long hiatus).
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Meeting Mohamad Hafez at CCSU

How lucky am I to have to the opportunity to, not only meet the artists that we showcase at the CCSU Art Galleries, but also the artists who we (the art department) invite to present lectures for the students.

This week, as was the case, we had the honor to present Mohamad Hafez to speak about his most current body of work.

Mohamad Hafez Bio

When I first saw Hafez’ artwork at City Wide Open Studios in New Haven back in October and I was immediately intrigued.  It was as if gravity pulled me in closer to each piece.  The subject that his works portrayed revealed themselves to me immediately as I discovered a Middle Eastern citadel, shattered and ravaged by what one could easily identify as the trademark of war.

If anyone knows me they will know that I don’t shy away from politics.  In fact, I actually attempt to keep up with current events around the world.  And it’s not unheard of, amidst my friends and family, to have argumentative discussions about the state of world.

However, what I love more than politics is art with a powerful message.

A Refugee Nation - Shown at CWOS, New Haven, 2015.When I turned into the small room where the artist had his work displayed, I knew I had found a special treat.  This work by Hafez was skillfully crafted and installed in the perfect setting that is the Goffe Street Armory in New Haven.  A run down industrial space, the Armory space gave his pieces a sense of belonging, a kinship the works shared with the deteriorated walls, peeling paint, and rusty window frames and exposed structures.

The art history professor in our department contacted me to find a time frame for hosting an artist lecture in our gallery.  When I learned who the artist was that would be presenting a lecture, I was utterly enthused.  Admittedly, she was also a big fan of Hafez’ work like myself, and unfortunately she had missed seeing him speak at Real Artways in Hartford, so what better way to mediate that problem than by hosting his lecture for her students and the university body.

Both sides of the conflict. Shown at CWOS, New Haven, 2015.

detailShotIrrevocably, I loved everything about his lecture and message.  My favorite part of the presentation was his end goal.  He wasn’t just trying to make a statement with his artwork.  The work was born out of his necessity to feel closer to home, to his roots, and to his people rather than trying to spread his own idealistic beliefs.  He focuses his efforts on shedding these perceptions we have which corporate media has manufactured so wrongly in our minds.

He didn’t need to convince me, I was already on his side before I even saw his works of art.  I may not have first hand experience in the kind of suffering that war brings to cities, countries, multitudes of people but my empathetic heart stretches into a universe inside of me, feeling very helpless and wishing I could do more.  He did more by simply sharing his family life in Damascus with us.

He showed us the snapshots he took of every day life when he was finally able to go back to his country.  Homesick and nostalgic about the little details of his home country that most might miss if you’re not really looking, he shed light to his culture’s best aspects.  A culture where humility is of utmost importance is truly noticeable in the neighborhoods as you walk by front doors of houses completely clear of embellishment, they all look the same regardless of how much or little you may have.  He also shared how communities come together when there are neighbors in need.  He showed us pictures of a normal Friday night dinner with immediate family, gatherings of 15-20 people around the table having a grand meal and actively being a family.  It reminded me of some family gatherings I have been to myself, where family extends not only to brothers, sisters, and parents but also cousins, second cousins, uncles, aunts, and friends whom we consider family.

It was easy to relate to his stories, and though our cultures may be different, they are also so similar.

This was my take on the artwork and the artist’s presentation.  I am sure I could go on for another 600 words to critique the quality of the artwork but after all I have already said, I don’t think it’s as important as you (the reader/viewer) to draw your own conclusion and opinion.

Saturday Night Hartford Outing

Last Saturday was one of the coldest nights we have had in Connecticut.  The day before Valentine’s, which had a record this year of being the coldest Valentine’s Day since they started to record the highs and lows.

But, for one reason or another, we decided it was a good night to take in some culture from around town.

My husband and I put on a bunch of layers and made our way to Hartford’s Artspace gallery.  If you live in CT and don’t know about it or have never been there, you should.  The gallery resides in the first floor of the beautiful apartment building right across the train station in Hartford.  The apartments are beautiful, just the kind I dream about converting into a studio, high ceilings, lots of natural lighting, and a bit of an industrial feel.

The Artspace gallery is volunteer-run by Tao LaBossiere and his wife.  They are both active in the art scene all throughout Hartford County.  And the shows they put on at the gallery are well worth the trip downtown.

Some friends met us at the gallery for the opening exhibition of “Elsewhere” which featured: Andres Chaparro, Hong Hong, Jourdan Joly, Terrance Regan, Sarah Rohlfing, Adam Viens, Amy Vensel.  Let me tell you, this show did not disappoint.

From Chaparro’s emotive and musical mixed media paintings to the simplified paintings but full of depth and texture by Amy Vensel and a great installation piece by my friend Terrance Regan, the show couldn’t have ever let me down.

Check out some of the photos I snapped:

Connecticut Arts

From museums one weekend to gallery visits the next is how I spend my free time in the lovely state of Connecticut.

Two weekends ago (already!) I made my way to the Slater Museum in Norwich, CT.  They were having the opening reception for their Annual Connecticut Artists Juried Exhibition.  A fellow ceramic artist, with whom I work a lot, Monica Hewryk, was juried into the exhibition so we ventured to the reception to see the rest of the CT artists’ skills.

Check out Monica Hewryk below next to her piece:

Monica Hewryk

To my delight, I was able to recognize so many artists in the exhibition.  I saw the work of many who are also members of CAFA (Connecticut Academy of Fine Arts).  These members are very active in the annual exhibition and repeated recipients of the awards too, so it doesn’t shock me that they are active elsewhere.  Check out the beautiful work below.  And if you get a chance to see it in person, it’s even better!!

With these beautiful imagery, I leave you to write another post about another exhibition, and other artists also pouring their hearts out onto canvases and installations.  Until my next art stop!

 

Quick Update

Today I’m posting some photos of my work. The following pieces were accepted into some juried exhibitions and I wanted to share my excitement here.

Like crazy, I have been entering some competitions for 3D artwork.  Last week I found out three of my pieces made it in.  The first was one of my “rhino” minis.  It’s about 3.75 by 3.5 by 3.75 inches.  It’s pretty tiny.  It was accepted to a “small works” exhibition put on by the Clay Studio in Philadelphia.  Since I used to live in Philly, this was such exciting news!!!  If you’re in the Philadelphia area, be sure to check it out, Small Favors XI opens on March 25, 2016 but you can find more information here.

The same day I found out about the small piece getting accepted into that show, I also found out two of my other pieces were accepted into a different juried exhibition.  These pieces were both made last year, one in the spring and the other in the fall.  It makes me happy to finally have my pieces be shown.  These two were juried into an exhibition for the National Association of Women Artists.  You can check out the exhibition artists’ work on their website.  Please check it out and feel free to share the link with the world.

Soon I will post the photos of all my new works since last summer.  For now, I need to finish my many works in progress and make new pieces.  Thanks for stopping by.

Review of my Open Studio experience

Hello Friday and everyone out there.  It has been a few days but I am still feeling the energy from this past weekend.

In this post I am more than excited to at least show you how this past weekend’s exhibition went.

Let’s review: The event was called Open Studio Hartford and it was featuring close to 250 artists from across the state.  This was their 26th year organizing the city-wide event.  There were 20-something venues that opened up their free space to artists.  I was in the beautiful industrial and historic Colt building (Yes, as in Samuel Colt firearms).

Again and again I go over the same thoughts after finishing a weekend of exhibiting my artwork.  As exhausting as the whole event seem to be, I still love every minute of it.  It’s amazing to hear such great feedback from your viewers, but also fellow artists.  It pumps energy back into my little body to keep creating artwork.

Preparations for Open Studio started at least a month and a half before the exhibiting dates.  Spinning clay on the wheel, drying the pieces, putting together forms and adding textures to their surfaces, bisque firing pieces, glazing them, firing them once again, photographing finished pieces, and pricing pieces is some of the work happening in my basement studio.  Included in that month, or two, were some sleepless nights and long days and hours.  All of which, in my mind, paid off when I was able to relate to others through my artwork and my experiences.

My work was well received.  Many commented on my display, something I built up to after a few attempts and many tips from other artists who so graciously offer advice.

People had plenty of interesting comments and many were attracted to the horsehair pieces as well as the pit fired finishes.  These were my biggest sellers.  Some of my newest mugs were taken which makes think my craftsmanship and my forms (think a good/comfortable handle) are improving.

Here are some pictures from my display:

The downside of the weekend was that I had very little chances to escape my post to visit other artists’ displays.  Especially because it was spread out so much throughout Hartford it was impossible to be there for your clients versus escaping to other locations to see fellow artists.

I would love to hear comments on my display, but mostly I’d love to hear back from anyone who attended Open Studio Hartford and their thoughts on the city-wide event.

Rewind…

It’s always a busy time in September when school is once again starting and here I am trying to push my artwork as much as I conceivably can.

So let’s rewind just a bit to the late spring/early summer time when I went kind of crazy on ceramics work in my studio, tried to do as many shows as I had inventory, and tried to submit my work into juried competitions all over.

I managed to get rejected a few times as well as successfully set up and take down shows, sell some pieces, get some great feedback, and even make it into some of those juried exhibitions.  The rejections did leave a mark.  Instead they motivate me to be bigger and do better for the same competition next year.

This past Saturday was the opening of the “Untitled: AbEx 2015” in Hartford, Connecticut. I was honored to be included in this abstract exhibition artist list with one of my ceramic pieces and one of my old cyanotype photographs, both of which you can see here.

It was a great celebration of artistic talent in our local area.  And talent we have.  There were some very strong abstract paintings and mixed media on their walls.  My artist friend Monica Hewryk was also part of the exhibition with two of her ceramic pieces.  You can see our excitement in the images below.

Paola @ Hartford Artspace
Me next to “Missing Pieces” sculpture.
Monica @ Hartford Artspace
Artist Monica Hewryk next to her pieces.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Later that same night before we walked our way to dinner we stopped by EBK Gallery, their small work gallery situated on Pearl Street in Hartford.  It was my first time visiting, and to my surprise, we found this great one piece show.  You might ask one piece show?  Yes!  It was the opening for a mural piece by Tim Wengerstman.  And yes, it was the only piece of artwork there, however, it was a big mural covering the main wall of the tiny gallery.

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Tim Wengertsman (image from EBK gallery website)

The mural was strong, assertive in its message, and it spoke of the generational awareness of our times.  It was a busy gallery with mounds of people outside of the gallery trying to get their questions answered.  My friend overheard the artist reveal that many of his artist friends were getting ready to relocate or move on with their lives in one aspect or another, a rite of passage kind of thing.  This impactful series of events brought on this painting, adequately titled “The Last Supper in Hartford,” is so politically charged it’s one of the main reasons I loved it so much.

Besides being stylistically strong (he works in woodcuts), one must study this mural with some time at hand.  It has much to decipher besides the obvious political punches he inserts with symbolism and some words.  I highly recommend anyone in the Hartford area to go see it.

It will be showing until September 28th, 2015.  Go See it!!

Tell me what you see.  Tell me what you feel when you look at this mural.  Aren’t all your senses on edge??