Artist Date: Minneapolis Institute of Art – April 13, 2018

A sneak peek into “Power and Beauty in China’s Last Dynasty” at the Minneapolis Institute of Art

What a jewel of an art museum we have here in the Twin Cities! How incredible that anyone can step up to an original Van Gogh, Monet, etc., free of charge any day of the week (except Monday when the museum is closed). An added bonus? A free docent-led tour at 1 p.m. whenever the museum is open—just meet the day’s guide at the main desk for an hour-long “highlights” tour of his or her choosing.

Here are the highlights of what I saw and learned during my most recent visit to the Minneapolis Institute of Art (MIA)

Technique: Collision of art & theater
As an MIA member, I was able to score free tickets to the MIA’s featured exhibit “Power and Beauty in China’s Last Dynasty,” which was conceived and designed by Robert Wilson, a theater director and artist. If you plan to take it in, I don’t want to give too much away—in short, it was a sensory treat complete with sound, artifacts, etc., and a new experience around every corner. I examined the walls of the exhibition space just as much as the items on exhibit. Go, go, go if you can!

Term: Automatic drawing
I happened upon a room filled with works by Minnesota artist George Morrison (more about him below) and fell upon the term “automatic drawing” in the description of one of his untitled works. In his artist statement, automatic drawing is defined as a technique “in which the artist’s hand creates a mark without thought or intention in order to access the creative imagination of the subconscious.” Despite Morrison’s unintentional approach to the piece, I love the balanced, seemingly planful result.

Artwork: “Dining Room in the Country” by Pierre Bonnard
Our docent chose to introduce us to pieces by artists who were contemporaries and friends of James Abbott McNeill Whistler (even though there are no works by Whistler in the MIA’s collection). As the docent suggested, it’s a painting that makes you want to take in a big deep breath in hopes to inhale the fragrance of the rich floral background. I, for one, would love to shove that cat to the side and take my place in that chair to chat with my visiting friend, knit a few rows, and enjoy the colorful surroundings.

Artist: George Morrison
Back to George Morrison… The variety of his work is astounding—from painting, to pen and ink, to wood collage. It seems like this man could make any medium ultimately resemble a picturesque landscape. It’s interesting to note that his artistic talents may have taken root during a fourteen-month hospital stay at age 10. He was recovering from surgery necessitated by tuberculosis, says MNopedia.

Takeaway: Automatic drawing & “Other Side of the Room” project
It goes without saying that I’d love to try my hand at automatic drawing; I’m going to test it using my black ink pens of various tip sizes. In addition, while viewing “Dining Room in the Country,” I was reminded of another interesting red room I had recently come across in my studies: “The Red Studio” by Henri Matisse. In my mind’s eye, I imagine the rooms depicted in both paintings as one! This got me to thinking… What other pieces of art would I pair together using similar logic? This question birthed yet another assignment for my growing list!


Empty Bowls & Blackout Poems

In my continued quest to claim the identity of “artist,” the past few days have provided a couple more opportunities to discover and grow and imagine…


“Emergence” (2017) & “Sensory Sampler” (2018) from Empty Bowls

Empty Bowls
It’s my absolutely favorite fundraiser: Empty Bowls. No matter the amount of their donations, all guests receive all-you-can-eat soup and bread provided by local restaurants and other food-savvy organizations (my favorite soup from this year’s menu came from a nearby nursing home), but the best prize for each person there is a handmade bowl to take home! Middle and high school students, churches, professional artisans, and citizens of all talents and backgrounds contribute to the supply. The whole effort benefits local food shelves.

For the past two years, I have attended Empty Bowls with my friend Judy. It was by her inspiration that I turned my attention toward the more unusual and less conventional bowls. Of all the bowls I’ve collected from the event over the years, these pieces mean the most to me and seem to embody so much personality.

I’ve also taken to naming the bowls I bring home: “Emergence” (2017) by R.W. and “Sensory Sampler” (2018) by Olivia. This year’s find is glazed in a beautiful turquoise color, plus I like Olivia’s experimentation with a different texture on each side of the bowl: brick pattern, fish scales, basket weave, and diamond shapes. As for “Emergence,” I admire it and its mysterious maker so much that I was compelled to write a poem last year:

By Barbara Farland
I imagine a sitting, zitty, and somber teen
Resigned to the day’s assignment
To sculpt a bowl from clump of clay

Young fingers coil
Thumbs tug and nudge
The damp media into resemblance of prescribed form

Lumpy sides
Lopsided bottom
Endear me to it
So obviously amateur and thoughtless and rushed

Now as mine
I name it


Its rough sides reach up in jagged uncertain stretches
Reminiscent of the awkwardness of its maker
Ever oblivious to my appreciation
And prayers for his soul
His sense of contribution
His eventual awakening
And emergence of spirit

Empty Bowls events are held all over the United States. Find one near you to eat good soup, to support a great cause, and to see and take home some phenomenal art!


Newspaper Blackout by Austin Kleon & my own blackout poem “Mission”

Blackout Poems
A couple weeks ago, I shared my appreciation for Show Your Work! by Austin Kleon. On Wednesday, I picked up his book Newspaper Blackout from the library and read it from front to back in less than an hour. It’s a super quick and super fun read!

Here’s how the gist of the book is described on the back cover: “Armed with a daily newspaper and a permanent marker, he constructs through deconstruction—eliminating the words he doesn’t need to create a new art form: Newspaper Blackout poetry.”

Through this deconstructive method, Kleon came up with a variety of free-verse poems that are sometimes lovely, sometimes humorous, and always clever. But they’re so much more than the words—each piece is also an interesting work of visual art.

I was reminded that I already tried this approach of “poetry-writing meets art-making” through the “28 to Make” class on (see photo for my creation of “Mission”). But after reading Kleon’s book, I’m itching to make a little more blackout poetry of my own, but instead of newspaper clippings, I think I’m going to go the altered-book route. Now if I could only find that cool little purple book I bought a few years ago for this very purpose!

Any weekend plans? Mine will include another date with my husband, this time with our taking in the “Crazy About Collages” class at Hopkins Center for the Arts. More on that later!

Artist Date: Weisman Museum – March 3, 2018

Weisman Art Museum, Minneapolis

Weisman Art Museum, Minneapolis

Last Saturday, my husband and I went not only on a “date date,” but also on an “artist date,” as Julia Cameron defines it in her famous book The Artist’s Way. Our date destination was the Weisman Art Museum on the University of Minnesota campus in Minneapolis.

The objective of an artist date? To receive, says Cameron—to open one’s self “to insight, inspiration, guidance” and to nurture one’s “creative consciousness, your inner artist. In its most primary form, the artist date is an excursion…”

I’m finding it difficult to sum up the many ways that my experience with the Weisman exhibits spoke to my inner artist; after all, I took two pages of copious notes and no less than 25 unique photos. But there’s no time like the present to create a simple and somewhat systematic way to encapsulate the highlights of such excursions. For now, I’ll try to share my #1 top finds when it comes to a “new-to-me” techniques, terms, artwork and artists. Perhaps I’ll also include ideas inspired by my artist dates that I want to try or topics that I want to learn more about—I’ll call this part my “assignment.”

Without further ado, here are my favorite takeaways from the Weisman:

Technique: Pixelation
“Pixelated Bromide” by Richard Barlow involved taking a sepia photograph and using  36,000 spangles to replicate the image in humongous shiny golden form; the piece measures more than 10 feet tall and almost 20 feet wide, and it’s best to stand back about 30 feet to see the picture take shape. How fun would it be to emulate Barlow’s method in both small and large scale with a little help from Photoshop!

Term: “Synchromy”
It was in reading about “Cañon Synchromy (Orange)” by Stanton Macdonald-Wright that this cool word came to my awareness. It’s defined as “a symphony produced with color.” To Macdonald-Wright, that meant creating “color harmonies around a central color,” in this case, orange. A leaflet about the piece offers a short bio on him crediting him as “the founder of synchromism, an art movement that emphasizes the importance of color.” Fancy that!

Artwork: “Green Woods” by B.J.O. Nordfeldt
The colors are vibrant. The depiction of a tall forest of trees is whimsical but recognizable. I fell in love with this oil painting immediately. Despite its so-called simplicity and playfulness, “Green Woods” carries a multi-dimensional quality that pulls me deeper into the woodsy scene’s center.

Artist: Marsden Hartley
There were about half a dozen works by Hartley that caught my eye for their richness. I also noticed his various techniques and subject matter, from vibrant still lifes to foreboding oceanic landscapes to light Southwestern scenes. His “Painting No. 2” also captured my attention. Embedded in it are numerous spiritual symbols related to his transcendental beliefs. I do not share in those beliefs, but I resonate with faith and spirituality offering much inspiration and energy in the quest to make art.

Assignment: A “synchromous” pixelation of an abstract
There’s a lot to try and I’m tempted to merge a couple of my learnings into one “synchromous” (I’m not sure if this is truly the right adjective) pixelated piece of art. I feel inspired to load an abstract painting like “Green Woods” into Photoshop to see what kind of pixelated instructions it reveals. I’m eager to experiment with the materials at hand—fiber and magazines in particular—to see what emerges.