Artist Date: Minneapolis Institute of Art, Art in Bloom – April 29, 2018

I can hardly believe that I allowed 35 years of my life to pass without taking in this gem: the Art in Bloom exhibit at the Minneapolis Institute of Art (MIA).

This was the 35th year that the MIA invited florists, both novice and professional, to imitate or interpret an existing work of art through a floral creation.

I have bragged on MIA’s docents before, but on Art in Bloom weekends, they take their skills to another level, not only offering historical background and their insight on paintings and sculptures, but also introducing us to familiar and not-so-familiar plant life and its use in artistic design.

In the process of my tour of some modern and contemporary selections, I discovered a few new artists and pieces of art among MIA’s permanent collection:

“An Inner Dialogue with Frida Kahlo (Hand-Shaped Earring)” by Morimura Yasumasa
This Japanese artist dresses and poses as a well-known figure—Marilyn Monroe, Mona Lisa, etc.—then paints a “self portrait.” The process itself is extremely creative, but, boy, what detail this painter lends to his work. In his depiction of Frida Kahlo, the Louis Vuitton wrap bears an amazing and oh-so realistic texture and vibrancy. Wow!

“Billboard” by Grace Hartigan
Hartigan used 1950s advertisements as her inspiration in creating an abstract collage of color blocks and simple figures. “Billboard” began with an  arrangement of images from “Life” magazine—this became Hartigan’s model for her painting. Note to self: Try this!

“Young Woman in Undergarments” by Wilhelm List 
The mother-and-daughter team who created the floral imitation of this painting were on hand to point out sweet details of this painting; the pair had obviously studied it well to arrive at their own composition of precisely placed hydrangeas, carnations and greenery. Both works of art carried an intriguing mix of light and dark, light and lush.

“Italian Town by the Sea” by Alexandra Exter
Vibrant colors. Juxtaposed shapes. A little tension. A dynamic flow. This abstract painting boasts all the qualities that bless my eye with delight. A student of cubism, Exter took the approach and made it all her own by including realistic hues and shading. It’s always a treat to learn of another woman of independent courage!

Again, these were just the highlights of my first Art in Bloom experience. Next year, I hope to extend my visit and to explore more genres… and to welcome spring with some beautiful flowers, too!

Conclusions on Collage

Collage

The beginnings of “Consider” & “Wither”

It’s been a week since my husband and I attended a collages class together. Since then I’ve had some time to process the experience and to experiment on my own. Here are some of my key observations and learnings from the past several days…

Artists aren’t necessarily teachers
That’s apparent no matter their talent. I would even wager to guess that the more talent they have, the less effective they are in the classroom; perhaps they’ve achieved success by a certain standard, so works of another creative bent or caliber might not be seen as worthwhile or up to par. Don’t get me wrong, they’re often the right people from whom to learn new techniques. However, these aren’t always the people who are generous with applause or encouragement, no matter how far we rookies have come in applying ourselves or how unique our views on and expressions of the world. That’s my perception of artists turned art instructors these days anyway; I might sing a different tune after I attend another class.

I don’t like to wait
The techniques we learned in class took some patience. First, there was waiting for background paint to dry, then the substance we used to do image transfers. After all that, we had to rub and wipe, then rub and wipe some more and again and again to release the paper upon which the image transfer originated. This kind of start-stop-start-stop approach to art seems to prevent entrance into my best creative zone. In all honesty, I detest it.

I dig contemplative collage
So here’s the bottom line… Though the methods we learned in class are probably seen as more prestigious or professional, I have a fondness for good old-fashioned paper collage: taking images from old magazines and other sources, cutting them apart, and creating a whole new scene with the bits and pieces.

Over the past few days, I’ve started two collages: one currently titled “Consider” and inspired by Luke 12:27, and the other currently titled “Wither” and inspired by Isaiah 40:8. I love starting with something to contemplate, then turning it around in my heart and mind while hunting for images that seem to resonate with it. In other words, this kind of art-making gets me into “the zone.” This is where I find joy and meaning. This is a how I expect I’ll continue to grow and learn most as an artist and human being.

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…

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“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:

Emergence
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

Emergence

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!

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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 CreativeLive.com (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!

“Psalm 104” (Mixed Media)

“Psalm 104” (Mixed Media)“Psalm 104”
Barbara Farland
Mixed Media, 2018

From Psalm 104:1-5, 10-13:

Praise the Lord, my soul.

Lord my God, you are very great; you are clothed with splendor and majesty.

The Lord wraps himself in light as with a garment; he stretches out the heavens like a tent and lays the beams of his upper chambers on their waters.

He makes the clouds his chariot and rides on the wings of the wind.He makes winds his messengers; flames of fire his servants.

He set the earth on its foundations; it can never be moved.

He makes springs pour water into the ravines; it flows between the mountains.
They give water to all the beasts of the field; the wild donkeys quench their thirst.

The birds of the sky nest by the waters; they sing among the branches.

He waters the mountains from his upper chambers; the land is satisfied by the fruit of his work.

 

An Artist’s Bookshelf – March 2018

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My art-related book finds for the month ahead

I can’t get enough of them: books, be them about art, about artists or for artists. So I got to thinking… Why not offer a monthly account of my favorite reads and resources here? Again, I’d love your suggestions to possibly add to my list—I’ll be sure to give you a shout-out if your recommendation makes it to my bookshelf! As for now, I am reading…

Creative Time & Space: Making Room for Making Art by Rice Freeman-Zachery
What first drew me to this book was its vibrant photos of a variety of works by 14 different artists. From sculpture to collage to fashion, it’s all in there. Much more than that are the stories about and insights gleaned from the artists’ different routines, studio spaces, creative processes, etc. How they are inspired and how they work are now inspiring me in my work—even down to making sure I have on hand a good supply of tea, a “real” artist’s beverage of choice apparently. 

Painting Accessible Abstracts by Laura Reiter
As I continue to dabble primarily in mixed media, this book intrigues me when it comes to layering all of the elements of a piece, employing color and meaning, considering degrees of abstraction, and making the most of different materials and their unique effects. Fantastic photos and graphics once again enhance the content of this book.

Pastels by Mari Bolte
Children’s books about art are the bomb! Children’s authors don’t have to convince kids to make art and to cut through years of personal fears and doubts—most kids are ready and eager to experiment and create without reservation! I picked up this children’s book as a refresher for my pastels skills; my husband and I took a course several years ago, and I loved playing around with blending. I’m particularly taken with the exercises that produce a more abstract result: “Triple Rainbows” (pages 14-15), “Perspectives” (pages 16-17), “Batik Heat” (pages 20-21) and “Pop Warhol” (pages 26-27).

The Art of Rivalry: Four Friendships, Betrayals, and Breakthroughs in Modern Art by Sebastian Smee
Society often thinks of artists as reclusive types, rarely engaging with other people and the outside world. This book proves quite the contrary by showcasing the relationships between four well-known artist duos: Manet and Degas, Picasso and Matisse, Pollock and de Kooning, Freud and Bacon. Smee defines “rivalry” not as “the macho cliché of sworn enemies, bitter competitors, and stubborn grudge-holders slugging it out for artistic and worldly supremacy.” Instead, she says her portrayals of the artists reflect their “yielding, intimacy, and openness to influence.” I look forward to developing more of my own rivalries—by this definition—as I continue to pursue inspiration, productivity and growth as an artist!