"The proper use of imagination is to give beauty to the world..." Lin Yu-T'ang

Saturday, March 31, 2012

A Couple of Pages From My Art Journal

Here's a page from my art journal. I like to use extra paint from my palette in my art journal. I also like experimenting with abstract art. All of my art is an experiment. It feels very satisfying to say things with color and marks and shapes that I can't say with words. I like playing with color. It's fun to watch colors dance together on a page or canvas. Sometimes, I go back and work more on a page and sometimes I leave it as it is. It depends on what's calling to me. Here's another page that is really more of a background, so we'll have to see what happens later. I like the different blues together.

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

History of Women in Art: Artemisia Gentileschi

Self Portrait, Artemisia Gentileschi,

Many successful women artists during the Renaissance came from Bologna, no doubt for the fact that it had a university which was known for educating woman as well as woman saint who painted. However, even these artists, skilled and renowned, were considered the exception and their talent nothing short of miraculous. These women had to endure severe criticisms of their work and their character. Many of them were the daughters of father painters who it was said were the true painters of their work. It’s clear that they possessed a commitment and a drive to create their art that took precedence over adhering to the social norms of their day no doubt from enduring prejudice toward their work which they knew, being so skilled, was unjustified.

Artemisia Gentileschi was born in Rome, July 8, 1593. She was the eldest child of Tuscan painter, Orazio Gentileschi. Due to her father's influence, and inspired by Caravaggio, she became one of the most accomplished painter's of her generation and the first female painter to become a member of Accademia di Arte del Disegno in Florence.

Gentileschi has been described as a “challenge to humanist constructions of feminine education and deportment” (Chadwick, Women, Art & Society), which seems to be the major theme of her life as well as her work. Gentileschi’s talent as a painter was clear, however, on the basis of her being a woman, she was not allowed to attend the academy. Instead, she worked with her father and her brothers in her father's workshop. Later, her father hired Agostino Tassi, who he was working with to paint the inside of the vaults of Casino della Rose inside the Pallavicini Rospigliosi Palace in Rome to tutor his daughter privately. Tassi was brought up on charges of raping Artemisia, the withdrawal of a promise of marriage as well as stealing a Gentileschi painting. There are conflicting seventeenth century documents which not only make it difficult to ascertain exactly what actually happened but also further point to the socio-politically charged situation of the day making Artemisia quite a controversial figure if not a revolutionary one. Artemisia seems to become the poster child for what happens to a woman if she steps “out of bounds.” However, later in her life, she enjoys much success and even marries and has a child. She appears to have satisfied both societal expectations as well as the desires of her artistic self.

Agnes Merlet’s film, Artemisia, successfully illuminates the complicated, political situation and it’s clear that all involved, Tassi, Orazio, Artemisia, even Tassi’s sister, as well as those prosecuting Tassi and the judge, have different values and motivations making the truth difficult to ascertain. As we watch the court drama unfold, the film makes it clear that the court case was more about the social beliefs and papal laws of the time regarding the role of women. In particular, the laws making it illegal for women to paint nudes (as was typical for artists in academic settings), becomes evidence against Artemisia in an effort to clear Tassi of wrongdoing and her paintings and drawings of male nudes are shown around the courtroom to gasps and groans. Orazio attempts to protect his daughter by claiming that the paintings and drawings are his. Artemisia’s own father though supportive of her painting he is, clearly has his own agenda and is determined to make Tassi pay for violating and stealing his property. Artemisia is even subjected to torture to exact the “truth” from either herself or from the watching Tassi who “confesses” to raping her in order to cease her torture. Tassi is given two years in prison but apparently never served time having been acquitted.

Judith and Her Maidservant, Artemisia Gentileschi, 1613-14, oil on canvas, Palazzo Pitti, Florence

The fact that Artemisia focused and worked hard as a painter is clear. Her life was marked by a sustained artistic production despite the fact that she married and had children. This was achieved by very few women artists especially in Gentileschi’s time. The strength and courage displayed in her character is also displayed in her paintings, showing power and even violence in such provocative  paintings as, Judith with her Maidservant and Judith Decapitating Holofernes. 

Judith Slaying Holofernes, Artemisia Gentileschi, 1614-20, oil on canvas, 199 X 162 cm, Galleria degli Uffizi, Florence.
The trauma of the rape and trial significantly impacted Artemisia's painting. Her graphic depictions were cathartic and symbolic attempts to deal with the physical and psychic pain. The heroines of her art, especially Judith, are powerful women exacting revenge on such male evildoers as the Assyrian general Holofernes. After her death, she drifted into obscurity and her work was often attributed to her father. Mary D. Garrard notes that Artemisia "has suffered a scholarly neglect that is unthinkable for an artist of her calibre." There have been many interpretations and critiques of Artemisia's work and though they may have differing opinions of her psychological self and expression, today she is regarded as one of the most expressionistic and progressive painters of her generation and a major artist.

Other links:
The Life and Art of Artemisia Gentileschi
Artemisia Gentileschi - The Image of The Female Hero in Italian Baroque Art by Mary D. Garrard
Artemisia film directed by Agnes Merlet, French, subtitled

Friday, March 23, 2012

First Rose of Spring

Textures by Kim Klassen and Shadowhouse Creations

"Each of us is emerging in every moment. 
When we discover our creativity, we begin to attend to this constant emergence of who we are. 
The deeper we attend to the soul, the more we realize what a treasure-house we have inherited."
John O'Donohue

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Potato Cauliflower Subzi

I love simple, vegetarian meals and dishes. Something about eating that way is elegant to me. I always feel as if I've nourished my body and my soul. Lately I've been craving this dish. It's simplicity makes for a nice lunch or a simple dinner. It's wonderful paired with some whole grain bread or toast and some lentils (which I skipped this time). I also add just a touch of turmeric which is not included in the original recipe. Totally satisfying and easy to make in just minutes.

Potato and Cauliflower Subzi
Makes 4 servings

1 Tbsp ghee or olive oil
½ tsp cumin seeds
½ inch piece of fresh ginger, peeled and chopped fine
½ tsp cayenne pepper (optional)
Salt, to taste
2 medium-size new red potatoes, washed and cubed
1 medium-size head of cauliflower, washed and separated into florets
1 tomato, coarsely chopped
A few cilantro leaves, washed and chopped

1.      Heat the ghee or oil in a large pan.
2.      Put in the cumin seeds, followed by the ginger, pepper, and salt.
3.      Quickly add the cubed potatoes and cauliflower florets; toss to coat thoroughly. (Here is where I add 1/8-1/4 tsp, more or less, of Turmeric)
4.      Add 2 Tbsp of the water, reduce the heat, cover the pan, and cook for about 10 minutes, until the vegetables are soft but not mushy.
5.      Add the chopped tomato and chopped cilantro leaves.

Serve hot with whole grain bread and lentils.

Monday, March 12, 2012

Bloom True with Flora Bowley

"Life is pure adventure and the sooner we realize that, the quicker we will be able to treat life as ART."
~Maya Angelo

This past weekend I had the pleasure of not only completing Flora Bowley's e-course, Brave Intuitive You, but also of attending an in person workshop with her at the Teahouse Studio in Berkeley. I didn't take a lot of photos as I really wanted to immerse myself in the painting process and soak up all there was before me. I wish I had taken more now that it is over! It was a fabulous weekend and I'm so glad I attended! Teahouse Studio is an informal, cute and inspiring space and we were so well taken care of (the food was absolutely delicious!) with plenty of energy available just for painting. Flora's style of teaching is informative and inspiring and encourages the freedom to explore and discover. She emphasizes the intuitive listening of oneself without thinking too much and trusting the process. For me, that translates to self-acceptance. A self-acceptance that trusts my own desires, choices and decisions that take me to adventurous and interesting places.

At the beginning of our first day, we laid a quick base layer on each of our canvases and then watched a demo of  Flora making a wide variation of marks and shapes on her canvas. We then made our way around the room making marks on each canvas as prompted by Flora. The experience was fun and liberating as there was no attachment and any worries about keeping colors or marks "consistent" went out the window. By the time I got back to my own canvas, it certainly wasn't "mine" anymore! And as I looked at it, I saw all kinds of colors, shapes and marks that were definitely someone else's. Everyone contributed such a richness in variety and color that I found so interesting and exciting! I found myself immediately grateful and "out of the box". Free to experiment and try new things and see what might happen.

The second day we worked on bringing out some images or just shapes or whatever was occurring at that moment. In other words, just keeping the process going. One thing that Flora said that really resonated with me was: Make a commitment knowing that it can change. I found myself enjoying the feeling of freedom so much that I began to feel the fear of making a commitment to something. I did so anyway and kept pushing through, keeping the process going. I experienced the tension between the freedom and making choices. Each time I became stuck, I learned to "spiral out", step back and gain some perspective, turn my canvas to see if I saw something new, or switch it with my other one and come back to it later. The thought that "every mark is supposed to be there" was enormously comforting and encouraging when those gremlins, self-doubt, judgement and comparison would pop into my head.

Intuitive listening = Trust
Trust = Self-Acceptance
Acceptance + Choice = Freedom
Freedom to fly. Freedom to bloom. Freedom to shine. Freedom to BE. To Be True.

"You have only to let the soft animal of your body love what it loves."
~Mary Oliver

Thursday, March 1, 2012

Being Brave Means Trusting

“When I dare to be powerful, to use my strength in the service of my vision, then it becomes less and less important whether I am afraid.” 
 -Audre Lorde

In Flora Bowley's Bloom True class this week, we are focusing on being brave. It's such an important concept at this point because while our paintings are becoming something, they might not look like it yet. This point in the process (whether it's painting or something else in life) is the make or break point. It's when all the self-doubt, fear and resistance come out and try to talk you out of continuing on your way. They try to talk you out of believing in who you are. The important thing  to remember is that they are becoming. Just as we are. And it's in the becoming where the treasure lies.

When you practice being brave the first thing you notice of course, is your fear. It can feel like reluctance or nervousness or be quite terrifying and debilitating. I have learned not to push myself beyond what I'm ready for but instead, if I don't feel ready for a giant leap forward or even a small step, I simply stand still. This can be unnerving because our instinct is to do something. But the act of standing still, the looking, the facing brings out my curiosity and seems to lessen the urgent alarm bells going off in my head. I start to wonder...I wonder what will happen if I do this...I wonder what will happen if I move here...I wonder what will happen if I take this step.

As I move toward my fear, the most difficult thing I experience is being faced with my own frustration.  I have to take a look at where it is coming from. Usually I'm impatient with myself or the process, and my expectations are out of sync with the true timing (like this week...I had to remind myself that I'm learning new things, not creating a masterpiece!). I have to actively choose to stay committed to what's at hand and not concern myself with the result or timing. Easier said than done, but I've learned that it's not necessarily a skill you can acquire, it's a practice. Once you reach a level of proficiency, there's a new level waiting to be explored. That seems to take the pressure off of having to be "good" at being brave, doesn't it? I can simply allow myself to be where I am at and receive the gifts that are there for me.

Being brave directly cultivates trusting. Trusting the process. Trusting timing. Trusting where we are at. Trusting that we have what we need for this moment. Trusting our intuition. Trusting our selves. Each time we try something, we learn a little bit more about what we can trust. And each time we trust we get a little bit braver. And that's where the quote above that Flora included in her class today becomes our truth. This week was a bit rocky for me but I still am in love with this process and I received some great gifts in the way of moving into my freedom more.