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Saturday, August 19, 2017

So What Time Is It?

It's a late summer afternoon, the sun still high enough on the horizon at this latitude. It doesn't turn towards dark until about 9 pm this time of year. That's always amazing to me, though I know this will change all too soon. 

We had our local Art Saturna show recently and, consistent with my "keeping-time" musings,  here's the painting (mixed media) I had in it:
Day 6 in the Garden painting by Janet Strayer
OK, we've been chased from the Garden, but there's lots to cultivate out here. My funny little garden on Saturna was "on tour" by request of the Parks Board here. I was tickled to be asked, given I'm one of the least serious gardeners around. British Columbia, I must tell you, is home to the most earnest and knowledgeable among garden devotees. I'm what you might call an "accidental" gardener. I love the flowers and plants my garden produces, but I'm rather casual about it all, and always delighted at what decides to grow and rather puzzled if it doesn't.    

Island life is all about noticing the rhythmic changes, so close to nature. Not that I remember what day it is... I tend to forget Tuesdays, for example, in favour of remembering "oh, today's when I pick the plums" or "now's my studio time". Concrete, action-regulated time instead of abstract, notational time. Cultural anthropologists say that's how people in the middle ages tended to live, not by "clock-time". Not too good for keeping your multi-task appointments straight though, especially if you're prone to mixing up your days. 
Wings exhibition at Prism Gallery, Saturna Island (art by Janet Strayer)
I know it's Saturday today because I'm working at the Prism Gallery on Saturna Island. That's what I do on weekends. It's been an interesting experience. The world comes to this little place, it seems.

Saturna is not so easy to reach by public ferry transport.Yet, being located here, near the ferry dock, I've gotten to meet the boaters who come up  to this little haven. They've come from California and even further. They complain a bit about how little development there is for private boat mooring on Saturna. Well, "community development" is a tricky concept,  it seems: thems that wants it and thems that likes it just the way it is/was.
Somewhere a Tree, painting by Janet Strayer

Nothing happens quickly here. And yet, it seems to me, from my little outpost here, that people are discovering Saturna. The boaters don't have cars, so they explore as far as they can walk, or the hardy ones rent bicycles near the ferry. There's more camping on island, too, with more sites developed for it. And even more housing sales. What's particularly nice for me at this gallery near the ferry dock is that people casually stop in. They're surprised, and I like that. 

It's a small world I live in these days. Not unhappily, I must say.

Yes, Professor Einstein, time really is relative. And so is everything else.

Friday, August 4, 2017

Trump and Winging It!

Couldn't resist this. I inserted this painting into the "Wings" exhibition currently on view at the Prism Gallery on Saturna Island. People tend to laugh or get a smiling kick out of it even before they read its title.

painting by Janet Strayer: Outrageous Tweeter
And its title is: Outrageous Tweeter Shows Off Wing Extension but Still Can't Fly.
The rest of the show is winging it well through this summertime on Saturna! Hope you get to visit sometime.


Wednesday, July 5, 2017

Living and Painting On the Edge

I've been busy with events on Saturna Island, both good and bad. Given that I prefer to get bad news first (at least there's something to look forward to), I'll give it to you in the same order.

 Our haven of an island house overlooking the sea has been internally demolished. A slow, undetected leak entered the walls and floors and over the years finally caused a florid outbreak of mold. Nearly everything inside had to be gutted: walls, ceiling, floors. Living among the debris and skeletal structure of a house you love is wrenching. But the damage has been done and the reconstruction has begun. No fun, but better than fungus growing out of your floors! 

That's the bad part of living on the edge of the ocean: the Pacific Rim sometimes tips right into your house rather than staying outside as a beautiful view. 

Here's the good part. It's called Painting On the Edge 2017 (POTE), and you can read a brief review of it in Galleries West magazine. Here's an excerpt:
"Highly anticipated by visitors, artists and collectors alike, this exhibition is a dynamic display of fresh and thought-provoking pieces from a variety of international artists working across subjects, media and styles." Opening night is July 18 at the Federation Gallery in Vancouver , and the show runs until Aug.6 
Renewing Earth_24"x30"_painting by Janet Strayer

I've been so busy at Saturna with the house and with Prism, the lovely new art showplace here, that I've hardly been to the "big city"  or kept up with art events in Vancouver. But I've had a painting juried into the POTE show, which pleases me. It's one of my newest works and part of the "Flow" series of paintings I've written about here. It's odd, isn't it, how paintings can transport you anywhere, regardless of your circumstances? Its title seems apt, too, given the circumstances I've just reported: "Renewing Earth".  

I'm looking forward  to seeing  the Painting on the Edge  show and the many exciting art works in it.

Peace be with you,


Wednesday, June 28, 2017

"Wings" Takes Flight

WINGS, A new series of imaginative  paintings will  open this July 8 at the Prism Gallery on Saturna Island. Let your own wings take flight... come if you can.
from painting by Janet Strayer wwww.janetstrayer.com

Saturday, June 17, 2017

Through the PRISM: So it Flows

I thought I'd share photos of the PRISM gallery on Saturna Island, where I'm spending my weekends.

enter to see the Flow, collection of paintings by Janet Strayer

It's been lively with visitors for Flow, the inaugural show -- which will continue through the Canada Day weekend. The gallery is so small, I decided to take photos of how things look before opening time.

Flow paintings by Janet Strayer at PRISM gallery

On the right-hand wall (above, and close-up below) is one of the paintings from the show that has drawn considerable attention (and sold).

 Tectonic Shift triptych , by Janet Strayer
People seem very interested in the techniques used across several works. A number of artists have sailed in (literally) and come to chat.

Here are some shots of what's been installed :

Flow paintings by Janet Strayer on walls of PRISM gallery

Connecting Green by Janet Strayer on  gallery wall

Flow paintings  by Janet Strayer on PRISM wall

Flow paintings by Janet Strayer on walls of inner room, PRISM gallery

It's fun for me to be sitting in the far-room (the inner room in photo) and listening to people's reactions as they wander through the corridors of paintings. Very cool.

Then, there's the ice cream next door, ....  and that might have something to do with it, too.

Some of the paintings have sold, but the run on the ice cream has been incredible!

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Tuesday, May 16, 2017

PRISM and FLOW: A New Venture

Suspension of Time, painting by Janet Strayer, Flow series

It's exciting news:
Next weekend is the opening of PRISM, a new showplace for art on Saturna Island. It's right near the ferry/sea-plane dock, so it will be easy for tourists as well as residents to stop in and browse.

Still a retreat and a haven of small island lifestyle for those who wish it so, Saturna (the southern-most of the Gulf Islands) has now become even more of a tourist destination with its dedicated whale-watching and marine educational focus (see SIMRES, etc.), newly developed campgrounds, kayaking, bicycling, and picturesque B&B's.

 And here is  PRISM's window view, and the same and from outdoors (standing on the nearby pub's outdoor  deck).

PRISM is a lovely little addition to the multi-talented Saturna art scene comprising painters, ceramacists, weavers, fiber-artists, and photographers (see ArtSaturna). PRISM is my new site, recently renovated, with a gorgeous view of the water and shoreline. You can see the sail boats,  pleasure craft and fishing boats, and even the ferries coming and going, as well as the sea-planes.

I'll be hosting the PRISM, and it will be open this spring and summer during weekends 11am-5pm, and by appointment on Mondays and Fridays.
Earth Dances with Sea, painting by Janet Strayer Flow series
My opening show, aptly entitled Flow, consists of all new, never before seen, paintings that are rich in flowing movement and interacting color. I've been working truly, madly, deeply, and much of the time happily to create them over the past 8 months.

Like flowing currents in the Earth's natural environment, these paint-flows interact with human kinetic energy and gesture to create irregularly beautiful patterns. Brilliant colors, cellular structures and lace-like details result from the interaction of different paint densities that are artistically controlled to an intuitive extent and layered for artistic effect.
Tectonic Shifts, painting by Janet Strayer, Flow series
Using mixed materials creates a free-flowing contour that follows the material flow of paint from its traditionally confined surface (canvas or wood panel) to more indeterminate forms that spill off the rectilinear and into the organic. A bit of a metaphor for the act of painting too.

Connecting Green, painting (acrylic, canvas, mixed media) by Janet Strayer, Flow Series

Come if you can. Both Saturna Island and the PRISM show will surprise and delight you!

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Wednesday, May 3, 2017

Taking a Bite Out of the Big Apple!

See more: http://www.metmuseum.org/visit/met-breuer

Despite the political changes that have made the US a less desirable travel location for many visitors, NYC remains the juicy Big Apple. Worth a big bite, especially after a long absence.

On a recent visit here to Manhattan,  I met with some college roommates, one of them a friend dating from high school there. We all had lunch at the Met Museum members' dining room and gabbed several years' worth of catch-up and interesting commentary on everything. But I was now just a tourist in my old home town, having lived in Vancouver ever since college. My mission was to do everything I might like to do and could manage to do in 5 days. Here goes.  

Along with the Met Museum, my perennial favorite art-spot to meander, I was introduced to the recently built Met Breuer at another location (Madison Ave.). Marcel Breuer's strictly modernist architecture makes the building resemble the older Whitney Museum, with its facade of stacked blocks of stone/concrete and one small front window. The Met Breuer seems rather daunting as a small fortress outside, but suitable inside for its collection of modern and contemporary art (20-21C). The Breuer enterprise might nearly have bankrupted the Met and contributed to the dismissal of its recent director, but it seems a major addition for showcasing contemporary art in a city throbbing with it.  

detail, Hartley painting
 Marsden Hartley was the current hot feature at the Met Breuer. He's an artist whose work seems hit-and-miss to me, though I enjoyed the show, always learning something from the curatorial notes about the man, his times (1940's American Modernism), and artistic goals.

 A stranger started talking with me -- as often happens in New York museums when people are on their own. She was telling me how much she loved Hartley's work, especially his clunky and colorful later works, like the male bather used as poster-boy to publicize the show. I asked her why, what about it drew her to it?  And she was ready with a conversation of lively answers. It's a tribute to this city's culture, I think, that a stranger wants to initiate talk about art at an exhibit, freely assuming we'd have something in common to talk about. I really enjoy this aspect of New York, the open sharing of impressions, in contrast to the more conservative hold-back of Vancouver.

part wall of works by Lygia Pape and still shot of heads over a  massive"walking sheet of peole in her vide s

Even more interesting, from my perspective, was the expansive work of Brazilian artist Lygia Pape , (1970-80's body of work): painter, performance artist, video and cinema-maker, sculptor, political activist.  Here are just two tame examples I snapped at her Multitude of Forms retrospective at the Breuer. Her work moves from rectilinear-concrete to flowing-organic, from a more formal treatment of space in cubist-modernist terms to its activation an expressive social-political visual metaphor.  

And I particularly liked the retrospective on Marisa Merz, an Italan artist who daily embodied the art-is-life-is-art  in her multifaceted art made with common materials of all varieties. Her portraits (also in sculpted form) struck me as very evocative and accessible in this compendium of different media channeled by a unique vision.
Contemporary doesn't mean new. Nor does it signify art now, with its undefinable boundaries and anti-aesthetics. This was made evident when I visited the New Museum, a sparkling white structure in Manhattan's still grungy part of the Bowery. This section of town has become the hub of recognized emergent artists (a misnomer?). It displaces the once downscale and now expensively trendy lower west side, that now includes branches of the even more upscale upper eastside name galleries. How quickly the New York art world makes fads fashionable and gentrifies art!

the New Museum, Bowery, NY (see the boat outside on first tier?
 The New Museum shows cutting-edge new work in various art media in its non-permanent collection. As I was told with a smile by a friendly museum staff member, if it's new it can't yet be permanent, can it?  I hadn't heard much about any of the international artists exhibiting, which I think a good thing for promoting "new". Then again, maybe anything that lasts more than 15 minutes in our disposable culture can lay claim to fame status. By the time anyone's work hits the angel on a pinhead and lands in a museum, even one described as "new", you've got to wonder at the masses of other cutting-edge artists living on the edge of anonymous poverty. This museum has a great digital archive, and I recommend you take an internet look.

I stayed with a friend for the first days of my Big Apple visit, and she introduced me to a wonderful open-air sculpture garden in adjacent NJ: the Johnson Grounds for Sculpture. It's named for its wealthy contributing family (of Johnson& Johnson products fame), and most directly for Seward Johnson, a notable living sculptor (b.1930). It was Seward who sculpted the "man on a bench checking his briefcase" that was a landmark near NY's financial district and the Twin Towers. It was, I believe, the only public artwork to survive the devastation. A post-9/11 version of it remains as witness.
Seward Johnson's Double Check sculpture survival installed at Center
As a typical parochial New Yorker, I'd never much visited NJ. It was only a hinterland of NY, after all. But did you know NJ is the most densely populated of all US states? (Full disclosure: I originally wrote that sentence as "has the densest population", but didn't want to malign its denizens.) Aside from its suburb-status to NY, NJ boasts, among other things (like being the birthplace of Frank Sinatra and reputed home of Tony Soprano) fertile agricultural land, fine estates,  equestrian areas (my friend's an avid horse-woman) and rural scenery: a respite from the towers and concrete of Manhattan.
Even with its indoor gallery closed for exhibit-installation, the sculpture park was such fun! I love these open-air parks where you can roam among trees and wildlife (ahem, squirrels and peacocks) and find surprising life-size and larger-than-life sculptures amidst bushes and hillocks and ponds. Not quite like the more hi-brow but very enjoyable Fondation Maeght in France, this park is definitely a family affair, with painted sculptures that delight kids as well as adults, including the occasional "naughty" find, like this sculptural installation of Manet's Le Déjeuner sur l’herbe -- which attracted many onlookers as it was glimpsed through a crowd of bushes. It's great fun to see many familiar paintings transformed into sculptures in this park. You get to walk into a painting at any  angle. 

Dejeuner Deja Vu sculpture by Seward Johnson
The whole setting of this sculpture park was built for picnics, with tables and benches scattered throughout the lovely setting. You sometimes come upon what looks like an occupied table with food on it, yet it, too, is a sculptural treatment. If you've forgotten your picnic basket, the oddly named Rat's Restaurant on grounds is fabulous (reservations typically needed). 
 outdoor sculpture-laid table
 On to the City. Wow! I've been living away so long that its crowds seemed like dense oceanic waves. So many tourists, me now one among them. So much rush and traffic, both human and mechanic. Plus, I nearly died of artery failure after a mile-high pastrami sandwich in one of the few remaining authentic deli restaurants on the lower eastside. Then, onto my other favorite city haunts (those still standing, in any case). We walked and walked and walked.  

We stayed in the theater district near Times Square where it's easier to get 'two-fer" tickets and to walk to the many venues. We got tickets to a very well-done preview of Little Foxes, a revival of the Lillian Hellman play. Great acting and a very effective play, nowadays too. The two female leads are alternated daily. Quite a feat for the two leading actors,  Cynthia Nixon and Laura Linney, who have to learn double roles/persona. Masterful performances.

Uptown at Lincoln Center we saw a truly beautiful opera performance of Der Rosenkavalier  with Renée Fleming and Elīna Garanča as the best Octavian I've ever heard! It's such a treat to be at beautifully expansive Lincoln Center after the clutter of midtown Broadway. We went back for two other shows: Oslo, a play about the 1993 secret talks in Norway between unlikely Israeli and Palestinian "negotiators" that led to the promising (but failed) Oslo accord. Irony adds a terribly effective jolt to this play. Another night featured a sparkling ballet evening of Balanchine. Although it all cost a small fortune, I'd missed the quality and variety of New York offerings and figured a once-yearly splurge might be worth missing out on some other things.
courtyard of Lincoln Center

inside intermission at City Ballet at at Lincoln Center

I couldn't leave without paying court to the NY Public library and the greatly revived Bryant Part behind it. Even the quote on W.C. Bryant's statue resonates, especially in the politics of bluster we live with today: "...let no empty gust of passion find an utterance.... a blast that whirls the dust along the howling street; but feelings of calm power and mighty sweep, like currents journeying through the windless deep" 
OK, so it's old-fashioned oratory, but hey, there's hope somewhere in that windless deep!
see more: http://mentalfloss.com/article/73386/birthing-new-york-public-library-lions
So much story as well as history to the Library, so much art and intrigue to this public and free site, it deserves books-worth of treatment, much more than a blog. Patience and Fortitude, the iconic lions at its front entrance were named by New York City Major Fiorello La Guardia during the 1930's Great Depression. Despite its massive renovations, the library still maintains its third-floor reading room for the public -- equipped now with computers at each seat. It's still a treasure in the heart of the city. I hope this place lasts forever!

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Wednesday, April 5, 2017

Ptarmigan on Saturna Island

Not what you may be thinking. Not the bird, but the Ptarmigan Society for music, theater and art focusing on Artists on the Gulf Islands (see link). 

They invited me to be the featured visual artist for a workshop given on Saturna this Saturday, April 8. The morning limbers up the limbs with contemporary dance and hoop movements, led by Lindsay Landry.  The afternoon limbers up the mind with excursions into visual creativity, led by me.

Altogether, should be fun for body and mind. Join us if you can. 

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Sunday, March 19, 2017

March On!

It's been an unusual winter on Saturna Island.  Several large snowfalls came and stayed during January, blanketing everything. We hardly ever have snow, much less snow that settles and stays. But this winter, it was bountiful. Beautifully large snowflakes fell and fell, cascading over everything. They settled, first as powder, and then became more icy. 

Lovely to look at, but it left us without power for several days, without water (a crack in the water line) for a couple of days,  and with major roof damage and leaks. Our never-easy country roads were slippery and hard to manage.... even if you managed to scoop yourself a way out. 

I was snowbound-stuck for a week, without winter tires to get around. Get those snowshoes out! Without electricity, I used just the daylight for painting. No heat, so imagine  painting with woolen gloves on your hands, a touque on your head, and a chattering of your teeth when you stopped moving around.  

Then in the middle of February, another snowfall. Trudging up to the studio in my high boots through the snow, there they were. I had to mind my step because there, right up from the snow-covered ground, rose man  daffodil shoots.  Obeying their own enduring sense of time, they proclaimed it was soon to be springtime, even if the snow was heavy with winter. 

Things change. Contrasts and contradictions continue. An existential philosophy of life? Who knows? Certainly not I. Snowbound and earthbound, my 'groundedness' seemed to channel a particular route for my most recent art show on Saturna Island (from 21 Feb to 22 March), entitled Earthward.  

Earthward, painting by Janet Strayer in Earthward exhibition

Saturna's resident art curator, Jean-François Renaud (who formerly exercised his art curatorial skills  in Ottawa) is responsible (and applauded) for many of these special shows we have on island.  
Ruin, painting by Janet Strayer in Earthbound exhibition

In Jean-Francois' words: "In this series, Janet Strayer appeals almost exclusively to the grounding forces in Nature...realism in landscape gives way to an evocation of pure material forces in Naure -- paint-as-matter and earth-as-matter almost conjoin."

It's a fine gift to be able to look and see and then put into words the meaning of what you see. Not  all of us can do this. And certainly not with the finesse of J.-F.  My appreciation to him for his contributions to our little island, and for helping me to clarifying my own, sometimes awkward, attempts to express the meaning behind what I'm impelled to paint. 

So, for all of us who may be emerging from a harsh spell of winter weather and gloomy political realities, here's a thank-you to those people who enrich our lives in however many different ways, small and far-reaching. 

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Wednesday, January 25, 2017

January Days

January has been a bleak month of harsh weather in Vancouver: snows, icy rains, roof leaks, bad driving conditions. It's also been harsh hearing about the earhquakes in Italy, close to where we lived, and affecting some of our friends --  thankfully in less than life-threatening ways. The US election may have turned away from "globalism", but if you've ever lived in the world outside North America, it's  hard not to have meaningful ties that expand personal borders.

I'm writing this from Mexico, during a brief escape to a country I like a lot, and one that is especially welcome during winter. I've posted about the art in Puerto Vallarta in previous columns. Both the street (or beach sand) art, as well as gallery art, continue to rhrive.

Back home in Vancouver, a show opening at Cityscape in North Vancouver included my work among it's very varied assortment of acquisitions for its art rental program. This program is designed for people and businesses who'd like to rent (or rent-to-buy) art. Here's one of my works shown there. I missed the opening (because I was here, in Mexico). But The show runs through Feb. 4, so I'll catch it when I come back. It's always fun to see.

Twilight Blooms, painting by Janet Strayer

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Thursday, December 22, 2016

Happy Holidays in Interesting Times

As a kid, I always wanted things to be interesting. Now, I appreciate the double-edged saying, "may you live in interesting times" and wish they weren't quite so interesing. Yet, this is especially the time to keep humanity alive and humane. My goodwishes and good will for the holidays and new year.

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Sunday, November 27, 2016

Art Matters: a brief survey for you

Is it Piero, Picasso, or Punk art that moves you? Your input to this 7-item online survey will contribute your focus to an art-related column for Art Avenue magazine.  Please click here for direct access to the survey.  I look forward to your views. Thanks!

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