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Thursday, December 14, 2017

Defiant Grief: Antigone Today

Defiant Grief is a painting from my archives. It is now on exhibit with other powerful  artwork at the Moat Gallery in Vancouver's stunning central library. The exhibition began on Canada's Day of Remembrance,  in honour and remembrance of the people slain in the Montréal Massacre, our own very poignant example of the worldwide violence towards women. The exhibition continues  until Dec. 28 . It encourages awareness of and social action against violence to women. Hope you get to see the powerful work displayed and organized by Vancouver Rape Relief and Women's Shelters.

My own personal statement about this painting is that I wish it to serve as a testament to the deep grief that underlies our defiant resistance to violence. It is called Defiant Grief  in order to acknowledge that this defiance is born of grief for all who suffer at the hands and will of the more powerful and unjust. This is a substantive grief that transforms into strength -- not just for endurance  but for wilful action. Both principled determination and a strong reservoir of feeling underlie women's resistance, not only to outrages committed against individuals, but also to aspects of society that permit such abuse.

Although the painting is an individual testament, it also calls to mind the ancient Greek drama of Antigone's resistance to the state/tyrant. Perhaps like this enduring heroine, we cry, we scream, we rage, and we gather our considerable strength to resist and work against such outrage.

As this season of political infamy turns to upcoming winter festivities and holiday celebrations, perhaps it is worth remembering.

And good wishes to you all.


Wednesday, December 6, 2017

Death, Art, and Maudie


Not the most attractive title for a blog, I know. But it succinctly captures the reality of my recent experiences, which might be of some more general interest or reflection.

I was called out from my peaceful slumbers early one morning on Saturna Island by the phone ringing at my bedside. It was a death in the family. Someone much too young and with a still young family.

I took the first ferry off island, and then onto a plane headed to the east coast.  A doleful trip. Those of you who know such loss and sorrow in your lives need no more details of the heavy, dull, yet churning emotions en route ... or of the communal experience a family funeral exacts.

Tired but needing to distract myself en route, I turned to the airline movie selection and chose Maudie. A biographical film about the Nova Scotia artist, Maude Dawley Lewis, and set in the 1930s, it is directed by Aisling Walsh and features fine performances by Sally Hawkins and Ethan Hawke. 
link to global news commentary
 Overtly crippled by arthritis and disparaged by family and small-town judgements, Maud lives and works as house-cleaner for a poor, inarticulate, and rough fish peddler, Everett, in a house that seems barely more than a shack. Hardly the scenario for art or romance or some sort of success. And yet it is ... of a different sort.

The improbable happens. Maud is affirmed in love and in art, the latter being celebrated from locations as unlikely as Nixon's White House. It is no fable, yet the story has a fable's simply constructed trials, wonder, and moral outlook. Where better to find the truth of what one seeks or hopes for?

I cried as I watched it, stuck in the middle seat of a plane full of people, my eyes spilled with rolling tears. I was too tired, too drawn out of my life, to care much about my public appearance at the moment. In any case, these were not sentimental tears, but ones that seemed just: for the harsh realities of life. In this art-as-life movie, they were for a woman so bent yet strong, so afflicted yet affirming, so simple, direct, persistent, and brave in her art and in her life. Her circumstances were harsh, her health impaired by multiple factors, and her resources so substantially and financially constrained. Yet she endured and enriched, without triumph but with affirmation.

And, as with empathy, in general, the feelings evoked in the movie expanded to my immediate world.  A world so different than Maud's, so jam-packed with greed, excess, deliberate hypocrisy and self-serving righteous attitudes, where the political and personal get so regularly demeaned that they become TV fodder displayed as info-tainment. Where art is so commodified and artists so competitive that one questions where the "spirit" in  inspiration went. 

I sometimes despair of such a world, yet cherish the moments of what I'll call "Maud's world" for their simple pleasure and appreciation of the richness of life when it is lived and loved for its own sake and on its own terms. Hers seems a world that, when death comes knocking, isn't met with an "Is that all there is?" summary but with "I loved and was loved."

Maud  Lewis outside her home, see global news link
"Can you teach me to paint?", a sophisticated woman asks. Maud smiles that incandescent smile of hers, and quickly dismisses the woman's request, chuckling a bit with her gaze turned upward. "Owh, you can't teach that," she simply says.

Perhaps you can't. That kind of art stems from the untutored and very personally experienced appreciation of life. Something so simple, so profound, it cannot be taught.  



Tuesday, November 21, 2017

Loving Vincent and Dreams


This is a love letter. I love Loving Vincent.

Loving Vincent is the world’s first fully oil painted feature film. It is a masterwork,  A gorgeous and gripping ensemble of painted visual art cinematically woven together. Not cartoony, not animé, but its own uniquely lush and painterly rendition of cinematic action. It's emotionally gripping, even without the plotline, which adds a touch of detective drama and mystery to the circumstances of Vincent's death. 

It took five years to finish production of this film. No wonder, after you see it. It's a triumph of love and technique. Written and directed by Dorota Kobiela & Hugh Welchman, produced by Poland’s BreakThru Films & UK’s Trademark Films, it was funded by the Polish Film Institute. Kudos and appreciation to them for getting this huge ball of creative effort rolling. It's a stellar tribute and triumph.

The film brings the paintings of Vincent van Gogh to life and tells his remarkable story, with a twist of mystery added to it. Every one of the 65,000 frames of the film is an oil-painting, hand-painted by 125 professional oil-painters. Then there are the storyboard illustrators, animators, cinematographers, and all the crew it takes to make a feature film.

Although Poland has a wonderful tradition in both cinematic and graphic art, there reportedly were not enough qualified artists in Poland, so that local talent was enhanced by artists from across the world coming to studios in Poland and Greece to be a part of the production. Even the actors used as models in the production look uncannily like actual characters in van Gogh's paintings!


from online trailer 
Watching this fascinating film, I was stunned by how quickly and thoroughly it drew me in. The black and white scenes (like flash-backs in a traditional movie) were gorgeous, and at times so photographic I thought they were filming actors in black and white, rather than painting them. 

The colored scenes are just thrillingly gorgeous, with enough quirky stylistic changes to peak your interest as you travel through, not only van Gogh's paintings, but the whole painted storyline with its interesting, amusing, and dramatic personae and plot. You hardly think about how impossible a feat it is to be watching paintings move! 

I read subsequently that it took about 12 frames of individual oil paintings make up each second of Loving Vincent. That means a total of 65,000 paintings were used to produce the entire film. The batallion of painters spent up to 10 days painting just one second of film.

The result is breathtaking. If you haven't seen it, you must. And if you have seen it, you might like knowing something more about its production. Here's a brief BBC video interview by Sarah Wimperis that will give you a glimpse behind the scenes and into the process: click 
I'm glad that paintings contributing to this film are available for sale. I very much enjoyed looking at the online site showing them, along with 16 pages of photos and profiles of the artist/painters . How wonderful and torturous their labors must have been. I do wonder, though, to whom the paintings belong: the film producers, the painters, ...? What a feat to be part of a masterwork in our own time!

Dreams

While thinking over my experience of Loving Vincent, another film popped into mind. I recalled Dreams, a Japanese film by Akira Kurosawa that I'd seen in the 1990s. He is one of my favorite directors and a master visual stylist, creating beautifully epic tableaus.
A departure from his typical films, this one (the only one written by Kurosawa himself) is composed of dream vignettes. In particular, one episode, "Crows", deals with  van Gogh (played by another fine director, if less-than-convincing actor: Martin Scorcese).
The camera begins in gallery and moves across several of van Gogh's brilliant paintings while a solitary art student gazes at them. At one point, the student leans into a painting of a stone bridge with women working below it. Suddenly, he is inside the painting, which now has become the actual French countryside, and he is asks the women where he might find van Gogh.

from Crow segment of  Dreams (click to see online video lnk)
 The student journeys onward through many identifiable van Gogh scenes, some of them films of actual countryside, others (like Loving Vincent) close-ups and sets of van Gogh paintings. The student is always photographed as in a usual film (not painted) and he remains so, even as the scenes he walks through change from photography to painting. 


For me, a surprising pictorial moment occurs when the student, walking in the actual countryside, finds it  has turned into an ink painting:
online link

He subsequently traverses more richly painted backdrops. But, as an actual person, he's not fully integrated into the painted scene (in contrast to in Loving Vincent). He remains a foreign body inserted into it.  It's a different kind of statement, but seems to me a trail-blazing precursor.

For example, having the student blunder into the thickness of the paint (see below)makes this a palpably different experience for us watching than the more unified Loving Vincent. The dialectic between the actual and the imaginative creation is visible and mediated by Kurosawa's film itself. He conveys the tension of engaging in creation in a way that is both highly sophisticated and joyously naive.
Kurosawa is one of the great directors of the 20thC, who made stunningly beautiful movies -- even of mass carnage in combat. To learn that he was also a painter, often spending time painting pictures of every scene, makes the Crow segment of interwoven film and paint media even more meaningful. In his own words, "My purpose was not to paint well. I made free use of various materials that happened to be at hand." But the actual shots framed in his films clearly represent a realization of what he'd visualized (and often painted) beforehand.

A personal footnote to the magic of the moving picture:

As a very young child I was fascinated by a TV show that encouraged its tiny viewers to draw on the TV screen (plastic overlay sheet required). Whatever you drew would be incorporated into the plot in order to complete the scene for the show's cartoon characters. For example, you would draw a bridge to help a funny little guy get across a river, or crayon in a ladder for him to reach a window, or give him wings so  he could fly.

The idea was that if enough of us created the needed device, it appeared on screen and our little person would get out of a jam or get something desired. And of course, in the next few moments, a bridge, ladder, or wings appeared in the show, and the action was completed on screen.

For me, this show was enchantment itself. I was the creator of a small bit of magic that worked. I saw it happen on TV! This engagement in the process of art making reality has never left me, though I do wish I could now be as effective in changing the world as I was then.








Wednesday, November 8, 2017

The Story of a Painting and What Makes It Sell

You know that I'm a painter, right? Like many painters who enjoy or are impelled to paint, I'm a prolific artist who completes more works than can shown in public exhibitions or sold. Still, sometimes I just know that a certain painting has a certain zing to it: it just has to been seen in public and sold to someone who loves it. 

I'll try to explain it this way: the painting hits the mark... my own mark first, by surprising me in ways that both ring authentic to what I intended and go a bit beyond this in interesting ways. I want to keep looking at such an artwork. And, getting anthropomorphic, it wants to go out into the world!

Typically, these zing-artworks do get reaction from the public, one way or another. Some of them also get purchased. Which brings me to what I think is an interesting story for all those who wonder about what makes a painting sell. I'll stick to specifics rather than try to speak to the generalities of selling art (a quagmire of opinions -- all of them right to some degree).

This story is about one painting that not only sold, but sold triple-times! The first time was when it was shown in an open-studio show I did presenting some  new works. Early in the show, a man who had been standing looking at this painting in less than the best viewing conditions started nodding to himself, called someone on his cellphone, then with speed and much excitement, walked over to me. "I'll buy it!" he pronounced. His cheque followed immediately. I wrapped the painting for him to pick up later that day.

Within a week, I got a call from the same man, now somewhat embarrassed. Would I come pick up the painting at his huge house and return his cheque? He loved the painting, he insisted, but his wife worried that it might offend some of their visitors. Poof!

Of course I did that. Who wants a controversial painting hanging in their house? (Well, you might answer that one differently). I was disappointed, but consoled myself that art is such an individually meaningful exchange, it's best when it fits well with its purchaser. 

I didn't show the painting again for a year.  I decided to change an aspect of the boy's face and hair in the interim and repainted part of it. I do this kind of thing when a painting remains with me to look at for a lengthy time. Sometimes, it starts telling me things. They were small changes, but I think the result was even better. 

I made a card of the painting and had it among other cards available for visitors to my Saturna Island studio. This past summer, I had quite a few visitors, and many conversations about art, island life, and whatever matters. The cards of this painting were often pocketed as souvenirs.

One day a visitor asked if I could bring the actual painting. He was surprised it hadn't sold (but it had, once before) and came again, with his wife. He wanted the painting and would pay whatever the asking price. His wife looked startled and asked him to step outside. 

Uh-oh. I knew at once. And you now also know what happened. I heard him protest in the hallway, "but I'll keep it in my study." I shrugged, knowing how this was going to turn out.

When they walked back into the studio, I immediately short-circuited things by mentioning that I understood this painting wouldn't really fit into their lives. I cared about things like that.  Nothing like "divorce-by-painting" for me. OK, done deal = no deal. 

By the way, it could just as well have been "woman-wants/man-doesn't" theme to these events, but it hadn't worked that way two times running. So, back the painting went into storage. I felt a bit sad about its history of two almost-but-no sales. Still, looking at the painting itself made me happy. 

About two weeks later, in another setting entirely, someone mentioned how much he'd liked the card he had of this painting. Yes, I agreed, it was popular. Especially now that Wonder Woman had been a popular movie, as well. "Was it still available?", he asked.
painting by Janet Strayer www.janetstrayer.com
Whoa!, I thought. Here we go again. I told him the story of its two previous art lovers. I guess it was a warning, and certainly not the greatest sales pitch in the world! But I really like this man and, despite wanting him to own this painting, I felt it had a history to relate.

I was delighted when he re-confirmed by saying "I know I want to buy it." Nice because it seemed like the perfect fit: he had the combined artistic sensibility, humour, and  generosity of spirit to enjoy it fully. This time, it was a final sale for Wonder Woman & Superboy.

This is a painting that pays homage to two periods in art history that revered the human figure: the European Renaissance and North American Classic Comic Book Art. Set in the traditional Madonna-Child pose,Wonder Woman and Superboy are pop representations of the abiding power of iconic imagery. Technically, as well, blending modern acrylics (pop art) with traditional gold leaf and pose helps link the centuries and merges the reverential with popular cultural forms -- a humanistic approach. 

Wonder Woman & Superboy are now where they belong.  I appreciate it. And I hope you appreciate this story of its journey.  


 


Friday, October 20, 2017

My Head is Back Where It Belongs

My head(er) fell off, and now I'm glad to have it back! Thanks to ZZ at GingerMedia. 

What a disconcerting event to lose one's head. Now I understand what happened, and I'll share it with you for any use it may serve to other bloggers. 
 
The images I use in the banner header were photos of paintings taken from my first art website, where they each had a specific url address. It became too burdensome to re-fashion that website in a style that suited my newest paintings and artwork, so I designed a new website that suited it better: janetstrayer.com
 
The Problem: Once the older website was made inactive, the images that were stored on it for this blog couldn't be used and so disappeared from this header. Now I know that. 
 
The Solution: Store the images at another "live" url site and incorporate this information into your blogger script for your header. I don't write html script, so that's where people like ZZ can help!
 
 
Happy to be back with images enlivening this blog's banner heading. Hope you enjoy it




Monday, October 9, 2017

LOST My HEAD..er!


Sorry, but I seem to have lost the header illustration slides that typically appear below the title of with this blogsite. Now its just a big, black empty.

Of course I haven't a clue as to why this happened. But  I've just emailed someone who will likely know: if not why, exactly then, more importantly,  how to fix it!

Everything takes time, you know. So please bear with me until this is fixed.



 


Sunday, October 8, 2017

It's Thanksgiving tomorrow in Canada. People here on Saturna Island are preparing their Thanksgiving meals: often elaborate feasts of the season, with the traditional roasted turkey plus favorite recipes featuring all the natural bounty we're fortunate to have growing here. Squash, pumpkins and all the orchard fruits abound. Often Thanksgiving meals here are communal, with many potlucks. But still, turkey is the traditional main course. 

So I nearly flipped my lid coming home from the gallery last night. What did I see sauntering along the public road without a care in the world? A rafter of wild turkeys! Big critters and not too lovely to look at either. But there they were in full view, out in the open. You'd think they were just walking to an invited Thanksgiving meal (if only they knew)!

Wishing the turkeys well this season.  I'll leave you with a different set of whimsical birds in this painting. 
Good Day's Travel, 36"x36" on canvas, Janet Straye
  And Happy Thanksgiving to all. 





Saturday, September 30, 2017

Two Thanksgivings

The end of a season has come. Summer is over. Not just by the calendar's reckoning, but more significantly so by all the season's changes you see in island life. It feels both a bit sad and also welcome.

The days are much shorter, with the shift seeming much more sudden the further north you get. It's nearly dark when I walk down the hill from my studio to the house these days --  in contrast to the natural light that used to guide my steps as late as 9 p.m. just a short time ago. No more eating nearly all our meals outdoors (I particularly love outdoor breakfasts). The autumn chill and wet air have come to settle in. The birds are scarce, except for the ever-present ravens. The wind-capped sea is a beautiful  paynes-grey/ultramarine instead of the shining, calm shimmer of teal and reflected summertime skylight.

 painting by Janet Strayer
My garden of lush roses is down to the last one, a triumphantly brave reminder that things need to be appreciated while they're here.The generous crops are now scraggly with only those that can endure the loss of sunshine hours. The rains are beginning, a welcome end to the fires that have ravaged the mainland, east of the shoreline. But the graying rains tend to take over, like a welcome guest who extends her stay much too long.

The swarm of  tourists filling the ferries has also abated after Labor Day, and I now make the trip with lots of room to spare. Both good and bad.

With the warm season's end,  the PRISM gallery will close as well after the upcoming Thanksgiving weekend. It's a fitting time to close the season on this very first run of this little gallery, so different from big-time galleries in big-time cities. This little gallery on this little island has been rather a sweet spot. It's offered a welcome, a respite, a surprise, a delight, an interesting spot to stop for many passers-by and ferry-waiters, as well as for the more intentional art-appreciator. Should we perhaps tag the former as "accidental" art-appreciators?

It's  been great fun for me (unseen behind a wall until those entering turn a corner) hearing their  uncensored comments as they walk the halls looking at the work. I've been positively bouyed by all the high-exclamation positive reactions. And the negative ones have been so few and so funny. No one has had anything mean or cutting to remark.... not yet. And the sales have been reasonably good. Even the Outrageous Tweeter garners some chuckles here.

But I'll be happy to regain the time I've spent working in the gallery."Fall-back", as we say to remember the changing of our clocks. So I will do.

And I'll get to celebrate two Thanksgivings. That's a benefit of dual Canadian-US citizenship: you get to have Thanksgiving twice: in October and in November. It's probably my favorite holiday of them all.

May we each have something to be thankful for.



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.

Janet



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,
Janet 

janetstrayer.com




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!


post signatureTo COMMENT from the homepage: Click on Title of Post to get to its own page. Comment box appears below post. Subscribe for updates on art, travels, and adventures in creative life. You can also find me at my Facebook Page and Website for my art and news of upcoming shows/sales.


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!


post signatureTo COMMENT from the homepage: Click on Title of Post to get to its own page. Comment box appears below post. Subscribe for updates on art, travels, and adventures in creative life. You can also find me at my Facebook Page and Website for my art and news of upcoming shows/sales.


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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