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Mural, A Celebration of Spring." Macon Terminal Station. 2018 Community grant project. Thoughts on International Women’s Day Last night I watched “This Changes Everything” a documentary about the underrepresentation of women in the filmmaking industry. I was already perturbed about how few of the new art acquisitions for major collections and museums are by women. (It's just 11% of all new acquisitions, in case you were wondering.) The film added to the fire.  “Things are getting better,” I hear people say. But no, they aren’t. Women want to be equally valued and compensated for their work. And in most cases, they simply want to DO THEIR WORK. It isn’t too much to ask. It is literally the bare minimum. Today, someone shared an image of the mural I and community volunteers painted at a bus terminal station. The project was a turning point for me on so many levels. Many things still stand out about that experience, both good and bad. Let’s start with the bad
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Needle Rose Blues

A lot of my work focuses on the lifespan of flowers. I call my cotton pieces “Needle Roses” because I know the crop’s history, how difficult it is to harvest by hand, along with a nod to its beautiful purple and pink blossoms that precede the pods of fluffy fiber. Although I grew up in a Southern town, it was surrounded by tobacco fields. I did not see a cotton field until after I'd left for college. It’s surprising to see an entirely white field in a countryside that never gets snow. The way it transforms the landscape is practically alien. When I showed my first cotton painting, I saw someone begin to tear up while looking at it. The tall blonde lady explained that her grandmother had died while picking cotton. I listened as she described what life was like for her family and how special her grandmother was to her and how she still feels the loss. Looking at my painting brought that all back to her. She hugged me and left. I felt like I had been turned upside down. I
Commissions are interesting endeavors. A bespoke painting often means an artist is asked to create something quite different from their regular body of work. It pushes us a bit outside ourselves. Without fail I find it refreshing and deeply rewarding. Some artists specialize in pet portraits. I enjoy doing figure studies and portraits of people but until now I had not painted anyone's pet. "Gizmo" is the Maltese-Yorkie companion of Katie Ruth Williams. And like many diminutive creatures, his personality can barely be contained. This bite-sized Napoleon strives to rule the household. I can't say how successful he is at that but I do know Gizmo is loved. Such a subject deserves a portrait. I wanted Gizmo's likeness to be larger than life—more than double his size—and grand as an Elvis on velvet. Thanks to snapshots by his adoring family, I had plenty of references from which to work. This piece was pure joy. I look forward to many others. "Gizmo&
"Practice makes better" is what we tell the five-year-old. When the child is older, I will explain (and repeat) the 10,000-hours-towards-mastery concept. I don't believe in Perfection. Mastery allows for experimentation to continue and recognizes two important things: the time one must invest in order to improve and that failure is a necessary part of achieving success. Portrait painting has been the most difficult thing I've attempted. It's positively baffling to me. I can't work from one photo. Working from life is ideal, but my current subject (my grandmother) is no longer living. A wall of photos of a person from different angles, different decades (like I'm some sort of stalker) is better for me simply because a single photo rarely captures a personality.* I believe a painting of someone can express who a person truly is by combining impressions from many, many moments. *Of course there are master photographers who CAN capture the essence of
Calligrapher's blotting sheet Starving . Now why would that be? Less than 10 percent of artists make their income from their art. (Less than that if an artist is female or nonwhite or a combination of the two.) The secondary market is where the money is. What an artist is paid at the first transaction is a fraction of what that piece may be worth in the future. Dead or alive, the artist will never see a return on that higher price point. Debbie Downer, right? So, why do artists do what they do? They're called to it. Ever hear someone talk about being called to the ministry? They say they tried to ignore it, went off in another direction and somehow ended up with that call ringing in their ears. It's like that. For many of us it isn't a choice at all. It's like having the Universe constantly pouring color, images, sounds, and ideas into your head. It has to pour out somehow, sometime. When you aren't creating--if nothing is being let out--the
Art - What is it? "Artist Flopparoo" by Craig Burkhalter, printmaker I follow several media outlets that report on the visual arts. Obviously I want to know what's going on. Retrospectives, museum collections, works on loan, "Artists to Watch," changes in programs of study at university art departments, etc. I have mixed feelings about practically everything I read. I must be slipping. Why else would I feel totally disconnected from what the art world deems worthy? This is my perspective on what makes a work of art. 1. Art is personal. I remember being told that every painting is a self-portrait. When I was younger I thought that was total hogwash but now I know better. Everything an artist makes comes from within. It can't be anything but personal. 2. On the surface, it's decorative. I'm not saying art has to be pretty (although I've had enough of this world's ugly meanness and I'd much rather create beautiful things)
Visitation I was in an upstairs room putting laundry away, not thinking about anything in particular. I was "in the zone," crossing off a list of chores. I had assumed the days of seeing my grandmother Frances in dreams had passed and sadly had not thought of her in awhile. When I stood up from my task, the atmosphere in the room had changed. I closed my eyes and waited. I can barely describe it. It lasted less than two minutes. It is simply that her scent is so distinctive--a complex mix of skin cream, perfume, clothing, perspiration. I am probably freaking you out--I certainly don't mean to--but if you've lost a loved one you may know what I'm talking about. My culture doesn't make room for these experiences. If something doesn't fit neatly within the confines of protestant tradition, it is dismissed, or (mis)labeled, and certainly not entertained. Pretty tragic. Our loved ones are no longer confined by a physical world. Do we reject the poss