Collage at the New York Studio School June 10-July 14, 2019

I visited the New York Studio School exhibition ATTACHED: Meghan Brady, Sarah Faux, Melissa Meyer and Anne Ryan (June 10-July 14, 2019). The exhibition included three small collages by Anne Ryan (1889-1954) a pioneer in collage and early generation NY Abstract Expressionist. The exhibition also included 13 larger works by 3 contemporary artists: Meghan Brady, Sarah Faux and Melissa Meyer, who are painters and also work in collage. Meghan Brady’s works are wall-sized paper pieces with painted and cutout shapes.  Sarah Faux’s works are collaged canvas. Melissa Meyer’s works are watercolor assemblage.

The exhibition was co-curated by Rachel Rickert and Graham Nickson. The images below show works by each artist in the show. See all the works online here.

 

Meghan Brady, Future Figure I

The image above is by Meghan Brady, titled Future Figure 1 (2018). It’s collage on paper, acrylic, and backed with Tyvek, 110 x 91 inches, image: courtesy Mrs. Gallery. This is one of two wall-sized works by Meghan Brady in the exhibition. Brady’s works are made with paper pieces that include wide sweeping strokes of paint, and large painted and cutout shapes. The curators wrote: Brady’s works …embody the bold and deliberate nature of cut and paste collage…her collages are all-consuming like a tapestry, but one that has been shattered and re-formed.

 

Melissa Meyer, Rearrangement Series #6

The image above is by Melissa Meyer, titled Rearrangement Series #6 (2018), collaged watercolors on paper, 15 ¾ x 12 inches. Collage is about juxtaposition and in this work, Meyer created a collage that juxtaposed hard, cut edges against soft, transparent, painterly brush strokes. Lennon Weinberg Inc. represents Melissa Meyer and the gallery is located at 514 W 25 Street, NYC.

 

Melissa Meyer, Rearrangement Series #8

The image above is by Melissa Meyer, titled Rearrangement Series #8 (2019), collaged watercolors on paper, 17 ½ x 32 inches.

 

Melissa Meyer and her MacDowell sketchbook

I took the image above at the opening reception. It shows Melissa Meyer standing in front of her work titled MacDowell Sketchbook (2012), collaged watercolors on paper, 6 x 36 inches. This is one of 7 works by Meyer in the exhibition. See other works included in the exhibition here.

I wrote about Melissa Meyer in a post (January 7, 2019) titled Melissa Meyer: Drawing with Paint – Painting Collage. Meyer makes a connection between her approach to painting and the collage process of cutting, pasting, and arranging elements, and says she isolates elements while building the whole painting…and wants viewers to experience each part of a painting as dynamically as they experience its entirety. The post is about her approach to painting and collage.

 

Sarah Faux, Let it go higher

The image above is by Sarah Faux and titled Let it go higher (2019), pigment, acrylic, dye and oil on cut canvas, 65 x 61 inches, image: Capsule Shanghai. Read more about the artist at the Capsule Shanghai website.

 

Sarah Faux, Piriformis

The image above is by Sarah Faux and titled Piriformis (2019).  It’s acrylic and oil on cut canvas, 72×49 inches. Her gallery, Capsule Shanghai, writes: Sarah Faux merges the seemingly disparate strands of figurative representation and gestural abstraction…with flattened fields of color. Faux lives and works in Brooklyn, NY.

 

Anne Ryan, Untitled #549

The image above is by Anne Ryan (1889-1954), Untitled #549, collage with papers and found scraps of fabric, 17 ¾ x 39 ¾ inches dated 1948-54.  The color palette is mostly monochromatic. This is a relatively large work by Anne Ryan. Most of her works are tiny.

 

Anne Ryan, Untitled #562

The image above shows one of two tiny collages by Anne Ryan in the exhibition. It’s Untitled #562 (1948-54), collage, 7  1/16 x 6 ¾ inches, courtesy of Washburn Gallery, NY. In this work, Ryan’s collage papers are soft, with torn edges. She works with fragments of different materials clustered and layered within her composition.

I wrote about Anne Ryan when I first saw her collages at the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) exhibition titled Making Space: Women Artists and Postwar Abstraction (April 19-August 12, 2017). Read it here. Anne Ryan was born in Hoboken, New Jersey and was a self-taught writer, painter and printmaker who began to work in collage (at the age of 58) when she saw an exhibition of works by the German artist Kurt Schwitters.  From 1948 to 1954 she created about 400 tiny collages. Many of her collages are in permanent collections at major museums in the U.S. but we don’t often see then in the museum galleries. Many of Ryan’s collages include string, netting, handmade papers and woven fabric that are often frayed at the edges. Her choice of materials was always meticulous, and she often included exquisite hand made papers.

 

AT THE OPENING RECEPTION

 

Opening reception: Meghan Brady, Future Figure II

I took the image above at the opening reception. People (and a dog) are standing in front of Meghan Brady’s wall-size work titled Future Figure II, collage on paper, acrylic, and backed with Tyvek, 100 x 106 inches. Notice how large the work is in comparison to the people standing nearby. This is the 2ndwork by Meghan Brady in the exhibition.

The day after the opening reception, I contacted Rachel Rickert, who co-curated the exhibition for Attached with Graham Nickson. I asked her several questions. She was very gracious and shared her comments that follow.

INTERVIEW with Rachel Rickert

Q: How did you determine these 4 artists were the right artists for ATTACHED?

RR: The exhibition was inspired by a proposal from Melissa Meyer and Sarah Faux who are included in the show, suggesting a large group exhibition about Collage in the 21st Century. Graham Nickson and I decided to focus on a smaller group of artists that would include Melissa Meyer, Sarah Faux and Meghan Brady. I saw Brady’s large scale collage works at Tiger Strikes Asteroid in Brooklyn in 2018 and felt her works would be a good addition because they demonstrate the range of the medium of collage – and would add elements of bold gestural abstraction with irregularly shaped pieces and bodily references. Graham Nickson suggested adding Anne Ryan as the 4th artist because she would frame the contemporary works with an important historical precedent. Anne Ryan discovered collage in the later years of her life, and dedicated herself to this new found medium between 1948 and 1954.

Rickert added: “Each artist has or had an active painting practice in tandem with or that led them into collage. We wanted to showcase the collage side of their practice, and how the medium has led the artists to discover new, and courageous elements in their work.

 

Q: What arrangements did the NYSS gallery have to make for loan of art works?

RR: The New York Studio School worked with each artist to loan the works directly from them or from their gallery. We owe a big thanks to Mrs. Gallery for working with us on Megan Brady’s work, Capsule Shanghai for Sarah Faux’s, and Washburn Gallery for loaning us the Anne Ryan pieces.

 

Q: How engaged were the artists in details for the exhibition? Did they help determine which works would be included?

RR: Choosing artwork for the exhibition was a collaborative process between myself and Graham Nickson, and the artists. We asked the artists/galleries to submit available works that they felt would be good candidates for the exhibition, and Graham and I discussed what work would allow each artist to shine, while combining to create an interesting whole presentation.

 

Q: Why did you select the title Attached:

RR: Attached speaks to the physical process of collage, the parts that were stuck together to create new wholes. We wanted a title that encompasses the making and the commitment of collage final decisions—when things are attached in place.

 

Q: How are the artists connected to the NYSS?

RR: Melissa Meyer is a friend of the school and has taught a Drawing Marathon and lectured in our Evening Lecture series. We presented her works in the exhibition Melissa Meyer: in Black and White, December 14, 2007 – February 3, 2008. Sarah Faux was a student of Melissa Meyer’s, and Meyer introduced her to the School. Meghan Brady was not previously connected to the School, but her experimental studio-centric, concept through making process is very much in line with the School’s philosophy.  The School admired Anne Ryan’s overall body of work for its intensity and beauty. Ryan did not previously have a connection with the NYSS. We were excited to share the work of these dynamic artists with our community.

 

Rachel Rickert is the Exhibitions and Alumni Coordinator at the New York Studio School.

Finally – It was a terrific exhibition and I was so pleased to see it and meet Melissa Meyer.

 

 

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Collage is not just about Cut and Paste…

I visited the VIP Preview at Art New York in May 2019 with a goal to see works in collage and works that explore a modern collage aesthetic – by important women artists. The fair, located at Pier 94, at 55thStreet & Westside Highway is an international contemporary and modern art event (May 2-5, 2019).

Collage, if narrowly defined, is about cut and paste – typically with papers. Modern artists expanded its boundaries and contemporary painters use it as a visual model. A collage aesthetic can be the way a work of art is assembled or constructed. It can also be about a visual experience. We live in the age of collage.

Very quickly, I found three artists – an American Abstract Expressionist painter (Grace Hartigan) who also made paper collage, a French icon (Sonia Delaunay) who was represented at the fair by modern tapestry, and a contemporary American (Debbie Ma) who constructs large abstract paintings with marble dust. I was intrigued by the formal strategies and presentation of all three, and felt each artist offered a new way to view modern art in the context of the times in which she lives/lived.

 

Grace Hartigan, Dolls

The image above is a painting by Grace Hartigan (American, 1922-2008), seen at the C. Grimaldi Art Gallery booth at the fair.  It’s titled Dolls (1976), and is oil on canvas and 49 x 82 inches.  The collage aesthetic is expressed here in the way the artist juxtaposes figures in the painting composition.

Hartigan’s paintings included dolls, courtesans, film stars and mythical, chimerical creatures drawn from fantasy and, as the artist stated, “understanding the life you are living.” Many of the subjects she painted were poor or derelict people she saw on the streets in her neighborhood. Her life experience was a visual collage. The painting expresses the life she lived.

I learned Hartigan started to create collage in the late 1950s.

 

Grace Hartigan, collage

The two images, above and below, are collages by Grace Hartigan. From a distance I thought I was looking at collages by Lee Krasner (American, 1908 – 1984), but, walking closer, knew it was not true.

I’m reading Mary Gabriel’s book titled Ninth Street Women, subtitled Five Painters and the Movement that Changed Modern Art – about the rise of Abstract Expressionism in New York in the 1950s.  Grace Hartigan was one of the few female artists included in the movement with Jackson Pollock, Willem de Kooning, Franz Kline and Arshile Gorky. She was known for combining gestural abstraction with imagery derived from art history and popular culture. She began to receive a high level of exposure, and her paintings were included in the exhibition 12 Americans at the Museum of Modern Art in NY (1956), as well as the exhibition The New American Paintings that traveled throughout Europe from 1958 to 1959. She had her first solo show in 1950, and three years later, her first major sale, when the Museum of Modern Art bought her painting titled The Persian Jacket (see below), oil on canvas, 57.5 x 48 inches.

 

Grace Hartigan, collage

 

Grace Hartigan, the Persian Jacket

 

Mary Gabriel’s book titled Ninth Street recounts the struggles of the early abstract expressionist artist, particularly the struggles of the women.

In 1960, Hartigan moved to Baltimore, and promptly fell off the NY art world map. Pop Art and Minimalism had eclipsed Abstract Expressionism, and male artists dominated the art market. Hartigan had to paint in a loft in a former Baltimore department store and taught at the Maryland Institute College of Art, but the college created a graduate school around her (the Hoffberger School of Painting) and she became director in 1965. Hartigan taught at the school until retiring in 2007, one year before she died.

Hartigan’s work is represented extensively in private and public collections, including the Baltimore Museum of Art, the Hirshhorn Museum, the Art Institute of Chicago, the Metropolitan Museum of Art, MoMA, the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, and the Whitney Museum of American Art.

 

Geometric Abstraction and a Tapestry

 

Sonia Delaunay, tapestry at Art NY

I saw the image above at one of the first booths at Art NY. I walked closer to make sure the work was by Sonia Delaunay. I recognized the image because I am a great fan of the artist’s work. It’s titled Nocturne Matinale, and is a wool tapestry (commissioned ca. 1970), 70.9 x 71.1 inches. The gallerist told me Sonia Delaunay (French, born in Ukraine, 1885- 1970) was the first living female artist to have a retrospective at the Louvre Museum in Paris in 1964.  My image shows it’s a wall hanging and there are iron sculptures standing next to and in front.  I am familiar with Delaunay’s gouache paintings and prints, but never knew her works as tapestry in the same bold, geometric design.

 

Sonia Delaunay, Nocturne Matinale

The image above is another wool tapestry, also titled Nocturne Matinale, also 70.9 x 71,1 inches. With this image, you see the work without the distracting sculpture in front. Sonia Delaunay wrote: For me, the abstract and the sensual should come together…” The tapestry is lush and sensual. I wanted to touch it.

I’ve always loved and been inspired by Delaunay’s colors and geometric designs. The style is called Orphism. With her husband Robert, Sonia Delaunay was part of a group in Paris thatpioneered the style – a fusion of Cubism and Neo-Impressionism that was influenced by the vivid colors of Fauvism. In Orphism, primary and secondary colors (red with green, yellow with purple, and blue with orange) are combined to create a visual vibration.

 

Sonia Delaunay, Thunderbird

The image above is a lithograph on wove paper by Sonia Delaunay and is titled Thunderbird, ed/75, image size: 20 x 16.5 inches (52.5cm x 42 cm), sheet: 30 x 22 inches (75.5 cm x 56 cm).

 

Sonia Delaunay, Color Rhythm

The image above, by Sonia Delaunay, is titled Colour Rhythm No 1921, It’s gouache on paper, 1973 (collection: MoMA), 27 ¼ x 22 in (69.2z55.9 cm)

Sonia Delaunay died on December 5, 1979 in Paris, France at the age of 94. Today, the artist’s works are held in the collections of The Museum of Modern Art in New York, the Carnegie Museum of Art in Pittsburgh, and the Hermitage Museum in St. Petersburg, among others.

 

Paintings and Marble Dust

 

Debbie Ma at Art NY

I selected Debbie Ma as the third artist for this post because I think her geometric paintings are stunning and believe her approach to painting personifies a collage aesthetic. I took the image of the artist with her work (above) at the fair. The work is titled No Way In (2019) and is marble dust on canvas, 64 x 80 x 3 in (162.5 x 203.1 x 7.6 cm).

 

DMD Contemporary booth at Art NY

Ma is represented by DMD Contemporary in NY, and the booth (seen above) at Art NY featured Debbie Ma as a solo artist. The paintings show depth, texture and tonality in the formal mix in every work.

 

Debbie Ma, Cross Country

The image above is by Debbie Ma, titled Cross Country (2006) and is a painting with marble dust on canvas, 60 x 36 inches (152 x 137 cm). Cross Country is a wobbly grid in brown black and white. It’s in the permanent collection at the David T. Owsley Museum of Art, Muncie, IN.

Debbie Ma’s works are a tapestry of quiet patterns in bold formation.  Her paintings are like visual two-dimensional sculptures. They are amazing to see in person.

 

FINAL THOUGHTS

I chose 3 artists who lived at different times, in different places and worked in different media.

I created a collage experience for myself at Art New York in the way I viewed and experienced the art.

Please share you comments about the idea of a collage aesthetic.

Melissa Meyer

January 7, 2019

Drawing with Paint – Painting Collage

 

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Melissa Meyer, Summer in the City

 

Melissa Meyer is called a lyrical abstractionist. She paints free-floating, painterly ribbons of vibrant colors and shapes with oil paint thinned to the transparency of watercolor. She draws with paint.

I visited the exhibition Melissa Meyer: New Paintings (November 1-December 22, 2018) at Lennon, Weinberg Inc., 514 West 25 Street, N.Y. the week before it closed. The exhibition included large paintings, several smaller diptychs and one collage. This is Meyer’s fifth solo exhibition at Lennon, Weinberg, Inc. The paintings are bold and vibrant.

The image above, titled Summer in the City I, is oil on canvas (2018), 80 x 60 inches (image courtesy Lennon, Weinberg, Inc.).  It’s a grid with calligraphic glyphs drawn with a paintbrush with thinned oil paint in different colors. Notice there are patches of palest, almost transparent pink and yellow below the painted glyphs.

 

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Melissa Meyer, Draw the Line

The image above is titled Draw the Line (2015) oil on canvas, 72×96 inches (image courtesy Lennon, Weinstein, Inc.). Here, the background is a patchwork of warm and cool whites with a second layer of warm and cool blacks painted in a calligraphic design.

John Yau, who wrote a review for Hyperallergic, is a big fan, and has reviewed many of Meyer’s solo exhibitions at Lennon, Weinberg, Inc.  He said: “When Meyer started using oil paint that was closer in consistency to watercolor, she broke through into a territory that is now all her own.” See his review (November 25, 2018) at hyperallergic.com.

 

DIPTYCHS

 

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Melissa Meyer, Trellis Too

 

The image above is titled Trellis Too (2017), oil on canvas, 36×72 inches, diptych (image courtesy Lennon Weinberg, Inc.).

In his exhibition review (November 25, 2018), Yau said he counted at least three layers of marks compressed together in Trellis Too, saying the first layer is a patchwork of palest colors (durian yellow, cantaloupe orange and watery blue), the second layer includes glyph-like brushstrokes in different colors where the brush can be dry or full, the color can be saturated or faded, and one glyph often slides over another. The third layer is a drawing in black with a geometric web of tangled lines that hold the first two layers together. In his review, Yau writes he likes the way the painting asked him to pay attention to how the glyphs drift across the surface, as well as within the layers, how the paintings merge division and unity without favoring either because you notice similarities, changes and ruptures.

 

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Melissa Meyer, Rearrangement Series 2

 

I was lucky to have a conversation with Jill Weinberg Adams, the gallery director, and told her I am writing about women who do collage. She told me Meyer has a long-standing interest in collage and a unique collage esthetic. I was intrigued.

I saw two collages at the gallery – one was installed in the exhibition, and one was brought out from a closet. The first image (above) is titled Rearrangement Series 2 (2018), watercolor collage on paper, 15.75 x 12 inches (image courtesy of Lennon, Weinberg, Inc.) The second image (below) is titled Rearrangement Series 3 (2018), watercolor collage on paper (2018), 15.75 x 12 inches (image courtesy of Lennon, Weinberg, Inc.).

 

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Melissa Meyer, Rearrangement Series 3

 

Meyer makes a connection between her approach to painting and the collage process of cutting, pasting, and arranging elements, and says she isolates elements while building the whole painting, and wants viewers to experience each part of a painting as dynamically as they experience its entirety.

SKETCHBOOKS

 

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Melissa Meyer, 3 Sketchbooks

The image above shows 3 sketchbooks with wide format, open double-page spreads on which Meyer added watercolors and transfer prints. I learned Meyer is often at residencies and, while there, creates “Residency Sketchbooks.”  The Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York reproduced one of Meyer’s sketchbooks.

At positjoiurnal.com I read Melisssa Meyer is very aware of the importance of collage in forming contemporary aesthetics, saying “As a method, collage encourages layering, shape-making and juxtaposition, all of which I apply to my work, from my paintings to multi-panel public works using expanded media (Photoshop).

View a carousel of more watercolor collages in the Rearrangement Series at positjournal.com.

 

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Melissa Meyer, magazine collage

 

I found the image above online. It’s dated 2016 and was included in a group exhibition in Spain.  Notice the cut paper collage on top where the paper shapes mimic the shapes of the calligraphic line.

FEMMAGE

 

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Miriam Schapiro, Miriam’s Life with Dolls

 

Picasso and Braque did not invent collage. Many women made collage before the men did – but the men got the credit.

In her mid-twenties, Meyer and fellow artist Miriam Schapiro co-authored an influential essay that linked the history of collage to traditional female hobbies like quilting and scrapbooking. They titled their essay “Waste Not Want Not: An Inquiry into What Women Saved and Assembled-FEMMAGE.” The essay was published in the magazine Heresies: Women’s Traditional Arts: The Politics of Aesthetics (Winter 1978).

Meyer said she was always interested in scrapbooks made primarily by women in the 18th century. She discovered a collage sensibility in quilts. She valued the works of mid -20thcentury abstractionists, including Lee Krasner, who reused paintings and works on paper and recycled them into her large collages on canvas.

See a facsimile of Femmage from the original Heresies publication at artcritical.com.

The image above is a collage by Miriam Schapiro, titled Miriam’s Life With Dolls (2006), fabric and collage on paper, 30×60 inches (image courtesy Flomenhaft Gallery, 547 W 27 Street, NY, NY). Schapiro (1923-2015) was a Canadian-born artist based in the U.S, an activist and pioneer of feminist art. Schapiro worked to resurrect the reputations of women artists who had been forgotten or dismissed by art historians. She was a painter, sculptor, printmaker, and a leader of the Pattern and Decoration art movement. Read more at the artstory.org.

 

Melissa Meyer, the Green Woman

The image above is titled The Green Woman, 1973, acrylic on paper with collage, 34 x 25 1/2 inches, published in Ms. Magazine (1973) and now in the permanent collection at the International Collage Center.

LARGE MURALS

Meyer received a commission to create two large murals for the Shiodome City Center in Tokyo, Japan (completed in 2003). One mural was forty feet high; the other was sixty feet long. She worked with computer technicians with Photoshop to create the macquettes for the murals, directing how image files were scanned, how glyph images were layered, how colors were made saturated or muted, and how her  painted calligraphic lines were made more or less transparent.

Meyer admitted the scale of the murals posed a unique challenge. She knew she  would have to radically enlarge the scale of her brushstrokes as she painted, and make each calligraphic shape more independent. She said the most basic challenge was to make the images work for viewers from all different vantage points. The commission got Meyer thinking about how her brushstrokes would move across the surface in the super-sized murals.

She said working with Photoshop renewed her engagement with collage and profoundly affected her sense of space and her attraction to the esthetic idea of radical discontinuity.

 

THE CHOREOGRAPHY OF BRUSHWORK

 

Melissa Meyer studio view

Melissa Meyer, studio view

 

The image above shows a view into Meyer’s studio with her paints, brushes and books. Meyer says “ when I’m painting, I work intuitively, physically, thinking about brushwork as a kind of choreography, a dance that happens in the wrists and arms as well as the whole body.

Meyer has exhibited in over forty solo shows, and has been included in group shows at the National Academy Museum and the Jewish Museum in New York.  In 1997, the Metropolitan Museum of Art in NY published a facsimile edition of her sketchbooks.

Meyer was awarded a Rome Prize from the American Academy in Rome and has received grants from the National Endowment for the Arts and the Pollock Krasner Foundation.  Meyer’s work is included in the collection of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Museum of Modern Art, the Brooklyn Museum, the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, the Jewish Museum and many other public and private collections across the United States.

Meyer has taught at the Rhode Island School of Design (RISD), the Art Institute of Chicago, and the School of Visual Arts in New York. She has completed public commissions in New York, Tokyo, and Shanghai, and currently has an eight by fourteen-foot ceramic mural in fabrication for the new U.S. embassy in Bishkek, Kyrgystan.

I am so pleased to write this post about an artist who has a collage esthetic and welcome your comments.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Betye Saar

November 21, 2018

 

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Betye Saar, A Loss of Innocence

The image above is an installation piece by Betye Saar (American, born 1926) titled “A Loss of Innocence” (1998). It’s a chair and dress, 50x12x12 inches. The image is included in a Hyperallergic review of her exhibition STILL TICKIN: Six Decades of Betye Saar’s Personal, Political and Mystical Art at the Scottsdale Museum of Contemporary Art (Jan 30-May 1, 2016). A Loss of Innocence includes a delicate white dress with short, capped sleeves on a wood hanger suspended from a wire directly above a tiny doll-size chair sitting on a low wood pedestal. The chair is a tiny shrine. The dress cast two shadows that spread from the floor to the walls. One shadow looks eerily like a lynched body. The Scottsdale Museum says “There is a touch of alchemy to Betye Saar’s artwork: transforming the simple and mundane into powerful art.” Saar’s art tackles issues of spirituality, race, equality, family relationships and autobiography. Every work is poignant, evocative and emotional.

Betye Saar was born in Los Angeles, CA in 1926. She graduated from UCLA in 1947 with a B.A. degree in design and began her work in the visual arts as a graphic designer and costume maker — a trade that is deeply personal to her because her mother was a seamstress. She continued graduate studies, working toward a career in teaching design. She took an elective course in printmaking that allowed her to segue from design into fine arts. She began making politically themed artwork after the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and the Watts Riots. Saar taught art in Los Angeles at UCLA and the Otis Art Institute. Saar’s works are included in the permanent collections in museums worldwide, including 3 works in the collection at the Whitney Museum of American Art in NY. Saar married and raised 3 daughters. Saar received two National Endowment for the Arts Awards, in 1974 and 1984. In 2008, she was recognized for her career in art and community activism and awarded the Lifetime Achievement Award in Fine Arts from the Congressional Black Caucus.

Betye Saar lives and works in Los Angeles, CA.

 

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Betye Saar, The Liberation of Aunt Jemima

In 1967 Saar saw an assemblage by Joseph Cornell at the Pasadena (CA) Art Museum and was inspired to make art out of all the bits and pieces of her own life. She began making assemblages in 1967. She had been collecting images and objects since childhood. She came from a family of collectors. In the 1960s, Saar began collecting images of Aunt Jemima, Uncle Tom, Little Black Sambo and other stereotyped African-American figures from advertising during the Jim Crow era.

The image above is titled The Liberation of Aunt Jemima (1972). It’s the first piece Saar made that was politically explicit. Saar said: “My work started to become politicized after the death of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. in 1968. But The Liberation of Aunt Jemima, which I made in 1972, was the first piece that was politically explicit.There was a community center in Berkeley, on the edge of Black Panther territory in Oakland, called the Rainbow Sign. They issued an open invitation to black artists to be in a show about black heroes, so I decided to make a black heroine.” Read about the Rainbow Sign invitational here. She added: “For many years, I had collected derogatory images: postcards, a cigar-box label, an ad for beans, Darkie toothpaste. I found a little Aunt Jemima mammy figure, a caricature of a black slave, like those later used to advertise pancakes. Saar added: “She had a broom in one hand. I gave her a rifle. In front of her, I placed a little postcard, of a mammy with a mulatto child, which is another way black women were exploited during slavery.I used the derogatory image to empower the black woman by making her a revolutionary, like she was rebelling against her past enslavement.When my work was included in the exhibition ‘WACK! Art and the Feminist Revolution’, at the Museum of Contemporary Art in Los Angeles in 2007, the activist and academic Angela Davis gave a talk in which she said the black women’s movement started with my work The Liberation of Aunt Jemima. That was a real thrill.”

In American popular culture the mammy figure was a depiction of servility. Saar turned her Aunt Jemima into a warrior, brandishing weapons, contending with injustice, facing the darkest chapters of American history. The Liberation of Aunt Jemima is in the permanent collection of the Berkeley Art Museum and Pacific Film Archive. It’s Saar’s  most iconic piece. Photo: Benjamin Blackwell, courtesy of the artist and Roberts & Tilton, LA, CA.  Read more about how Betye Saar transformed the Aunt Jemima image into a symbol of black power in an artsy.net review here.

 

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Betye Saar in 1970

The image above shows a young Betye Saar in 1970 in a room she used as an art studio.

 

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Exhibition installation: Keeping It Clean

The image above is an installation view of the exhibition Keeping It Clean at the Craft and Folk Art Museum in Los Angeles (May 28-August 20, 2017). The solo show presented a mix of new and historic works that included Saar’s ongoing series of washboard assemblage sculptures, begun in the late 1990s.

In a review in the contemporary art magazine Art and Cake (June 28, 2017), Shana Nys Dambrot wrote: The washboard is a perfect object for Saar’s creative enterprise, whose particular magic has been the fusion of aesthetic, narrative, politics, and innovation into singular objects that triumph at all their tasks in art and in society.” In Saar’s own words, the new pieces are intended as reminders “that America has not yet cleaned up her act.”

Betye Saar also said: “I wanted to do an exhibition of my washboards because they are intimate and hands-on…It’s a body of work that I am still making, and the new works are inspired by the Black Lives Matter movement. People think racism happens everywhere else, but racism still exists in Los Angeles.”

 

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Betye Saar, Mother and Children in Blue

The image above is titled Mother and Children in Blue (1998), watercolor and mixed media collage on paper, 8 5/8 x 6 ½ inches, permanent collection at the Whitney Museum of American Art, NY – purchased with funds from the Drawing Committee.

 

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Betye Saar, Locksmith

The image above is titled Locksmith (2018), Mixed Media assemblage with metal frame, antique door locks, metal keys and vintage photograph, 14 x 11 ¾  inches.

 

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Betye Saar, Uneasy Dancer

The image above is titled Uneasy Dancer – Sock it to “Em (2011). It’s a red leather boxing glove with a watch on the wrist band and a mammy figure in a red dress tucked inside on top. The time on the watch is stopped at 5 minutes after 5.  “Uneasy Dancer” is an expression Betye Saar has used to define both herself and her artistic practice. I found this image in a review for Saar’s first exhibition in Milan, Italy installed at Fondazione Prada (15 Sep 2016 – 08 Jan 2017).  Read more here.

 

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Betye Saar, Indigo Illusions

The image above is titled Indigo Illusions (1991), mixed media assemblage with neon. This work was included in an exhibition titled “Betye Saar: Something Blue” at Roberts Projects in Los Angeles (Oct 27-Dec 15, 2018). All the works were made between 1983 and 2018 and all feature the color blue. Roberts Projects is Betye Saar’s gallery in CA and the exhibition was organized to show how she uses blue as a means to explore concepts of magic, voodoo and the occult.

 

9th image 640 betye saar photo for Getty

Betye Saar in 2016

The image above is dated 2016 and shows Betye Saar in her studio with all her stuff. Photo: Ashley Walker, courtesy of the artist and Roberts Projects, Los Angeles.

The Getty Research Institute (GRI) in Los Angeles is launching an African-American Art History initiative and has acquired the archive of works by Betye Saar as a first step. The GRI will help other museums preserve and digitize their own archives, and is working with the Studio Museum in Harlem, the California African American Museum, Art + Practice in Los Angeles, and Spelman College in Atlanta on this project.

 

NEWS

The Brooklyn Museum has installed Saar’s works in an exhibition titled Soul of a Nation: Art in the Age of Black Power (through February 3, 2019).  Saar also has a solo show titled Keepin’ It Clean at the New York Historical Society (November 12, 2018-May 27, 2019).

In a recent interview for the Los Angeles Times, Betye Saar said: “When you’re 92, it takes a lot to get you excited. I paid my dues, and now I’m reaping the rewards…I’m very happy that anybody can go to the Getty Research Institute to discover my work, not just the art community. It’s my contribution.

 

I am writing a book about women artists who create with collage, assemblage, photo collage and/or installation art. One chapter will be devoted to the artist Betye Saar. Please contact me if you have spoken with her – and thank you.

 

“Vicarious”

Solo Exhibition: November 1-25, 2018

Upstream Gallery, 8 Main Street, Hastings-On-Hudson, NY 10706

Reception: Sunday, Nov. 4, 2018 2-5 pm. Gallery hours: Thur – Sun, 12:30-5:30 pm

tel: 914 674 8548, web: http://www.upstreamgallery.com

 Interview: ©Nancy Egol Nikkal

 

Mitchell Goldberg titled this solo exhibition VICARIOUS and is showing his newest works in collage, image transfer and printmaking. The works focus on imagined or constructed memories of male companionship. Goldberg says: “I’m interested in male camaraderie, desire, and emotions related to body image.” His collages explore gay male sexuality through the lens of pop culture imagery, distorted memory and vicarious nostalgia.

“Vicarious” is an intriguing word. It’s an adjective used to modify another word. For example: “a vicarious thrill” – where the thrill is felt or enjoyed through imagined participation in the experience of others. As viewers, we can share in the pleasure of Goldberg’s love of his media. And – the media is the message.

Goldberg creates collage with cut and pasted papers, his own figure drawings, and image transfers of men from vintage magazines and photos. All the images are classic gay beefcake, soft gay porn, and automobiles, along with flashes of color and recycled imagery from his own work. Goldberg adds transparent layers of color in acrylic and encaustic to create depth and complexity to enhance the sense of memory altered, distorted and rewritten through the passage of time.

The artist adds: “while the works delve into the universal experience of loneliness, they also offer hope in the form of potential intimacy and companionship.”

 

Mitchell Goldberg, Remembering Them

The image above is titled “Remembering Them” and was the first work done for this exhibition. It’s a double panel collage (diptych) with acrylic and photo image transfer, 36 x 24 inches. The photos are almost all in B&W. The layered colors are blue and red. Goldberg says his assembly process for this work follows the same assembly process for media used in his previous solo exhibition.

 

Mitchell Goldberg, Summer Solstice

The image above is titled “Summer Solstice” and was done next. Goldberg says it’s from a series that feature his figure studies. This work is 16”x20” and the media is entirely acrylic and image transfer. The overlapping figures are in B&W. The transparent, layered colors are red, orange and purple.

 

I asked Goldberg about his art background and how he learned to work with all the different media he uses in collage. He made his first collages during a break before his senior year at Sarah Lawrence College, and only took studio arts classes that final year. The first collages also included pop culture pictures of men and cars that express sexual identity. His instructors at Sarah Lawrence said the backgrounds in the collages were too flat.  Goldberg said, although the criticism hurt, he managed to learn from it and his work improved.

He put together his own version of art school and took adult classes at Westchester Community College and the School of Visual Arts (SVA) in NY.” He was in his 40s and consciously decided to never take criticism personally and always try to listen and learn. He studied sculpture, drawing, life drawing and painting, learned to make stained glass, then learned to make fused glass and explore transparent color layering (with Dorothy Hafner), He studied watercolor and printmaking, life drawing and etching, working with multiple print plates.

He said a fellow student introduced him to transparent image transfer – which ultimately changed how he makes collage. He loves building layers with color and multiple images and often adds mono printing above solvent based image transfer, or transparent acrylic paint as a final layer.

 

Mitchell Goldberg, Midnight Dream

The image above is titled “Midnight Dream” and is the last he finished among the three images. This work is 12” x 24”. The media is collage with acrylic and image transfer. The collage includes a torn monoprint. The background color behind the figures images is saffron yellow. The figures overlap in a design that moves horizontally. The artist added small areas of transparent green and red.

 

The Art of Image Transfer

Goldberg says he used more image transfer and less cut and pasted papers in the collages for this exhibition. He also varied the media in each work based on size. All the 12” x 24” panels feature a torn mono print with a solvent image transfer on it.   Every work that is 12” x 12” has an image transfer of a simple 3-piece or 4-piece collage layered with an old photograph and a layer of acrylic paint. The 20” x 16” pieces all feature image transfers of a figure drawing by the artist with added layers of image transfers and acrylic paint.

Goldberg likes working with image transfers because he can re-use the original image. He likes the depth that image transfers give by revealing what’s behind the top image and thinks color layering with image transfer is so beautiful because it  enhances the dreaminess of the vision while adding an abstract dimension to the work.

The artist also says he misses having the texture and aged quality of original papers, and will return to paper collage at some point in the future.

 

I asked Goldberg if there were artists who influenced or inspired him as a collage artist. He likes James Rosenquist and Robert Rauschenberg, the photographers Robert Frank, Gary Wingrand and Diane Arbus – because they knew how to observe the world. He loves works by the artist Kandinsky and early works by Miro. He said Pop Art, Dada and Surrealism are primary inspiration. Goldberg likes Gay artists such as Paul Cadmus and George Tooker because they brought emotion and real depiction of the human experience into their work.

Goldberg says he tries to bring a sense of irony and wit to his work. He is critical of some gay art today because the works are basically figure studies of perfect looking men and very idealized relationships. He adds: “I have been lifting weights since my early twenties, because I also want to look good.”

Meet the artist on Sunday, November 4th (2-5 pm) at the gallery reception. See the exhibition (Nov 1-25, 2018) during regular gallery hours: Thursday – Sunday, 12:30-5:30 pm. For information and gallery directions, call 914.674.8548. Visit Goldberg’s webpage at Upstream Gallery. Visit the artist’s website to see more works.

An exhibition review and an interview with Carole Kunstadt

Nikkal, with her art at the 2018 ArtsWestchester Triennial

See me above. I have 6 collages installed on the 2nd (balcony) level at the ArtsWestchester Triennial exhibition in White Plains, NY (May 8-July 28, 2018).  I am one of 15 artists in the show. These works are part of my new Curvy Geometric series. Each work is mostly black and white and made with art magazine and painted papers. Some works include tiny wood strips, curved wire, and canvas.  Some include thin Washi papers layered over the painted papers to create transparency and texture. The sign on the wall to the left of the installation reads: My studio is filled with papers, glue, scissors and tools. I am a contemporary collage artist…exploring color relationships, layers, edges and connections within a gridded geometric format.

The Triennial exhibition includes a wide range of media from painting to photo collage, video, delicate sculpture made with human hair, sculpture in clay and terra cotta, ink on paper, installation and much more. The ArtsWestchester gallery is located at 31 Mamaroneck Avenue, White Plains, NY. Visit the exhibition (May 8-July 28, 2018) during gallery hours: Tue-Fri, 12-5 pm and Sat, 12-6 pm.

I interviewed Carole Kunstadt for this post. Like me, she is one of 15 artists in the Triennial exhibition. The image below was taken from the balcony at the opening reception and shows her installation titled PRESSING ON. What you see are antique irons covered in lace and text. Notice a visitor is reading wall text for the installation.

Balcony view of PRESSING ON installation at the Triennial

The wall text was written by Mara Mills, Deputy Director of the Hudson Valley Center for Contemporary Art in Peekskill, NY (HVCCA) and says: “Carole Kunstadt’s work is always unique and layered, literally and metaphorically. Her juxtaposition of materials, for her PRESSING ON SERIES combines artifact, word and fabric. The hardness of iron, the graciousness of lace, and the wisdom of words combine as a testament to women’s tenacious movement forward. PRESSING ON honors abolitionist/feminist Hannah More, and integrates history, memory, domesticity, and celebrates women’s political and public voice.”

 

Carole Kurstadt, PRESSING ON table installation

The image above shows 12 “sad” irons with lace and text similar to the 14 displayed on a pedestal at the Triennial. The image below shows 17 “sad” irons with lace, linen thread and other media on a shelf at the Triennial. Each iron in the installation is unique – small but powerful –  and I urge you see them all at the Triennial before it closes July 28th.

Carole Kurstadt, PRESSING ON shelf installation

Carole Kunstadt is a collagist, painter, book and fiber artist and her media are antique books, music manuscripts, ephemera and photo postcards. In her artist statement she says: “Through the exploration and manipulation of the antique materials, history, memory and time merge in a hybrid form. My devotion to books is inspired by the ability of the written word to take the reader to other places through stories, poems and prayers. My process reveals how language can become visual through re-interpretation.”

I asked Carole to tell me how she found the book that was the genesis for the PRESSING ON series. She said she was in a bookstore in Connecticut about 8 years ago, looking for an inexpensive antique book to utilize in her work. Carole cuts and pastes papers from books. She said she found a small book titled “An Estimate of the Religion of the Fashionable World by One of the Laity” (London, 1791). The book was published anonymously but, through researching the title, date and publisher, Carole discovered the book was attributed to Hannah More. Carole told me she found a more recent biography “Fierce Convictions – the Extraordinary Life of Hannah More, Poet, Reformer, Abolitionist,” by Karen Swallow Prior. She added: “… the more I read about Hannah More, the more inspired I became.”

Read about Hannah More (1745 – 1833) at Carole’s website. Hannah More was an abolitionist, poet, social reformer, philanthropist, feminist, writer and a member of the intellectual group “Bluestockings.” Hannah More is referred to as the “First Victorian”, bridging the 18th and 19th centuries…Hannah More’s life-long cause was galvanizing women to act not as domestic ornaments, but as thinking, engaged and responsible beings. She devoted herself to educating and helping the poor, and established over sixteen charitable schools.

I asked Carole to tell me about the irons. She said there’s a common element – scorched lace and text from book pages. She said most of the lace came to her through family. Her maternal grandfather worked in the garment district in NYC and used lace to embellish clothing. Some lace came from a dress her mother wore years later. There’s a delicate tatting lace that was made by her paternal grandmother and a piece of lace that was sewn to the border of a tablecloth from her husband’s paternal grandmother from Vienna. The use of personal fibers creates the connection.

Carole Kurstadt, PRESSING ON: Homage to Hannah More, No.5

The image nearby is titled PRESSING ON – Homage to Hannah More No. 5, 4x3x8 inches. This is an antique “sad” iron with scorched linen thread and paper, and pages from the book An Estimate of the Religion of the Fashionable World: By One of the Laity, London, 1791, Hannah More.

I asked Carole how she started the PRESSING ON series. She said the idea of combining the irons and the text and fibers came when she inherited an iron that had been in her mother’s house. She said it was not as old as the sad irons collected for the series, and added the first few sad irons did not incorporate scorching.

I asked Carole how long she has been involved with the PRESSING ON series. She said she started the series in September of 2017 and is continuing to develop it. She has over 70 works in the series and will have a solo show in December at the Woodstock Artists Association and Museum. All of the sad irons include some text from the book by Hannah More.

Fabulous PHOTO COLLAGE on the 1st floor at the Triennial

Gary Burnley, photo collage

I recommend viewing the 6 photo collages by Gary Burnley on the 1stfloor at the Triennial before the exhibition closes. The top left image is titled QUEENS OF YESTERYEAR #10. The other 5 works are titled FACING HISTORY #7, #10, #15, #18 and #19. The image you see shows my collage students Anne and Paulette in front of Burnley’s works. Burnley’s artist statement says he is conflating and contrasting the ideals, manners and purposes of recognized portraits from art history with images seemingly produced for contradictory purposes with historic photos and pictures from African American school yearbooks and/or photographs from family albums. Burnley says his works create unions that are strange bedfellows –transient confederates. He says what the viewer sees is influenced by the social, class and racial background of them as onlooker. Try to see his images before the Triennial closes July 28th. If you cannot visit the exhibition, see Burnley’s works online here.

Art on the Balcony at the Triennial

Michael Barraco, THE WORD, neon, 2015

You can see a neon installation titled THE WORD by Michael Barraco as you look up to the balcony from the 1st floor. I think this neon work may be more than 20 feet long. It’s all lower case letters that start bababadalghara….

Michael Barraco, BIRD SONGS: An Archive of Love and Loss, 2016

The image above, also by Michael Barraco, is titled BIRD SONGS: AN ARCHIVE OF LOVE AND LOSS. It’s a customized jukebox with 100 photographs, 100 CDs and preserved bird specimens.

Steven Lam, Director and Associate Professor, SUNY Purchase School of Art and Design wrote: “Michael Barraco’s works bridge humor with a biting critique on the ruins and pitfalls of modernity. His work titled BIRD SONGS: AN ARCHIVE OF LOVE AND LOSS includes bird songs and a photo album of birds that fell victim to building collisions. The work mixes melancholy, memory and poetry – a timely work for a chaotic moment.”

Michael Brown, IN THE MEANTIME, stainless steel

The image above shows Sarah and Jane, two students in my collage class at the Pelham Art Center who are standing in front of two of 4 large works made of hand-made stainless steel by Michael Brown. The installation is titled IN THE MEANTIME…III, VI, VII and IX. I took the photo and you see Sarah and Jane reflected in the pattern created by the stainless steel. Also reflected, you see an installation with abstract mixed media paintings by Karlos Carcamo on the opposite wall.

Barry Mason, oil on shaped canvas

The image above shows an installation (one of two) by Barry Mason, with oil on shaped canvas titled SAY IT LOUD, BETWEEN THE WORLD. It’s on a wall near my 6 collages on the balcony at the Triennial. There’s a sign near his installation which reads: “My art and rearrangements can be poetic or brutal; seductive or stark, but all of it is influenced by the callings of my heritage rooted in the African American experience where the djembe drum is alive and there is the sound of gospel – where I receive echoes from my past which “inform” my soul. Read about Barry’s photography and paintings and see his work here.

The Triennial: A snapshot of what’s now and what’s new in contemporary art

The Triennial will become a regular part of the ArtsWestchester exhibition programming. This 1st exhibition coincides with the 20thanniversary celebration of ArtsWestchester at it’s White Plains location. They say the Triennial showcases the vanguard of the region’s arts community and offers a snapshot of what’s now and what’s new in contemporary visual art. Read more here.

There are always people to thank for such an impressive show, including the two curators: Marc Straus, Marc Straus Gallery, NYC  and Paola Morsiani, Brodsky Center, Rutgers University, New Brunswick, NJ.

Special thanks to Janet Langham, CEO, ArtsWestchester and the gallery staff, Kathleen Reckling, Gallery Director, Logan Hanley, Gallery Manager and Kimberly McKoy, Programs Associate.

Your comments are welcome. Try to visit before the exhibition closes July 28th, and let me know what you think. Thank you for reading and thank you for your comments.

nikkal, NINES, 60×36 (2015) original version

 

I challenged myself to change a painting I completed in 2015, because I didn’t like the rough patches of paint on the surface and also wanted to simplify the geometric design. See the original version nearby.

NINES was exhibited recently in a 3-person show titled In the Space of Spirit (Nov 16, 2017 to Jan 11, 2018) at the Lakefront Gallery at the Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital in Hamilton, NJ. It was a big show. I had 23 works in the show, including large paintings and framed collages. Karen Fitzgerald, who organized the show, and Kristin Reed were there other two artists. Sheila Geisler selected and hung the show on the huge mezzanine level at the Lakefront Gallery.

 

 

 

 

 

NINES at the Lakefront Gallery

 

 

The image nearby shows NINES on the Lakefront Gallery wall, flanked on the left by Kristin Reed’s 2 works and on the right by Karen Fitzgerald’s two works. Notice there is a large number nine painted in dark grey in the upper left side of my painting. The exhibition was reviewed in a Times of Trenton article: Lakefront Gallery Fine Arts: ‘In the Space of Spirit’ | NJ.com (Nov 29, 2017). Janet Purcell wrote about NINES: “Pay careful attention to her (Nikkal’s) large acrylic on canvas where the number nine sometimes appears prominently and other times only obscurely. “ Purcell added a statement by Sheila Geisler: “Her (Nikkal’s) adept manipulations of contrasting color create a sense of movement – the surfaces seem to breathe. She is dedicated to exploring the layering of materials as well as the layering of form and pattern.” I was pleased with the review and the recognition that my abstract geometric works are always about surfaces and layering.

 

 

 

I brought NINES back to my studio on January 11th, looked closely at the way it was painted and decided I definitely would change it. On January 25th a pithy post arrived via email from Seth Godin to accept the challenge to begin. The post is titled Beginning is Underrated. Read the post.

 

BEGINNING IS UNDERRATED

Merely beginning.

With inadequate preparation, because you will never be fully prepared.

With imperfect odds of success, because the odds are never perfect.

Begin. With the humility of someone who’s not sure, and the excitement of someone who knows that it’s possible.

 

 

NINES in progress, close up view

 

The image nearby is a close up of the painting after I started to make changes. I wrote myself a work memo: Sand Nines when you arrive at the studio to make the surface smoother. Plan to use a sand block. Scrub gently in a circular motion. It’s hard to tell from this close-up, but I turned the painting upside down so the top is now the bottom. Look at the center of the painting here and notice the painted paper collage. The papers shows up because I reduced the layers of paint with sanding. Notice the cut paper letter D on the right sided. I started to add new collage. The paper, a reverse letter D is not glued down yet.

 

 

 

 

 

 

nikkal, NINES, acrylic and collage on canvas (2017)

 

The image nearby is the new version of the painting. I painted out the large number 9 and large grey oval shape in the original painting. I painted large areas with thin layers of white acrylic to soften the grey yellow tones and unify the design. I changed a yellow square to grey. As I worked, I wiped the acrylic paint gently to reveal undertones. With the turnaround, the nines became sixes so I knew I would have to add more collage numbers to keep the title NINES. FYI: when I am working on a painting, I always paint papers at the same time. That way I have collage papers with colors that match.I eliminated the yellow gold bar at the bottom, the yellow stripe on the right and little gold square on the left.

 

 

 

 

 

 

I will show NINES soon in a group exhibition titled Black White & Grey at the Upstream Gallery in Hastings on Hudson, NY March 1-18, 2018. I am a member of the gallery and NINES now has the right colors for the group show. It’s all black and white and grey.

 

 

I found another Seth Godin post, dated January 21, 2018, that says exactly what I think and feel about this process. It’s titled The Gap. Read it here.

THE GAP

There’s a gap between where you are and where you want to be.

Many gaps, in fact, but imagine just one of them.

That gap–is it fuel? Are you using it like a vacuum, to pull you along, to inspire you to find new methods, to dance with the fear?

Or is it more like a moat, a forbidding space between you and the future?

 

What did I learn?

Go for it. There are always gaps. Dance with the fear. You can make it work.

 

Your comments are welcome.

 

If you are in Westchester County, NY, please stop by the Upstream Gallery, 8 Main Street, Hastings-on-Hudson, NY and see the exhibition (March 1-18). Gallery hours are Thursday to Sunday, 12:30-5:30. Come to the reception Sunday, March 4th, 2-4 pm. The show includes various media, all interpreting black, white and grey.