NEW WEB SITE!

Dear friends, followers, colleagues,

I have neglected this blog as I have been building and maintaining my new web site, which you can see here: locusartstudio.org. Please visit me at LOCUSArt while I catch up with this blog–much to convey in the first quarter of 2017! Thanks for your patience! Ann

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Catching up… half way through 2016!

This year is whizzing by with little time to post here! Much of my creative time has been consumed with community art education projects. Here’s a quick recap…

The Spring session of LUNA, my ecoliteracy and art after-school program, wrapped up with wonderful tissue paper collage posters of plants that are suitable for the urban environment. We showed off the posters at our open house event on May 31. We are now gearing up for our summer session. See much more on the LUNA web site and follow us on Facebook!

Following on the heels of the LUNA Spring wrapup, I invited botanical artist Melissa Fabian and designer Lisa Rasmussen along with Maya Guerin, my LUNA program assistant, to join me for the first annual Phipps Conservatory Bioblitz. I proposed to Phipps that we demo botanical art and offer art activities for the public. Despite torrential rain for part of the morning, we had a great time and enjoyed sharing our love of nature through art. Melissa and I also gave a nature journaling session for Phipps’ Biology in the Burgh education program as a precursor to the Bioblitz. We worked with three different school groups. Here’s a few pics of our team (L-R: Lisa, Maya, Melissa, and me).

Earlier in May, I opened up my studio to Art Excursions Unlimited, a program run by Edith Abeyta. I showed the group of kids and adults examples of different fine art printing techniques, and then they made their own stamps and explored overprinting to create patterns and designs. It was great fun!

The creativity continues with my Osher Lifelong Learning Institute (through University of Pittsburgh) Mixed Media and Collage class. A loyal group from my fall Visual Journaling with Mixed Media and Collage class has continued with the current class, which I hold in my studio. Here’s a sampling of what they did in the fall…

As for my own work, my most recent project was created for Brett Yasko’s massive portrait exhibition of one subject–his friend John Riegert. Over 250 artists are all doing portraits of John, which will all be exhibited at SPACE Gallery in downtown Pittsburgh opening this Friday, June 24. Here’s a digital mock-up of what I produced. The actual work is four pieces each 16″ square. Each piece is a collage of photos I took of John’s belongings in his home. Each panel is comprised of one room, or adjacent rooms. The backgrounds represent locations that have meaning for John. From top left (going clockwise): bedroom and landing/desert near Jerusalem; living room and bedroom/lake John visited with his family as a child; attic/farm field north of Pittsburgh; garden and front porch/Allegheny River, Pittsburgh.

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Finishing out the summer will be the LUNA summer program, my Osher class, and organizing an exhibition of botanical portraits of native trees for the Re:NEW Festival in September. Somewhere amidst all these projects, I will find time to continue my research on the history of botany and hone my botanical art skills, along with making new pieces inspired by my recent trip to Northern Arizona (a sampling of the sights visited below).

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A Busy Start to 2016

It’s hard to keep track these days of all the (matzo) balls I have in the air! However, here’s what’s currently on my plate:

Exhibition: Takashi Morizumi: Autoradiography from Fukushima

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As a member of Remembering Hiroshima, Imagining Peace (RHIP), I worked with graphic designer Lisa Rasmussen who designed the exhibition panels and an informational handout for this stunning exhibition of photographs that make visible the radiation in abandoned objects at Fukushima (currently on view at the University Art Gallery, University of Pittsburgh). The exhibition opening  on March 15 was followed by a panel discussion, which I co-moderated with Taylor Hennessee. We skyped with Morizumi with bags of radioactive soil piled behind him and heard from Zeba Ahmed, a Fulbright Scholar, and Dr. Patricia DeMarco. See the RHIP web site for details.

Presentation: Audrey-Beth Fitch Conference/World Social Work Day: Sustainable Communities: The Human Impact, March 16, 2016, California University of Pennsylvania

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I was one of three keynote speakers for this conference. My talk, “Art in the Anthropocene” is available in the Resources section of this web site. It was an enjoyable and educational day that included a lecture by Dr. Chaone Mallory, who teaches courses in environmental ethics, environmental justice, green political theory and related topics at Villanova University, and a Skype presentation by an activist who lives in Flint, MI and gave us a compelling update on the state of their water and the health of the community.

Writing: Art & Feminism: Then & Now on Pittsburgh Articulate

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Arts and Feminism Wikipedia Edit-a-thon, Pittsburgh, March 5, 2016.
Image courtesy of Julie Kooser (from Pittsburgh Articulate).

I am pleased to announce the first in a series articles Pittsburgh curator Vicky Clark and I are writing on feminism and art for the online magazine, Pittsburgh Articulate. We are presenting both a personal and historical overview of feminist art and then will cover how women artists of our generation and younger are feeling about feminism today. We have distributed a questionnaire to a select group of women artists and will report on our findings in subsequent articles.

Stay tuned for many more of my projects and events, including a guest lecture and workshop at Saint Lawrence University end of March; LUNA, an after-school ecoliteracy and art program in Larimer, starting April 5; and organizing a team of botanical artists for Phipps’ Bioblitz in June. Note that my American Beech botanical portrait (see my prior post), along with many more native tree portraits will be on exhibit at Phipps Garden Center in Mellon Park, opening April 1, 6-7:30pm (through May 20).

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Slow Art II: Flora Project

It’s been nearly a year since I posted “Slow Art” on Valentine’s Day. Last weekend I completed a botanical ‘portrait’ of Fagus grandifolia – American Beech. It was part of an annual project sponsored by Phipps Conservatory. Each year Phipps offers a botanical art/illustration workshop in which participants embark on a year-long study of a plant. Phipps selects the theme and provides a list from which to choose. Last year, the theme was native trees. We were required to include: leaf, flower, the leaf petiole and it’s attachment to the stem or branch, and either the seed, nut, or whole fruit. Their guidelines state: “This annual project brings together artists of varying styles for a single show. The variety makes the show eclectic and lends it energy. Among these varying styles, we hope to have some commonalities to tie the show together, and provide a strong educational impact.”

I chose the American Beech because it was the favored tree of the passenger pigeon and I had been making studies of it. Of course, I procrastinated in working on the project until December! Though I have been taking botanical art classes through Phipps for 4 or 5 years now, I have never made a complete “portrait” as this required.

My first challenge was the composition and figuring out what parts of the plant to include beyond the requirements. That was no easy task given the many possibilities. I looked at numerous botanical examples for ideas and was surprised at the range of approaches. Here’s a few of the American Beech:

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Notice the differences! On the left is one branch with a landscape in the background. In the center is a close-up with limited elements and more detail (I am not sure if this one has been cropped or if it is how the artist intended, but I love the composition). I also like the more scientific “specimen” approach of the one on the right. So there are elements of all of these I wanted to include in my piece. Here is what I ended up with after several adjustments:

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You can see that I combined two drawings for the final composition. Both were drawn on heavy tracing paper. Botanical artists never start directly with drawing on good paper, which can be expensive! You figure out your drawing first on tracing paper and then transfer it.

I also had to decide what medium to use: colored pencil, pen & ink, or watercolor, which are the preferred media for botanical art. I recently took a workshop with Deborah Kopka through Phipps that was mixed media, and which I very much enjoyed. This is not mixed media as we know it in the art world and which I use quite often–combining paint, collage, drawing, etc. Deb mainly combined pen with watercolor, then added pastel pencil to finish it off. I’ve always loved the look of pen, with the strong sense of the drawing and line work, and I am a painter at heart, so I chose pen and ink with watercolor.

I began by inking my drawing after transferring the pencil drawing to the Fabriano Artistico paper. I used Micron pens for this. You can see on the left that before committing to the good paper, I tried out the pen line work and stippling (dots to create shadow) for the leaves on a scrap piece of the same paper and laid it over my piece to see how it would look. On the right is the finished pen work.

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Next was figuring out the color for the leaves. In botanical art, whether watercolor or colored pencil, you build up layers of color. So you can see below that I started with an underpainting on the leaves, which determines the shading. Then you add the “local” color–the actual color that you see. You have to let each layer dry thoroughly, so it is a long process, requiring a lot of patience! My image references are on the right, which I used to determine the local color. Being that I didn’t start this until December, I could not use live specimens, which is my preference. You can never be sure with photographs if the color is accurate, though there are some excellent botanical references online, such as the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center.

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After doing a test of the local color (foreground above), I painted the leaves on the final, which of course did not come out quite the same! I also did a test of the forest scene below, in greyscale (no color). I mixed the black watercolor paint, watering it down to make different shades of grey, rather than using black ink or black watercolor. Theoretically, you can get black by mixing the three primaries (red, yellow, and blue), but paint has a warm or cool bias, so making black requires that you mix a warm and cool of each of the primaries to get (more or less) black. Being that each of the three primaries has different strengths (yellow being the lightest), you can’t simply mix equal amounts! Why go through all this? Because you get a much richer black, containing all those colors rather than a dull, lifeless black! Besides, it’s a fun challenge to try to mix black!

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Having completed the leaves, next was figuring out the color for the branches and buds. On the left I am trying out different underpainting colors and the local color. It’s very helpful to take notes on how to mix the colors and how to apply them. Sometimes I think I will remember and don’t take notes, and then I regret it! Deb Kopka showed us in her class how she saves everything from a project–copious notes, drawings, sketches, everything! Before the invention of photography when artists accompanied scientists and explorers on long journeys, they made extensive color swatches with notes of botanical specimens so the colors could be duplicated once they returned home.

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Finally, I painted the forest in greyscale, and then also added some grey shadows to the nuts, and branches in the back.

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The finishing steps: deciding if and where to add the plant name, signing my name, and any final tweeks. I added a bit of colored pencil to heighten the color on the buds and leaves. Fini!

This was an immensely satisfying project! It drew on everything I have learned in the botanical workshops I’ve been taking combined with researching the tree and all its minute aspects. I feel like Fagus grandifolia has become my friend with whom I have intimate knowledge! I will definitely do this again, and plan to sign up for the next Flora project! Next time, however, I won’t wait until December to do it–I hope!

 

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Moving Targets – Fall Update!

blackman_20150924_8327Moving Targets, my three-year research project and culminating art installation with Steffi Domike has come to a close, at least for now. Our fifth showing of the project at Christine Frechard Gallery in Pittsburgh (above) was a big success. See a short video that provides an overview, and see the Moving Targets section of this web site for more info.

CFTalkPattyCroppedWe had a full house for both our gallery reception and artist talk. For the latter, we were joined by Dr. Ruth Fauman-Fichman (our project researcher and a catalog essayist) and Dr. Patricia DeMarco (another catalog contributor, shown above). You can read Ms. DeMarco’s catalog essay here. We were well received by the Jewish community, which was our aim in showing the work and announcing our catalog in Squirrel Hill, a predominantly Jewish neighborhood in Pittsburgh. Many were interested in our family stories and shared their own.

MTCatalogPPPageWe sold several catalogs during the run of the exhibition, which includes six essays by distinguished social and natural scientists and artists. The catalog details all aspects of the exhibition, providing vignettes for each artwork (sample page above). It also highlights passenger pigeon centenary events produced by Project Passenger Pigeon Pittsburgh, of which we were a part.

perkspic01Following the closing of the exhibition, we are getting out the “perks” (above) we promised our many wonderful contributors, including a set of six note cards, each with a unique reproduction of an artwork ($25 level); hand-dyed and printed silk scarves ($50 level), and catalogs ($100 level). We are continuing to accept contributions directly to cover our costs for the project (post a comment below if you would like to contribute and we will contact you). Contributors will receive the perks listed here. You can also buy the catalog directly here. Note that the cost of the catalog covers the production; we are not making any extra on these sales!

We are very pleased with the outcome of our three-year effort and are already thinking of future projects that will explore similar themes. We thank all our contributors, colleagues, friends, and family who donated money, time, skills, and support for the project. It has been a grand journey!

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Moving Targets Exhibition & Book Launch, August 29

MTCFPostcardAR3It has been an intensive summer, working on the Moving Targets catalog, which is almost ready to print, and preparing for our exhibition at Christine Frechard Gallery in the Squirrel Hill neighborhood of Pittsburgh, opening August 29 (through September). We are also producing new work for the exhibition, which will be based on the research and imagery we developed over this three-year project. Click the image above to see a pdf of our exhibition announcement with all exhibition and venue details, including a talk we will be giving Sunday, September 20, 4-5pm.

Our crowd funding campaign through Indiegogo is now closed. We raised 1/3 of our target amount–a huge thank you to those of you who contributed! You can still donate through our fiscal sponsor, Society for Cultural Exchange (a big thank you to SCE for their support). If you would like to contribute, please post a comment through this site and I will respond and provide information. You will receive whatever perk corresponds with your contribution amount (see the perks and amounts on Indiegogo–you can still access the site and view all the info). Thanks for any help you can provide to help cover our costs! I will add more current info and images as we approach the exhibition opening! And I will post how to purchase a copy of the catalog as soon as it is available!

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Spring Recap!

Finally, Spring has come, late in these parts. Flowers are beginning to bloom along with the weeds; winter grime begs for attention; deadlines loom. Herewith, a recap of recent and ongoing projects…

Moving Targets Catalog & Crowdfunding

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The Moving Targets Catalog is making great progress, with all six essays submitted, the sections established, and images mostly in place. It is very exciting to see the last two years of our work come together in a concise physical form that can be considered as a whole and shared widely. A special thanks to our designer, Lisa Rasmussen, who has been a delight to work with!

We have launched our crowdfunding site on Indiegogo and hope to raise $7500. It includes an awesome video that was shot by Keith Reimink of DALIBORKAfilms (thank you Keith!) and was edited by Steffi. Please have a look at us discussing our project! It has been up for a week, and we have raised $550–not a bad start! We are planning a big launch after this holiday weekend. Please consider a contribution! Any amount helps and keeps the momentum going, and we have some great perks in return for your generosity! And please spread the word!

We are also working toward our exhibition at Christine Frechard Gallery in the Pittsburgh neighborhood of Squirrel Hill, which will open on August 29 and run through September. Along with exhibiting Moving Targets (sans Portrait Gallery), we will be creating complementary works for sale!

A Contrast in Conferences

In April, I attended two conferences: Open Engagement in Pittsburgh and the Peace & Planet Conference in New York City. Though these were both about activism and citizen engagement, they were strikingly different in approach and attendees.

open-engagement-640x384Open Engagement as described on their web site is “…an international conference and platform to support socially engaged art… The conference mission is to expand the dialogue around socially engaged art, as well as the structures and networks of support for artists working within the complex social issues and struggles of our time.” (Photo: Lunch at Conflict Kitchen from artfcity.com). Most of the conference attendees were in their 30s and 40s. I sought out environmentally themed panels, of which there were disappointingly few. I am seeing a disconnect between “social practice” (current buzzword for socially engaged/community art) and environmental/ecoart. Why? I can’t help but think this is a repeat of the long-standing nature/culture dichotomy, or the “my issue is more important than your issue” conundrum. How can this be in the face of climate change with its significant impacts on ALL life on the planet?

Project-Row-Houses1By far, what resonated the most for me was Rick Lowe’s lecture that concluded the conference. I have followed his Project Row Houses for years–a groundbreaking and ongoing community arts project (photo left from their web site) . He was refreshing in his honesty and humility, talking in plain language about his struggles, successes, and failures as an artist. He concluded his talk with (from my notes): Revolution is always happening rather than being a set moment in time. It is a sustained movement of empowering the powerless. The end result of “social change” work is justice.

Lowe ended with: ‘When do we have the courage to claim what we believe?’ I found this question to be extremely powerful. Unlike the 60s where everyone claimed what they believed (for better or worse), it seems that people are not willing to stick their necks out to speak their truth and their convictions. Perhaps it is because it is too easy these days to get your neck chopped off publicly (via social media), as happened to Patricia Arquette recently in her Oscar acceptance speech when, unfortunately, she trumped civil rights with women’s rights. But, we all knew what she was getting at, did we not? And she had the courage to say what was in her heart. I applaud her for that, though, we must get beyond one issue trumping another (more on that below).

ARosenthalPPConf01The other conference I attended was the International Peace and Planet Conference, which was a precursor to the United Nations Nuclear Proliferation Treaty Review.  I found this conference to be in sharp contrast to the OE Conference–the attendees were mostly older, many who have been deeply active in the peace and justice movement for decades. As a member of Remembering Hiroshima, Imagining Peace (RHIP), I presented with Jo Schlesinger and Taylor Hennessee as part of the Global Hibakusha workshop. We were all  struck by the idea of expanding “hibakusha,” which refers to atomic bomb survivors from WWII, to include others impacted by atomic testing and mining. Testimonies from the Marshall Islands and the Navaho Nation along with survivors from Japan were moving and inspiring. I was deeply touched that they enjoyed our presentation as well and recognized the power of art to raise awareness and effect change. (Full story on the RHIP web site). I also attended a workshop on Militarism and Climate Change that was eye-opening. I had never thought much about this connection, but there is one: what is the carbon footprint of the military, of even one jet fighter?

IMG_20150426_140447198_HDRA rally, march, and festival comprised the second day of P&P events. The march was wonderful, with banners waving, people singing, and peace cranes being handed out to passersby and police. At the festival, we presented the Shibori Peace Quilts we made with the Children’s Museum last fall to the Shinfujin/The New Japan Women’s Association, who have taken the quilts back to Japan to be hung in their new home at the Chihiro Art Museum in Azumino. It was a very satisfying conclusion to the conference–the Shinfujin women were thrilled with the quilts. I think they had no idea how beautiful they would be!

In contrasting the two conferences, I found them both to be hopeful and affirming, despite the problems. They both attempted to address some of our most pressing social issues. However, where the P&P conference sought to connect social and environmental justice, the OE conference had a blind spot. The P&P conference still has a long way to go to connect the issues and make them relevant to younger generations, but they are keenly aware of this. I was heartened by the OE conference–its youth, energy, and commitment. However, though they are connecting some social issues, they have not made the connection between justice movements. Activist movements continue to flounder because we are not connecting the dots. All these issues have the same root causes, and at this point in our human evolution, we must address them together. Remember divide and conquer? Let’s not be fooled into being territorial about “our issues.” Social justice is coming to the fore again with the “Black Lives Matter” movement, but it must be expanded to ALL lives matter, and all LIFE matters, including the non-human others who have a right to their existence as we have ours.

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