About lynbelisle

Lyn Belisle Artist’s Statement: Shards and Veils As an artist, my personal obligations and passions are pulling individual connections from the circular nature of time, fashioning shards of recognition from the well of collective unconscious, exploring the idea of the “secret handshake” in symbol and archetype, celebrating the frozen moment between what was and what is to come. I work in four main media to explore these ideas: • In collage, often using beeswax and altered papers to celebrate anonymous faces and otherworldly places • In unglazed earthenware clay and found objects, often to create spiritual and symbolic “neo-santo” assemblage • In fiber and paper, often to create wall pieces with natural colors, wax, felt, cheesecloth and digital photo images • In acrylic paint, often as pure, non-referenced exploration of form and veiling I take inspiration and comfort from the knowledge that we are all connected on a deep cross-cultural level with shared collective memories that each of us can glimpse through art without the need for words.

Wax and Clay play – plus a cool lightbox!

Grace and Deliverance (detail), Lyn Belisle, 2018

Grace and Deliverance (detail), Clay and Encaustic, Lyn Belisle, 2018

I’ve been working with earthenware clay and encaustic medium for a few years now, and really enjoying the combination.

But it occurred to me that not all encaustic artists have a chance to try this combination since they don’t have unlimited access to fired clay like I do.

Then it occurred to me that I have an Etsy shop that sells unglazed clay shards to artists. Hmmmmm. Then it occurred to me that I  just got a notice about a discount deal for advertising in Encaustic Arts Magazine.

Aha – the “Earthenware and Encaustic Exploration Set” was born!

I find that when you get an idea, just go ahead with it as if it were already real! Don’t worry about how it’s all going to work. So I put together an ad for Encaustic Arts Magazine that looks like this using photos that I took especially for this purpose:

To make the pieces look good for the ad, good lighting was necessary for the photographs of the clay pieces. So I’m sharing with you a link to a photo light box that I have found to be extremely useful for all kinds of objects – and it’s cheap (about $40) and has its own light source.

It folds up into a flat package, and it comes with different colored backgrounds. As always, you get what you pay for – it’s not what you’d find in a professional photo studio for sure – but it does give good lighting for items up to about 12″.

This is what an art object looks like inside the light box:

Of course, you crop the photos so the edges of the photo box don’t show!

Here are some of the Encaustic Shard photos taken in the new light box – good detail! By the way, I use my iPhone for taking the photos 99% of the time. You don’t need a fancy camera.

To create the ad for Encaustic Arts Magazine, I wrote a simple description of how an encaustic artist might want to experiment with clay on a small scale. The I added the photos. You’d be surprised at how easy it is to put something like this together. True! Here’s a link to how to make an ad using Microsoft Word.

Anyway, if there is a point to this post, it is to follow up on an idea that you think might work as if it were already a success, using tools that facilitate the process.

It’s important to start with the conviction that the idea it WILL work – and in fleshing out the idea, you learn a lot along the way. If it doesn’t work, the journey itself is worth the price of admission!

I’ll let you know if the “Earthenware and Encaustic Exploration Set” appeals to encaustic artists when the ad comes out in June, but even if it doesn’t, it’s always fun to put together an inspiration!

 

 

 

 

 

Milagro moments

No matter how busy things get, I can always steal a few minutes to spend in my little in-house clay studio (usually in the very early morning when it’s still dark). There is such comfort and calmness in claywork, kinda like meditation.

The space is about 7×10′ – it’s very cozy. I can slip into my chair at the clay table and lose myself in the comfort of hand building earthenware when there’s an extra 30 minutes or so.

A couple of weeks ago I had a Milagro Momentaha! You know, or course, that milagros (miracles) are those little charms that adorn altars and artwork all over the Southwest and Mexico. What if I made a clay press mold from milagros just like I do from cemetery faces? I could fire it and use it for all kinds of milagro textures.

This is how it turned out.

Here is an unfired earthenware heart taken from the press mold – I sanded it to refine the shape.

Now that I have the press mold, I can use it for lots of handbuilding projects like the small heart-shaped shard pockets that I’m making because they take a comparatively short time to create – see the one on the right:

I can also incorporate the clay shape into other assemblages. This one, a personal altar adornment was finished last night.

The detail that clay can replicate is pretty amazing – I’m using Longhorn White with Grog to form the press mold and firing it to Cone 05.

Small Milagros-patterned ring dish

Making clay objects has been my go-to comfort practice since the late 70’s when I took handbuilding classes from Jerry Alexander at the old San Antonio Art Institute. Some of you remember that time!

So getting grounded by working with earthenware always helps me find those Milagro Moments – new ideas that keep the enthusiasm for the next creative experiment alive and well. So, what’s YOUR next Milagro Moment??

Milagro Heartshard with branches

 

 

 

 

Tech Report: CamFind

Y’all probably know that I taught in the Computer Science Department at Trinity University and have always been kind of a closet techie. So I was really excited to read about an app called CamFind, which searches for objects based on a photo. Kim Komando, self-described as America’s Digital Goddess, wrote about it on her site. I really like her tips (most of the time).

Anyway, Kim wrote: “CamFind uses the Cloudsight API (application program interface) to search the Internet for your image. If it’s a cup of coffee, it’ll recognize that image, translate it into an online search, and give the results. CamFind recognizes almost any image. Plus, it’s free to use. So, give it a shot, to see how well it works for you.

And this was a consumer review about CamFind: “This blew my mind, it even recognized a contemporary abstract painting by an unknown artist that hangs in our apartment as an abstract painting.”

So I downloaded CamFind (free for both iPhones and Android) because I wanted to find info about some art-related objects, and gave it a try!
First Object – the Diet Dr. Pepper that was sitting on my desk (as always):
CamFind swung into action and immediately identified it as:
RED AND WHITE COORS BEER STEIN
And then it helpfully gave me a link to where I could by some more red and white Coors beer steins.
Wow.
So then I tried a photo of an encaustic piece that I did several years ago:
CamFind took a look and told me that it was
BROWN AND BLACK WALL DECOR
Hmmm – that was a little better, but I was hoping for something more like. “Engaging ecaustic dimension art work by world famous artist Lyn Belisle. “ Didn’t happen. I am reduced to being a creator of brown and black wall decor. Sigh.
Finally, I tried the metal piece that I really wanted to identify – I have been using these in some of my Ex Voto constructions and wanted to know what it was and where it came from (a friend had given me several of these).
CamFind instantly identified it as – I kid you not
BLACK PEEP-TOED SANDAL
And it showed me several sites where I could buy another sandal just like this one.
So — to the reviewer who was astounded that CamFind could identify her abstract painting as an abstract painting, your point is??? I can look at it and see that much. Can’t CamFind give me a nice critique of the color, style, and hidden motivation? Guess not.
In summary, CamFind is free and often unintentionally hilarious; however, don’t count on it to actually identify stuff for you in detail. But as Kim Komando says, “Give it a shot, to see how well it works for you.”
And by the way, Kim has some interesting tips for artists who want to sell their work online through social media. If you’re interested, click here see what she tells an online caller from Alabama.

Now if you will excuse me, I am going to take some more photos with my amazingly amusing CamFind app before heading out to the studio to paint.

Another opening, another show!

This is a follow-up to the Borderland post – the GAGA group show titled “A Certain Sense of Her” opened yesterday at the Coastal Bend College Gallery in Beeville, Texas.

In this photo, you are viewing the “quilt” sides of the paintings. Don’t they look amazing? Kudos to Sylvia Benitez and her GAGA installation crew for this great display.

You may remember that I was working on the reverse side of my “Borderland” painting in a recent post.

I decided to intersperse photocopied newspaper stories about the struggle on the border with canvas fragments from the palette I used while painting the front.

This is how it came out.

You can see it on the middle left in the installation photo at the top of this post. It makes a strong statement about the chaos on the border in a very different way that the painting itself does, like two sides of the same coin:

I wish I could have been in Beeville yesterday! But fortunately, Sylvia and the GAGAs posted a video of the installation. Just go the the GAGA homepage and scroll down to the video on the right. You’ll get a great inside view of the scope and drama of the installation.

I am so proud to be a part of this talented group of women!

 

Naturally Inspired – a natural collaboration

Lyn Belisle, “Bedrock” – Earthenware, found objects, 2019

NATURALLY INSPIRED: WORK BY LYN BELISLE, SABRA BOOTH, JESUS TORO MARTINEZ, AND TIM MCMEANS

I finally got to the this fantastic exhibition at St. Mary’s University which opened while we were in Cuba. The last I saw of my “Unearthed” pieces was dropping them off in a big box to curator Brian St. John at St. Mary’s University – goodbye, stuff!

Brian, a huge talented painter and professor of art at St. Mary’s,  treated me to lunch yesterday and a tour of the exhibit – wow! The works by (lucky) me and the other three artists integrates beautifully. Read Brian’s statement to see how all of this came about:

I knew Tim McMeans’ work well and had admired it for some time. His hybrid painted-drawings of two dimensional figures in broken geometric planes were recently featured in a great show at the Felder Gallery.

Jesus Toro Martinez is also a well-know San Antonio painter whose work I knew for its textures and power depicting earth themes. We had met a couple of times, and I loved his outgoing generous nature.

Jesus Toro Martinez, Sagebush by the Creek

Sabra Booth was new to me, but no longer – she is amazing. Her organize prints and collographs are stunning. In the exhibition, she has one huge collagraphic printing plate displayed next to the framed print it produced. I am a new fan of her work!

Sabra Booth, Frack House (detail)

I took some photographs of the exhibit when I was there with Brian yesterday – want to see? Just click on the image below!

Lyn Belisle, “Unearthed” – earthenware and found objects, 2019

 

 

 

Evolution of a painting: Borderland

The amazing Sylvia Benitez, founder of the Gentileschi Aegis Gallery Association, (GAGA) has devised a new group painting installation for the COASTAL BEND COLLEGE Gallery in Beeville.

Individual artists first create a maquette (scaled study) of a painting that might be cut into quilt squares – here’s mine, with notes, which was completed several months ago:

Lyn Belisle, Maquette for Quilt Project

This was the small sketch for the larger painting in close-up – it was just a general idea that I hoped to develop somehow — in my notes on the maquette, I wrote, “I have come to rely on synchronicity, intuition, and collective unconscious” – in other words, I try to trust the process and the concept will emerge.

The next step was to create the painting itself, a 20×20″ work on unstretched heavy canvas with six coats of Gesso. One of Sylvia’s brilliant ideas was to use a separate canvas for the palette, which could them be cut up into a quilt design that would reflect the colors in the painting.

Working from my initial composition, I started the painting, laying our blocks and texture:

At this point, I posted on Facebook that I liked the palette better than the painting! You can’t go wrong with Quinacridone Gold and Payne’s Gray!

Then the painting got to that stage where things get murky and uncertain – I had imaged that it would be misty and soft, but more geometric shapes seemed to be called for.

I almost stopped here. The painting was pretty – but that’s ALL it was. There had to be more . . .

Immediately, I knew there need to be a large dark block on the left — a WALL:

I realized that the painting was becoming the abstract representation of a borderland in turmoil – fences, walls, wire, smoke. Just yesterday I had seen photographs of a bulldozer at a protected butterfly sanctuary on the Mexico border.

Here is the finished painting, titled Borderland:

I am so grateful for the intuitive guidance that helped me express the frustration I feel about divisions and conflict. It’s cathartic to paint it through. Every little dab and brushstroke in the finished piece now has new meaning for me.

The next step will be to cut up the painted scrap palette I used, and create a quilt collage on the back side of the canvas. I’ll post a photo for that when it’s done.

Sylvia’s vision for our GAGA group show, A Certain Sense of Her, should play out well at the Coastal Bend Gallery – can’t wait to see all of the quilted-inspired paintings on site!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Cuban love song

I loved exploring the joy of Cuban artist Jose Rodriguez Fuster‘s mosaic-covered “Fusterlandia”, a home, studio, and community in Havana

Cuba is a land of creativity, contradictions, and complexity. After eight days there, I’m still processing the experience, and probably will for a very long time. (Cuba is a photographer’s dream. To go directly to the photos in my Cuba Journal, take this link.)

Our small group tour included “people to people” interaction with many local artists, entrepreneurs, musicians, ecologists, schoolchildren and more during our travels four areas across the island.

Dance students in training at a no-cost government-supported arts school

We spent several days in Havana, which is celebrating its 500th birthday this spring. The city is a time capsule of transportation and architecture. Cuba is a country still deeply entrenched in a complex political situation. Nevertheless, innovation and invention are everywhere and the spirit of the Cuban people is inspiring.

On the street near Ernest Hemingway’s house

There are many helpful guides for Americans who want to travel to Cuba, and it’s important to read them before you plan a visit there. For over 50 years Cuba was essentially off limits to Americans thanks to a 1962 trade embargo that made spending money on the island tantamount to treason.

This all changed in 2014, when the Obama administration announced a reestablishment of diplomatic relations with Cuba. However, to quote travel guide Andrew Scott, “This opportunity will not last forever. The influx of foreigners is rapidly transforming Cuba’s economic and social realities. Meanwhile, political uncertainties in the U.S. make it impossible to know if the borders will remain open.”

I am so grateful that I visited Cuba when I did. For artists, it is rich with visual imagery – and Cuban artists are prolific and skilled, particularly in printmaking. I spoke to several of them about their processes and vision.

Two artist/educators discuss their work as professional artists

One thing we didn’t talk about was Decreto 349, a new decree by the Cuban government that criminalizes independent artists and places severe restrictions on cultural activity not authorized by the Ministry of Culture. You can read more about that here.

The Internet just become available in Cuba two months ago, and vendors were selling WiFi cards everywhere we went. It is going to be extremely interesting to see what effect that kind of global access produces.

I have a lot more reading to do about Cuba, but in the meantime, the photos from the trip continue to inspire me. Here are some of my favorites, presented in a photojournal on my website. I hope these digital snapshots express all the reasons why it’s easy to fall in love with Cuba and its people.

 

 

 

 

An ancient pottery technique interpreted with modern stamps

“Synchronicity” is having a field day with me these days – it seems as if everything I come across relates to something else I’m working on.

Case in point: I’ve been researching pottery shards (or “sherds,” as they are often called in archeological reports) found near a burial site near Olmos Basin and have discovered that some really beautiful versions of black-on-white designs existed in this area and farther west and north.

Flafstaff Black on White Bowl – Date Range: Kayenta Heartland: A.D. 1130-1230 (Christenson 1994), Flagstaff Region: A.D. 1140-1225

Tularosa Black and White

If you’re interested in the historical details, here’s an excerpt from a 1959 paper on the subject:

About this same time, it so happened that I was supposed to design a bowl for the Empty Bowls fundraiser that’s held every year for SAMMinistries (which helps the homeless).

When I saw those ancient black-and-white pot shards, I was totally inspired. I wanted make a bowl to pay homage to that work, but time was of the essence and I couldn’t spend many hours hand-painting the intricate designs.Then I remembered that I had purchased a Potter’s Stamp from Road Runner Clay last year.

I got out my flexible clay texture stamps and the Potter’s Pad. This works just like a regular stamp pad, but it contains an underglaze for clay surfaces.

You can use any craft stamp to apply the underglaze to bisqueware (clay that has been fired once, but not glazed). Once the piece has been stamped, clear glaze is put over the surface as a top coat, and the pot is fired again.

Here is my stamped bowl – not quite Anasazi, but it does have that look, with a contemporary twist. I also used an underglaze pencil to do some asemic writing on the first layer.

Bowl with Stamped Underglaze, Lyn Belisle

Here’s what the underside of the bowl looks like.

Several other artists in the San Antonio Art League also painted underglaze designs for the Empty Bowls fundraiser. They were gorgeous! These artists were braver than I was, and used colored underglaze, which really change when fired. Here are photos of Dona Walston’s bowl before and after firing.

BEFORE FIRING:

AFTER CLEAR GLAZE & FIRING:

Underglazes, whether painted or stamped, are a wonderful way for a painter to experiment with pottery!

I encourage everyone to come to the Empty Bowls Event on March 3rd at the SW School of Art.

And for a sneak preview, click on the video below with more bowl photos from SAALM artists.

SAALM & SAPG partner for EMPTY BOWLS 2019 from Lyn Belisle on Vimeo.

 

Screens and shelters as art

archaeological excavation shelter

screen panels of heavy paper and sticks

As part of my work with the “Unearthed” series, I’ve been working with panels of paper, wax, sticks and silk to construct three-dimensional sculptural objects that can be configured in different ways.

This has become a very exciting project for me, informed and inspired by shelters and screens for archaeological excavations as well as the idea of versatile art panels that can be viewed from many perspectives to conceal and reveal.

Here’s one that is almost finished. It is large, about four feet long and two feet high.

Lyn Belisle, Shelter Screen #1, 48″ x 36″ Paper, wax, silk, pigment, and sticks

This is a close-up of the surface of one of the panels – torn silk is adhered with beeswax to squares of archeological symbols printed on paper. It’s multilayered and complex. The surface is meant to suggest ancient shards and scraps that have been collected and stuck to experimental surfaces for further study.

Detail, “Shelter Screen #2”

Another great thing about working with these kinds of panels is that each panel has two sides. Here is the reverse side of that piece.

“Shelter Screen #2”, reverse side

The artwork can be displayed on a wall as a four-panel work, or it can be configured on a pedestal or table as a three-dimensional object.

Here is another Shelter Screen in the series that also has two different-sided surfaces. This one is slightly smaller, about 3.5′ long.

Lyn Belisle, “Shelter Screen #3”, Paper, wax, sticks, acrylic, pigment

The back of this screen features photos of one of my earthenware face shards in a series of altered photographs.

“Shelter Screen #3”, reverse side

And it can be hung, or folded or tied into a square with either side out!

Because I have very limited studio time these days with all of the Art League duties, I find that working with these shelter panels is like meditation. Each one that I construct is slightly different, and when they are stitched or hinged together, their possibilities are endless.

I love the way this process grounds me back to the basics of building. And the fact that they are inspired by archeological screen and shelters gives them a deeper meaning.

Here is my second “Unearthed” sculpture displayed in front of a Shelter Screen – they were obviously meant to be together!

It’s as if the past is reaching out into the present, giving me guidance. Maybe “Nine Antlers” has a hand in all of this!

“I held my breath as we do sometimes to stop time when something wonderful has touched us…” ~ Mary Oliver

RIP

 

Unearthed

“Unearthed”- Lyn Belisle – Mixed Media Sculpture – 18″x 8″x 6″- 2019

Much of my new work is influenced by the Archaeological Investigations report which describes the 1979-80 research and discovery of 13 Archaic period human burials removed from a prehistoric cemetery by Olmos Dam. The investigation provided important information on the cultural practices during that period among people who lived almost exactly where I live now.

I call this new sculpture “Unearthed because I deliberately followed a process by which the clay shards that I created were fired in pieces that would be assembled like an unearthed archaeological puzzle – I did not have a plan about how they would go together, but rather worked on instinct. I let the piece “tell” me how it wanted to be built.

Clay shard pieces at the bottom of the kiln

It was harder than I thought. First of all, engineering a stable form from diverse clay pieces was a challenge. I used a combination of wood, plaster gauze (a gift from Shannon Weber) and a product called Platinum Patch in a few places where stability was critical.

Creating in three dimensions means paying as much attention to the sides and back as the front. The back of the piece shows the intricate textures pressed into the clay shard.

Here’s a detail of the texture on the front. I really like the way the plaster gauze looks like aged fabric remains.

I actually created two heads for this piece and ended up using the larger one.

A large head suggests child-like proportions, while this body suggests armor, so the whole piece resembles an ancient child warrior. Again, when I started out, I had no idea what this creature wanted or how to get there, but — trust the process!

You’ll be able to see this guy (and more of my brand new 3-D work) at  St Mary’s University Library in February as part of the exhibition called  “Naturally Inspired: works by Sabra Booth, Lyn Belisle, Jesus Toro Martinez, and Tim McMeans.” 

It’s gonna be a creative new year!