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.

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!

Resolving to sell more of your art this year? How about Etsy?

“Earthshards,” my Etsy shop for small earthenware faces, reached a milestone in 2018.

I opened the shop in February of 2012 and made my first sale at 08:52 p.m. on Saturday, March 31st, 2012 to Andrea Veldhoff in Newark, Ohio – thanks, Andrea! (This is what she ordered – they are definitely “shards,” not complete faces.)

By December of 2012, I had sold 83 orders and earned $1500. That was so exciting!

Six years later, there’s even more exciting news – for the first time, in 2018, my annual Etsy revenue exceeded $10,000. Woohoo! Honestly, I didn’t set out with that goal in mind, but it’s a proud moment.

Last year I sold 466 orders to people all over the world and earned $10,239.74! That’s not exactly a living wage, but it’s a lot of little faces – and I am grateful to every buyer for finding me. I’m also grateful to Etsy for keeping all the stats on every order. They really make it easy and fun to track sales.

For example, here’s where some of those faces went:

Plus, I get fantastic pictures from buyers showing me how they use the faces – they inspire me!

Spirit doll photo from a creative buyer

Reaching this milestone just kind of crept up on me. Filling Etsy orders has become such a part of my routine that I don’t think about it much. I spend one or two days a month making a hundred or so faces and firing them, and then I custom-finish them as the orders come in.

I’ve learned what buyers like (full faces, open eyes, holes at the top) and I’ve learned to wrap the orders attractively and stamp the mailers with my logo. While I don’t really advertise, word of mouth and persistence has paid off.

So what?? This isn’t just patting myself on the back – it’s mostly to say that if your New Year’s Resolutions include getting your art out there in the new year, opening an Etsy shop is one way to do that.

Some tips:

Find a niche that relates to your own art style.

I was lucky. There were no other sellers making the small clay faces which I was also using in my own work. Now there are lots of small faces, but most of the sellers are using polymer or air dry clay and commercial molds.

Show how the buyer might use the artwork.

I was able to post photos of the faces being used in my Spirit Doll workshops so buyers could see how the faces might work for them. I also showed them as pendants and talismans.

Think about how you will ship your work

If you can come up with artworks that are variations of pieces that are all about the same size and weight, it’s a lot easier than trying to figure out how to wrap and ship a bunch of different sized pieces. For example, if you are making Day of the Dead milagro-embedded candles, keep them all the same size, but use different scents and colors. (Etsy creates downloadable shipping labels for you, so that part is easy).

Make sure you like doing it!

If you can’t stand scented oils that go into candles, don’t make those Day of the Dead candles even if you’re selling like crazy. You’ll start to hate it.

Be specific/original in your approach

Let’s say you’re a fiber artist who does needle felting – don’t open a needle-felted whatever shop. Narrow it down to small needle-felted pouches for your grandkids’ baby teeth. Well, maybe not THAT specific, but you get the idea.

Here are some good articles if you’re interested in thinking more about this . . .

The Most Successful Art-Related Etsy Shops – with advice

Tips from Three Successful Artists about Selling on Etsy

And finally, the Etsy site has great guides to opening your own shop!

The Etsy Seller’s Handbook

Thanks for reading SHARDS, and Happy (and prosperous) New Year!!

 

 

 

 

Art from 40 years ago – and a lesson about archival media

I just came across a portfolio of old mixed media drawings that I hadn’t seen in decades. The year was 1978. I was teaching art at MacArthur High School and working part-time as an illustrator.

Even though these nine pieces are 40 years old, I can still see my style in development – narrative work, limited palette, graphite. And there are lots of Jasper Johns and Larry Rivers influences, which I cherish today.

Each piece is fairly large, 18″x24″. The are done with Ebony pencil, watercolor, even spray paint. Most of the drawings are in good shape – however . . . .

One of my favorite pieces is the mixed media drawing titled “Delta Dawn,” from the Tanya Tucker song:

“She’s forty-one and her daddy still calls her “baby”
All the folks around Brownsville say she’s crazy
‘Cause she walks downtown with a suitcase in her hand
Looking for a mysterious dark-haired man. . .”

Unfortunately, I created this layered piece on manilla paper, which is made from wood fiber and is anything but archival – you can see on the left side how it’s crumbling and disintegrating.

More severe deterioration can be seen in this untitled piece of a mysterious guy floating on what appears to be a dream-catcher:

In 1978, I had no idea that I’d be looking at this work 40 years later, but I’ve certainly learned a lesson about archival paper! These days, we can photograph old works and “repair” them digitally, but it’s always a good idea to think ahead and use a substrate that will stand up to time.

Here is a great article on archival paper from Making a Mark blog – I wish I had read it 40 years ago. Oh, wait, there was no Internet back them . . . .

 

Holiday eye-candy – with fiber!

The 44th Annual Juried Fiber Arts Exhibition at SAY Si is a holiday treat for any art lover. It’s surprising, innovative, and inspiring. The theme, ‘All Things Possible in Fiber Art’, called on artists to explore boundaries beyond their normal comfort zones. All types of fiber art were eligible, including 3-D, free standing, and art-to-wear.

Juror Alana J Coates, a gallerist, educator, and curator who is academically trained in Art History, Museum Studies, and Nonprofit Leadership, made some intriguing choices for both inclusions and awards.The back-stories are important – read on.

First place went to fiber artist Kathy Puente for her piece titled Flight 1380, a hand-embroidered homage to the April 17, 2018 Southwest Airlines tragedy in which the plane’s left engine exploded after one of its fan blades broke off. A gust of shrapnel blew out a window, partly sucking one passenger in Row 14 headfirst into the sky.

Katy Puente, Flight 1380

Second place went to veteran artist and designer Caryl Gaubatz for her garment titled #MeToo. Subtle details like the uneven hemline with its metaphoric cutouts are clarified in the machine-embroidered dialog on sexual harassment contained in the fabric.

Caryl Gaubatz. #MeToo

It’s a meticulous art piece that requires close examination to fully appreciate its impact.

Detail, Caryl Gaubatz, #MeToo

And I’m happy to report that “Nine Antlers,” my piece inspired by the prehistoric archaeological remains of a young woman near Olmos Basin, won the Mixed Fiber Award.

Lyn Belisle, Nine Antlers

You can view the entire catalog here – food for thought, delights for the artistic spirit, inspiration for the new year.

The FASA 44th Annual Fiber Art Exhibit 2018 opened at SAY Si on December 7th, 2018 and will show until January 25th, 2019. The SAY Si Gallery is located at 1518 S. Alamo St., San Antonio, TX 78204.