From Spark to Finish

Finding time to work on pieces to submit for juried shows is definitely a luxury these days, but I’m always looking for the spark of an idea that might work for an interesting “Call for Entry.”

So I got an idea last week for  the upcoming Fiber Artists of San Antonio show based on a piece I did for a show at St. Mary’s University in February. It was a standing screen sculpture with silk ribbon pieces on the surface. I wrote about it in a previous blog post.

I made a very rough drawing in my sketchbook with tag-shaped objects that might have faces on them to be printed on linen and then attached to a new screen structure.

You can see the word “beeswax” under the sketch – honest, that’s what it says. But I wasn’t thinking about encaustic at this point, focusing on fiber instead.

I decided to use the faces in this 1936 photo of children in the Netherlands who were living in poverty – isn’t it haunting?

I adhered a piece of linen to some freezer paper that was cut to 8.5 x 11″ and then opened the photo in Photoshop, edited it for a sepia tone, and ran it through my printer. Once the freezer paper was peeled off, I tore two of the photos apart and adhered those to some rice paper. Here they are:

They looked good – and then I got stuck. They really weren’t right for the screen idea – too strong, too something. Days passed. Then I remembered the piece I had just written about, the one at the Museum of Encaustic Art with the faces of young girls working in poor conditions but looking both brave and resigned.

I hadn’t planned on making an encaustic piece from these faces, but coincidentally, the Museum of Encaustic Art in Santa Fe has a current call for entry called Global Warming is Real. All of a sudden, I could visualize these children’s faces looking through a window  onto a world where crops fail, oceans rise, and humans suffer devastation.

In the studio, I built a panel frame and added layers of wax and tissue with words of warning about climate change collaged around the edges. I waxed the linen and rice paper images. When the children’s faces were added, the piece worked as an expression of the theme. I call it “The Last Window.”

You can see in these details how well the linen works with the beeswax:

My beloved professor, the late sculptor Phil Evett, once told me that if an idea isn’t working, it’s not about the idea, it’s about where it belongs. In his case, he was talking about a carved head that had sat in his studio for 20 years until he finally found the right piece to attach it to.

In my case, these compelling children’s faces belonged in a mixed media encaustic and fiber collage about a critical environmental concern. It just took me a while to figure it out.

So let’s keep making those sketches and creating small shards of ideas – they will let you know where they belong! Oh, yeah, and I’ll let you know if “The Last Window” is accepted for the exhibit! (The deadline for submitting is tomorrow).

Thanks for reading SHARDS today.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Me the Jury – not an easy task

It’s such an honor to be asked to juror an art show. I’ve done it several times and always learn a lot. The Canyon Lake Art Guild (CLAG) recently asked me to juror their annual show, and last week I drove up there to see the artwork and choose the award winners.

One of the challenges of organizing a juried show is coming up with categories – there are so many media options that can be included. Here’s how the CLAG did it:

  1. Oils and Acrylic – Treated as oil and any mixed media with oil or acrylic as the dominant media
  1. Water – Watercolor, Gouache, Tempera, inks applied with brushes or poured, acrylic treated as watercolor and any mixed media with water media as the dominant media
  1. Drawing – Pastel, ink, charcoal, pencil and colored pencil, Cont’e crayon, graphite, scratchboard, handmade prints (etching block, silk screen, or mono) and any mixed media with drawing media as the dominant media
     
  2. Photography and Digital – All images must be artist’s original work.   

 3-Dimensional:

  1. Jewelry, glassworks (including fused glass & stained glass)
  1. Pottery, ceramics, sculpting, stone, mosaics
  1. Collages, fiber art and any mixed media with 3-D elements as the dominant media

The largest categories are usually Oils/Acrylics, and Water Media. They are also the most diverse. Here were four of the entries in Oils/Acrylics – completely different! (Each of these got an award). Blue tape covers the artist’s name for complete objectivity.

First Place

Second Place

Third Place

Honorable Mention

How do you judge such different pieces? My rule is to ask myself two questions – what is the artist telling us, and how technically successful is the result – i.e., concept and skill.  Based on this, I awarded the top painting a First Place, the second one a Second Place, the third one a Third Place, and the fourth an Honorable Mention. OK, why??

The First Place top piece is a portrait of sorts, and it’s mysterious and engaging. There is a smaller profile off to the right that directs our eye back to the main figure. The artist is obviously exploring diverse media to enhance the symbolism. Great concept, good skill.

The Second Place painting of the cow was a favorite of mine for sure – it’s so “in you’re face, I’m a cow.” Loved the colors. After I got home from jury duty, I found out that it was painted by one hundred and one-year-old local artist Carmen Willey!

The Third Place piece shows a fine grasp of color and composition – it’s small and simple and elegant.

The Honorable Mention painting was really large and resembled a poster, but it was hand-painted. I appreciated the way that the background picked up all the paint colors and integrated the work.

So, on to the Water Media, another large category – in the interest of space I’ll just show the top two choices, in my humble juror’s opinion.

First Place

This First Place painting shows a mastery of transparent watercolor, plus the subject is unusual. Look how the chicken shapes play off each other, and how the spatters give the feeling of scratchy gravel and chicken fee without being overworked.

There is a strong focal point with that splash of red. And the painting seems to symbolize a feeling of community. I loved the composition – it looks good even upside down, which is always a good test!

The Second Place winner was also beautiful – a sensitive watercolor portrait with a limited palette. Choosing between these two was tough! Which would you have chosen?

Here are the first and second place in the drawings category – do you agree?

First Place

Second Place

There was lots more work – Photography, Mixed Media, glass, jewelry – here are just a few of the other winners that I chose in various categories

Finally, this was the piece that I awarded Best of Show:

Best of Show

It is a very large clay sculpture that looks as if it could have come from a children’s book. It’s titled “Duet.”

It met my juror’s criteria of original concept, and expert execution. I found out after the show that it was done by sculptor Susan Calafrancesco, who has a large following and a published body of work. While it’s not a new piece, there were no time restrictions on submissions for this exhibition, and it was truly masterful and appealing.

One last story about the jurying experience – I had been invited to juror by Marlene Skaggs, an active and talented member of CLAG. She functioned as my note-taker. As I evaluated each piece, she wrote down notes to share with the artists whose works I was critiquing. When we came to those watercolor chickens, I went on and on about the freshness of the brushwork and the appeal of the subjects. I said, “This artist must have been working in watercolor quite a while to achieve this confident style.” Marlene just kept writing, not saying a word – and of course, after everything was over, I found out that it was her painting!

I’m so grateful to the Canyon Lake Art Guild for inviting me to be the Juror for their show. There are some astonishing artists in the group, and every piece I saw had its own heart and soul. In closing, I’m going to steal the words of Stephanie Fox Knappe, who juried our 89th Art League exhibition, who said it better than I can:

“When called upon as a juror, I am acutely aware of the incredible subjectivity inherent in the task at hand. Simultaneously, I make a conscious effort to try to step outside myself. I attempt to consider what I intellectually know contributes to a strong piece—mastery of art’s formal elements such as line, shape, form, space, texture, value, color. I observe these components to assess and understand how an artist manipulates them, tells stories with them, makes magic from them, and brings something into being that did not previously exist.”

Amen!

 

 

 

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

 

 

 

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!

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.

SAY Si students shine at Art League’s Semmes Studio workshop

One of the joys of being part of the San Antonio Art League is planning community outreach programs that share our resources with young artists, and our recent youth workshop was a real joy. Our current exhibit is a collection of 27 paintings from the Edgar B. Davis Wildflower Competitions  in the 1920’s. We wanted to share this work and the historic story with creative kids, so we turned to our friends at SAY Si Youth Art Program.

Long story made short, Edgar Davis was an eccentric wildcatter who made a fortune in oil and offered huge cash prizes to artists to paint Texas wildflowers (supposedly, his first well was struck in a patch of bluebonnets). The San Antonio Art League, which was founded in 1912, agreed to host the competition, and many of the paintings ended up in our permanent collection. When these amazing paintings are exhibited, which is all too rarely, scholars of early Texas art flock to see them.

In a collaboration with SAY Si youth art program, seven eight-grade students visited us last Saturday to explore the collection. Each student chose a painting from the collection that resonated with them for aesthetic and personal reasons.

Then they joined my co-teacher, Stefani Job Spears and me in the Semmes Studio for a workshop called Contemporary Collage Inspirations from SAALM’s Edgar B. Davis Collection.

The young artists used their cell phones to take references photos of the pieces they had selected. Then they tore paper and used paint and pencils and markers to interpret the paintings in a personal, contemporary way.

They worked with absolute concentration and focus, each listening to her own music and thinking her own thoughts. At lunchtime, when they took a break to eat in the King William park across the street, Stefani and I could hear them laughing and chattering a block away, but when they were engaged in their artwork, there was a silence that was almost meditative.

When we discussed the finished work, there were lots of insightful comments about the subjects of the early Texas paintings and the old stories the girls had heard from their grandparents about how life had been for them.

The collages were totally original interpretations, filled with imaginative treatments of traditional subject matter.  I was in awe!

I hope you’ll take a minute to look at the video of the workshop (below) and watch the interaction between these young artists and the iconic Texas paintings in the Davis collection. I learned so many lessons from watching these creative girls. Many thanks to Stephen Guzman and Ashley Perez of SAY Si for bringing us together.

SAY Si Students visit the San Antonio Art League’s Semmes Studio for a workshop about the Davis Collection from Lyn Belisle on Vimeo.

Come see the exhibit that inspired these students’ work!

A WILDCATTER’S DREAM: ART, OIL AND WILDFLOWERS
Open to the public from June 10th, 2018 to July 27th, 2018 – EXTENDED UNTIL AUGUST 10! Free and open to the public.

 

 

 

A weekend with the art and the Juror

Friday and Saturday were super-busy days at the San Antonio Art League – there were a total of 351 entries submitted for the 88th Annual Artists Exhibition. From those, 65 will be accepted and 24 awards will be given.

My pal Michelle Belto fills out her paperwork at the Art League for her submissions

It was a huge workload for Juror Michael Ettema from Santa Fe, who spent Sunday (yesterday) making his decisions. Three members of the exhibition committee were there to help (and so was I, a presidential perk!), but the process was closed to everyone else.

Juror Michael Ettema from Santa Fe evaluates the artwork

I got to be a fly on the wall as I watched and listened to Michael. He was amazing – fair and meticulous in his selections. I talked to him at our lunch break and found out that he has been involved in art since he was 16 – starting out as an intern at a museum in Dearborn, MI, and pursuing a career as a gallery manager, a museum curator and director, and a successful art appraiser. Wow.

He made at least five rounds of selection, narrowing by about a third each time. Every piece received close scrutiny and constructive comments. He did take a break to take a walk around the King William neighborhood, but worked steadily through the day.

Once the final selections were made, he was left by himself to award the monetary prizes. And nobody knows who got those – not me, not the committee chair – just Michael! And he ain’t tellin’ 🙂

Last night, Bill and I hosted an informal dinner for Michael and the committee and Art League board. Michael explained his criteria for selection. Basically, he looks for an original idea that is carried out with confidence – concept and skill were the keywords.

Michael Ettema is not the kind of juror who picks landscapes or portraits or abstracts or any other specific genre. He based his selections on what he observes regarding the artist’s purpose and how successfully that was conveyed.

Acceptance notices are going out today. Awards will not be revealed until the opening on April 15th. I will say this – if you were one of the selected artist, congratulations. It was a very competitive field. If you were not selected, know that your piece was expertly and respectfully considered by a truly knowledgeable juror and a nice guy, to boot!

Special thanks to all the artists who submitted. Henri Matisse said, “Creativity takes courage.”It’s a risk to put your work out there for a juror. And special thanks to Francis Huang, committee chair (and wonderful artist himself) who found Michael Ettema for us. We know Michael has good taste, because he fell in love with San Antonio! I hope he’ll be back soon.

New critters on the block . .

Oh, boy – the First Friday Art Walk in Marble Falls is this week (February 2nd, 5-8 pm), and as part of it Marta Stafford’s gallery is having a bee-youtiful celebration featuring jazz, honey wine, valentine-inspired jewelry, and my beeswax photocollages and B Beautiful dishes.

I wanted to do something extra and different for this show, something that uses beeswax in a new way for me, and I came up with these five fun wall sculptures using earthenware, gauze, sticks, wire and beeswax and Secret Sauce (aka walnut ink).

Here’s the first one, called “Sacred Sentry”.

I’m calling this series “Earthen Wax & Wings,” and I have a feeling that I’ll be doing more of these. This one’s called “Cloudhopper” – a very happy creature.

Each piece has a tag with its name – and each one has a story that you can read in the faces if you use your imagination. Here’s “Icebound Angel” – so what’s HER story? You might not want to mess with her.

And here’s the “Messenger” – kind of androgynous? I guess they all are. Wings are non-gender specific!

Finally, here’s my fave – “Peacemaker.” Simple and serene – I may keep this one.

It’s funny how things work – I made the little earthenware “blanket” faces weeks ago  without knowing exactly what I was going to do with them. Then I got an idea from Linda Rael that turned out to be the perfect extension for the earthenware.

And when Marta announced her “bee and honey” theme, I tried beeswax and walnut ink on the exterior and it all works together beautifully. Trust the process!

PS – the cataract surgery went very very well! Thanks for the good wishes – I practically have X-ray vision now!

 

 

Gratitude for art and community

Yesterday afternoon was tinged with disbelief as news of yet another incident of violence, this time very close to home, began to spread. We were at the San Antonio Art League & Museum welcoming people to  the annual Members Invitational in which four artists who were finalists for SAALM’s Artist of the Year were invited as a group to show their work. As I talked with people, I thought a lot about the power of art to communicate and heal.

Every artist in the exhibit had statements of joy or hope or peace, expressed in his or her own medium and voice. Heartfelt thanks to Rachel Edwards Ridder, whose fiber works of artists’ hands celebrate life-long creativity, to Dona LeCrone Walston with her serene, powerful rocks and river watercolors, to Lee Ricks (who continues to paint well into his 80’s) for his keen observations of our beautiful landscapes, and to Sallie Stanley Carter for the brightly colored portraits of people with stories to tell. Each of you gave us a sense of community and comfort yesterday afternoon.

As you look at the video of yesterday’s opening, I hope you can see the celebration of the arts that has always sustained us. Many thanks to the artists, to the great behind-the-scenes guys who installed the exhibit, and to the people who were there – if you haven’t seen the show, please do come by. It’s a wonderful look at artistic optimism just when we need it most.

Members Invitational Exhibit opens at the San Antonio Art League & Museum from Lyn Belisle on Vimeo.

San Antonio Art League & Museum
130 King William St
San Antonio, TX 78204

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Celebrating arts diversity – clay, glass, fiber

Vincent van Gogh wrote, “I am seeking. I am striving. I am in it with all my heart.”

Good artists keep refining and redefining their medium, pushing boundaries and asking questions of themselves and their fellow artists. The San Antonio arts community has this kind of commitment – deep roots and diversity that would make any city proud. And they share and collaborate.

This evening, the San Antonio Potters Guild and the San Antonio Glass Art Guild are joining together to meet at the San Antonio Art League, viewing and discussing the work of sculptor and painter James Hendricks. And later in the fall, the Fiber Artists of San Antonio will tour the Art League Museum. I love this city and its multi-talented artists!

Speaking of the Fiber Artists, I was lucky enough to get a sneak preview of Friday’s opening of the 43rd Juried FASA Exhibit. The photos of the work are amazing.

Here’s a short video of some of the work you will see at Friday’s opening:

Fiber Artists of San Antonio: Preview of 43rd Juried Exhibition from Lyn Belisle on Vimeo.

And here’s the exhibit info – the juror, nationally know fiber artist Doshi, has done a remarkable job in her selective process:

  • FASA 43rd Annual Juried Fiber Art Exhibit
  • Opening Reception: Fri., Oct. 13, 2017, 6-8 p.m.
  • Exhibit on display: Fri., Oct. 13 – Fri. Nov. 17, 2017
  • Semmes Gallery, University of Incarnate Word, 4301 Broadway St.
    San Antonio, TX 78209

Doshi is not only a discerning juror and curator, but a fantastic fiber artist herself. While she is in San Antonio, you can meet her and see her own spectacular work. She creates exquisite hand dyed clothing in original designs that range from contemporary to traditional. Her technique uses knotting, pleating, rolling, pressing or sewing during the dyeing process. The resulting designs are the memories of the method used to resist the dye.

Want to see for yourself? You’re invited!

Art is everywhere in every form. Celebrate it and share it – and even wear it!

 

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