Saturday, June 26, 2010

no art, just quantum physics…and grandmothers

I have always been fascinated with quantum theory and it’s implications for our own daily experiences.  I have no scientific background, so my understanding of it is at the concept level, rather than the mathematical.    Works by Stephen Hawking, Brian Greene and others discussed string theory (in several variations), branes and M theory, zero point field - each theory and variant attempting to describe the nature of the universe (and the possibility of parallel universes) in totality and falling short.  It’s almost like the “missing link” in human evolution.  There is compelling evidence that the “missing link” should exist, but no one can find it.  And after decades of searching, the one overarching theory that explains both quantum mechanics and physics at the macro level still eludes physicists.
While attending my grandmother who is now in hospice, I read a book called Biocentrism, How Life and Consciousness are the Keys to Understanding the True Nature of the Universe by Robert Lanza, M.D.  The premise is that a ‘unified theory of everything’ can’t be formulated until we are willing and able to find a way to factor in consciousness.  Consciousness has long been a quandary for biologists – they have an explanation for everything about human birth except how the consciousness “got in there”.  And consciousness is a quandary for physicists, because they can’t quite explain why it influences quantum experiments, only that it does.
So all this seems appropriate food for thought while attending my grandmother, whose consciousness comes and goes, flickering like a candle guttering in a drafty window.  In fact, this morning she asked me “Do you know where I’m supposed to go from here?”  It was one of the moments when she looked directly into my eyes, and I knew that she ‘saw’ me.  She was lucid and really wanted an answer.  I said “No, Granny.  I don’t know.  Maybe when you get there you can come back and tell me about it.”  She chuckled, and said wouldn’t that be wonderful?

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

A brief hiatus

You won’t hear from me for a little while, and I didn’t want you to think I don’t love you anymore. But I have a family emergency, and will be gone for at least a week, I think, I really have no idea. And during that time I probably won’t even be thinking much about art, much less making any.

My grandmother is 88 years old and tough as nails, or rather used to be, until we discovered she has advanced osteoporosis on top of a number of other health issues. You break way too easily when you have that. She’s broken, and I have to go be with her and my mother. I’ll be back with you as soon as possible.

Please say you’ll wait for me…… :)

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

“You’re too sensitive”

I’ve heard that all my life. Maybe artists are more likely to find some sort of personal stake in situations that really aren’t about them. Maybe the personal identification with situations, geographies,MP900178845 people is part of the source of the creativity – defining that connection for others to see/hear/experience. Or maybe it was just me. I’ve worked really hard as an adult to stop putting myself at the center of the universe. But there is a flip side to that. It comes with the risk of always putting someone else there. Anyone else. Finding that balance is tricky.

I was told once by a fellow Libran that although the search for balance is key to ‘being’ a Libra, they will more often be swinging wildly from one extreme to the other. I was never much into Astrology, but sometimes a statement like that just sticks with you. And I think it speaks to the ordeal of trying to balance your own needs with those of others in your life. And it makes you wonder in every situation where you sense a tension “am I looking at this from too personal a vantage point?”

But then there are times when you know someone is not being ‘real’ with you. When their words say one thing, but their tone says something different. When the difference between the two is important. I still can’t cope with that. I think I will never be able to cope with that.

I was once called '”painfully honest” by a former boss. I considered that a compliment. But as my mother used to say, “There is a difference between being honest, and telling everything you know”. I think I have managed to incorporate that adage into my interpersonal relations, but somehow there is a truth that isn’t addressed by that statement. There are times when the choice is not simply between expressing your opinion and keeping you mouth shut. I can’t find any rules for those situations.

The older I get, the more often I find myself out of patience with the game-playing, the conversational dance around a bottomless pit. A flawless pas de deux lets you live to dance another day, a false step sends you into oblivion. Why would a person ‘beat around the bush’ and therefore risk not making their point understood? Why am I being asked to ‘read between the lines’ of situations that I am not involved in, and therefore can’t fully understand until you tell me? I am out of patience with answering questions forthrightly, participating in conversations without guile, and then feeling as if I am smacked in the face by someone who feels certain it can’t be as simple as that. Yes, it can. And you know what? The world would be a gentler place if we could all just be honest.

Monday, June 14, 2010

Tut tut…looks like rain.

I have yet to grout the piece, which I think I will get done tomorrow, but today I finished placing all the tiles on the response piece to the Diptych Project encaustic. So here for the first time…..the concept:


This is the original encaustic piece by Deb Claffey, my partner in the collaboration. She has actually incorporated some glass in it, in the middle of the piece. I was charged with producing a “response” to this. As I looked at it, I thought of leaves being blown off a tree during a summer storm (since they aren’t colored the way autumn leaves would be). So I felt that what it deserved was a piece to go on the left which added to that impression:


I really wanted the stormy look to be represented, even though my husband argued that the bluish grey in the upper section detracted from the leaves. So maybe that was the wrong choice, but I just felt that the concept would be more evident with the bluish grey. I constructed this of marble, vitreous, ceramic “nano tiles” and polymer clay sculpted leaves. The nano tiles are in the tree, and are 5mm square, or for the metrically challenged among us, approximately 3/16”. And I was insane enough to cut some of them.


Good times.

I’ll post pics again after I grout.

Saturday, June 12, 2010

I dare you not to laugh….

Here’s a little peek at something I’ve been working on, still a work in progress with much left to do. I have missed working with the watercolors recently, so I decided to drag them out and see what happened. I chose a photo (on the left side of the table) that I took in the garden a week ago or so. I was trying to be so artsy in framing the photo the way I did, but when I put the photos on the computer and looked at that one it reminded me of a picture I had seen online a couple of months ago.


Maybe you’ve heard of the practice of “photo bombing” or “photojacking”? If not, it’s basically when people are taking a picture and someone does something silly in the background to grab attention, or pops in front of the camera at the last second. So here’s the one that I was reminded of:


I can’t look at that without laughing out loud.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

An opinionated rant

This evening I attended a discussion at the Portsmouth Museum of Fine Art. The discussion was to be about 3 pieces of the current exhibit Art At The Edge. I mentioned attending the opening reception of this exhibit a couple of weeks ago – most of the work isn’t my cup of tea, and I actually hoped to learn more about the appeal of some of these works from other participants. Instead, I was reminded once again that I am a square peg trying to fit in a round hole.
We began with the overwhelmingly popular (to everyone else) installation by Sarah Hutt My Mother’s Legacy. On display is a table full of wooden bowls. On the bottom of each bowl was carved a memory of her mother, who died of cancer when the artist was 13. This included things like “my mother wore a girdle”, “my mother alphabetized her books”, “my mother always wore a hat to church”. I kept silent while nearly everyone else in the room raved about the lovely tribute, and how wonderful it was to participate in the installation by picking up the bowls to read them, whether there was any symbolism in choosing bowls to carve on, or that they were wood. Whatever. To me, it felt like sappy sentimentality masquerading as art. Honestly, if your mother wore a girdle, keep it to yourself. Really. I don’t want to know. I don’t want to know that your mother was “always on a diet”. That’s not art, that’s a transcript of your therapy sessions. Harsh. I know – don’t bother telling me. It’s not that I can’t understand the pain of losing one’s mother at a young age – mine died when I was three. But I never expected everyone else to want to experience it with me – that’s beyond strange to me. And yet…..

These two pieces by Ray Caesar (actually the second one is a study of the one in the museum, not the exact image) were mostly panned by the group, who were alternately repulsed by what they perceived to be the “sexualization of children” or what they called “demon horns” on the two in Wallflowers (which appear to me to be more like animal ears, hollow in the front). I find the surreal quality of these digital paintings captivating, and as to the impressions of the others in the group, I believe we find what we look for. And I was amazed (and a little disturbed) to find that I was the only one in the room with anything positive to say about them. In fact, I love them.
Ray Caesar copyright 2008

Ray Caesar copyright 2008
Wallflowers Study Above
It’s not as if you don’t already know about my penchant for the strange and macabre – see here and here and the comments about Surrealism here. None of which is reflected in my own art. Hmm. There’s a subject for another day.

Monday, June 7, 2010

An epiphany of sorts

When I was young, my creative focus was music. Specifically, piano. Up until my freshman year in high school, I had a teacher who was very creative. She taught music theory as well as technique, and she also taught how to embellish music with octaves, arpeggios, glissandos, etc. Think Ferrante and Teicher.
Yeah. I even played that particular piece. Without the jacket. Anyway, I remember being amazed at what could be done for a plain melody with embellishments of various kinds. And each time you played it, it could be different, depending on which embellishments you chose and where you placed them. That was fun. For a little while. And then I remember being rather bored with that, and thinking maybe I could just find some more interesting music to play, rather than have to make it interesting myself. And so I moved on to a new teacher, and Bach, Rachmaninoff, Debussy, Chopin. And I was happy.
But then I was introduced to Brahms’ Variations on a Theme of Paganini. I loved Paganini’s music, so I looked forward to working on it, but I soon realized I had come full circle. Here I was again, taking a melody and disguising it, morphing it, playing it louder, then softer, then faster, then slower… nauseum.
So where am I going with this? So what?
I have been thinking a lot recently about the advice I see everywhere that artists need to “find their voice”. It seems that the common wisdom suggests that artists need a body of work that uniquely expresses their perspective on the world, on life and what it means to live it. As I have interpreted this advice, it means that people should be able to look at a new piece of yours and know, or at least suspect, that you made it. I have a problem with that.
There are a couple of artists whose work I recognize as quickly as that. These are famous artists who are respected in their field and paid well for their time and effort. So maybe there is something to that advice? And yet, I honestly don’t find their work interesting. For one artist in particular, all of her work seems to me to be a variation on a single theme. It is technically spectacular, but with each new piece I think “haven’t I seen this before?” I don’t want people to look at my work and think that. I want to be able to stretch my creativity by using different materials, different substrates, different themes. And yet, I worry that I will never be taken seriously if I don’t “settle down” into a style.
Well, maybe I have just been too rigid in my interpretation of the advice. After pondering the review in the paper I mentioned in my last post, I began to think about the phrase “feminine and organic” and looked at the exhibit with fresh eyes. I do now see a common thread that connects each work to the ones before and after. A thread that is “feminine and organic” – a desire to find the beautiful, the peaceful, the respite from the ugliness of gulf oil spills, war, economic exploitation, prejudice and ignorance. Not a fantasy world type of beauty, but the beauty that is here, now, real. And I think I have found that without being too repetitive and wearing out a tired old melody. Today is a good day after all.

Saturday, June 5, 2010

Opening reception and an excellent review

001 Last evening was the opening reception of the Great Bay Art Association Annual Members’ Show at the Discover Portsmouth Center. It was timed to coincide with Portsmouth’s First Friday Art Walk. We had a very nice turnout, and if the disappearance rate of the food and wine was any indication, it was a larger crowd than expected!
I was pleasantly surprised and grateful to find that the show had been reviewed by Chloe Johnson of The Wire. Here’s what she had to say about my art:
Mosaics by Lee Ann Petropoulos are one of the highlights, literally, as the glass tiles and beads reflect in the well lit space. Color coordination and composition mingle in these time consuming designs, mostly floral and inspired by her gardens. The mirror behind “Green Grows the Grass” gives this summery scene even more of a glow and lets viewers become part of the art. All are surprisingly feminine and organic despite the solidity of the material.
One section of my art at the show, including Green Grows the Grass.

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Baby, baby, baby….light my way

A couple of posts back I mentioned the octopus chandelier at the Portsmouth Museum of Fine Art’s exhibit Art at the Edge. I can’t explain why I thought this was just made of awesome, and most everything else was uninteresting (or maybe just trying too hard). Not ideal pictures, but I wasn’t in charge of them. They are stills from a video, and unfortunately that’s the best we can do, but you get the idea!
Picture 2
Picture 3
Another song lyric for a title! I promise you this one is right – anyone know it?
UPDATE:  I just found a link to Adam Wallacavage’s website – with tons more octopus chandeliers!!!!!  Check it out!

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

To share or not to share? That is the question.

Hmm – to share or not to share? I have been back and forth with that several times over the last couple of days. I am used to showing you what I’m working on, and whining about discussing the snags and bumps in the road that I have to work through. I think I learn so much more (and remember so much more) by talking it out here on my blog. However, on this project I just feel like waiting until it’s finished is the right thing to do. So pics of the companion piece to the encaustic diptych will have to wait. And maybe longer than you thought – the deadline, I found out today, has been postponed from June 15 to July 15!! I could have made the deadline I’m sure, but now the pressure’s off. But…I have another project I’m anxious to start, so I’d like to finish it up anyway.
Next up is an abstract that I began thinking would be sort of a stylized peacock feather. But the drawing took off in another direction entirely. I really like it – it will be made of marble and Italian smalti, with a bit of gold smalti as well.
And I cheated a little – there’s a tiny peek at part of the diptych project piece in the picture!


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