Tuesday, October 26, 2021

Penny Berens In The Middle Of The World

Whispering Cairns
plant dyes on silk, wool, cotton, linen
 hand stitched  35 x 49 inches 2019

Chasing the Moon
plant dyes on damask, silk, cotton
hand stitched 40 x 50 inches 2020

Penny's artist statement for this new body of work begins with these words:  "For many years now I have taken to heart the words of Peter London in his book ‘Drawing Closer to Nature"

Resting Between Tides
  plant dyes and discharge on silk, wool, cotton, linen
hand stitched  43 x 42.5 inches 2019

“Find a portion of the world that is close at hand and adopt it. Become acquainted with it. Draw closer to it by staying with it over a long course of time. In all seasons, all times of the day, all weathers, all circumstances of your own life. The more often you return to this chosen portion of Nature, the more finely you will be able to perceive its more delicate features, as well the slow-to-emerge pattern and rhythms.”    Peter London

Resting Between Night and Day
plant dyes and discharge on silk, cotton, linen, wool,
hand stitched 2019 43 x 49 inches

Holding Deep Memory
hand stitch and shibori on reclaimed denim dress and old table linen
 44.5 x 39.5 inches 2021

Woodland Berries
plant dyes on silk, wool, cotton 
hand stitched 43 x 42 inches 2019

My process starts with daily wanderings in the wooded coastal landscape of Nova Scotia,  slowly becoming more and more familiar with those seasonal rhythms and changing patterns.  Penny Berens

from left to right 
A Stream Runs Through It, The Edge of the Woods, Woodpeckers Live Here
Plant dyes on cotton, silk, wool, hand stitched.
various sizes, approximately 21 x 15 or 20 inches 2015

When Autumn Leaves Fall 
plant dyes on silk, linen, cotton
hand stitched,  30 x 24 inches 2017

During the warmer months these walks become foraging expeditions for dye stuff with which to colour the fabrics I use. This plant dyed cloth is then hand stitched and embroidered in response to these walks.
Penny Berens

Walking on Stoney Ground
plant dye and rust on linen, cotton, silk, wool
hand stitched 29.9 x 24 inches 2019

Stoney Island Memories 
plant dye on linen, cotton, silk, wool
hand stitched  42.9 x 31.5 inches 2019

Working by hand is a slow and tactile practice spread over long periods of time which deepens and clarifies my understanding of the story the piece wishes to tell.   Penny Berens

Beaver Moon Dreaming
plant dye and discharge on cotton and linen
hand stitched  43.3 x 43.3 inches 2020

I would hope that my process and the final embroideries inspire others to slow down and become inspired by daily observations in their own chosen landscapes. (Penny Berens)

Chasing The Moon
hand stitch on silk, cotton, damask
40 x 50 inches 2020

Dancing In The Wind 
plant dyes on linen, silk velvet, cotton, wool
hand stitched 41.5 x 31 inches  2020

Walking With Dogs
plant dyes on silk, cotton, wool
hand stitched 53 x 12 inches x 2 panels, 2021

Currently on display until December 18, 2021, the venue for this exhibition is a unique heritage building.  The Mississippi Valley Textile Museum used to be a woolen mill, located in the small Ontario town of Almonte and the waterfall that powered the old mill still flows through this town.  Please note that the walls behind many of Penny's wall pieces are original to this mill.   Like most textile art, it is nice to see details.  Please visit oPenny's Tanglewoods Thread blog or instagram to see close ups of Penny's work.  

In The Middle Of The World is a two person exhibition with Judy Martin, guest curated by our dedicated young freelance curator, Miranda Bouchard.    A post about Judy's work in the exhibition is on Judy's Updates, click here

Monday, March 1, 2021

Lawrence Carroll

1985-86 oil, canvas, wood, wax, staples
 13" x 10.5" x 6" 

 1985 oil,, wax, canvas on wood
18" x 10" 

1987-88   oil, wax, canvas, staples on wood 
 9" x 9" x 7.6"
I was painting thin pieces of paper with black house paint that I would place on the white canvas.  I used staples because it allowed me to remove the painted lines and shapes if I was not satisfied, altering the composition as needed.
Breathing In
1988 89 oil, wax and paper collage on canvas on wood
  12" x  11" x 10"
Yes, like Matisse at the end of his beautiful life.  This was before I started cutting my paintings apart and using wax and other things.  

I was looking at Donald Judd. I was interested in the way that his wall and floor sculptures would come out of the wall and into the space.

1990   oil wax, staples, canvas, wood
33" x 15" x 10"
This physical relationship between the work and the viewer started to influence how I started to think about my painting.

It slowed down the viewer.

Heaven Picasso 
1994-95 oil wax house paint newspaper, canvas on wood
55" x 42" x 3"
You could not see the painting entirely in one view.  

You could not grasp it.

2017 oil, wax, staples, canvas on wood
19" x 1/2" x 11"
It added psychology to looking.  It opened up a world to me.

I looked at Carl Andre too - How and where to place the painting and how the placement changes the psychology of an entire room.

I felt I had everything.

installation at museo vincenzo vela in 2017
I thought of the canvas as a skin and wax as an ointment

and that there was a body of memory under the skin where things were buried for years and then for some reason they reappeared.

Lawrence Carroll 
I Have Longed to Move Away  works 1985-2017
edited by Gianna A. Mina
I started to think about cutting a painting completely apart.

And then about the futility of trying to put something that was once whole back together again, exposing all its imperfections. 

There was the revelation.   Painting does not have to be perfect

untitled  2017 
house paint and wax on canvas
19" x 19" 16"

Paintings can be flawed and vulnerable and imperfect and human.

Maybe my paintings are about my broken life.

2016 - 17  stain, house paint, wood pieces, canvas on wood 
67.7" x 108" x 1.5"
And that I'm trying to piece my life back together.

At certain times in your life, things appear.  Things come.

You look back on your life and examine it.

Last night I thought of different possibilities of what some of my paintings could be about and it shook me.

stain, house paint, wood pieces, canvas on wood
118" x 75" x 1.5"
It's impossible for me to always know and understand exactly what I'm doing.

I need time and distance.

The gift that I have been given is to be able to explore these things and to give comfort to myself in knowing that I have a place to express things that some people may bury inside themselves and carry away with them all through their lives.

oil, wax, house paint ,staples, canvas on wood
114" x 85" x 4" 
I like the idea that the painting can convey some of life's weight.

We all carry the weight of an imperfect life, some far greater than others.

Lawrence Carroll
I Have Longed To Move Away
Installation in Museo Vincenzo Vela, Switzerland

So what do you expose?  You have to risk.   You can't hide.   Lawrence Carroll  1954 - 2019

All text is from a Lawrence Carroll's interview with Barbara Catoir, entitled "Carry On the Light" .  

It is in the catalogue of the exhibition  I Have Longed to Move Away which was curated by Roberto Borghi for the Museo Vincenzo Vela in Switzerland during the spring of 2017.

Monday, November 9, 2020

Meryl McMaster

Harbinger of Sudden Departures  2015
chromogenic print, 24" x 36" by Meryl McMaster

Meryl McMaster's is telling a story that has no ending, perhaps no plot.  She creates evocative costumes and props, many involving birds, and then has photos taken of herself wearing them in the cold and simple palette of a Canadian winter.  They resemble drawings, or maybe movies, or maybe dreams.  
Her father is from Red Pheasant First Nation (Plains Cree) and a member of the Siksika First Nation (Blackfoot) and her mother is Euro-Canadian (British and Dutch heritage).  While she explores the cultures that form her with her art, it is not a stretch to see the larger struggle of Canada's history in her work.   
Aphoristic Currents 2013
chromagenic print 36 x 50" by Meryl McMaster

Both her parents are artists, and her childhood home was a very creative space to grow up in.  "I was an only child and was often on my own.  I think my current imaginative state reaches back to those moments when I was exploring the world through role playing and creating scenarios."  Her parents had put together a dress-up trunk of old clothes for her, and although she was shy and avoided performing in school theatre, she was attracted to set and costume designs.  Even today she feels vulnerable when she performs for the camera.  
Murmur I 2013
inkjet print 90 x 60" by Meryl McMaster

"I think the need to understand who you are and where you've come from is normal.  My parents were always telling stories about their families. When I was very young the feeling I got was that the two cultures were inclusive, but when I reached school age the harder questions about my two cultures became evident."
Avian Wanderer II 2015
Giclee print 20 x 30" by Meryl McMaster

Her performed photographs show us characters who embody attitudes - she calls them temperaments.

Time's Gravity 2015
pigment print on watercolour paper 30 x 45"

About Time's Gravity:  "I came across the tradition of "winter counts'.  Winter counts are drawings, usually made on a hide, that represent a significant thing that occurred in the past year, whether a successful hunt or some sort of battle.  They are very beautiful, simple drawings with a lot of meaning.  I wanted to do my own winter counts, so I made all these journals.  Each journal represents a year that I had been alive.  So I have all these journals representing the story of my life and thoughts, and I'm holding them.  I'm trying to hold onto these memories and I push them together to hold onto them.  Time's Gravity, the title, references how I think about life.  It goes so fast, but it feels like such a weight and it's too much to even think about."

Phantom Science 2015
ink jet print 18 x 62"

She paints her face, sometimes red, sometimes white, sometimes dotted.  

She gazes away from the camera. 

dream catcher 2015
ink jet print  32 x 66"

"I use winter a lot.  It feels like a magical time.  Everything is frozen; it feels like it's being held in that moment.  It's like sleeping.  There is also the solitude.  When I go on winter walks, I feel like I do a lot more reflection than on my summer wlaks.  Winter is also a hostile time.  It brings an urgency to the images.  I push myself.  I have been in quite a lot of pain in my fingers, toes, and extremities from being out in the cold too long.  But I keep going back to winter.  There's something about that time of year." 

under the infinite sky 2015
ink jet print 30 x 45 "

There are always gaps and biases in our relatioinship to the past, and it was through my art that I could explore and expose them.  It was a way of creating a conversation with myself as well as with other people.  First of all, it comes from a very personal place.  Most of us have a mixed background, so we're all asking similar self-directed questions.  I've learned that my two different heritages are not always going to completely align, and in order to move forward I have to celebrate those differences."  

"In my teens I was learning about Canada's difficult past, a past that could have involved my own ancestors.  So if I wanted to be proud of my mothers' family and connected to my European roots, I realized I might be abandoning my Indigenous side.  It was as if I was involved in some kind of betrayal.  I struggled with how to acknowledge and be present in both sides of myself."  

Sources for these images and text:  

Picturing the Red Line, An Interview with Meryl McmMaster by Robert Enright in Border Crossings magazine in 2018 and Confluence, the exhibition catalogue for Meryl McMaster's solo exhibition curated by Heather Anderson in 2016.  All italics are quotes by the artist, Meryl McMaster.

Although it is interesting to find out about the artist's personal background, it is possible to respond to her images without knowing the back-story.     

As Immense As The Sky is a more recent exhibition, (catalogue available) 

Tuesday, July 14, 2020

Nancy Paul: Time/Lines

Summer (Sleeping Medusa) by Nancy Paul,  Oil, acrylic, conte, 29 x 43" 1980-2020 
Despite overwhelming evidence of crises
from climate change to social injustice to pandemic
Longing by Nancy Paul,  acrylic and graphite on paper, mounted onto birch panel, 9 x 12 inches, 2020
many governments around the world seem unable/unwilling to act
even as democracy is under threat and truth-telling stifled.
Setting by Nancy Paul, acrylic and graphic on paper, mounted on birch panel, 14 x18", 2020
 Individuals feel powerless to effect change.
The Dreamer by Nancy Paul, acrylic and graphite mounted on birch panel, 2020
As Shakespear's Lear knows,
the naked body is an enduring symbol of human vulnerability and helplessness.
Sitting Back by Nancy Paul, acrylic and graphite on paper, 12 x 16 inches, 2020
It can also, however, represent beauty, grace, and love;
an aesthetic of salvation.
Slowing Down by Nancy Paul, graphic on paper mounted on birch panel, 10 x 12 inches, 2020
The nude for me is at once surrogate seeker of truth and object of scrutiny.
In my work the female figure is both self and other;
she represents communication and compassion.
Green World (Arden Spring) by Nancy Paul  acrylic, graphic, ink on canvas, 28 x 32" 2019

"Time/Lines" is about our search for understanding.

Nereids Endangered by Nancy Paul, Acrylic, graphite, Japanese Paper on canvas, 16 x 20 inches, 2018
In 'Time' large figures lie wrapped in uncertainty while a tiny pair of Nereids explore distant lands and seas; inconspicious, they exemplify the humility needed to connect.
Life Lines/Sky Lines (I, II, III) by Nancy Paul,
acrylic and graphic on paper mounted on birch panel, triptych, each part 12 x 16 x 1.5 inches  2020
"Lines" celebrates gesture drawings done from life,quick sketches done before longer poses, they have the vitality, purpose, and direction to inspire us now.
Fall by Nancy Paul, Oil on Canvas, 1980, 24" x 36"
All images and text in this post are by Nancy Paul
from her exhibition at Art Noise Gallery,
Kingston Ontario Canada 

Thursday, October 31, 2019

Lenore Tawney: Mirror of the Universe

In Utero 1985  mixed media  25 x 11.5 x 11.5 inches (chair only) Lenore Tawney
"...to seek a barer life, closer to reality, without all the things that clutter and fill our lives.  I left friends whose preconceptions of me held me to their image of me....The truest thing in my life is my work.  I want my life to be true.  Almost gave up my life for my work, seeking a life of the spirit."
 Lenore Tawney, 1967 journal entry
Installation of Lenore Tawney's weaving at John Michael Kohler Art Centre, Sheboygan Wisconsin.  On wall from left to right:  Dove 1974  linens  118 x 108 inches,  Waters Above the Firmament 1976 (small 36 x 36 " version),  In Fields of Light 1975 (orange) linens, 108 c 100.5 inches, Little Spring 1962 linen 48 x 23.5",  Tau, 1974  linen 80 x 108 inches, Hanging in foreground left to right are: The Megalithic Doorway, 1963 linen 204 x 28 inches, The Path, 1962 linen and gold, 90.5 x 24.5 inches, The Bride 1962 linen and feathers 138 x 15 inches, and in front of Tau is Untitled (Bird) 1963 linen, feathers
and wood 65 x 30 inches.
"When I was doing the woven forms, I was dancing with joy all the time.  They were so spontaneous, I didn't know what they were - they just kept going higher and higher.  I thought, No one will ever show these, they're too tall for a gallery.....so I'll keep going"      Lenore Tawney
Cloud Labyrinth 1983, canvas and linen 16 x 24 x 18 feet
An entire gallery at the John Michael Kohler is devoted to the monumental Cloud Labyrinth,  made when the artist was 76 years old.

"I sometimes think of my work as a breath"  LT

Thread can be woven into shields and cruciforms, it can also be, improbably and delicately, unwoven.  A cloud is a visible amassing of solid, liquid and gas, water at its most diffuse. The threads dance and vibrate, shifting the light, tickling the eye. The eye  follows the thread up like vapour invisibly evaporating into a cloud and then comes down, a string of droplets, back to earth.
 (wall text at JMK art centre)
cloud labyrinth 1983  detail
"It is impossible to describe the range of expression in this work.
 But it can be said that trembling and sensitive images are brought before our eyes even as we look, and also that deep, and sometimes dark and unrealizezd feelings, are stirred in us. 
There is penetration.
There is an urgency that sweeps us up, 
an originality and success that holds us in wonder.
This work is wholly done"         
Agnes Martin 
assemblages and collages made by lenore tawney, displayed at the John Michael Kohler art centre
"You have to forget time entirely, and live in eternal time"  Lenore Tawney

She was 50 when she moved to New York but looked young and passed for 30.
She let time be erased from her life story for a while.
Bach 1967  collage 12.5 x 11/5"
She operated without assistants until the very end of her life at age 100.
shelves with objects from Lenore Tawney's New York studio/home
'The weaving just grows and keeps coming.  It's all inside of me.
It was really thrilling.
I used to sing and dance all by myself there at night. 
Then I'd get up very early and work all day"
 Lenore Tawney
egg shells in a basket
Lenore Tawney's studio is now part of the unique permanent collection of artsts studio/homes that have been transformed into art environments at the John Michael Kohler Art Centre.  Until this year the studio's contents were in the care of the Lenore G Tawney foundation in New York.  Kathleen Nugent Mangan, one of Lenore Tawney's close friends is the director. 
objects from Lenore Tawney's studio
"My work is my pleasure.  It's my life, it's what I live for."       Lenore Tawney
cloud labyrinth detail
Lenore Tawney transcended any distinction between art and craft.
Her work is an important part of the visual language of 20th century art.
Lenore Tawney's studio detail

Lenore Tawney's believed that there is no division between art and life, and she created a quiet environment for art making, meditation, yoga, and focusing on the inner, deeply personal world.  Tawney is among the most impactful artists of the last half of the 20th century.  She dedicated herself to a devotional interdisplinary practice inufused with ideas of Buddhism, Zen philosophy, Jungian psychology, wanderlust and nature.  She believed that art making has the potential to usher in a lightness akin to a spiritual awakening.   (from the wall text at the Kohler Art Centre in Wisconsin)

'so new and personal that it does not have a name or classification'   (new york times  1963)