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Showing posts from June, 2009

Welcoming Mistakes

I think that one of the best things I can allow myself as an artist is the opportunity to fail. There is a huge sense of freedom that comes with letting go of the preciousness of the unpainted panel, the stark white surface. In my own process, I work on birch panels, which I take time to prepare in a careful way. The longer it takes me to prepare the surface, the more energy I have put into it makes it more precious, as though having spent this much time on it, I had better paint something worthwhile!

We're taught in life to try not to make mistakes. But how freeing to actually try to make mistakes. In a photography book I have, called the "Tao of Photography: Seeing Beyond Seeing", by Philippe L. Gross and S.I Shapiro, one of the exercises is to go and shoot the worst photos you can. It brings a whole new outlook and a great sense of play. You lose sight of 'the product', or perfection.

When I was still in art school, I remember in an outdoor painting class, a stu…

Improvising

The other day I was listening to CBC radio as I worked in my studio. I heard John Adams the American composer interviewed about his book "Hallelujah Junction: Composing an American Life". I enjoyed his comment about how, when he began composing, he wasn't interested in using irony on which most contemporary art depends. He said that Beethoven and Mozart didn't do irony, and he wasn't interested in it either. He had to find his own way and go against the tide of the time.

Yesterday I watched a video of John Adams in an hour long interview about his book and his life that took place at the Los Angeles Public Library on May 14, 2009.

It was an intelligent, wide-ranging and very inspiring interview. One thing that I took out of the interview was that Adams said he never had an idea for a composition, without improvising....he doesn't get an idea by just sitting there thinking about it.
Today I've ordered the book. And I'm off to my studio to improvise!

New Work

It's been a busy few weeks for me lately. I'm getting work ready for several galleries at once. Just recently I've been invited to join Linda Lando Fine Art in Vancouver. I was delighted to accept the offer and am now getting new work ready to send out there in July. I am also beginning work for my solo exhibition in Calgary next spring at Wallace Galleries. I'll be sending them some new work this summer as well. In my current work, I am continuing the series, "Evening on the Lake of Dreams". Here are three of my most recent paintings.

To Noah

This week I babysat my grandson, Noah who is just two years old. My daughter was working at a temporary job and needed me to babysit for just one week.

I normally have a very steady studio schedule of probably 5-6 hours per day, as well as doing all the other non-studio work, such as photo documentation, buying supplies, record keeping, shipping work and emails. As well I try and allow time for generating ideas, and reading as well as researching on the internet.

This week I had to slow down. I had to view the world through the eyes of a two year old where everything is wonder, like taking endless time scooping stones with a small shovel into a pail and then back again onto the ground. I live in the country and as we played outside one afternoon, we heard a horse whinney. He said, "What's that?". I told him it sounded like a horse. He said, "Can we go and see it?". "Yes", I said, "let's go". We had to jump in the car because it…

To Cy Twombly

A couple of weeks ago, a friend gave me an article from the NY Times Literary Supplement. The article was about Cy Twombly's new exhibition at the Gagosian Gallery in NYC, called "The Rose". His paintings were in response to Rilke's poem, "Les Roses".

As so many artists who paint "florals" will know, in the art world, the subject is considered prosaic, the work of Sunday painters. As a sometime painter of flowers, I was delighted to see Cy Twombly painting 'florals'. Very freeing. I felt like laughing out loud. I guess it's OK to paint 'florals' now that Cy Twombly is doing it!

Last week after visiting Linwood Gardens, I visited the Albright-Knox Art Gallery in Buffalo to see the Action/Abstraction exhibition, Pollock, De Kooning and American Art, 1940-1976. I loved the exhibition, particularly the work of Anne Truitt, whose memoirs I had read. I had never seen her work before. Tall, elegant, silent wooden columns, each side car…

Linwood Gardens

This week I visited Linwood Gardens to photograph and enjoy their famous tree peony collection. Linwood Gardens is SW of Rochester, NY in the farmlands of the Genesee Valley.

Designed in the early 1900's the walled gardens have pools and fountains, ornamental trees and a view of the valley below with an Arts and Crafts style summerhouse. The story of Linwood Gardens is a fascinating one. Lee Gratwick who lives on the estate, is the current steward of Linwood Gardens. Her grandfather William Henry
Gratwick II created Linwood as a country home.


Her father, William H. Gratwick III was a landscape architect, artist, sculptor, and sheep farmer among other things. He imported tree peonies from Japan and over the years created many new hybrids in partnership with NY artist, Nassos Daphnis. William's wife, Harriet directed a community music school on the property. It seemed to be a time out of the Great Gatsby, where all manner of creative endeavors happened such as Sunday evening music …

Tree Peonies

Sappho

Persephone

Hephestus

Oread

Nike
I'm still floating in the world of tree peonies as I look at the more than 700 photos that I took at Linwood Gardens last week. These otherwise private gardens are open for three weekends during tree peony season. And it is spectacular, not only to see the tree peonies, but also to see the weathered structures of the formal gardens that were designed by the architect Thomas Fox and to experience the palpable history that surrounds the place.

Tree Peonies are native to the mountainside and forest regions of China and Tibet. Known as the "King of Flowers", it was held sacred in the gardens of …

Evening on the Lake of Dreams

My current exhibition, "Evening on the Lake of Dreams" opened at Galerie D'Avignon in Montreal on May 2 and will run until May 23, 2009.

One of the most interesting things that happened to me during the course of my work on this series, was that the title of the exhibition came to me in a flash at 4:00 am one morning. I was in that state somewhere between waking and dreaming and hoped I would remember the title when I woke up later on. As I lived with the title for a couple of days, the idea for a myth came to me and I began work on a story that the title suggested in my mind. This story is posted on my website, www.janicemasonsteeves.com. As I continued to paint, the story wove it's way into the paintings, which became more dreamlike as the series progressed.

"Our truest life is when we are in dreams awake."-Henry David Thoreau