Monday, May 31, 2010

The Medium Is The Message

Like honeybees, I view wax as the most precious building material.

When I see wax, I imagine a young worker bee hanging quietly in a corner of the hive shedding sheets of wax pages. Patiently, she excrete the delicate wax scale from her hypopharyngeal glands located in her abdominal pockets. Like pulling pages out of a printer, she then chews the wax with her mandibles, softening it and deposit the mouth full onto a cell wall. This is a laborious process for the worker bee. Wax is intimately connected to their way of life. As an artist, I hope to treat beeswax with the same patience and intimacy.

Today I pushed an encaustic piece into maturity by building layers in the intuitive, raw, Jackson Pollock manner. Essentially I am using drops and beads of coloured wax to optically push the eye to not focus but try to contain the impression of an active swarm migration.

Visualizations of satellite images and live location based mapping has played a role in catalyzing my new aesthetic direction as well.

From Oil

From Oil
From Oil

From Oil

" The Overlay Media reference database contains the position of approximately 350,000 cell positions. The position of these cells was calculated using approximately 200 million measurement samples. This data is kept up-to-date by applications using the moLocate location service." From:

"Satellite image of circular crop fields in Haskell County, Kansas in late June 2001. Healthy, growing crops are green. Corn would be growing into leafy stalks by then. Sorghum, which resembles corn, grows more slowly and would be much smaller and therefore, (possibly) paler. Wheat is a brilliant gold as harvest occurs in June. Fields of brown have been recently harvested and plowed under or lie fallow for the year." From: Wiki

180 Project Opening June 4th 5-8pm

In examining the swarm form, I am most challenged by the visual duality of pressure and release. I find the fluxing density of buzzing bees, whether midair or grounded both terrifying and mesmerizing to look at. As much as I enjoy painting bees for their sheer 'stunning" beauty, it is also a visual language that best capture the drawn tension I feel that exist in our current natural, economic and social systems.

Paradigm [no.1], is the first of a series done in oil on canvas. It is now on view at UBC campus's Boulevard Cafe. The show is titled: The 180 project. Shannon Newby and I have collaborated to pair our individual artworks to create a diptych. In this manner, our works catalyze a dialogue with one another about subject matter, form and material. Shannon's piece, titled: Frantic Simplicity richly plays with materials of encaustic, dress patterns and oil paint. In my work, I was really trying to study the optics of the swarm. I am curious to deconstruct how our eyes perceive these minions in motion. Using oil, I took on a classical Rembrandt approach of pushing and sculpting the paint to catch light and build volume.

Photo: Erik Newby

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

The Secret Life of Bees

“Most people don’t have any idea about all the complicated life going on inside a hive. Bees have a secret life we don’t know anything about” - p.148 from The Secret Life of Bees by S.M. KIDD

The rural charm of Pitt Meadows (population: 17, 500) is soothing and quiescent. An hour and a half drive away from the city of glass, we hit the "Pitt" or as I like to call it, city of grass. Tim and I walked into a room in the Ramada Inn packed with 30 or so other curious minds waiting to uncover the secret life of bees. Dr. Bee's Level One Bee Keeping Course brought together nurses, pharmacists, bike mechanics, farmers, husky ranchers, gardeners, florists, social workers, entrepreneurs, and me, the token artists. Ron Lin aka Dr. Bee holds a PhD in Entomology and Apiculture from Simon Fraser University. At a crossroad after completing his degree, instead of diving into a research lab somewhere in Alberta, Ron took the entrepreneurial path into beekeeping in Pitt Meadows and established Honeyland.

The three day workshop walked us through alot of the materials covered in the book: Beekeeping in Western Canada. His slide presentations kept us engaged. His quarky mad scientist laughter thunder trailed after his own jokes (either we were a tough crowd or he needs to get better material.) But I think I can confidently speak for all of us that cracking open the propolis sealed hive is the most memorable learning exercise.

From Bee Keeping 101 with Dr. Bee
(Click on the image to play video)

Beekeeping, like painting, requires a lot of patience and focus. It demands the steward of the craft to look and look again at what is growing on the frame. Monitors is half the job of a beekeeper. As you scan in close quarters of these minion activities, looking for disease or queen cells, checking up on how the eggs, larvaes and pupas are developing, (without sounding cheesy) the sense of sacredness oscillates inside your whole being. Amoungst other perks and hooks (obviously honey) perhaps it is this intimate connection with the hive that makes beekeeping so satisfying.

(Click on the image to play video)

To all my beekeeping cohearts, lets keep in touch and share links online. I would love it if any of you would share some of your memories below in the comment box! I wonder if starting a "BC Beekeeping" facebook group would be beneficial?

Oh one more request. Here are the books I have read so far related to bees. If you have any summer reading recommendations, please advise!

Title: Fruitless Fall
Author: Ron Jacobson

Title: The Secret Life of Bees
Author: Sue Monk Kidd

Title: A Recipe for Bees
Author: Gail Anderson-Dargatz

Title: HONEYBEE Lessons from an Accidental Beekeeper
Author: Marina Marchese
Her Facebookgroup: click here

Title: A Short History of the Honey Bee: Humans, Flowers, and Bees in the Eternal Chase for Honey
Author: E. Readicker-Henderson

Thursday, April 29, 2010

A new season

My life as a full time painter begins today. It was a difficult decision with many false starts. With such a stubborn heart, I can only say that God gave me the courage to recreate my career path. A previously abandoned God given talent, Painting, like an old friend has reentered my life with open arms. So here I am back on the blog mostly because I am inspired by my friend Shannon Newby. As I read up on her visual journal, I am reminded that the process of art making deserves documentation and reflection. And I figure blogging can be a systematic part of my work day -an accountability or measurable element which can quantify my raw and organic painting schedule. Lastly, I realize blogging about this struggle may open up a dialogue with any of you out there wrestling with art and fear. Are you a freelancer who's constantly got the munchies for fine art? Well, maybe you'll cave into your craving like I did.

Put 6 hours in painting "The Bee". Highs and lows. Highs first: I really am understanding the blending of tonal values better through this painting. I spent about 15 hours on two layers of imprimatura. With as much patience as I can bare, the brush work to blend subtle gradients has rewarded me an effective background which peacefully frames my subject. The class notes from Liza Visagie plays in my head as I methodically push the oil paint. Painting requires the artist to utilize the body of the paint whereas illustrating or design is about covering the empty canvas or screen or paper. Painting demands of me 100% more concentration than designing. And while I recognize that in designing my hand, eye and mind is in a sort of dance, I find that in painting, I am totally awkward. Like painting on egg shells, anxious to break something with my bristle. But honestly, it beats pixel pushing any day. My eyes - if I can speak for them - love starring at the luscious surface of sunlit oil on canvas and scan dabs of real paint swatches on my palette. The body, fully engaged in the act of painting is a beautiful and maddening sensation.

So now the lows. I really got stuck in my mind of a workday without pay. The reality of the cost of being a painter really weighs on my conscious. My new anthem to myself is "pay it back forward". I remind myself that painting is like farming. This is a season of breaking the ground and planting the seeds.

Thanks for reading. It's good to know I am not alone.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Afghanistan's Ethnic cool at the MET

Please visit Schema Magazine to read my article written while I was in New York in June.

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Chamisa Trail in the Atalaya Mountain

Sante Fe, New Mexico

The last plein air workshop at the Glen holds fresh in my memory. No longer in the dry heat of desert Sante Fe, I am tracing scenes from the first few days of August.

On Friday, Stephen and I partnered up and hiked for half an hours up the Atalaya Trail, with our canvas cases pinching nerve endings in our shoulders–ouch; the occupational hazard of plein air painters. The morning sun of 7:45am illuminates the land–with the heat already in the mid 20°c. Stephen, wearing an intense pink tee, refreshing to see on a 40+ gentleman, adds a foreign electric colour to the landscape. He kindly shared good painting tips and names of indigenous plants as we follow minutes-old footprints from Daniel and Joel (our instructor) leading ahead. When we finally caught up, breathing felt a little asthmatic and I became surprisingly nostalgic–I will miss life 7000ft above sea level.

Looking down on the Rio Grande valley and the city and St. John's college below, I begin a sketch on a 10"x 20" board. I started a habit of painting behind Joel because I appreciated the additional view of his in-process canvas. Joel has the discipline down–time well managed from initial sketch, colour mixing, general plane filling, and detail touchup. Never appearing to be in a hurry, Joel exudes a calm “chi” which inadvertently affects us on. He frames with patience; Paints with insistence; Speaks softly.

Good conversation flow as our brushes move persistently. In spurts, we chattered on about what we’re seeing, about other painters, about life. Then there are periods of flat silence that comfortably take place. Each of us focused, racing to secure an impression on canvas as light shifts dynamically over us.

We bitched about ants. Whether it bit us, itched us or walked up our bare limbs, the topic of ants became our collective “blah-blah” in battling the annoyances of the wild outdoors. Yet another occupational hazard of a plein air painter. Not to mention the coyotes and irritating hikers–passing by, each one repeats the same one-liner as the hiker before, “hey more of you painters, all spread out on the trail.” Joel and Daniel are kind, they say hi. Not me, I just roll my eyes.

At around 11am, we all eventually flocked back to the studio room. Our sweaty bodies lounge in a half circle. The fruit of our labor, ripe and vibrant, rest side by side on the wall. Our style or “voice”, hyper contrast each other. So unique.

Joel begins our discussion with sharing a quote by Robert Hughes. The theme of “Fully Human” of this year’s Glen Workshop reenters my mind after hearing these lines:

“Everywhere, and at all times, there is a world to be re-formed by the darting subtlety and persistent slowness of the painter's eye. We are never loose from our bodies and the re-embodiment of our experience of that world.” –Robert Hughes from Lucian Frued, Paintings.

As the last workshops draws to an end, each of us shared about our personal “re-formations” as painters. I recall Lynette (icon painter), Lisa (painter/teacher) and Liz (pastor) shared memorable reflections about the intrinsic integration of art and faith. In a group of primarily mature female painters (along with three gentlemen) I, 26, felt privileged to be a witness and be witnessed, to listen and be heard.

Monday, June 29, 2009

Shepard Fairey | Civil Dis-OBEY-dience

Please read my review of Shephard Fairey's show in the ICA Boston on Schema Magazine.