Friday, November 26, 2010

A Different Angle

This is a photo of Muffy, looking at the world from a different angle. I think everyone should do this every now and again.

Well, I WAS scheduled for a solo exhibition at ARTspace in 2011. Due to technical difficulties (a chronically sore paw and a matching sucky attitude), I decided not to proceed. I did three shadowboxes in my Saints Series (see below) as part of the exhibition, and then I hit the wall. And it was not for lack of ideas- oh, I had a myriad of possibilities lined up! Aforementioned suckiness gripped my Art Mojo with the Tentacles of Doom.

Enter the ARTspace committee. I informed them of my plight and begged to be reconsidered for an exhibition in 2012. But no. Nay, they said. Nay, Laurie. You WILL keep your spot (September) and you will like it.

Actually, it didn't go down like that. The ARTspace committee was very supportive. They suggested that I look at it from a different angle- keep the date but share the exhibition with other found object artists. As soon as that alternative was mentioned, I had one of those "AHA!" moments.

They say 'when one door closes, another one opens'. (Or something like that. If you're like my friend Phyllis, then you might unwittingly combine two adages and say "When one door opens, there's two in the bush." She once commented on the departure of a boyfriend by saying, "Oh, well. There's plenty of fish on the beach.") Because I am an oldest child, I am very good at sharing. Why I hoard bird skulls is another issue entirely, but I digress.

As co-conspirators for this exhibition, I immediately thought of my two friends, Becky Fixter Vagners and Kelly Ridley. Neither of these women are really known for their found object creations. Becky is a fabulous painter. Kelly is a fabric artist who also makes SteamPunk corsets. She once sat in the ARTspace window and, over the course of a month, knit herself into an 'egg'. Every now and again, however, both women have created found object artworks that I thought were pretty cool. And strangely enough, my sore paw had become the catalyst in creating the very opportunity for me to work with them.

Art Grrls unite! Both Becky and Kelly are intrigued with the shared exhibition idea. We're meeting next week to discuss a theme to which we will all respond in our own ways. Becky's piece will probably hang from the ceiling in a tangle of rusted metal, stripped wires, and nasty but cool salvaged stuff that could give you tetanus. Kelly's piece will be softer and will probably incorporate hand-spun wool (dyed with Cool-Aid) from her own sheep, the odd insect carapace, and doll heads that she's hoarded for years. And a small skull. Mine, of course, will be nicely contained in a box with a frame. My work will probably be the most pedestrian of the three, but it will be interesting nonetheless.

Of course, this is merely speculation at this point. We might end up doing a collaboration that's 29 feet long by 11 feet high, involves video screens and large, pointy spikes.

What I DO know is that the show in September at ARTspace will feature three found object artists, all women, who will have had a lot of fun putting an exhibition together.

I honestly thought my exhibition was toast. But all it took was looking at the problem from a different angle. My original idea for a solo show was pretty cool.

The Laurie, Becky & Kelly Show is going to be even cooler.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Creative Balance

Reckless Abandon at the Disco

This is me (and my son Chaz) enjoying a moment of Reckless Abandon at a disco party at the Thames Art Gallery. No cares, no worries. I think at this moment I was realizing that, despite being into punk rock throughout high school, I knew all the words to a K.C. & The Sunshine Band song. AND I DIDN'T CARE. A bohemian moment, if you will. Throwing caution to the wind. Gettin' down with my bad self. Just lettin' it ride.

Pre-Show Freak Out!

And now, for something completely different.

Taken last year, this is me, moments before my illuminating talk at ARTspace for my opening, Guys & Dolls. (Yes, that's Muffy in my hand, star of many beach and backyard photo shoots.) This photo documents the Freakout moment of which I speak. That's Carl Lavoy, Curator of the Thames Art Gallery, behind me. He's trying to keep me from running away. And I really did feel like running away. The morning of the opening, I stormed into his office and told him to cancel the opening. I told him that he shouldn't have let me have a show. That my work was sub-standard. That I had no right posing as an artist and should be branded as a dilettante for all to mock. (Do not be alarmed- I hear this is standard self-flagellation for artists before a show. We strive to be individuals and yet we all behave the same way before our own openings.)

Why are these two photos relevant, you ask? It's about energy. More specifically, creative energy. I have been without my Art Mojo for a few months now and this has led me to re-visit some of my work to see what I think worked and what didn't. And I have come to the conclusion that optimum creative energy is a combination of the energies illustrated in these two photographs.

That there are moments of Reckless Abandon in some of my pieces, in which I've somehow stepped outside the confines of my usual reference points and I see a glimmer of New Territory. It is fresh. It is very interesting. And I have absolutely no idea how I got there.

But then there are moments of Freakout. I have created pieces where I started out on a promising narrative path and then I Freaked Out and pulled back as if I had gotten spooked. Self-censorship. Actually, I think this is my major problem. The idea is good but the final version falls short of telling a cohesive story. Similarly, sometimes I think my work gives the impression that I Freaked Out and threw a whole bunch of crap together, hoping that a narrative would materialize. Hey, if one bird skull is a symbol of the death of freedom, then a whole bunch of bird skulls will really drive the point home! If some is good, then more is better! I'm a found object artist- I have lots of crap to throw around.

So I have come to realize that the ultimate Art Mojo exists within a combination of these two energies- Reckless Abandon and Freakout. The trick is to let my creative mind go, and then carefully pull back. It's about pushing an idea as far as you possibly can: brainstorming and even going into the absurd (don't discount the zany ideas!), then pulling back just a bit, applying some intellect, and honing the message.

Creating a good piece of art is like dancing the Flamenco with a man who has really dreamy dark brown eyes that you totally get lost in, but you still remember the complicated dance steps.

Don't stop- don't stop the dance.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

3 Ways

Sometimes, when I need to take a break from making shadowboxes (which is an intense process, even by my standards), I grab my Canon Rebel and head to the backyard. There is SO much you can do with action figures and a little imagination!

When the models cooperate and I've created a few good images (like the one in the middle), I take the photos into the printmaking studio and, through a really cool photo-sensitive process, I turn them into prints. Sometimes I take a headline from the Globe & Mail and add it to the print (Prepare For A Rough Ride- above). I might run off two or three prints and I tend to favour red, blue, or green.

Sometimes I feel that the finished print needs more than a headline- it needs a story. Then the print might become part of a collage, like the one at the top (Her Lips Remember). Each collage is one-of-a-kind, and features old luggage tags, vintage stamps, maps, interesting beverage labels, 1950's paper dolls, tickets, etc. I am constantly asking friends to save me their paper bits when they go on holidays, which is how I get some of my ephemera collection.

My first show at ARTspace ("Guys & Dolls") featured prints and collages that were made from some of my backyard exploits. I had a LOT of fun with that show! And it made a lot of people smile, which was the intention.

This is what I do with action figure photos. Then if I'm feeling particularly creative, I will take the actual action figure, and put him (or her) in an altered form in a shadowbox. Then I create a three-dimensional world (like the shadowboxes "Forgiveness" and "St. Catherine the Astonishing"- see both in the bank of images to the right). And it is an intense process. Then when I need a break from making shadowboxes, I take photos.

And the cycle begins again.

Memories of Childhood

Suzy is Smokin'

Last year, a friend of mine commented that I was good at taking pictures of dolls. True enough. She asked me if I would do a photo shoot of her favourite childhood doll, Suzy.

It was a beautiful day at McGeachie's Pond. The sun was shining, the birds were singing, Suzy was cooperating and working with the camera. And then, without warning, my mind went on a mischievious bent (some might argue that I was just being myself). It wasn't hard to find a cigarette butt on the ground (that's a whole other topic for discussion), and Suzy had one of those mouths that used to take a baby bottle... well, the above photo speaks for itself.

I am very grateful that my friend has a sense of humour. I think that Suzy looks contemplative.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Bombs and Babes

one of Marshall's really cool prints

I'm curating a show at ARTspace in January called Bombs and Babes, featuring the art of printmaker Marshall Heaton. Marshall taught me printmaking a few years ago, and his work has always intrigued me. He covers many different subject matters, including war and women. The above image will be one of the featured works in the show.

We are working on a way to use barbed or razor wire as part of the exhibition.
Marshall will speak about nosecone art, blonde bombshells, and the contrast of war and women (hard and soft, death and life, etc). I love how he juxtaposes the two subjects and creates a darkly humourous bent. He insists that people should not take art too seriously and that art essay "gobbledy gook" drives him crazy.

His work has some similarities with mine, which is why this show resonates with me so much. The opening night will be January 15th at 6pm, as the first stop in the annual Winter ARTcrawl (this time, with a 'surrealist' theme to celebrate the life of Yves Tanguy who died on that date in 1955). Gotta love the marketing tag....."have a surreal good time!"

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

A Big Fish

Landing A Bluefin in P.E.I.

I was going through some files a few days ago and found this shot I took while on vacation in P.E.I. I was eating lunch at a little wharf-side seafood restaurant near Cabot Park when I heard the cook in the back say "There's a big one coming in!" When the waitress delivered my mussels, she said that a big bluefin tuna was coming into the harbour and that it would be a pretty interesting thing to see. If I was interested.

I was.

Landing large bluefin tuna doesn't happen that much anymore, especially on P.E.I., and a crowd had already gathered on the wharf by the time I got there. The tuna went up on a huge hook, got weighed (over 700 pounds) and then was lowered onto the wharf.

I forgot that tuna bleed.

I took a bunch of photos.

Fifteen minutes had passed and the tuna was already sold for sushi to Japan, and the dockhands were preparing to put it on ice.

And I went back to my mussels.

It was a really interesting day... one of those days when you're reminded of the Man vs. Nature struggle and how it can be sad and profound, but delicious.

Queen of Hearts

Laurie says, "Off With Their Heads!"

You can't go to a costume party without a costume.

Here I am at Eye for Art, just before I grabbed the camera and documented the evening for the Curator. Let me tell you, this costume requires a LOT of crinoline. And nobody knew who I was!

If you'd like to read a blog I wrote about the evening, access

The photos will be posted there as well.

So now that I'm done the big art blitz that was required for Eye for Art, I am going to journal for a few months until creativity returns. Still no mojo for the Queen of Hearts.

Maybe I'll take up painting.