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Happy New Year!
It’s possible to write a book on the purpose of art making but here I just wanted to hone in on some really important reasons for making art.
In the past, art had been used to raise consciousness levels and to elevate the spirit. Art also gives us a way to wrestle with our demons. Art making is a place to simply be human. In order for us to create the great paintings we want to make we must imagine. Imagination is way more powerful than any of us realize.
For this new year, imagine your creative space and what you would like to create in it. And don’t forget to imagine the world in a more peaceful place. If we could all imagine the world living in peace, perhaps it might help us all to get there.
My Faith in Faythe
Returning to figurative painting has not been an easy transition.
I am confronted with who the painting is about and how they are seen through my eye. My world view. Returning to painting figures is a different kettle of fish if not can of worms.
Because I must confront being what society deems me: ‘a woman painter’ painting figures. Which is why I have chosen the painting of Faythe to start the journey back into figure.
Faythe is everything you haven’t seen when looking at paintings of women. She is whole, integrated, in charge of her world and life. She is comfortable in her own skin. She bows to no one and most importantly doesn’t need to jump up and down screaming and fighting for women’s rights. Because she’s there. She has arrived.
Most of us know that women’s progress in human rights and equality has stepped back a few steps during the past few years. To the wonderment of some of my younger students, who have asked me, what happened?
Progress in most things have a uncanny rhythm of a few steps forward and a few steps back. Let my painting of Faythe be a great leap forward. The only way to arrive to where we want to be is to behave as if we are already there. And that is what Faythe is about. Just being there.
Once a male colleague of mine said to me during one of my shows, “These are women’s paintings.”
I thought, “Hmm – yes I am a woman and painter.”
But what I realized is that I am more than a woman, I’m a human being.
One day my paintings will be seen as someone’s paintings and someone’s view on life and the world. One day I will not be referred to as a ‘woman painter’, rather as a painter. Faythe is there now! I’m with Faythe.
Recently I was doing my first three week residency at Gibraltar Point on Toronto Island. It helped me see how important it is to get feedback from fellow artists.
On my first day, after explaining the idea behind my painting of Faythe, one conceptual artist said to me “Man, you’ve hit the motherload.” I smiled and said “Yes, I think I have.”
The movie chronicles the plight of a wealthy Jewish family living in Austria during the invasion and occupation of Nazi Germany. We see Nazi’s storming into this Jewish family’s home, confiscating anything of real value, which included a painting of the family’s beloved aunt done by Gustav Klimt.
Fast forward 68 years to 1998, most of this Jewish family had perished in the concentration camps. One of the daughters survived. She managed to escape the Nazis invasion and in 1998 was residing in Los Angeles. She searches for and finds a lawyer to help her reclaim what is rightfully hers. The Klimt painting of her aunt which in 1998 was in an Austrian museum.
This story is about a human struggle. A struggle of writing a wrong. It’s a story about more than just a painting. It’s a story about justice. It’s a story about revealing and fighting for the truth.
Grappling with my own L.A. past I googled an old friend from 40 years ago. Someone I knew in high school. What I’d found when googling him was videos of him performing music. He had written songs and now was performing them. The context of his songs were both disturbing and alarming. Alarming to the point of me actually contacting him to see that he was okay.
From his songs I’d surmised that his life was spiralling out of control and that he was really in trouble, if not in a very dark place.
My friend was of course shocked that after 40 years I had contacted him. When I asked about his songs he revealed that his real sufferings were what he thought of as ‘absurd suffering’ and that no one would understand them. He felt he needed to morph his songs into something he thought others would understand. To which I thought, ‘Why are we making art any way?’.
The point I am trying to make is that we all suffer. In addition to death, sex, and taxes, suffering is common to us all.
The fact that we all suffer connects us to one another. Suffering is part of that which makes us human.
To dilute our suffering in our songs or paintings is like lying to the priest during a confessional. Why bother going to confession if you’re going to lie?
Obviously my friend was worried what others might think if he was honest about what he calls ‘absurd suffering’.
As artists, it is of the utmost important to be truth tellers. In spire of what others might think.
To my long ago friend, if you’re reading this, I challenge you to write a song that connects to ‘you’ and reveals the core of your absurd suffering. And when you do this you will experience and understand the true reason you are song writing.
It’s not about what others think, rather it’s about what you think.
And when you get as truthful as possible in your song writing, your real friends and fans will emerge. And THAT is what you want.
In the real world, or work-a-day world that we live in, we need to develop a persona to survive.
In the world of the artist, we need to drop our personas and simply be ourselves. Because our songs and paintings don’t need personas. So don’t give them one.
Ps. As the great gospel singer Mavis Staples said, what comes from the heart reaches the heart.
Now living in rural Nova Scotia my nervous system is no longer set up for fast paced city life. Even after being a veteran of NYC for 16 years. It was fascinating to be part of this Art Fair in downtown Toronto. Having had a bustling hat business in NYC, returning to a marketplace with a different product (my paintings) was a bit of a deja vu. Only this time I was way more invested in my product.
The feedback I got was priceless. Having been for most of my painting life a figurative painter, I had entered, for me, a new realm while living in Nova Scotia ‘The Landscape’. What I found at this Art Fair is that what most people were really connecting to was my figurative work. Yes, many liked the landscapes. But it was the figurative work they were really dialoguing with. While intending to re-enter figurative painting for a long time, I took this as a thumbs up.
Returning home to my students wanting to know what had happened – I had to explain what goes on in a marketplace. The different levels of quality of work at this show which seemed for some of my students like opening a can of worms or even worse – informing them that there really isn’t a Santa Claus.
I had to explain to them that there is commercial art and fine art and there usually is a clear distinction between the two. The commercial being derivative of the trend of the moment and the fine art being a reflection of one’s inner life. And yes, sometimes it is a bit blurry between the two. But usually there is a distinction.
Andy Warhol capitalized on the whole art market commercialization and used the commercial aspects of the market to drive his work. Interesting. Informing my students that there are different qualities of painting and comparing Beethoven to pop elevator music to drive home my point, one student blurted out ‘Yes, but we need elevator music!’ To which I thought ‘Well, yes, I guess not everyone likes Beethoven. But isn’t that why we go to school to learn? To develop our taste and knowledge so that we can appreciate the better stuff, so that we can appreciate Beethoven?’
If I was a gourmet cooking teacher I think my hope for my students would be to cook up the best dishes they possibly could with the knowledge I gave them as cooking is really an art. If my students cooked up a better hamburger than McDonalds because of potential financial profit I guess I would be happy for them if this made them truly happy.
But to tell you the truth this wasn’t my initial intention for passing on knowledge. Not so that my students can make the great commercial hamburger. I’m passing the knowledge on so that they can hopefully invent and create the most flavourful dishes ever. And if setting high standards means that you’re a snob, then I aspire to being a snob.
NEW Painting workshops in Toronto
Please contact if interested
Dates and location are to be arranged in October 2015
Ongoing Painting Classes in Halifax
Register NOW for Spring Classes
Every Sunday 1-4pm
989 Young Avenue
The Woman’s Council Building
New and returning students welcome!
Class is available for Beginning to Advanced Levels
Package of 8 Classes: $280.00
To register contact Lynda at: