Thursday, April 29, 2021

Art and Meaning

She Found Her Voice by Gail Crum
from the exhibition 
Uncovered Stories

  If you are a member of the viewing public as opposed to being an   artist,   you may not know that one of the many beautiful things   that art does   is bring meaning to the times. Artists have a way of   looking at the world differently than most people. That quirky way   of   seeing gets   combined with the tools of expression, and the     end   result, the piece of  art, is what you see when you visit an   exhibition like my current   one, Uncovered Stories

 In this three-woman exhibition, the fourth one presented by Gail   Crum, Jill Milenski, and me in as many years, much of the work   presented was made during the pandemic last year. Artworks, such   as our trio of altered books made to keep us going and connected,   reflect what was happening just as a contemporaneous journal   written during the Civil War would. You just need to open your   heart to connect to the artwork.

The artists created altered books, which they shared in a 
round robin during the pandemic, to stay connected with 
each other when they couldn't meet.


Gail's piece, shown above, finds meaning in  uncovering the beauty in a cast-off cloth doll, which she placed in a glass case she lined with delicate handmade paper. She recasts the broken-down figure, ennobling it with beauty and grace. Indeed, she found her voice.

In her piece, below, Jill combines drawing, painting and  collage to create Doorways Into the Past, a piece that contemplates the joys and perils of raising a teenager during the pandemic. It's both fraught and wistful at the same time, and certainly something any parent can relate to.

Doorways Into the Past by Jill Milenski, as
seen in Uncovered Stories.

    Jill has made nearly two dozen pieces in this series,   exploring the rabbit hole of feelings, finding new   expressions every time. This is another beautiful aspect of   art, this time reserved for the maker of art. Yes, the viewer   reaps the benefits of the rabbit hole journeys, but for the   artist, long series such as this one, lead not only to deep   personal meaning, they create breakthroughs in one's   work  that forge new paths and create new challenges. It's   an exciting place to be.

  One of my own series relates to home and houses. I   started both drawing and constructing them as   assemblages about five years ago, when we were working   on an exhibition entitled Memories Evoked: Circling   Back  Home. In addition to teensy little oil pastel   drawings  of houses on top of boxes, I added sticks   stitched in place. I even created one large piece from an   old dresser drawer. Called Pink House, it was almost a     3-D  diorama of my childhood home. I put legs from an   old television on the bottom and an old rabbit ears   antennae on the top. I love that piece, which I still have.

Traveler by Gayle Pritchard, as seen in 
Uncovered Stories.
As I was preparing for my current exhibition, I started working on several new house drawings for my series, including Traveler, left. The two-dimensional wooden house is mounted on another piece of wood replete with my ubiquitous marks. A sort of map is nailed to the bottom, the "ground" area, and a beach stick is attached at the bottom. My oldest brother died as I was completing it, so I decided to dedicate the piece to him. I added the word cut from an old dictionary, traveler, as a sort of send-off for his soul. The map will help him find his way. Traveler is also a metaphor for his Irish blood; he had even more Irish DNA than the rest of his siblings, and one of our Irish surnames is a "traveler" name. Rest in peace, my brother.

So, these are just a few of the ways that artists both find and create meaning for the rest of the world to contemplate. I am grateful for the task.

Thursday, April 15, 2021

Uncovered Stories: Open Through May 14, 2021

Yes, the Playhouse Gallery on the BAYarts campus is open, and our exhibition, Uncovered Stories, is installed. We had a terrific (and safe) opening last Friday, with more guests flowing through all afternoon on Saturday. Hope you can stop by to see the show. Click here for the show times and appointment schedule. We will be in the gallery every Friday night and Saturday afternoon through May 14th.
As always, it is such a rare honor for artists to be able to speak with exhibition guests about their work. Many visitors were familiar with our styles, but many weren't. Gail, Jill and I are always eager to answer questions.

In the front of the gallery we installed Jill's Fairy Tale series, which makes for an intricate and unusually beautiful entry into the exhibition. Along with many other highlights, the altered books we made during the shutdown, and shown at the Yards Project exhibition last year, were very popular.

In the BAYarts Sullivan Gallery the same night David King's exhibition Time Travel opened, also an interesting exhibition of paintings about family.

After the crowds died down, we enjoyed the firepit and lovely outdoor patio with some pizza from the delicious new hot restaurant on the campus, Chatty's Pizzeria. I can personally attest to the deliciousness of their gluten free cauliflower crust. Yum!

Installation view, Uncovered Stories
  Today, SCENE magazine had a nice article about both       exhibits on the BAYarts campus. Arts writer Shawn Mishak,   who interviewed us prior to the opening, called our work   "outstanding and contemplative." 
Gayle and Jill relax on the patio in their
Gudrunjodens dresses.

We had a lot of sales at the opening, but there is a lot of excellent work available and waiting to go on YOUR walls. Hope you can stop by the show. It will be installed through May 14, 2021.

Gail Crum, Gayle Pritchard and Jill Milenski
at the opening of their exhibit Uncovered Stories.

Thursday, April 8, 2021

New Year, New Art, New Opening

In Our Studio

   Spring has arrived, along with vaccines, we have a new studio       space, new artwork, and a new exhibition.  

   The opportunity to exhibit our new work, and some made just       at the beginning of the pandemic, came about suddenly. In the       past three weeks, we have been working like crazy to finish up       pieces and install the show. It opens this Friday. Here's the             information:

Uncovered Stories

featuring the artwork of Gail Crum, Jill Milenski and Gayle Pritchard

BAYarts, Playhouse Gallery

28795 Lake Rd., Bay Village, Ohio 44140

Hope to see you there! Masks are required, and the number of people in the gallery at once is limited. So, grab your mask, and enjoy the beautiful patio and firepit after you see the show.

Thursday, September 24, 2020

Women in Conversation reopened this past Tuesday for the final four viewing days, and we couldn't be happier. The opportunity to show a body of work is rare enough, but in these times, it is truly soul-stirring. As an artist, it is a rare moment to sit in a large gallery space and see the work you have created over years installed, living and breathing, interacting with the other artworks and the viewing public. It leaves me breathless. 

As Ben Johnson observed in the opening line of his article in The Chronicle, "Time stood still...". Indeed, our work has been in place since February, and stayed in place over the ensuing months, bravely waiting for our return. We are so thrilled to have a few more days to enjoy the work in situ. Here's when you can see it: 

Thursday, September 24, 2 p.m. - 7 p.m.; Tuesday, September 29, 11 a.m. - 4 p.m.

Closing day: Thursday, October 1, 3 - 8 p.m. See the gallery link above to read the safety protocols.

You can also choose a time slot for the the closing event on October 1 and view a map CoolCleveland.

Can't make it to the show? You can still see it at the Beth K. Stocker Art Gallery Women in Conversation online. Check it out, and thanks for your support.

In these crazy times, it's wonderful to have a 'rainbow day' as my family calls it. I get a few extra ones this month. Stay well.

Friday, July 10, 2020

Four Months Gone; Carry on, if You Can

Detail of the mask I made for a
collage page in my friend Jill's
altered book.
 So, it's July. Though I have been gathering both my thoughts and images on my computer, for much of this Stay-at-Home time, I have been quasi-frozen. Like many of you, I have learned how to manage a Zoom call. I have rearranged my work spaces, including clearing out a lot of currently unused items from my art studio, to make room for more art supplies. In the process, I found some wonderful old artwork treasures that I'll share with you another time. 

Some days I hum along happily, doing the work in front of me, writing emails, letters and postcards, and, now, in the summer weather, spending time in my lovely garden. Other days, though, like my birthday in May, or now, when my county in Ohio is in the State's Red Alert public health crisis zone, I feel alone, isolated, vaguely sad, and, recently, absolutely furious. Outraged, in fact. Darn right pissed off at the self-centered crazies who simply will not wear a mask or follow the simple rules to get us all through this thing. They are making it worse for all of us, as we suffer together through a lack of federal leadership and crisis response. I have never witnessed such blatant corruption and incompetence in my life. 

So, what to do? Well, I do have a journal on my desk in my office here. It says Grateful on the front in all caps, gold lettering on a pretty orange cover. I write in it. Some days I can't think of anything new to write that I'm grateful for. But I'm trying.

Enter my longtime art group. The three of us, Jill Milenski, Gail Crum and I, have had three three-woman exhibitions with a hundred artworks in the past four years. We normally meet every week. I cannot tell you how much I have missed them.

Back in April we "met" on Zoom. We didn't make anything; we just talked, face to face, so to speak. I talked about how surprised I was at what a hard time I was having. We caught up on news, family stuff. At some point, Jill, always full of boundless energy, suggested we do an altered book round robin. It works like this: we each picked a book to alter and worked on it to set the theme, making pages to build on. Then, dressed in masks and gloves with books in plastic ziploc bags, we traded on each others' porches every week or so. Gail picked a German language kids book. Jill picked a kids book of knowledge, and I picked a book I'd had for years, Drawing at the Circus. The circus theme appealed to me, given the fact that a few months ago I finished making Clown Show: The Smallest Man in the World.

Clown Show: The Smallest Man in the World. It's 
a big, 3-D piece, 36" high. I haven't been able to
exhibit it anywhere yet. It speaks to the times.
This is the front cover of my
altered book. It is currently on view
at the Yards Project gallery. 
   Liz Maugans, the incomparable Cleveland artist, curated an exhibit at the Yards Project   gallery called Art Made in the Shut Down. Gail and Jill suggested we enter our pieces. Gail had already made another altered book by herself, a book about Time, which was perfect for the show. Jill and I entered our pieces. Recently, Liz did a gallery tour, and another one is scheduled for tomorrow, July 11. I'll add the link to it after it happens. You can see her paging through a few of our altered books on the video.

Sunday, March 22, 2020

Feeding Body and Soul: Staying Healthy and Happy During Social Distancing Season

Instead of our usual giant salad for lunch, yesterday I made a delicious 
soup with leftover veggies and ramen noodles, served with homemade beet
tahini. It was delicious, and a nice change. It made lunch at home feel special.
So, I'm sure you can imagine that my art group's exhibition, Women in Conversation, came to a screeching halt here in north-eastern Ohio, where we are battling the spread of coronavirus. The artwork remains installed, while we await the day where a semblance of life as normal returns. I'll keep you posted.

Meanwhile, a week into Staying at Home, I am keeping busy, and hope you are, too. Because I love to cook, read, sew, sketch and write, it isn't hard. Now might the time for you to develop a hobby. I'm just sayin'...

Earlier in the week, I set up a still life after my sweet husband went out for a brief grocery run and brought me some lovely yellow roses from the store. The kaleidoscope roses in the small vase came by mail from my sister, a congratulations gift for the opening of my show way back before we knew we had to Stay at Home.

Sketch in progress, still life with yellow and kaleidoscope roses together
with my favorite vases: two artist vases with faces, and an antique
amethyst glass vase that belonged to my grandmother. Though it
looks black, when you hold it up to the light, the amethyst color glows.
To me, it's the perfect metaphor for the way we can change our perspective
and find beauty in the process.
I have never seen kaleidoscope roses. They are so unusual, I just had to include them in my drawing. Though I am often the one to say there is nothing new under the sun, both the beautiful kaleidoscope roses and the dystopian nightmare we are experience disprove me. I am trying to make the most of it.

I am working with soft pastel pencils that I have had since drawing classes in college. I don't work with them a lot, because I really prefer oil pastels. That said, there is immense pleasure in the way soft pastels mark and blend. I love how they show up on colored pastel paper, as well.

Drawing is contemplative. It is a relaxing, focused activity. It is a skill than can only improve with practice. It is a challenge with an immediate sense of reward. It also frees your mind to wander while your eyes and hands are busy learning to see. Even if you are one of those many people ruined by a childhood "art" teacher who told you that you can't draw, I am here to tell you that you can. Give it a try. Don't show anyone. Do it for yourself. Any plain old pencil and paper will work. I highly recommend Danny Gregory's Art Before Breakfast to build your confidence. Danny is the founder of Sketchbook Skool, and presents as a gentle, kind soul and wonderful and enthusiastic support for artists and would-be artists. Take an art class with him online. Learn a new skill!

After two days spent gathering extra art supplies, I dropped them off yesterday (no social contact involved) at our our local non-profit art center, BayArts. Shout out to the amazing director Nancy Heaton and her wonderful staff, Karen, Jessica and Linda. They are creating free art kits for kids that can be picked up on the porch once a week. The first week, two hundred bags disappeared within hours of being set out. It feels good to do for others. See what you can do in your community. This coming week, I will be sewing face masks for first responders.

The other thing that I accomplished this week was to finally set up our reiki table again. My husband and I became reiki masters over the past decade. Though I give reiki to friends and family members, I have used my daily practice primarily as a tool for personal growth and healing. My husband does the same, but has also spent a lot of time teaching reiki for hospice, and giving reiki to hospice patients and their families. Instead of keeping our reiki table set up downstairs, I made space and moved it upstairs to a more quiet, personal space. I still have some rearranging to do in the coming days. In these uncertain times, it will be good for us to have a dedicated space to chill out, rest, refresh, and feel loved.

Wishing you peace and love. Take this time to do something special for yourself and those you love. It's a rare opportunity that has been foisted upon us. Stay in touch!
Reiki table almost ready to go.

Thursday, March 5, 2020

Women in Conversation: Celebrate the Women in Your Life

Women in Conversation Make and Take
participant created a souvenir accordian-fold mini-
journal. The event took place before the amazing
play at Stocker Center, Ain't I a Woman.
Last night's Women in Conversation artist Make and Take event took place at the Stocker Center Studio Theater before the Diane Monroe play, Ain't I a Woman featuring the amazing Core Ensemble musicians and the actress Shinnerrie Jackson (an Oberlin Conservatory graduate.)

UPCOMING: If you missed out, you can join us in the gallery this coming Friday night (March 6) from 6 - 9 p.m. Jill Milenski, Gail Crum and Gayle Pritchard, the artists of Women in Conversation, will be onsite during the Stocker Center Film Series. The movie Station Agent screens at 7:30, so come to the gallery to see the show, do our Scavenger Hunt, and create a Make and Take, all before going to the screening. After the movie, come on back up to the gallery. We'll be there to welcome you, and to continue the conversation.

The Women in Conversation opening reception on Friday, February 28th was amazing, with fabulous food, live music, and a crowd of people eager to see what the three of us have been up to.

Jill Milenski, Gail Crum and Gayle Pritchard at the opening reception for
their exhibition, Women in ConversationPhotograph courtesy of Steve Sefchik.
As you can imagine, putting together artwork for an exhibition is labor intensive. The three of us, my  art group, meet every week, virtually without exception. For more than a year, we have worked with intensity and focus in preparation for Women in Conversation. The Beth K. Stocker gallery is a huge space, and we were all afraid we wouldn't have enough work finished. Not to fear! We delivered a ton of artwork to gallery director Beth Bryan, and she in turn did a magnificent job installing the show.

Four wonderful artworks by Gail Crum from
Women in Conversation, February 28 - April 2.
To showcase our assemblage work properly, dozens of pedestals were put into service. These were placed along the walls in the center of the gallery strategically, highlighting all the work around them. This was essential for Jill's Fairy Tale series, which is comprised of small but powerful, intimate pieces. There are several more unique installation discoveries in the gallery, but I won't spoil it for you! Come see for yourself.

If you can't make it during regular gallery hours during the day or this Friday, we'll be back on Friday, March 27, 6 - 9 p.m. and, of course, for the closing on April 2, 4 - 8 p.m. We hope to see you soon.
Fairy Tale Series and Red Series by Jill Milenski from Women in
, February 28 - April 2. 

Installation of Wounded: What You Can Do For Your Country
by Gayle Pritchard with Lady, Not Liberty and We Are
Better Than This
by Gail Crum, a great pairing at
Women in Conversation, February 28 - April 2, 2020.