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Where do Ideas come From?

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Past Images can Inspire the Ideas

Where do ideas come from? Nothing is original. You may disagree with this, but it is true. Everything spins from something else. A piece of music, an old photo, a place that reminds us of our younger self; all are triggers for ideas. Ideas that I can use to make my Art.

As you know I work from the ephemera of memory. Vintage advertising, old vinyl record album covers, lyrics from favourite songs, old photos, classic films all play a part in the germination of an idea. A piece of art that defines who you are. Most importantly, this brings me to the most important piece of finding ideas; having  defined parameters of the story. The themes of the story can be in the realm of “escape”, or  “empowerment” or the internal story of the “home sweet home”. Each area brings to mind its own type of images which speaks to your personal experience.

How an Idea in a story can Remind You of You

Since I have made art for over two decades, I have told the same story many, many times. Throughout the retelling I have found that my ideas flow best when I use themes of settings. For example, images of a city from the 1950s. The painting featured titled La La Land is Los Angeles from the 1950s. It can be recognized by the old department store of Bullocks, which was bought by Macy’s in the 1970s.

When I showed this piece in Palm Springs recently, many woman told me stories of their connection with this store. It’s glamour and uniqueness was part of the beginnings of their lives. Some worked there. Spending all of their earnings on the beautiful clothes. Others remember shopping there and feeling overwhelmed with the beauty of the building. The inside of this department store was 1920s art deco and its elegance was part of the shopping experience.

The Goal is to have the Ideas connect to your identity.

My goal is to bring a deeper sense of self for the viewer by reminding them of their history. This is important for all of us to do so we have a strong connection to our identity. Therefore, everytime I create a piece, I think of how the image can make the viewer escape into another place. A place from the past that defines the present “self”. It is an amazing experience speaking to clients when they recall their lives from another time. I feel that we are all very similar. Many times, these memories align with my own experiences. When a painting, a piece of art, deepens a person’s connection to themselves, then my job is done. My goal has been achieved.

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It All started With the Word No

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There are No Women Artists

As the 2019 International Women’s day approaches in March, I am once again reminded of where my creative voice started.

It started with the word NO-

No you can’t do this because you are a woman. The message was that because I was a woman I would be paid less, be a target for violence, and be expected to expect less. These ideas made me angry. After finishing my first University degree I realized that my goal was to make art that could help cultural social change. In other words, make art that would change people’s minds.

It was to change the vision of women and make a living from it. This may sound like a naive idea. How do I make social change through Art? My answer? Just make the work and put it out there.

However the word No was loud in my head as I looked to using Art as a way to make people aware of the woman’s voice and experience. My theory was that by doing this I could make the viewer realize that women should be honored and respected.  I soon realized that “No” I can’t make a living in art because there aren’t any other women out there to look at.  In the late 1980’s there were very few women represented in the private galleries and public museums. Looking around I saw little representation or role models.

Lessons my Father Taught Me

When I was a child, my father told me I could do anything I wanted. However this was not the message I got when I was completing my first degree in Carleton University in media theory. I soon realized that, through typical “consciousness raising” feminist education , that it is a uphill battle for women. The lack of representation in museums, galleries was being highlighted by women art collectives. For example, the Guerilla Girls was drawing attention to the fact that very few women were being exhibited in major musuems.  In addition,  there was also the push for the National Women’s Museum of Art in Washington DC.  The voice was slowly finding its way to the surface. Yet there was, and still is, a systematic lack of representation of women in Art distribution channels. Art was being made- it was not being shown.

Yet I could not accept that the public- people like myself- did not want to have women’s art hanging in their home. Artists that peppered history such as Mary Cassatt, Emily Carr, or Georgia O’Keefe were out there. The issue was not that there were no women artists. The issue was the distribution. The male voice permeated through the levels of jurying and  the acceptance into the galleries. Selection did not highlight the woman’s voice. So how do I bypass this gatekeeping structure? How do I get my work shown?

Find the Collector, Find the Voice

My solution? To bypass the selection process. To go directly to the client and find my collector. Above all,  let the public decide for themselves. Over the past three decades I have worked with over 20 different galleries. Every gallery was managed or owned by women. I was able to get into these galleries by first proving I had a buying public. I had found my own client and I convinced the dealers that they could capitilize on my work. It was a sharing with the gallery. The way I did this was through competitive art fairs.  These marketing outdoor events gave me access to the public.  I could sell directly to the collector who came to these events and I could convey my message and voice one on one.

Message has to be Subtle to have an Effect

This process also gave me a clearer vision of my message. I soon realized that to be political and feminist was not a selling point. In the early 90’s the public was not ready for the feminist voice.   I became aware that I did not have to describe the woman’s situation. I had to be authentic and convey what IS the woman’s voice. Who am I? What do I do? I am a partner, a mother and a strong woman. Three elements that have developed in themes in my work. Themes of Cityscapes (which is the setting for romance and partnerships with my husband), Women images (strong vibrant dynamic images) and finally Home Sweet Home (images from the domestic space) My belief is by portraying these stories, the woman’s voice is empathized with by the viewer. The collector sees themselves in this art and renews/reaffirms their own belief systems.

So Where are We Now?

Now we are in the age of social media. As a result, more women can use the tools of media to amplify their voice. The museums still do not show women’s art except through a token few. I am often amused when colleagues mention to me to see a particular woman’s show at the Art Gallery of Ontario, as though this is the representation of many. Imagine if you walk into the National Gallery and the entire museum has women’s art hanging and only one or two male artists. Imagine what that would look like. In October the Tate Gallery in London said they were doing this courageous act. If only for a brief period of time. It does give us the thought that eliminating 50% of the voice does not represent our culture. It does not reflect who we are.

Art cannot change beliefs. Media cannot change beliefs. However, art and media can affirm, it can give confirmation and it can inspire. In conclusion,  all things that can change culture start with the voice. Therefore the voice has to be allowed to speak in order for change to happen.

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Art Has a Power.

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Art and its Power

Can the power of art change your life?  Can art change the world? It’s a question that many have asked and answered. Art, in its many forms, can reveal the power that we can acquire through the engagement and understanding of the stories behind art. For this reason, just filling a space in the wall with an image that has no meaning to you undervalues the power and impact that art can have. In fact, the power comes from you taking the risk to surround yourself with Art that inspires you, makes you feel the power that art can have.

“Art does not show people what to do, yet engaging with a good work of art can connect you to your senses, body, and mind. It can make the world felt. And this felt feeling may spur thinking, engagement, and even action.”

No one wants an empty life. A life lacking in colour, in drama and in story. This time of year can be a time of paralysis. Winter descends and the cold tightens its grip. Hibernation seems to be the best alternative. This is where the power of art becomes integral to moving forward. Dreaming of another time and place is integral to survival. And survival is where this year has began.

It’s a New Time;

Recently my teenage daughter mentioned to me that this was the most important time for women. In her opinion, there had not been a previous time as changing or life altering as the past year. I tend to agree with her. In my experience, of being a feminist for the past 35 years, I have not seen such a voice.

Movies, live theatre, literary and the music industry have all revealed that women are stating their case and choosing to be heard. Whether it’s in the media, or on the political stage, it has been women that have taken the lead to state their cases. Women artists led the charge with a loud voice of making their mark.  The art they have made, the stories they tell, all come together to collectively state their view of dismantling of sexist power structures.

I  believe I heard it state that this was a “tectonic” shift. Perhaps it is.

Paintings that tell the Story about Change;

There are times that I create art that sets a clear truth, a story of women together, walking, striding to the same goal of recognition.  The Empowered Series is an integral part of my artistic vision.

The painting highlighted is titled “Dance with Abandon“. A piece that brings to mind a story of admiration. The crowd beneath the girls dancing, (who are screenprinted onto the surface) watch in awe. This image of this crowd is from a 1960s Life Magazine photograph from the first NASA launch. It seemed appropiate to place this crowd with the outgoing dancing women.

We are at a point in our culture that we watch as young women take hold of the mantel and run for office. Although women have had a voice, their stepping up to take hold of the political dialogue through social media has enabled them to try to make change. There is a sense that being quiet and not acting is a form of apathy. Considering my 15 year old daughter’s voice, I don’t think that this is a option any longer.

 

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The Business of Art

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Selling of Art has its Challenges

The business of art is challenging. First of all its not just the making of the art, but being able to market, distribute and sell it. Finding collectors that love and support my art is the ongoing uphill battle. Many artists choose to use galleries to sell their work. I have done the same track and just don’t have the patience. The waiting for the Sale is not compatible with paying bills. Therefore the business of art for me is in the spirit of the Independent artist.

The artist that finds places to exhibit in outdoor art fairs, pop up spaces and smaller local galleries.  My ability to sell my art makes the experience of buying one of my pieces so much more satisfying both for the collector and for myself. Most importantly, I can control the supply of the pieces and be more closely linked to the people who buy my work.

How the Creative process is effected by the Sale.

The ability to meet and see where my work ends up is critical to my creative process. The exchange I have with people who love my work in art fairs also plays a critical role. The dialogue and the conversation makes for important feedback thereby solidifying the thoughts behind the work.

I have been creating and selling my work since 1995. Seriously developing ideas behind the creative process seemed to mature about 10 years later. For those first 10 years I learned a great deal about what sold. This body of work was romantic and very traditional. Impressionist and full of texture, these pieces were just about learning about the paint. Stories delved into the European cafe culture and romantic connections. The business of art was about surviving and creating work that could pay the bills.

However, in the last 10 years, things have changed. Now, my art has a clearer idea about its goal. Therefore the understanding about memory and the creation of imagery that delves into this theme became the driving force. Consequently, the work increased in  its depth.  Its gotten deeper in both its message and the use of materials. Above all, I feel that I  have a clearer understanding of the motives and direction of the voice.

Bringing the Art to Market is the most important part of the Business.

For many artists this is the biggest obstacle.  Sure they can make fantastic work, but where do you exhibit? How do you find the person who will purchase the piece, hang it and look at it everday?

With the advent of digital media the art can be spread out through social media. The artist has more power than every before. Much like musicians, artists can use Instagram and FB targeting to find the art collector. The biggest issue is how to use it effectively. Posting the images, finding followers are all part of the social media pressure. But the goal is to really connect.

The online approach is the most effective but the most mysterious. Apart from the social media having a website to purchase art online is critical. Without this online storefront, which I have with www.memoryartgirl.com, it is impossible to build the online experience. For many artists, who are not part of the Tech generation, this can be the greatest challenge. One that needs to be presented and taught in a simple manner. It’s a big “levelling up” of skill set that is confronting many creatives.

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Finding Her Voice

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Finding Her Voice

Sometimes a painting such as the piece highlighted titled Still I Rise, inspires a collective reaction of celebration and empowerment.  Finding her voice is a goal that every woman has. There is an assumption that with the #metoo movement women are allowed to speak and to stand up, but I don’t think this is the case. In fact, there are many messages that young teenage girls receive that say that they just aren’t good enough. That their voice, with its brightness and loudness, is not acceptable.

Awareness of the Subtle Messages

For the past eight years, my daughter has played hockey. This sport is not based upon the construction beauty, or how they look, but on the initiative and motivation on the ice. Two traits that I try to teach my daughter. I expected that the coaches would promote these values along with the respect that girls need to be able to express themselves. The value of being able to speak, to be themselves is especially important as young women enter into early teens. The ability to express their power, in turn, makes for a girl to withstand intimidation either from school, friends and eventually the workplace. But what do you do when your daughter is in a situation that does not allow her to speak? That she must be quiet, to accept and allow the Coach on the team to bully and be intimidating. The reason for not speaking? She is accused of being a trouble maker. Watching your daughter struggle with the personalities of fellow players, and the Coach staff was difficult. At the end of the season, we left with the knowledge that we both tried to assert ourselves and still enjoy the game. We both knew that this sport did more damage than not.

A Painting that Reminds Us Of Freedom.

Painting images that have an empowered sensibility reminds us that the images we have around us are important. In an article by J. Francis Davis titled “Power of Images: Creating the Myths of Our  Time”, stated that “myths are the ideas and stories that motivate daily behaviour.” Myths comes from images and if we surround ourselves with images that state it is Right to be Free then that in turn makes us stronger.

It is important to keep affirming that a young teenage girl has the right to speak up. For me, this painting and the group of pieces that I have created in my Women Series strikes at the core of being a woman- one who has the right to speak and be herself.

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The Handmade is the perfect Gift

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As you know, the handmade, one of a kind gift is the perfect choice!  The question is why?

Your Creative Voice in Giving

As the search for the perfect gift comes upon us for the holiday season, we are struggling to find the present that speaks to our own creative voice. This creative voice, which can also be know as the “original voice” speaks to our own creativity. This may seem a bit abstract, but I have often wondered why we are so attracted to finding the maker of the piece of craft or art. With a culture flooded with products, the search for uniqueness is a premium.

My discovery of the concept of the “original voice” came about from reading Arthur Lessac’s article “The  Quest for the Original Voice” The article is interesting in that it defines that our own inner environments This is a voice the creative voice we are born with. This references  authenticity, uniqueness and is genuine. It advocates feeling, not intellect, to activate the creative visionary within. The article mentions that this inner original voice can disappear due to the demands of the outside world. The inner creativity is stifled by the daily routine of life.

As I create and make work in my studio, I often think that the production of these unique pieces, out of nothing, is ridiculous. It has an element of fun that seems self fulfilling and not part of the world that prioritizes mass production and money. Yet as my clients buy my work, and hang the Art in their homes, I find that the self fulfilling aspect is not so selfish. In effect, I serve a need. The need to find creativity in all of our lives. To remind ourselves of our “original voice” is to help people discover their own inner creativity.

The Importance of the Handmade

So where does this leave you for the perfect gift? It begins with understanding that buying an item that an individual has made, or designed, is actually an extension of your own needs. That of finding a place to share your own creative vision with others. This is actually the gift. Or as the painting that is highlighted titled Moments Shared

 

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Calling all Art Lovers!

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Wonderland Calling for Art Lovers!

This morning I met a woman who’s first words were “I am an art collector”. She hadn’t bought a piece from me, but I was struck at how proud she was that her home was filled with art. She didn’t care whether the art was seen as “good” or “bad”, rather, she loved that she had collected art made by artists who came into her life and expressed how she felt about her world. Now, she is an art collector for her kids and makes Art a special gift that gives them the “colour of their life”.

Being an art collector of others can be challenging. How do you know what to give to someone who is just getting married, or has an anniversary, or is moving into their first home? In my opinion, I don’t think it really matters. The gift is from your own perspective. You see the colour, the life and the story. The person who receives it knows that this gift comes from a place of understanding and relating to your world.

For the past three decades I have been making and selling my work to thousands of people. Yes- this may sound a little over the top, but I have kept records of everyone who has purchased from me. In the last few years, I have realized that in order for this to happen, our world needs people, like you, to love art. To look at it as a necessary part of your world that reflects back to and expands the your vision.

Recently, the founder of the Toronto Outdoor Art Exhibition, Murray Koffler died. He was 93. Over 50 years ago, he created the best Art Fair in Canada. His vision? To provide a place to enable artists to show their work without the galleries, or independent gatekeeping that happens in the art world. The best part of this art fair is that it enabled the public to SEE artist’s work. It may not be in a white walled gallery, but it provided a fresh way of being exposed to work by bringing the artist directly to the public. A disruptor ahead of his time.

I have been a Director on the Board of the Toronto Outdoor Art Exhibition for the past 5 years. This art fair show cases over 300 artists at a time. It is a direct reflection of a culture that realizes that Art is an integral part and important part of our city. Buying Art, and giving it to either yourself or to those who are important to you, supports and elevates our experience and thought. It’s important to do.

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Let there be Light in Life

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Let there be Light in Life- how Art can help you be positive

“Choose your thoughts wisely, find out what gets you excited, what energizes you and what you value in life.” Diana Reid

This past weekend was my last show on the road for a while. The weather was beautiful and the crowds were dense. I was in the Washington DC area, so I had plenty of conversations that had a grumbling undertone. These times seem to be full of anxiety- worry about the political climate, about the general sense of dis-ease. Yet this past weekend was also full of hope. After the grumbling was done there was a lightness as though life is just going to be fine.

I recently came upon an article titled  “15 Things the Happy People don’t Do” by Diana Reid. Things like not to forget to dream, or not to be selfish, or most importantly to not allow negativity in their mind. Choosing to be happy is critical in this regard. There is the cup 1/2 empty or 1/2 full. I am forever choosing the latter. When I look at my work, I am the one who makes you look at the whimsical, the optimistic, the possibility that there is a light in our life.

However, I sometimes wonder if this is just too trite. As though the sentimental is not deep enough. Yet with the bombardment of negative images that surround us on a daily basis, there just is no way a that the 1/2 full cup can be part of the dialogue. My work, my art, chooses to be looking at the future. A place we can go to that escapes the oppressive place of darkness. In the featured painting, Looking for Fun, this piece is a perfect example of the story of the future. This man walks with purpose and elegance. Choosing to find the fun in his world. Such a great piece that brings nostalgic imagery into a contemporary story.

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