Process of Becoming
October 29, 2018
All of art, and life for that matter, evolves through process. Artist Shaun Mcniff talks about process of creation as "a force and a direction that takes shape over a period of time, it suggests a series of actions, changes, fluctuations" It is that amazing. intimate and laborious dance of artist working with chosen medium to birth the idea or vision that must be expressed. An expression I've heard artists use when a piece is finished: "It came alive" Yes, I have always thought of art as alive, carrying its own unique energy. Especially because I work with the figure, I have the feeling of being "met" by a finished piece. This aliveness, this energy -- the Japanese have a word and concept for the belief that animate and inanimate objects carry energy, it is called Hado. It makes sense, in art, there is that relationship of maker to materials, the artist with heart, head and hand has touched and transformed the materials. Working with clay as I do, the clay itself, as part of earth feels alive, responsive, sensual, active. Lately in my process with clay, I see that in the drying and firing stage, it is as if the energy, aliveness has been destroyed. After firing, the pieces are hard, shrunk, brittle, stark. Next step then is to bring the life and juiciness back -- with ink and paint washes, layer of color, natural materials -- and all of my love and intention -- that is part of the process. (as shown below). Please feel free to contact me here, if you have questions, comments or wish to purchase a piece. You can find available work on my website too. Blessings of the changing times. - Brenna
Letting go, again, some more, ongoingly…
September 29, 2018
Two art shows that I did just recently, Denver's Affordable Art Fair and the (unfortunately named) Starving Artist show in Milwaukee have as their premise: all art sold for $100 or under. Artists show seconds, older work, experimental work -- and no matter the original price or intention, must sell it for $100. And sell we do! Patrons line up hours before the show starts, gates then open, and artists are inundated. Such great energy. This year in Milwaukee, I was selling a piece from an unusual, unique series that I had made at the Grand Marais art colony on the glorious Lake Superior. The buyer was moved to tears by the piece, the natural materials, the story of its making. In that connection, I felt the jumble of letting go feelings: joy of release, appreciation of appreciation --- and the stark knowing that this piece, made at that time and place is entirely unique and will never come again. Each piece I make -- even those from a series -- is unique. I can never make it again, just like it was. They are like a "map" of my creative journey. So it is a profound moment to say goodbye to the pieces that I make and love. To let them go...
In my early days of making and selling, now 28 years ago, both my art and I were more raw. Healing and making were more interwoven. I would sometimes burst into tears when a buyer came forward, as I learned the art of letting go. My daughter, in her young wisdom told me that I needed to choose one to keep. She would help me pack pieces for an upcoming show, kissing each one goodbye as she tucked them in the bin, to go. In this time I have made hundreds and hundreds of pieces, each, in turn finding a place of love and honor in your (my dear collectors) homes, offices, studios. In this process, I have come to associate making art, with letting go. Maybe that is true of most artists: making to send out in the world, to be seen, to make a living. We make them, but they are never truly "ours". It is a rich blessing, and I appreciate all of you whom I have "let go" to... all my best, Brenna
August 29, 2018
I've been bumping up against my inner critic lately. You know who I mean. That constant, persistent voice -- filled with negativity, casting doubt: Are you sure? Are you worthy? Can you do it? Is it good enough? That voice of doubt is especially strong for artists. So much of what we do is expressing our deepest selves, manifesting interior dreams, ideas -- out there-- in physical form, for all to see. Perhaps, as self protection, fear of rejection, we attack ourselves first, before (we imagine) that others will. I picked up a book recently entitled Your Inner Critic is a big jerk by Danielle Krysa. It's a great book, with clear ideas for getting through creative blocks, and she has a sparky writing style. I decided, however, that I parted ways with her as she just dismisses the inner critic by calling it names. What if I could make friends with this anxious clench in my stomach voice? In mindfulness meditation, which I practice, so much is about noticing: the thought, the feeling. Noticing without judgement. To not resist, but not accept either, just let it flow. As I have been trying this, I am finding that critical voice isn't quite so prickle-y, loud or insistent. Also, I am finding that there is usually something to pay attention to or be curious about. Maybe, after all, my critic and I can come to some kind of peaceful understanding -- and just call it good enough!
Below are two pieces from a series that I just finished. I tried a new way of making with the clay, and in the midst of creating, sure enough, that questioning voice again. I asked my art mentor, years ago, as I was beginning to create and feeling very vulnerable."Does that voice ever go away?" She said, "No, not if you are creating in a way that challenges you". Ah yes, here it is a part of creative process -- as I am wondering, wandering into the unknown.
Breathe. Notice. Flow.
Clearing Out / Letting Go…
July 29, 2018
Change – sometimes it takes looking back, to see where we have come…
As many of you know, dear followers and collectors, in the past three, years I have changed my art medium. I'm still creating the figure, but instead of the plethora of materials that I used before, I have simplified. No more: buttons, zippers, CD's, broken mirror pieces, seed pods, rusty metal, bottle caps, shredded money, rocks, keys, broken jewelry, beads, safety pins, nails, jingle bells, puzzle pieces, on and on… (you can see some examples on my website) Over the last 25 years I was recipient of the the broken and curious STUFF that we all somehow accumulate and then don't want. I saw possibilities and would use them on the sewn fabric body of my figures, becoming a metaphor for our human condition, the things we carry, or just kind of fun! As I age, I crave simplicity. Perhaps too, in response to our increasingly complicated lives. Now, I create with just clay, paint and sticks. In the meantime, my studio and attic still held all of that stuff — bags and boxes and bins— until, this last month — when I went through and cleared and sorted. I donated boxes of these "raw materials" to ArtScraps in St. Paul — a creative resource for workshops and artist materials. Fur coats (that I had once used for hair) I donated to Cuddle coats, where they will be used to comfort injured wild animals. The attic also held some pieces from the past, stashed away because they didn't work. Now, with some changes, they now have a new life. So all of this clearing out has freed up energy and space in my studio and in my psyche. There is a gentle sadness too, in this letting go, saying goodbye to this part of my creative life.
Hard to believe that three years have gone by since I started this newsletter, on my birthday! That is why it comes on the 29th of each month, to keep celebrating. Thank you all for your continuing support. Hope to see you at a show, and feel free to email me anytime! Artful Blessings, Brenna
June 29, 2018
Later than usual this year, my first outdoor show in many months was early June in Iowa City. After my 5+ hour drive, unloading and setting up my tent in the full sunny 98 degree day -- all by 5PM, I opened my heart and art to the dauntless art appreciators.(thanks Iowa City for showing up and making a great show happen!) By 8PM, I was exhausted. I felt that I was a bit out of shape -- time to lift those weights! And yes, given that heat, most everyone was beat, that is what we "street artists" are always working with this unpredictability! That made me realize how vital it is that artists really need to take care of ourselves, We need to be fit and healthy, both to create our art, and to take it out into the world. It is an old, and oddly pervasive stereotype, of the artist as a crazy person, defying societal norms, totally immersed in work, erratic, quirky, possessed, unbalanced. So prevalent this idea, as I grew up, I equated being creative, with being crazy -- and tried my best..(that's another story..) While we know that is not literally true, the perception still remains. Expressions of originality, imagination do not require suffering. Do we mistake insight and intuition, imagination as a kind of aberrant behavior? In addition, studies show that people who create tend to be more open minded, curious, persistent, positive. It is a circle -- we stay healthy in body and mind to better create, and creating contributes to our well being.
May 29, 2018
Earlier this month, I again participated in the amazing "Art as Journey" group lead by artist Elizabeth Erickson at Grand Marais Art Colony. Held in a converted church uphill from the harbor on magnificent Lake Superior in Northern Minnesota, it is an opportunity to have guided focus and explore personal art practice for four days. Usually working with the figure in clay, I decided I wanted to try something new -- to play -- with abstraction in a 2D format. Instead of play, however, I ended up with struggle. This work was new, I was inventing something new, and I couldn't see it. I had no context. The women creating around me loved them, Elizabeth saw them as landscapes. Still, I struggled. Why struggle? Isn't that a state of mind, couldn't I just "let go"? To struggle was for me a response to something that wasn't working, it felt hard, unsettling. And yet, I kept going. That is what struggle is, right? To keep trying, even though it feels hard, or hopeless or scary. Not giving up, trying another approach or idea. To be engaged, present, alive, human. I am aware that for many people in this culture, dealing with poverty, racism, ageism, illness; daily life can be a struggle. The struggle in art making may seem like an unrelated privilege, and yet, it opens us to understand struggle on many levels and hones our ability to see and respond. Below are three of the images, still working on them...