Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Living with Art

Painting by David B. Johnson. Sideboard built by David C. Johnson
 Recently, an artist posted a photograph and what struck me about the image was the big, blank wall in the background.  This made me think about what motivates artists to create.  Perhaps for some artists, it is the making that most delights.  For me, it is simply the joy of seeing.  I make art so I can see an image always. In the making of a painting, an image is imprinted on my heart.
       Before my serious pursuit of art making, David and I collected art.  I enjoyed seeing the world through an other's eyes and I still do.  Living with paintings and seeing them everyday brings a lot of joy. It is actually this joy of seeing and living with other artists' work that pushed me to create my own artwork.  There were scenes that I wanted to capture and keep.  I wanted to be able to wake up in the morning and see an apple tree in Browning's Orchard.  I wanted to remember Jacob and Mary testing the cold water of Gouldsboro Bay in Maine.  Later, I wanted to learn more about my mother's and my father's families; so I painted them.  It worked!  I came to know family members I had never met by studying their image very closely.

Center painting by Diane Kahlo, Pastoral Symphony. Surrounding paintings from the Ancestral Album series, Kathy Rees Johnson.


     Now, I am expanding my viewpoint by teaching. Encouraging the development of a personal visual vocabulary, once again, I am able to vicariously see the world through others' eyes. For me, this is an exhilarating experience: the joy of seeing how others see!         

    Recently, I revisited an article on Pierre Bonnard. He declared that he did not so much care about painting and drawing; he just wanted to live the artist's life.  This holds deep meaning for me. Experiencing the world through its beauty (not mere prettiness!) is what informs and feeds my spirit. Painting allows me hold on to this beauty.

If there is a photo taken at home, there is a painting somewhere in the scene.  Behind John and his two short aunts, is Fay Moore's Pastorale.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Artful Hospital-ity

David was in the hospital recently and this gave me the opportunity to witness the power of design on humanity (or at least, myself.)  I drove him to the University of Kentucky emergency room.  We parked in the garage and learned that we could take a special van right to the emergency room door. This was good, because the UK hospital is opening its new, major building complex, and I was not sure where everything was located.  However, when it came time to run home and walk the dog, I wanted to check out the new corridors and the bridge which allows you to overpass the busy street and arrive at the garage.  I was in for a treat. On my way, there were displayed photographs from Guy Mendes' 40/40 collection. One of these is a photo Anna and Harlan Hubbard that Meg has procured for the Little Fine Arts Library's Hubbard Wall.  I walked up the steps and was met with the expansive, almost breezy bridge over Limestone.  There were tall windows along the Guy Mendes hall and the bridge was fully fenestrated, allowing the a re-entrance into the larger world. It was so refreshing that I decided I would travel this way every time.
        The second day in the hospital, David was transferred to a room in the original hospital. This was great, because it meant I had a last chance to be in the building where my father worked (he was an original UK Medical school faculty member. We were even on the same floor as his lab--for a few hours.)  The new location(s) allowed me to experience the screened wall (in the photo above, behind Mary) which features photos and videos of Kentucky people, horses and scenes of all sorts.  There is a quote by Jesse Stuart.  It is a real experience!
      There was art in the emergency room lobby and in each individual room.  There is art along the new, expansive corridors (the word "hall" doesn't do them justice.) I liked some of the art better than others, but it makes a refreshing difference to have Kentucky scenes to gaze at as you might be fretting over a loved one. It is healing!
      I do not have any art work in the UK hospital, but I do have several pieces in the Fleming County Hospital.  That hospital is quite beautiful and they developed this concept before the UK hospital.  They selected work from mostly regional artists and many of the scenes are local, Fleming County scenes.  In the cafeteria, they have a revolving exhibit.  In fact, I have a selection of horse paintings up there (though probably not for much longer).
     I never thought I would say this, but I miss walking along those spacious, beautiful corridors of the new UK hospital!  Just look at this sky!

Thursday, June 16, 2011


A couple of years ago, LexArts (the local arts council) sponsored a Kentucky artists exhibit.  Accompanying that was a panel and artist discussion on being a working artist in Kentucky.  Naturally, there was a decent amount of grumbling. To me, the most interesting complaint was voiced by an artist who proclaimed that he didn't really like to paint the Kentucky landscape, because he hated the color green.  He had a point.  If you don't like the color green, the Kentucky landscape would be a challenge.  Even if you like green, the color is a challenge. Even photographing green is a challenge. If you were to exactly replicate the green in a photograph on a painting, the result would look fakey.  The truth is that when you want to represent green in a painting, you need to see all the colors that are underneath and on top of it. For example, in the painting to the left, yellow and deep red watercolor are painted underneath the pastel. And highlights of yellow are generously sprinkled over the green pastel.
These are the kinds of things we will be talking about during my four week class at the Lexington Art Academy: Experimenting with Watercolor and Pastel. Knowing what you are seeing is more important than having a technique down pat.  Being willing to try something to achieve what you want is also important.  Believe me, this will be a safe environment for giving it a try and being yourself! The class will be from 7-9 pm on four Wednesdays, starting June 22nd.  To register and find out more information please visit the Lexington Art Academy website: http://www.lexingtonartacademy.com/.  Hope to see you in class!

Thursday, June 9, 2011

A Certain Gift

I am fascinated and not a little bit in awe of people who take advantage of midlife to create something new. It is something that I admire greatly; especially when the creator is a woman who has established herself in a career or as a parent and reaches a point where she wants to try something new and different. She wants to set out on a fresh path and see where it takes her. And this path is not just for her, but for whole communities. I witnessed this perhaps first with my aunt, who started an equestrian therapy program which has worked wonders for hundreds and hundreds of people. She could have just continued riding her horse on her farm, but she wanted to open the farm and horses up to possibilities of healing people in need of the special relationship with a horse.
     That is why I am so impressed that my high school classmate, Dr. Cindy Derer has created an art academy for adults.  Cindy, a dentist in Lexington, has long desired to express herself through the art of sculpting (this is very compatible with being a dentist, don't you think?) She found a class, taught by Thomas Baker which was just what the doctor ordered.  The only problem was that the class was offered only infrequently.  Cindy wanted to be able to consistently work on her artistic ambitions, so she created her own opportunity. Certainly, she could have figured out a way to consistently take sculpting classes. But that was not enough, she wanted to give this opportunity to a whole community of adults who want an artistic outlet, possible with their busy schedules. Working with Thomas Baker, she founded The Lexington Art Academy.
      LaA is located adjacent to Dr. Derer's dental office, at 698 Perimeter Drive in Lexington, KY. I am very excited to be offering a class:  Experimenting with Watercolor and Pastel, at the Lexington Art Academy.  We will be looking at the possibilities of these two media. I hope you will join us.  For more information, or to register, please go to the LaA website: http://www.lexingtonartacademy.com/.  See you there!