Sunday, October 31, 2010


Susan B. Anthony and Elizabeth Cady Stanton


The Baracuda and the Dancer

This Tuesday is the day to cast your vote. It shouldn't be a big deal, but apparently there are a lot of people who are not planning to vote because they think it doesn't matter or are sniveling about President Obama not having made enough progress. All I can say is that if you think he hasn't made enough progress so far, just go ahead and don't vote or vote against the Democrats and see what that gets you, i.e. if you think it's bad now, you ain't seen nothin' yet.

All this claptrap about FREEDOM and SOCIALISM and GOVERNMENT TAKEOVER and I AM YOU is just a smokescreen for the hypocritical takeover by those who really do want to take over your life and tell you that there is no separation between church and state or that your children should not know that gay people exist or that you can't read what you want to or that you don't already pay for the health care of poor people through higher insurance rates, etc., etc., etc.

More than all those things, though, is the ignorance and disrespect for facts, intelligence and truth that so many politicians are showing. It just makes my hair curl to the point that I can't even watch the news on television because my blood starts boiling.

“The press is our immune system. If it overreacts to everything, we actually get sicker. And perhaps eczema. And yet, with that being said, I feel good. Strangely, calmly good. Because the image of Americans that is reflected back to us by our political and media process is false… why would we work together? Why would you reach across the aisle, to a pumpkin-assed forehead eyeball monster?" (from Jon Stewart's speech at the rally via the internet)

The Real Message from the rally:  "If we amplify everything, we hear nothing."

It's always been a thrill for me to vote. I really love walking into those school basements or town halls and seeing the voting place and giving my name and address to those people behind the tables. Many times there are not that many good choices, and sometimes I only cast one vote because I have not educated myself about people running for school committee or state congressman, but I always show up to vote. I do it for myself and for my foremothers who worked so hard and so long to get the right to vote. How can I not show up to honor their struggle?

"The right of citizens of the United States to vote shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any state on account of sex." (19th amendment to the Constitution ratified in 1920) When my mother was born in 1917, women did not have the right to vote. That's a little too close for comfort.

It's a weird world we live in when huge crowds of people come together to rally in support of sanity and/or fear. If you are sane, you are fearful is the message, I guess. I am afraid that the nut cases are taking over and that people are just sitting back and letting them do it without challenging them. 

Are we too polite about it? Do we let them make false claims without challenging them? 

“Not being able to be able to distinguish between real racists and Tea Partiers, or real bigots and Juan Williams or Rick Sanchez is an insult, not only to those people but to the racists themselves, who have put in the exhausting effort it takes to hate. Just as the inability to distinguish terrorists from Muslims makes us less safe, not more.” (from Jon Stewart's speech at the rally via the internet)

I think the Democrats need to speak up for themselves more and state what they believe in. Why don't they say what they mean? Why don't they challenge the lies and hypocrisy? Instead they mealy-mouth their way through things and come off looking like fools. But they're my fools - and I hope they are yours. 

Posters in this post from the Jon Stuart/Stephen Colbert rally came from Facebook via Political

Read More About It
If you want to read more about the difference between Democrats and Republicans, Mira Schor posted a very well-written piece on Facebook and the Huffington Post about being a Yellow Dog Democrat (it means that she'd vote for a yellow dog before she'd vote for a Republican). I agree with her and seeing as two yellow dogs (yellow Labs) are part of our family, I would call myself a triple Yellow Dog Democrat.

Friday, October 29, 2010

What Makes a Professional Artist PLUS What's New?

What Defines a Professional Artist?
Yesterday I was at the hospital getting a "procedure" done. (Nothing serious and it all turned out OK. And, no, it wasn't a facelift or boob job.) While waiting on the table for the doctor to come in, I  chatted with the nurse. She asked what I did and I said I was an artist. Why is that so problematic to understand? Most people just have no conception of what that entails. I gave a one-sentence description of what kind of work I was doing when she asked, but I know she had no idea what I was talking about. She said that she could probably call herself an artist too because someone had told her that you're an artist if you sell something you have made and she had sold a couple of things. This was on the order of "my aunt paints" or "my cousin used to do art," that kind of thing. I said nothing much in response.

This image has nothing to do with what I'm writing about but I thought it was fun to look at. It's from "Hair Wars", a touring show of African-American hair extravaganza. Here's the link.

The chat and her comment really started me thinking about what it meant for me to be an artist. How to explain what the life of a professional artist is like? Would I call myself a professional just because I have a studio? I'm not represented by a gallery right now. Does that fact exclude me? I know that what I do is different from a hobby artist or Sunday painter, but just how would I define "professional?" What makes me any different from her outside of the amount of time I put in - or is that fact in itself a defining parameter?

The nurse told me that the technician who was going to assist in my procedure was also an artist and liked to talk about it. The idea filled me with dread - not another hobbyist, pullease. I'm here on the operating table, a captive audience, and in no condition to be tormented! But it turned out that he was what I would call somewhere between a hobbyist and a professional. We had a nice discussion about ricepaper and water media. He was a plein air painter (he used that term) and did landscapes in watercolor on a very thin ricepaper. He was influenced by Chinese brush technique. He defined success for himself by how many pieces he sold through an art group in Rhode Island where he displayed his work. I liked his attitude toward his work because I could tell that he really enjoyed it. He said that he liked to be spontaneous and experimental, and his work was painted in one session and was either framed or trashed.

Later that night I finally brought downstairs to my desk a huge armload of slides in plastic sheets - maybe 200 sheets of 20 slides (that's 4000 slides!). I had to go through them because I need to get some made into digital images. Those slides represented most of the work I had made from about 1990 to 2001, ten or eleven years worth. I would say there were 600 or 700 works pictured in the slides. Looking through them, I could see all the phases that my work went through after I graduated from MassArt in the late 1980s. From my current perspective, I could recognize what makes my work my own and has been there from the beginning. Isn't it weird that I could keep returning to the same thing time after time? And of course this is not something that's peculiar only to me. Each artist has his/her interests and approaches that makes him/her distinctive.

If you have any thoughts on what defines "professional artist" for you, I'd like to hear them.

A Wrinkle in Time - A New Show of Work by Binnie Birstein Opens This Weekend
I'm going down to Fairfield, CT on Saturday to my pal Binnie's opening. Her new work is really spectacular. It's very dark and powerful.

Be there or be square.

The Fifth Annual Encaustic Conference - Joanne Mattera announces the new location for 2011
This is really exciting. The conference will be held in Provincetown next June 3-5 at the Provincetown Inn with post-conference workshops at Truro Center for the Arts at Castle Hill in Truro. Here's the link for all the details. What a perfect spot for a weekend-plus of hanging out, hearing great talks and attending workshops. I will be participating in the Saturday morning panel on media talking about blogging (what else?). I am psyched that the Binster and I have already reserved a great room on the water with its own little deck. It looks out over the breakwater to Long Point and the moors. We're gonna be the pahtay room. Grape soda all around!

An aerial view of the Provincetown Inn that looks like it's from an old postcard.

A very pink sunrise looking out along the breakwater toward Long Point. The Ptown Inn is on the left and perpendicular to this view.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

The Questionnaire: A Recap

This Is a Test
For the past 14 weeks (beginning on July 18th with my own responses) I have posted answers to The Questionnaire from the first batch of artists that I asked to participate. Most people really became invested in their answers and spent time providing me with images and info to give a few broad strokes and a little depth to the kind of quirky profile that the questions provided. Adding The Questionnaire to my blog as a regular feature provided some publicity for the artists and also helped me increase my readership. This was definitely a good thing all around.

Blue skies and plenty of room at the Arcadia Wildlife Sanctuary in Easthampton, Mass.

Don't Fence Me In
However, I am feeling a little boxed in by the schedule. This is the part of me that refuses to have a job where I have to show up every day and that doesn't like to go to bed at a regular time. Although I enjoy organization and cultivate a certain amount of neatness and punctuality, the idea of a regular schedule goes against my grain. You can see this in my artwork - I like geometric abstraction but I also need organic expressionism.

Blue Skies, encaustic with mixed media, 12"x12", 2008

I Need Some Space, Man
So I'm taking a little break from the punishing once a week schedule (written with irony) while I recruit more artists who wish to participate.

A Scientific Report
But let's review those Questionnaire answers.

Most popular color:  GREEN edged out RED and was way ahead of BLUE

Most popular favorite word:  YES
No other word was even repeated by more than one person. Other favorite words were:

Dad da

Qualities most valued in friends: honesty, loyalty, humor

Eva Hesse

Artistic influences: EVA HESSE was mentioned more than anyone.

Louise Bourgeois


Cy Twombly

CY TWOMBLY and LEE BONTECOU were also mentioned a few times.

Lee Bontecou

Earthly happiness involved family, friends, good food and surprising amounts of sleep.


Sunday, October 24, 2010

New Little Red Ones and A Milestone

Here are six little encaustic paintings that are the first work that I fused with the new horn tip. I'll show you the horn below. I had prepared these paintings as I did the rest of the Running Stitch series, but I decided to apply more paint over the surface and just see what happened.

Red No. 1

Red No. 2

Red No. 3

Red No. 4

Red No. 5

Side view of No. 5

Red No. 6

Side view of No. 6

These pieces are not as dimensional as some of the other Running Stitch pieces but they are only 10"x8" so they're relatively tiny and it's all relative.

The Shoe Meets the New Horn and the New Iron
I have been using the shoe to fuse work while I waited for R& F to ship their new versions of the horn and the iron to me. These more refined heated tips were developed by R&F and Sculpture House after Francisco Benitez spent some time at R&F and showed them the tools he was using. I think that this new horn is half the size of the original horn, but here you can see for yourself how it compares to the shoe.

The shoe is the tip attached to the handle at the bottom of the picture. The horn and iron are to the right of it.

I still have allegiance to the shoe for larger Running Stitch pieces and even flat encaustic paintings. We'll just see what develops with practice and innovation. You just never know.

Other Fun in the Studio
I spent the day today attaching panels together with nuts and bolts. Of course I left this task until I absolutely had to do it. It was really not much fun at all because two of the pieces that I had to attach other panels to contained panels that I had made. It was brought home to me in no uncertain terms that I am not a carpenter. It's not only a good thing for my work that I stopped making panels but for the world at large.

Two Hundred Posts
Blogger tells me that this is my 200th post since I first began this blog at the end of 2008. That's a lot of words and images. It's been a real source of pleasure for me and a way to become more aware by focusing my attention in order to write. I think of it as being like the way you really get to know something by drawing it. In that way I have become alert to art, artists and blog topics. I like writing Art in the Studio and I hope you're having fun with it too. Here's to another 200 posts!

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

New Work in the Series

These are small pieces that I made to try out some ideas for larger works. I'm giving you both the straight-on view and the angled view so you can see more of the texture, dimensionality and reflectivity.

A Little Absent, rubber, metal, tacks and encaustic on two joined panels, about 14"Hx20"W

Blur, book parts, prints, staples, encaustic and oilstick on panel, 12"x12"

Shiny Blue, book parts, metal, rubber, tacks and encaustic on panel, 12"x12"

Getso Blue, book parts, tacks, wire and encaustic on panel, 12"x12"

When I took a look at this post in preview mode, I could see the sidebar images too. It looked like Rubber World. Do you think I have a fetish?

A little good news: this week my new hot tips arrived from R&F so I'll be using the new and improved horn and the new and improved iron for the type of work shown in this post (Running Stitch series). The shoe (the tip that I have been using) is really kind of big for this use, but I've had to make do while waiting for these new tips to come in. Even though there won't be a shoe, there will still be a Running Stitch.

Monday, October 18, 2010

The Questionnaire: Jhina Alvarado

The Questionnaire is meant to be a lighter version of a bio, a little more revealing in some respects and personal without all the facts bogging it down. I supply the questions and the respondents supply the answers. Either one or both of us supply the images.  (NOTE: CLICK ON IMAGES TO ENLARGE.)

             J h i n a  A l v a r a d o           

What is your favorite color?


Jhina Alvarado, "Resignation"

What is your favorite word?

Porkchop! Second favorite would be monkey.

What turns you on creatively, spiritually or emotionally?

Creatively: seeing beautiful art, 
Spiritually: sometimes, when it's a really nice, sunny day and I'm driving around San Francisco, I can't help but feel great to be alive. 
Emotionally: sleep and good food.

Jhina in the studio

What turns you off?

Chewing noises and someone cracking their knuckles

What profession other than artist would you most like to be?

I loved being a teacher for 13 years, but I've been there and done that already. Perhaps my next career, after I'm done being an artist, will be something where I can do math all day.

What is your favorite book or movie?

Any book by Amy Tan or Jodi Picoult. Any movie where someone overcomes hardship and lives their dream. I'm a sucker for those movies.

Who is your favorite musician, musical group or style of music?

Jeremy Enigk. If I wasn't marrying Ben, I'd marry Jeremy just based on his talent alone. (Note from NN: this was written some weeks ago before Jhina actually did marry Ben.)

Jeremy Enigk

Jeremy Enigk on MySpace - click to play

What do you most value in your friends?

Loyalty and being there when I really need them, even if it's not convenient. Also, having the courtesy of telling me when I have a booger or my makeup is messed up.

Name three artists whose work has influenced your own or whose work you most relate to.

Squeak Carnwath (influenced early work), Jane Hambleton (relate), and my grandfather, Juan Alvarado (influenced).

Squeak Carnwath, "Be Happy"

Jane Hambleton, "Float II," 2008, acrylic, oil, graphite on paper, 49"H x 50"W


Name an artist whose work you admire but which may be unlike yours.

Timothy McDowell

Timothy McDowell, "Symbiotic Hinge," encaustic on panel, 60" x 46"

What is your idea of earthly happiness?

Good food, lots of naps, and constant inspiration and motivation to paint.

Works by Jhina Alvarado

"Downward Gaze," 12" x 12", oil and encaustic on panel

"Lounging at the Beach," 12" x 12", oil and encaustic on panel.

"The Family," 24" x 24", oil and encaustic on panel

"Welcome Home," 16" x 16", oil and encaustic on panel.

For more of Jhina's work: