Tag Archives: art shows

A Metamorphosis and Subsequent Whirlwind of Events

I’ll just tell the story the way it happened.

 

About three years ago I painted this image, Arbor, in acrylics. It was a large painting, 40″ x 30″.

Arbor 40 x 30 11-161

Well, I took it around to some shows, but it was hard to fit it into the car, and I had another one I liked better, the same size, and it got included if I had room, rather than Arbor. I will mention that I did use a detail of it for one of my books:

Vines Overpower Trellis and Run Book Cover 2018001

Nonetheless, I never felt Arbor had quite finished being whatever it wanted to be, but – lots of other things were more interesting for me to be doing, so I did them. Arbor waited in the basement in a box.

August 2019 rolled around and with it the Lansdale Festival of the Arts. I have participated in this show for decades and in almost all of my mediums – fabric, collage, mixed media, and now acrylics. I was packing things to go to the show on Friday, August 23, and I decided to take Arbor along. I am planning to do only limited shows with my paintings in the future and I’ve sold down my inventory. There was room for Arbor to attend this show.

As I brought it up from the basement the idea struck me to touch it up a little. Just a little. I could fix a couple of areas that have been bothering me, I thought. I worked on it the rest of the afternoon. In a devil-may-care type of mood not very typical of me, I decided to take the new Arbor to the show in the exact shape that it was now in.

So, on Saturday, August 24, we set out for the show. Let me set the scene for you – it’s held in a lovely park, and the day was pleasantly cool and sunny. Here you see the show set up but before it opened, and a shot of my booth, and then the show with its attendees.

By now you may be saying, “What about Arbor?” Let’s enter the booth and see.

Lansdale 2019 #19

You still don’t see it? Oh, I guess I forgot to say – it’s now called Queen of the Birds, and it looks like this:

Queen of the Birds 40 x 30 8-198

And here are a couple of detail shots:

Yes, I did quite a bit to this painting, didn’t I? I know, and I think the same thing – what had gotten into me? No real answer other than, well, Queen of the Birds is where we are now.

At this show, prizes are given – I was competing in the Oils and Acrylics category. Each artist selects two pieces for the judge to review. I figured, why not? Queen of the Birds is my biggest piece and it’s extra brand new. And so, partly in tribute to Arbor, who hardly ever got to go to a show, I chose Queen of the Birds as one of my two candidates.

The show got under way. The judge stopped by and looked over my display, made notes on a clipboard, and after a short chat with me, she left my booth. I appreciated it that she spoke with me; many judges won’t approach or sometimes even acknowledge the artist while reviewing work.

In the afternoon, the awards were handed out.

Lansdale 2019 #65

Yes, that is Queen of the Birds with a 3rd place ribbon in its category. Fantastic!

Then I sold the painting. Yes. I did.

Well, that’s the end of this story. I’ve been doing art and art shows for a long time but nothing like this has ever happened to me, for sure. I was thrilled. Grateful. Very surprised. Laughing. Happy. And I’ll remember this experience, you bet!

People Walking

These paintings from June, 2017, are done in acrylics, 10″ x 8″.

“Pedestrian” was started during the plein air event I did in Chestnut Hill in June. I couldn’t finish it there so I took it home and ended up with a scene somewhat like the original. I added a person walking along the sidewalk – the painting looked a little lonely without some sign of life.

The second painting came from my head, no reference to the real world. I added a person to it, too, for the same reason as “Pedestrian”.

I Am an Onlooker

Yesterday I made a trip over to Chestnut Hill College for a reason other than writing poetry – I wanted to attend the Senior Seminar presentations in art.

If you follow my poetry blog, you know that I go to the library here every week to write. A few weeks ago I noticed posters for these presentations taped on the library doors. I decided I’d check it out. I was interested to see what the students would have to say and I was curious about the art studio facilities, too.

So I arrived at the campus and climbed the hill to St. Joseph’s Hall.

St. Joseph’s Hall, Chestnut Hill College, April, 2017.

This building is formed in a T shape – the front façade being the top of the T with the Rotunda in the middle. The main part of the building extends out the back. The art studio is located on the top floor in the left side of the T top, as you look at the building. What a fantastic location! Windows on three sides of the room and huge skylights.

The building was constructed in 1903 and I believe this room was always meant to house an art studio. And – we are really high up in the air. We can look down on the top of the flagpole from the window.

One of the professors told me that when the students want to do landscape paintings, but the weather is bad, they have a panoramic view from inside the room to use instead. And it is true.

We settled in to listen to the presentations. The art department is small at this school – there were only three seniors. It was obvious from their work that they were given a great deal of attention and support and they had thrived in it. The senior project involved not only creating artworks, but doing so as to carry out a theme, and using more than one medium; the project also included a written paper. Each student’s work was well-thought out and went into some depth. I went away having learned something from each one.

After the presentations we went out into the art gallery to view the works themselves. This space is located on the mezzanine of the fifth floor outside the studio.

As you can see, we are really high up in the building! I have a fear of heights and I stayed away from the (substantial) railing, but there was plenty of room and I did not feel afraid. I had a chance to talk to each student, ask questions, and see the work up close. I really enjoyed this part of the experience because I enjoy comparing what I see in the work with what the artist intended.

Finishing up, I took a few pictures looking over the railing. This took some courage for me!

I had not really understood the scope of the day’s events. It turned out that all seniors were presenting their major projects – either making an oral or a poster presentation. (The tables below were being prepared for some of the posters/students). I made my way downstairs (slowly, taking some time to wander around the building – it was a good time to do it, as the place was full of visitors and so I was not the only one craning my neck at the views…).

By that time the rest of the event was in full swing. There were several rooms of posters and students standing in front of them, ready to answer questions.

I also learned that students in other academic disciplines were giving oral presentations.

Next year I’ll be better prepared and I’ll stop in on some of these as well. As it was, I walked around the room and talked to several students – topics including Hemingway, abnormal psychology, art therapy…any interest you might have had, I believe you could have found a student ready to talk about it.

I came away very impressed with the students and with the college for providing them with the chance to shine like this. I had a great time and I’ll be looking for another trip back here this time next year. Look where art takes you!

Art Auction and I Get Into Action

Not too long ago I received an invitation to submit work to an art auction sponsored by the Allentown (PA) Academy of the Arts Alliance. This group is a non-profit created to support the Academy of the Arts program at William Allen High School.

The auction takes place on November 20 and is composed entirely of works 8″ x 8″. Though I have no connection with the school, I have many Allentown friends and have shown my work in the city for years. It’s been a very supportive place for me and I am glad to have a chance to say thank you.

So I got out some 8″ x 8″ boards, pre-primed in a smooth finish and with a 3/4″ cradle. This way, I can just paint around the edges in black when the paintings are finished and they won’t require framing. I decided I’d make four paintings – I do a better job on small pieces when I have a group of them and I don’t focus all my attention on one. I do tend to paint quickly – I finish before I’m ready to stop – I want to keep painting, and so I go on and ruin something. If I have a group, I bounce from one to the other. Problem solved.

This time, I took some pictures as I progressed. I am a bit hesitant to reveal the absolute chaos I start with, but eventually, thank goodness, it all works out ok.

I chose some photos to serve as references. Each scene means something to me in my daily life. I hope that auction viewers will see something in them as well that might induce a desire to bid.

So here goes. First up, a scene at the Jenkintown (PA) train station, in the wintertime.

Next, a line of vehicles parked along the fence at the gas station we go to in Abington, PA.

My living room. I did a pen and ink sketch of this same photo not too long ago and thought it might be fun to try a painted version.

And this last one is a scene from Allentown – it’s a house near West Park, where I do an art show each summer.

Now – here is my group of paintings, all at once. I’m happy with how they turned out.

Drawing Upon Everyday Life

Here are some more pen and ink drawings from my little notebook. They are all done on 6″ x 6″ pages and my reference sources were photos taken by me. The first two are scenes from my everyday life.

And this one is a lady shopping at a booth across the way from me at an art fair I did in Sellersville, PA, in September, 2016.

drawing-woman-shopping-at-craft-fair-sellersville-pa-10-16-small

I Asked and I Was Answered

On Saturday, 10/22, my husband and I went to Allentown, PA, to take a look at an exhibit at the Baum School of Art. The show featured the work of Franz Jozef Ponstingl, an Allentown native. His work is surrealist and abstract, beautiful and thought-provoking. We took our time and found a lot to enjoy and to talk about.

ponstingl-front-small

Beyond the visual, I was really struck by Ponstingl’s life story, which was detailed in the exhibit catalog. Born in 1927, he was self-taught and devoted himself to his art, turning out many paintings. He was also a veteran of WWII and the Korean War, held quite a few jobs and moved around. Through it all he painted, but his work found no acceptance. At one point in his life, faced with uncertainty about his future, he donated all his paintings on hand, a substantial number, to the Salvation Army. An art dealer acquired them, sold some, kept some. Ponstingl, meanwhile, painted more. Where these went I don’t know and I don’t know if anyone knows, exactly. Eventually, discouraged by his lack of success, he moved to California and lived the rest of his life there, dying in 2004. It did not sound as if in later life he continued to paint.

This exhibit came about when a collector (unnamed in my information source) acquired the remainder of the portfolio held by the art dealer and set about raising Ponstingl’s profile, seeking out other works. This exhibit at the Baum School came about as a result of these efforts.

This story made a strong impression on me. I feel I have been and continue to be compelled to make art by some inner force. I felt a kinship with Ponstingl in that regard. Doing art is essential to my mental and spiritual health and I am under no illusions about its value to me. Priceless.

I felt it that Ponstingl went through his life not able to convince others of the value of his work, to the point of giving it to a charity shop. I have had more success with selling then he did,  I think due to the subsequent growth of street and park art fairs. I haven’t been “discovered” and am unlikely to be.  Unlike Ponstingl, I have been fortunate in feeling the appreciation of viewers. I have also been able to pay for my art supplies and to add a bit to my family’s income through my artwork. But –

I thought about how many artworks I have sold in the past twenty years as a street fair artist – hundreds, if not more. I have very few of my own works on hand. I have no idea where they are, in the majority of cases. The tangible evidence of my thoughts, the artwork, sold, but leaving behind them always been a feeling of incompleteness, of uncertainty.

I told my husband what I was thinking. I said Ponstingl’s story really illuminated something I’d begun to think about, now that I have so many years of artwork to look back on, the actual pieces disappeared into the world, gone from me. Do people still have them hanging? Do they still enjoy them? Do they continue to find meaning in my work? Does anyone remember me? Did anything I did make any difference? I don’t have the art in front of me to remind me, to reassure me.

I have no way of knowing, I said, and the idea makes me sad.

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Well, we looked a bit more at the exhibit, and then we went to the desk to buy the exhibit catalog. We chatted with the lady checking us out.

Then, looking at me more closely, she said:

You look familiar. Do I know you? Are you an artist?

– Yes, I am. My name is Claudia McGill.

– (her face lighting up) Yes, I know you. Didn’t you do collage, some years back?

– Yes, I did, though I paint now.

– Well, I bought a collage from you, some years ago, for my daughter, a city scene, because she was living in New York.

And she went on to describe the meeting, the pleasure they still take in the picture. As she talked, I remembered the encounter myself – the mother wanting to buy a gift for the daughter, an artwork she still values.

I can’t tell you how I felt after this conversation. I felt almost dazed by it. It seemed as if the universe heard me and took quick and direct action to let me know that my artwork, no matter where it is and even if I don’t know it, has a life of its own. It does matter.

I felt immensely reassured when we left the building. I know I will be thinking about this day for some time.

ponstingl-back-small

Drawing With a Pen #9

I do an art show every summer in West Park, Allentown, PA. I’ve gone there for 20 years or so and I love doing the event. It’s held in mid-June in a city park, an arboretum about a century old in a historic district. The bandshell is host to concerts all summer – one is held during the art fair. There are benches provided but many people bring lawn chairs from home.

Here is a drawing I did from a photo I took this year, 2016. I’m not so satisfied with the structure itself, but I do like the audience’s look.

drawing-allentown-west-park-june-2016-7-16-6x6-small