Joy & Sorrow

This will be a long blog post. Mainly because it’s been a long while since I’ve contributed anything to my blog. I often resist to urge to write when I’m busy, as I never want to post regurgitated, flat, art speak for the sake of filling in the void.

The long silence has been legitimate, as I just got back from vacation visiting the West coast (my home away from home). I spent 17 days in Washington State, primarily to visit family, with the first 5 days roaming solo on the colourful streets and quirky neighbourhoods of Seattle (my favourite city). I spent most of my time downtown, like what all good tourists are supposed to do, doing the tourist circuit (ie Space Needle, Pike Place Market, Monorail, etc.), and managing to get badly sunburned (yes, you heard that correctly) in the infamously rainy Emerald City. Ironically, it actually wasn’t rainy at all for the duration of my stay (mind the stereotype). It drizzles more in Seattle than it rains. I argue Halifax rains more, with horizontal rain than vertical, due to the windy temperment of the North Atlantic. During my visit, the enstranged Seattle sun managed to bop it’s always anticipated head through the dense cloud cover that flirts with Elliot Bay and the rest of the Pudget Sound 226 days a year. Locals would probably use a less optimistic word to describe it. Some of the stupid new facts I learned during my visit: there are apparently 420 Starbucks in Seattle alone, the city was originally built on top of sawdust, most of the old growth forest lumber was used to build Victorian San Francisco, prostitution funded  most of the educational sector of the city, Victorian Seattleites dumped their poo in the harbour (sounds familiar to Halifax..), some of the clifts of the Queen Anne neighbourhood are reinforced with rubber to avoid houses landsliding during heavy rains…could be more myth than fact, but I know some of it has to be true..

The Pacific North West is a different world on its own. The thick – damp air, the moody atmosphere of dense foliaged forests, the wise countenance of the old man mountains that tell you their story of the dawn of time, the smell of wild sage that grows for hundreds of miles on the deserty, eastern side of the state. It was a joyeous, dreamy trip, and it now seems like it never happened.

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Hinted in the title of this post, my allusion to sorrow is in fact not one of sorrow at all, but to update on my recent art activities. I wanted to post some drawings I contributed to the Veil of the Sorrow Songs Project, hosted and headed by Fulbright Scholar Quanda Jones, an African-American actress, visual artist,  researcher and professional musician from Philadelphia. Her vision for the Sorrow Songs project was to create a dialogue in the Atlantic Canadian region concerning historical and contemporary attitudes toward the African descended community in the Western hemisphere, and in Canada in particular. The project was to illustrate historical African narratives through multimedia, with local talent performances combining African drum, modern dance, spoken word, live art and dramatic vignettes. The project was also in support and to bring awareness to Aidan David Cromwell, a young black man from Halifax who this past spring was controversially charged of second degree murder.

The Project was supported by NSCAD and Dalhousie University, and amongst the visual contribution to the project, I was asked to produce drawings that were to interpret some of the DuBoisian sorrow songs from the slave era. ‘Sorrow Songs’ or ‘negro spirituals’ were written by the African fugitive slaves who drew on both African musical styles and western European sources, creating an art-form sculpted from their personal experience and re-told through meaningful self expression. They used acapella song primarily as their medium in the early days of the songs’ formation. I interpreted ‘Swing Low, Sweet Chariot’, and ‘Roll, Jordan Roll’, and along with other artists’ interpretations, were projected as back drops for the various performances of the event.

I haven’t drawn in a while, but drawing inspiration from favourites, such as the drawings of Charlie Makesy & Käthe Kollwitz, as well as gesture drawing, I tried to create the feeling of fluidity and mood, and infused Judeo-Christian symbolism in lieu of the songs’ root content.

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Swing Low, Sweet Chariot (2014)

 

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Roll Jordan Roll (2014)

 

You can read more about the project here: http://www.thecoast.ca/halifax/beyond-tolerance/Content?oid=4335966

 

 

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FEATURED ARTIST: Gary Taxali

I STUMBLED UPON Gary Taxali a few years ago while randomly searching for strong, graphic work as inspiration for a product design commission I was doing for the Nova Scotia Agricultural College’s ORIGINS Project. Upon discovery of Gary’s work, I was instantly hooked.

Being a Canadian artist myself, I strive to put priority on Canadian artists when featuring  on my blog. After doing a little research,  I came to happily discover that the artist/illustrator is based out of Toronto.

Reasons I Love You, 2014

Reasons I Love You (2014)                                                                            © GARY TAXALI

 

ChumpandFriendsLO1-1024x519

Chump and Friends (2014)                                                                              © GARY TAXALI

 

Hollywood Magic (for Fast Company), Mixed Mdia on Paper jpg

Hollywood Magic (for Fast Company)                                                          © GARY TAXALI

 

On this side of Eden, Gary is one of the the foremost illustrators working today. He is one of those artists who fall under the category of stellar; being both prolific and talented on a enviable level. He has worked for such clients as TIME, Rolling Stone, The New York Times, including film and television such as Warner Pictures, Paramount, and MTV.  As Gary’s work has been in books, newspapers and magazines, he has also designed album art for rock/folk singer-songwriter Aimee Mann. Gary is also a fine artist, aside from being an award-winning illustrator, and his diversity in medium and aesthetic is evident in his work.  “I think my style is suited to everything – a picture is a picture.”, Gary stated in an interview for Creative Bloq. Aside from his artistic practice, Gary also lectures all over North America and teaches at OCAD University. He also has launched  a vinyl line of toys called Chump Toys, which naturally fall into the same category of awesomeness, as the rest of his work. In 2012, the Royal Canadian Mint launched a series of six celebratory 25 cent coins, designed by Gary, which are intended as keepsakes to mark special occasions, with themes ranging from birthday to wedding (and even the tooth fairy). The coins can be seen here: http://www.ocadu.ca/about_ocad/articles/headlines_archive/20120123_gary_taxali_coins.htm. 

Back Door Tactics (Fprbes Magazine) Mixed Media on Paper

Back Door Tactics (for Forbes Magazine)     © GARY TAXALI

 

Wonder (2012)-10.5 x 8.5 inches, Mixed Media

Wonder (2012)                                                                                                    © GARY TAXALI

 

Working in an array of media, Gary Taxali’s work manifests from serigraphy,  mixed media, installation, painting, sculpture and assemblage. Though his work avoids the air of nostalgia and the sentimental, his graphic inspiration harkens the work of EC Segar (creator of Popeye), the Fleischer Brothers, Dr. Seuss; Maurice Sendak, 1930s typography, vintage comics and advertising,  Russian Constructivism, and Pop artist Andy Warhol.  While there is a clear reference to these vintage Greats, Gary’s  approach in how he integrates this aesthetic is fresh and purely contemporary. His work is rather a map or grid-work of images, old and new, that seem to poke humour at,  yet reveal the fragility of our modern, somewhat superficial and consumerist culture. Gary states about his own work “It continues with my preoccupation of constant paradoxes such as human relationships, love, isolation, period advertisements, propaganda and economic despair and frustration”  (from The Outsiders).

Gary’s work brings a smile to my face, and while his work is much more than just its aesthetic element, it helps me to remember that there is still merit and influence in the bold and bright, iconic graphics of yesterday. When applied and/or appropriated thoughtfully, it is interesting to see how it has impacted contemporary art practice and design. This, I find none doing better than a small handful, in which Gary stands out.

Hindi Nick Names (2009) 21.25 x 27 inches, Mixed Media on Paper

 Hindi Nic Names (2009)                                     © GARY TAXALI

 

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 Northern Lights                                                                       © GARY TAXALI

You can view more on Gary Taxali’s website:

http://www.garytaxali.com/

 

 



 

 

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Breathing Space

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A lot has transpired during this ferociously harsh and frustratingly drawn-out winter. Enough to just about forget how cold and miserable it has been. I loathe winter. I know loathe is a strong word, but this particular season in Eastern Canada has dissolved the already faint penchant I had for winter in general, let alone in this part of the planet. The busyness of 2014 so far has at least helped me to become distracted of my distaste, therefore, it has felt reasonably quick that we’ve approached March.

What is more interesting then the usual ranting about everyone’s hatred of winter is the glimmer of good news, changes in life, particularly new prospects, and for the artist, there is nothing more exciting then a new studio. This for me has been my chance to come up for air in the drowning of the winter blues.

I moved into a new studio space in the beginning of March, which sits conveniently next to my friend Emily’s little gallery; Hermes, near the corner of North & Agricola Street in Halifax. The whole neighborhood is gentrifying rapidly, but in this case – in a good way, as that section of the North-end is quickly developing with new and creative, fashionable cafes, restaurants and boutiques. I am happy that in the same neighborhood are exciting new business such as The Brasserie, the Lion & Bright, EnVie vegan restaurant, Oh Dina!Millinery, Make New, as well as a little more established ones on the block such as Local Source, Ace Burger, FRED, and others. At the end of the day, it doesn’t matter whether they’re there or not. Nevertheless, it’s nice to be in a part of the city where things are happening, business and creative-wise.

I feel that after all of the drama and stress from my old studio and the move, in my new studio I can now breath. The space has lots of natural light, as well as being street level. I feel much more comfortable in it for not just making art, but for teaching the art classes. So far, in the two weeks I’ve been there, it has made a difference.

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ART CLASSES (To Beat The Winter Blues) …

Yes, it is still winter.

Yes, it is only the end of January (ugh).

If you’re anything like me, and you live in the Northern Hemisphere – where the snow, bitter cold winds and bad weather during the winter is endless, then you too get the winter blues.

Good news, is that I am kicking your butt (and mine too) from the couch & television to something a little more exciting. I am offering private, one-on-one oil painting lessons throughout the remainder of winter (& possibly spring). This is a good opportunity to learn painting from scratch, or tune-up and build your skills, if you’re in the Halifax or greater Halifax area.

Check it out:

Private One-On-One Oil Painting Lessons

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It’s That Time Of Year Again..

This will be my first blog entry of the New Year (sadly, the first one since the fall), but I figure I am not doing too badly, since it is still technically considered the ‘new year’.

After a long absence of not writing, I feel a wave of writer’s block in my attempt to get back into this. I can assure you my long bout was justified. Never mind Christmas. As a cap-up of the last few months, November was a whirl, as I had my father visit from the States (all while I couldn’t take vacation time off from work), the news of my American granny passing away (she was 82, dear soul), unexpectedly moving into a whole new studio space and then to top-off with the news that I will be an Aunt!!! My identical twin sister and her hubby of 8 yrs are expecting in July! 🙂 All of the news, as you can imagine, has kept me on the ringer of emotions ranging from comfort, anticipation, sadness, excitement, joy and anticipation.

So, that was how 2013 ended.

To turn a new leaf, it’s that time of year again….back to the old art-making, AND the annual PRESHRUNK miniature art show at Argyle Fine Art here in Halifax. The show is January 24th (this Friday) at 7pm. Preshrunk is a juried show of around 70 artists, showcasing around 200 works that measure 4″ x 5″. If you’re around Halifax this Friday, drop down for the ‘little big show’..

I am submitting six pieces this year. I usually only paint clouds in the context of a landscape/urbanscape, but with such small specs to work with, I felt I wanted the pieces to breath. These were a nice foil (& quick), compared to the pain-staking detail & symmetry of the architectural urbanscapes I usually do. So there. Cheer into 2014 with wonderful, proziac blobs of cotton-candy, marshmallow clouds to hang on your wall..

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Pulse Cloud (2014), oil on cradelboard, 4 x 5

 

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A Touch of Pink (2014), oil on cradelboard, 4 x 5

 

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Pink Clouds (2014), oil on cradleboard, 4 x 5

 

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Thunderhead I (2014), oil on board, 4 x 5

 

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Thunderhead II (2014), oil on board, 4 x 5

 

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Opaline (2014), oil on board, 4 x 5

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POST CARDS FROM HOME

This blog post is aptly named, since it was the title for my painting exhibition last month.

I promised I would post the show online, so here are all 19 paintings. They are oil painted on birch panel mounted on cradleboard. I hate how trendy cradelboard is now, but alas; I hate canvas. Some of these are still available and still grace the walls of Argyle Fine Art.

AND….. (drum roll).. the other reason for posting this is to happily announce that I will be having another solo show at Argyle in spring 2014! Stay tuned for more info and works -in-progress (I promise to do it this time)..

But for now, here is the most recent body of work to finally get posted on my blog. I hope you enjoy.

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Gray Wall (Bauer St.) (2013),  11″ x 14″

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Clothsline (2013), 11″ x 14″

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Contrasts (2013), 11″ x 14″

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Glow (Beech Street), (2013), 10″ x 10″

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How te Light Hit II (2013), 6″ x 8″

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How the Light Hit (2013), 6″ x 8″

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Green House (Hydrostone), (2013), 12″ x 16″

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Yellow Door (Falkland St.) (2013), 12″ x 16″

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Dusk, MacKay Bridge (2013), 30″ x 32″

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Smoke (Tufts Cove) (2013), 12″ x 12″

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Morning Light, Hydrostone (Kane St.) (2013), 12″ x 12″

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Winter Shadows (Saunders Park) – Diptych (2013), 10″ x 18″

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Joe’s Kwik-Way (Cornwallis & Maynard St.) (2013), 24″ x 30″

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Storm Approaching (Agricola St.) (2013) 16″ x 20″

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Yellow House (Agricola St.) (2013), 12″ x 16″

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Sunset on Agricola Street (2013), 24″ x 36″

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Pink Clouds, Kaye Street (2013), 16″ x 20″

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Reflection (Clifton St.) (2013), 20″ x 24″

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June Street (2013), 24″ x 24″

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