Category Archives: Exhibitions

Selvedge

I am just back from a fun weekend in Portland, Maine — the main objective being to visit “Selvedge”, the group show I am part of at Able Baker Contemporary. Kudos to curator Tessa Greene O’Brien who has compiled a thought-provoking mix of work that is challenging, eclectic, and highly conceptual.

Gallery view

“Selvedge” at Able Baker Contemporary

Despite the artists’ varying approaches and objectives, the work maintains a comfortable sense of integration and, as the week has worn on, the strength of “Selvedge” has become more and more evident as I can’t stop thinking about it. I regret that I wasn’t able to attend the opening so I could talk with some of the other artists about their ideas.

Salon Wall

Salon Wall : “Shift” ©2011 Elizabeth Fram, Wrapped-resist, Discharge and Stitching on Silk and Cotton, 10 x 9.5 inches (green lower half with horizontal stripes in upper right corner), just above the dark piece in the lower left corner of this image.

Tessa’s enlightening essay, which I encourage you to read in its brief entirety, clarifies her curatorial intent:

Each artist has developed a distinct visual language using textile techniques to resolve the two-dimensional concerns of color, space, form, and light. The artists’ use of non-traditional materials does not represent a rejection of painting’s history; instead, these painters embrace the medium with lively curiosity and sincerity.

It is an honor to be included and to see my work hanging in this beautiful gallery in the city next door to where I grew up. “Selvedge” runs through August 5.

Floe (left) and Crystallized (right) © 2015 Elizabeth Fram, Paint, Dye and Embroidery on Silk,  12 x 12 inches

Parterre (left) and Parterre 2 (right) ©2015 Elizabeth Fram, Paint and Embroidery on layered Silk, 12 x 12 inches

“Selvedge” participating artists: Cassie Jones, Elizabeth Kleene, Erica Licea-Kane, Susan Metrician, Maria Molteni, Tessa Greene O’Brien, Isabelle O’Donnell, Martha Tuttle, and Elizabeth Fram

Able Baker Contemporary

 

Escaping the News

I need a break from current events…how about you? This week I’m sharing three artistic escape valves that caught my eye. Each offers a healthy measure of food for thought and moral fortification for moving forward since putting our heads in the sand isn’t an option. Hopefully one or two of them will interest you as well.

Townley Untitled 1979

Untitled 1979, ©Hugh Townley, Mahogany and maple relief, 26 x 15 inches

If you’re in Vermont between now and September 10, please consider a trip to Rochester to see the Hugh Townley exhibit at BigTown Gallery. It is a lovely collection of Townley’s sculptures, reliefs and prints, highlighting his strong sense of design with a healthy dose of play. You couldn’t ask for a better example of the power of art to lift one’s spirits in pure joy; it’s just the ticket for getting your head in a better place.

Dark Night 1992

Dark Night Tuba City 1992, ©Hugh Townley, Obeche relief, 26 x 16.5 inches

Townley’s painted works are bright and amusing, and his prints are strikingly engaging. Yet I was drawn to and favored the oiled wooden wall relief pieces. His manipulation of light, shadow and shape draws one into each imagined space, accentuating the natural grain of the wood while emphasizing each piece’s rhythmic layers of depth. The work is vaguely reminiscent of Louise Nevelson yet never loses its infectious sense of playfulness. I found myself smiling as I made my way through the gallery, and realized later that, in addition to being a bright spot on a dark and rainy afternoon, my visit was also a very welcome respite from the anxiety that has been hovering over my shoulder with each new revelation from Washington.

Townley Lost in Space

Lost in Space 1996, Hugh Townley, High-gloss painted wood color relief, 35 x 19 inches

To maintain the good mood, cap off your visit with a slice of homemade maple cream pie from the Rochester Cafe a couple of doors down from the gallery. There is much to be said for the art of a good baker!

Townley Untitled 1998

Untitled 1998, ©Hugh Townley, Mahogany relief, 23 x 18.5 inches

Fortuitously, the next day Maria Popova’s Brain Pickings article “Wallace Stevens on Reality, Creativity, and our Greatest Self-Protection from the Pressure of the News” showed up in my inbox. It is a lengthly, but oh-so-worthwhile read if, like me, you are feeling a bit overpowered by the unrelenting media onslaught. As the world continues to spin, I think many of us are wondering how our work can fit in and remain relevant; whether it can possibly stay abreast at a time when it seems an artistic perspective is more important than ever.  Which leads to the question: what exactly is an artist’s responsibility in such times?

Townley Fight Night

Fight Night 1996, ©Hugh Townley, High-gloss painted wood color relief, 31 x 24.75 inches

Popova’s article includes the following quote from Stevens which addresses that specific question:

Certainly it is not to lead people out of the confusion in which they find themselves. Nor is it, I think, to comfort them while they follow their readers to and fro. I think that [the artist’s] function is to make his imagination theirs and that he fulfills himself only as he sees his imagination become the light in the minds of others. His role, in short, is to help people to live their lives.

For further reading on the subject, check out the links in my post from last January: Art as a Responsibility; Art as Superpower .

Townley Soaring

Soaring (Ups and Downs) 1992, ©Hugh Townley, Mahogany relief, 22 x 11.25 inches

And finally, consider giving a listen to Joseph Todorovitch’s interview on the Savvy Painter podcast to see how the act of buckling down and doing your work can be a remedy in itself. I found much to connect with in what Todorovitch says, but what struck me most was his articulation of an overarching truth I am coming to understand through stitching and drawing — the value of slowing down and being present. Ironically and counterintuitively, it is perhaps the best escape of all.

On a Different Note…                                                                                                                                  

I crossed another big project off my list this week. I invite you to take a swing through my newly updated website — it’s reorganized and simplified with new work added.

                                                                                                                                    

Outside the Studio

Happy June!    …month of the summer solstice and the Beta Taurids meteor shower.

I am really looking forward to being part of two exhibitions that open this month, one here in Vermont and another in Portland, Maine. No matter the venue, there is always a sense of liberation in getting work out of the studio and in front of public eyes. I am particularly excited about the Maine exhibit because it’s my first opportunity to show in Maine’s “big city”, the town next door to where I grew up.

Wild Fibers

Wild Fiberswhich opens locally on June 2, will be on view through July 9 at the Emile A. Gruppe Gallery in Jericho. It’s a collection of work from members of the Vermont chapter of the Surface Design Association, an international organization focused on “inspiring creativity, encouraging innovation, and advocating for artistic excellence … in textile-inspired art and design”.

We who are part of SDA Vermont are fortunate to have a very active committee that has devoted countless volunteer hours securing and organizing exhibitions across the state in an effort to expose the public to the wide range of possibility that exists within the world of surface design.* I think the growth of our membership can be directly attributed to the success of these shows. I am always amazed at the breadth of skills among our members, so if you have a chance to stop by the Gruppe Gallery in the next 5 weeks, I’m sure you too will be struck by the diversity of work and process on display.

For those of you who might be interested in activist artists who use knitting as a means of voicing their ideas and concerns about the world, let me give a quick plug to my friend and fellow SDA member, Eve Jacobs-Carnahan, who will be presenting the talk “25 Years of Knitters Speaking Out” in conjunction with Wild Fibers. Her talk will be on Friday, June 16th from 6:30-7:30pm, also at the Gruppe Gallery.

Knitters

Knitters at Town Meeting Day, Waterbury, VT     ©2016 Elizabeth Fram

Next week I will be shipping five pieces to Able Baker Contemporary for the upcoming show Selvedge, which runs from June 16 to August 5, 2017. If your travels take you anywhere near Portland this summer, I hope you will stop in. Curator Tessa Greene O’Brien has assembled work from nine artists, all of whom incorporate textiles in their practice while strongly maintaining a fine-art approach. The work is process-driven and carries a strong conceptual component. I’m thrilled to have been included and can’t wait to head to Portland in July to experience the show in person.

Selvedge

Able Baker Contemporary is on the Portland Stage block, within 300 yards of The Maine College of Art, Space Gallery, and Space Studios and the Portland Museum of Art, (where I’m excited to see Hans Hofmann; Works on Paper will be showing from June 16 to September 3), — in other words, a cultural hotbed that, combined with Portland’s fine restaurants and oceanside location, makes for an excellent weekend getaway!

Meanwhile, back to the unglamorous…I am slogging my way through an update of my website, and, as is probably to be expected, it’s way more time-consuming than I’d anticipated. There’s no escaping computer chores! However, to leave you on a happy note, I came across this  worthy diversion — a wonderful mix of metaphors and animation by Greg Condon that made me smile; I hope it will amuse you as well.

Radish

First Harvest     ©2017 Elizabeth Fram

*Surface design encompasses the coloring, patterning, and structuring of fiber and fabric. This involves creative exploration of processes such as dyeing, painting, printing, stitching, embellishing, quilting, weaving, knitting, felting, and paper-making.

Serendipity

During my first months at college the world began to crack open.
Taking the obligatory introductory courses, each as different from the others as you might expect, I remember coming back to my room one afternoon and realizing that, despite their apparent disparity, threads of information were weaving together and overlapping such that a web of connection was beginning to form. Rather than merely providing separate pockets of information to be remembered for the inevitable test, a pathway was suddenly opening toward seeing the world as a unit composed of links and associations layered upon each other, offering a widened and enriched viewpoint reliant upon that interdependence. It was a seminal moment that has stayed with me.

The Rainbow

The Rainbow ©1967 Marc Chagall

Since then, it’s always a joy when unexpected associations appear between seemingly unrelated events/subjects, the discovery of which elevates the routine with a bit of the magical. Visiting Montreal this past weekend was one of those occasions when serendipity held the reins. Partway through the weekend I realized that the three major events we attended could not have been more interconnected, even though I wouldn’t have thought so at the onset.

VOLTA Cirque du Soleil              photo credit: Patrice Lamoureaux

First, Cirque du Soleil never, ever, disappoints. An example of sensory enrichment on overload, the troupe’s mastery of color, light, sound and daring physical feats is unsurpassed. At a time when I sometimes feel we are sadly in danger of building immunity to a state of wonder, due mainly to our media-driven saturation of deadly events and despicable behavior world-wide, it is utter pleasure to put aside any jaded perspectives for a couple of hours in order to experience the pure joy of human creativity. The current show, Volta, “is a story of transformation. It is about being true to oneself, fulfilling one’s true potential, and the power of the group to make that possible. It celebrates freedom as a movement”.

Dancer with Tambourine

Costume design for Daphnis and Chloe: Dancer with Tambourine ©1958 Marc Chagall

In hindsight it makes total sense that, in the midst of the surplus of color and visual excitement on view in Chagall: Colour and Music at the Musée des Beaux-Arts, I began to draw parallels with what I had seen under the big tent the night before. So much more than a chronological compilation of a lifetime’s work, the Chagall retrospective is also an extravaganza of color, light, sound (Chagall’s lifelong devotion to music was an integral part of his work), and daring physical feats — as seen in the trapeze artist below, or in the soaring lovers so often associated with his work.

The Blue Circus

The Blue Circus ©1950-52 Marc Chagall

Standing in a room devoted to paintings of the circus, the proverbial lightbulb went on as I realized that Chagall, who had escaped to the United States just in advance of World War II, created art that offered a source of respite and joy amid a world seemingly run amok. And similar to Cirque du Soleil, his work honors the principle Volta espouses: being wholly true to oneself. Reading the following quote on the wall of a gallery filled with Chagall’s circus collages and paintings made the connection with Cirque du Soleil all the more meaningful:

The Circus as a Metaphor for the World
Depictions of the circus, present in the imagery of Chagall’s earliest creations and an essential theme until the end of his life, arose from his vision of the world firmly rooted in Hasidism. This branch of Judaism conceives of the world as a game of divine will and apprehends God through overflowing joy, ecstasy, singing, dancing, music and acrobatics. For Hasidim, clownishness and humor are the incarnation of spiritual values that ensure the salvation of humanity. Traveling performers and musicians enlivened religious celebrations with their little shows in which biblical themes were intermingled with comic interludes, pantomimes and humorous plays accompanied by music.

Chagall stained glass

Marc Chagall

And while I was aware that Chagall had worked with stained glass toward the end of his life (read about the windows he created for the Art Institute of Chicago in this post), there was much I didn’t realize. He also designed tapestries and was a sculptor and a ceramicist. His love of opera ultimately pulled him from a deep depression and an inability to create after the sudden death of his first wife. His return to work involved designing extensive costumes and sets for multiple operatic and balletic productions, culminating in the creation of a nearly 2,600 square foot painting that now graces the ceiling of the Paris Opera House. Immersed in his colorful world, which honored music as much as visual art, the fact that he had synesthesia makes perfect sense.

Fox Costume

Fox costume designed for the ballet Aleko, Marc Chagall

As a final nod to the power of imagination and creative spectacle, we were incredibly fortunate that our visit coincided with the weekend that the giant marionettes of Royal de Luxe (a street theater company based in Nantes, France) roamed the streets of Montreal as part of its 375th birthday celebration. Leaving the Chagall exhibition, we made it to the Place des Arts just in time to get a ‘ring-side’ seat for the arrival of the Deep Sea Diver. Despite his enormity (50 ft.?), he was spectacularly deft as he strode into the square with eyes that blinked and seemed to look right at you. The acrobatics of 20-30 handlers, swarming over him like Lilliputians, brought him to life, enabling his movements via pulleys and ropes. They did nothing to break the spell he cast on the crowd and I don’t think I’m being too dramatic to say we could all only gasp in awe to be in the presence of a living giant.

Deep Sea Diver

The Deep Sea Diver arrives at Place des Arts, Montreal

Deep Sea Diver

Deep Sea Diver by Royal de Luxe

The word circus derives from the Greek kirkos, meaning “circle” or “ring”. How appropriate that these three exhibitions formed an unexpected circle of connection between each other, looping back and forth in their collective presentations of color, light, sound, and daring physical feats. And how serendipitous to have experienced them all in a single weekend.

The exhibition Chagall: Color and Music runs through June 11, 2017

Cirque du Soleil Volta will be on view in Montreal through July 23

San Francisco, Part 2

Who doesn’t love a “twofer”?
Not only was I incredibly lucky to have caught Matisse and Diebenkorn together in the same exhibition at the SF MOMA earlier this month, but our visit to the Museum of Craft and Design included the unexpected windfall of two fascinating and quite different exhibitions for the cost of one admission.

I first learned about Wendy Maruyama’s work at SOFA Chicago in 2014. At that initial viewing I felt quite small gazing up at just one of her expertly crafted life-sized elephant heads, made from flat wooden panels held together with twine and hanging at the height of a living beast. To be in the presence of six of these creations is utterly awe-inspiring. Maruyama’s traveling wildLIFE Project, an exhibition which is now at the MCD through May 2017, was created as an advocacy project to bring awareness to the issues surrounding the poaching of wildlife.

wildLIFE Project

Wendy Maruyama’s  The wildLIFE Project                                                                                           L-R: Ghost ©2014, Orkanyawoi ©2014, Sonje ©2014; Front: Sarcophagus ©2015

Equally imposing, Maruyama includes a cache of blown glass “tusks”, also life-size. Enclosed within a wood and glass reliquary made by Maruyama, the casket of tusks symbolizes the preciousness of both the elephant and its ivory.

Ghost

Wendy Maruyama     Ghost ©2014     Wood, String, Paint

To round out her quiet yet emotionally stirring treatise, a series of Maruyama-built shrines elegantly and straightforwardly honor the elephant species and its growing loss. You can read more about the Bell Shrine on her blog. Stunningly beautiful, they reference the aesthetic qualities of Maruyama’s Japanese heritage. All the objects in this show are a nod to the fact that often the strongest statements are deceptively simple, holding tremendous weight due specifically to their lack of extraneous information. This is one of the truths behind The wildLIFE Project as a whole: the effect of Maruyama’s potent message, which addresses the devastating impact poaching has on wildlife, owes much to the simplicity of its delivery. Viewing the exhibition is a poignant and humbling experience.

Satao

Wendy Maruyama      Satao ©2014 (detail)     Wood, Burlap, Paint, String

Deeply moved as I left the gallery, I couldn’t help but think of the gravity and urgency of this exhibition and the message it carries — another instance of the power of art as a  go-between and translator. Which begs the question: How could our government possibly question the viability and necessity of the arts and the NEA? It is a viewpoint that is truly beyond me…but that’s a subject for another post.

Arnold Tent

Janice Arnold      Felted Drape

Leaving Maruyama’s emotionally charged work behind, the neighboring gallery offered a comforting contrast. Cushioned in the story and products of felted wool, one can’t help but become aware of the stark dichotomy between the sustainability of harvested wool and the devastation and endangerment of species created via poaching. FELT DECODED, Wool: Nature’s Technology encompasses a comprehensive collection of art by Janice Arnold, who has passionately spent her career learning about and exploring the expansive world of wool felt. Free-standing sculptures, framed textural wall pieces, massive draped hangings, and tent-like enclosures all give voice to Arnold’s complete immersion in felt as an art form and her dedication to investigating the full scope of its history and its possibilities.

Felted Panel

Janice Arnold      Felted Panel

Aside from Arnold’s felted art, this exhibition also explores the timeline of felted wool, offering a myriad of examples that underline its fluidity and versatility throughout time. Having made it her life’s work to trace the material’s expansive background and use, Arnold aims to share her copious knowledge through various projects and in exhibitions like FELT DECODED. Her research spans from the nomadic tribes of Central Asia and Mongolia to the high-tech world of industrial felt, emphasizing the beauty and utility of this sustainable fiber. Her artist statement speaks to felt’s unexpected ability to bridge the divide between our past and our future:

“The current high tech world with its synthetic surroundings has taken us far from the natural world and our historic traditions of making things by hand. We are starved for natural textures, fibers and irregular forms. I believe wool Felt connects us with our natural history in a way no other fabric can.”

So there you have it: two completely different, yet equally captivating exhibitions under one common roof. Seen in parallel, the implication of each is bolstered by the other… I would say a “twofer” at its very best!

Click here for Maruyama’s flicr page of photos surrounding the creation of The wildLIFE Project.

And, as promised, a couple of quick sketches from our week away. There was time to draw each day, but it was mostly done on the fly.

SF Cup & Saucer

Cup and Saucer; Lori’s Cafe     ©2017 Elizabeth Fram

Golden Gate Park

Golden Gate Park     ©2017 Elizabeth Fram

The Necessary Element

I may be simplistically stating the obvious, but I truly feel that the subjective component an audience provides any work of art is one of its foremost strengths, contributing immeasurably to the work’s endurance across demographics and through time. And while the multi-layered backstory of any artist is deeply embedded within everything they make, it is our personal histories and perspectives as viewers that fortify and move the work forward, in much the same way that each added voice in a musical round deepens and enriches a tune.

steir-1

© Pat Steir

Last Friday I caught the tail-end of the Pat Steir exhibit at the Helen Day Art Center in Stowe and it was exactly what I needed at that point in time. Kudos to the HDAC website for supplying visitors with links to videos of the artist at work and an eye-opening interview, all of which enhanced my experience before I even walked into the gallery. What has stayed with me after-the-fact is that, despite my dismal outlook at the end of a weary and unsettling week, Steir’s paintings provided a 30 minute reprieve by offering a much-needed sense of solid ground; her visual language seemingly echoing the weight of what I was feeling, while simultaneously bolstering my spirits with strength, determination, and certainty.

steir-4

© Pat Steir

steir-3

© Pat Steir

I have come to discover, when exhibiting my own work, that the unsolicited responses and stories viewers relate (which may or may not have anything to do with my intentions in making the piece) are often the most rewarding. A formal artist statement may lift the veil between maker and viewer, but we are not beholden to that vision. Subjectivity is the necessary element that reminds one there is equal compensation in just letting the experience of a work of art wash over you as you are in that moment.

steir-2

© Pat Steir

On Another Note…                                                                                                                                  

sda-exhibit-web-square

If your travels take you near Rutland, Vt in the next month, I have 4 pieces included in the exhibit Surface Expressions at the Chaffee Art Center, November 9 – December 9.

16 South Main St., Rutland, VT 05701       802.775.0356        info@chaffeeartcenter.org

Networking Reframed

I keep reading about the importance of regularly attending art openings in order to meet new people and to build one’s network. I appreciate the theory, but not necessarily the means. How do you feel about networking at openings? Are you good at it? Is it something you engage in consciously? Do you feel pressured to make an effort? I’m not referring to when you are the exhibiting artist; I think what is termed as “networking” unfolds naturally when you are in that mode. Rather, when you attend an opening as a viewer do you feel compelled (or follow the frequent recommendations) to reach out to people you don’t know in an attempt to create a connection for your work?

dye1web

I have been dyeing this week. I will never tire of the patterns that emerge.

Irrationally or not, I find approaching someone in what is in essence a “cold call” conjures up negative images of self-promotional awkwardness. Is that because it’s work encroaching on what is essentially a social situation? Or is it just that generating conversations with folks I don’t know is challenging? Being caught on the other end of this scenario has likely flavored my opinion: it’s no fun listening to a person you just met who only seems able to talk about themselves and their work. There is a fine line between striking up a conversation with a person you don’t know that sparks a genuinely mutual discussion about shared interests, and purposefully approaching someone with business objectives in mind. I admire those who can do so successfully, but it’s a skill for which I have little aptitude.

dye2web

However, I’ve had a bit of an epiphany which makes me realize that, as with so many things, perspective is all-important. Perhaps I’ve been looking at this concept of networking at openings a bit too literally. I had a couple of lovely opportunities, in separate gallery settings, to exchange ideas with folks last week in such a way that it made me realize that an art opening is a celebration and should be enjoyed as such. Occasions to connect with someone outside your circle should be approached as a joy, not as a directive. It is an opportunity to learn and perhaps to help someone else with their goals. It seems to me the act of networking is best served if reframed from an action with an objective, to an interaction that simply makes the world a little wider.

Magic at the Kent Museum

I really don’t think I am exaggerating when I say it is the rare day that passes when I’m not struck by someone’s ingenuity or creativity, reaffirming my admiration for the human heart and mind.

zanes-the-golden-game

Julia Zanes                                                                                                                                          The Golden Game (House without Walls) © 2012, (left)                    The Golden Game II, (right)     In her statement, Zanes says that her series of 5 Golden Game paintings (4 of which appear in this exhibit) are inspired by board games, formal gardens, alchemical engravings, Islamic, Persian and Indian art. She intentionally made them large enough that the viewer would feel on a scale with the image, “so as to allow (one) to step into the scene as a viewer and participate in the game”.

But it is unusual to encounter an exhibition that marries artwork with its venue in such a way that it becomes possible, however briefly, to step within an environment that is entirely removed from the stresses that currently dominate our world consciousness, finding oneself instead in the midst of an otherworldly place of dreams and color and light.

saaf-dream-of-andrei-rabin

Donald Saaf     ©2015 Dream of Andrei Rabin, oil on canvas

Julia Zanes’ and Donald Saaf’s current show, Parables, at the Kent Museum in Calais, VT is such a reprieve. Their work is luminous and fanciful, richly saturated with color, pattern and visual texture, telling stories that hang on the endings we privately provide. Saaf’s interest in memory and Zanes’ concentration on narrative serve up a world that, in the way of the Brothers Grimm, is both foreign and hauntingly familiar.

zanesblueboat

Julia Zanes     ©2014 Blue Boat

Paintings, sculpture, and marionettes seem happily at home displayed throughout the brick tavern that is over 175 years old and whose walls, some enlivened by exposed lath-work and others bearing the patina of wallpaper worn and torn with age, foster an imagination-nurturing symbiosis between art and environment. It is a full-on experience that is not to be missed.

saaf-apple-orchard

Donald Saaf     © 2014 Apple Orchard,     oil, mixed media on canvas

Peak foliage is almost upon us, so a trip to the rural hamlet of Historic Kents’ Corner is much more than a mere drive from “here to there”; it bookends and wraps together an experience that will lift you up and sweep you away.

zanes-saint

Julia Zanes     © 2013 Saint                                                         surrounded by others in The Blue Prophetic Alphabet series

Since Parables will only be on view for one more weekend, I strongly urge you to make room on your calendar: Friday – Sunday, October 7-9, 10am – 5pm.

zanes-puppets

Julia Zanes     © Puppets

Art in Embassies

This week I watched a huge and pristine art-shipping truck rumble back down my driveway after collecting and crating my piece “That First Peony”, then carrying it off to begin the first leg of its journey to Riga, Latvia.

That-First-Peony-22x50

That First Peony ©2007 Elizabeth Fram

In late March I was contacted by one of the curators from the U.S. Department of State’s Art in Embassies program, asking if I would be willing to loan this piece to the U.S. Embassy in Riga for two years. I was honored and beyond thrilled to say yes! And now the piece is finally on its way.

If you are unfamiliar with Art in Embassies, I encourage you to visit their website. I believe the exhibition in Riga should appear on the site once all the work has been compiled and installed. In a nutshell:

The AIE program was established by the Museum of Modern Art in 1953, and formalized as a part of the Department of State by the Kennedy Administration in 1963. It is one of the United States’ premier public-private partnership arts organizations, with over 20,000 individual and institutional participants, and a presence in some 200 venues in 189 countries worldwide. AIE furthers U.S. diplomacy through the power of the visual arts by expansive, international cultural exchange initiatives.

As then Secretary of State Hillary Clinton affirmed during a recognition luncheon marking AIE’s 50th anniversary, “Advancing U.S. values and interests sometimes requires old-fashioned diplomacy, such as meetings with foreign leaders, or using new technology to reach out to people and ‘give them a voice’. But art is also a tool of diplomacy. It is one that reaches beyond governments, past all of the official conference rooms and the presidential palaces, to connect with people all over the world.”

To be able to participate in such a legacy is an enormous privilege.

There was an interesting article about Chuck Close in the Times this week in case you didn’t see it: The Mysterious Metamorphosis of Chuck Close. Tucked in among Wil S. Hylton’s long descriptions of the changes that seem to be enveloping Close, his life, and his art, was the following statement, which I find to be brilliant:

“It seems to me now, with greater reflection, that the value of experiencing another person’s art is not merely the work itself, but the opportunity it presents to connect with the interior impulse of another. The arts occupy a vanishing space in modern life: They offer one of the last lingering places to seek out empathy for its own sake, and to the extent that an artist’s work is frustrating or difficult or awful, you could say this allows greater opportunity to try to meet it. I am not saying there is no room for discriminating taste and judgment, just that there is also, I think, this other portal through which to experience creative work and to access a different kind of beauty, which might be called communion.”

A Feast for the Eyes & Food for Thought

This past weekend we left the fireworks behind and ventured north for the Montreal Jazz Festival. I also had the ulterior motive of checking out “Pompeii” and “Toulouse-Lautrec Illustrates the Belle Époque” at the Musée des beaux-arts de Montréal.

Border-Queue

Customs ©2016 Elizabeth Fram                                                                                               Heading into Canada, the line at the border was as long as I’ve ever seen it.

They are both wonderful exhibits. The artifacts from Pompeii were extremely moving, not just for their incredible preservation and accessibility to a daily life we can all relate to, but also for the sheer beauty and, in many respects, almost contemporary feel in much of their design. Across the hall, I was in total awe over Toulouse-Lautrec’s facility with line and mesmerizing compositional skills. And because various states of many of his prints are on view, there is an enhanced opportunity for  learning.  To tell the truth, after being surrounded by so many posters of Parisian life, I left his exhibit feeling a touch of Paris-envy. (And how better to scratch that itch from far-away Vermont than with Paris Breakfasts? Carol Gillott’s world of patisseries, watercolors, and ‘la joie de la vie à paris’ is a visual confection.)

Now that I’m back at work, there has been a lot to think about, especially after a weekend exposed to such artistic mastery – both visual and musical. I keep a folder on my laptop of various quotes and passages — thoughts that resonate and, depending on the circumstance, often provide the perfect reinforcement in the studio when needed. As I’ve been stitching this week, humbly plugging away, the following two ideas keep running through my mind:

“Don’t play what’s there, play what’s not there.”    – Miles Davis

And this from M.C. Richards’ Centering in Pottery, Poetry, and the Person:

“There are many marvelous stories of potters in ancient China. In one of them a noble is riding through a town and he passes a potter at work. He admires the pots the man is making: their grace and a kind of rude strength in them. He dismounts from his horse and speaks with the potter. ‘How are you able to form these vessels so that they possess such convincing beauty?’ ‘Oh,’ answers the potter, ‘you are looking at the mere outward shape. What I am forming lies within. I am interested only in what remains after the pot has been broken.’     It is not the pots we are forming, but ourselves.”

Wise words for keeping me on track. Can you relate?