Monday, June 27, 2011

From Impressionism to Outsider Artist...

When I was three or four, I would have the privilege of sitting by my mother, as she turned the pages of Degas, El Greco, Gorky, Monet, Cezanne, and Matisse. I have no idea how my mother became a lover of art; she was raised by what used to be called "white trash," and yes, when I was tiny, we lived hard-scrabble in Iowa, with a horribly frightening outhouse, and took one bath a week in a round tin tub, water boiled on a stove, and poured in. We all used the same water. From this to art lover? I have no idea.

She was highly intelligent, but phenomenally distant. So it was amazing that I was allowed to be by her side while she turned pages of her most prized possession: used art books, usually discards from local libraries. I still remember her greatest desire was to go to the Louvre, and I knew what and where the Louvre was, and that the Mona Lisa (which I can't stand) was there. When she looked at the History of Art, I was extraordinarily bored, until she got to El Greco, Michelangelo (Yes, she let me look at the statue of David!), and then the impressionists. My favorite artist as a child was Degas, mainly because of the ballerinas, but I also loved Monet, as did she.

She spent much time by herself, going to art museums. She did not take us. Of course, there were many children...let's see, maybe six at that time, and we were left to our own devices, which was fine by me, because my brother, Joel and I had many insane adventures which satisfied my craving for exploring, nature, and living dangerously.

My father pretended to know art. He was extremely proud of a Picasso print, "The Three Musicians," that hung on our T.V. room wall for years. I hated the picture, and was so embarrassed when he bragged about it to all the guests we had in our home. He acted like a very strict Christian so if he knew anything about Picasso's life, I'm quite sure he would have removed it immediately. That may be why, although I understand Picasso's important role in the art world,  I do not like him at all (except that he loved his dog.)

However, as I grew older, and escaped high school, and was able to develop my own mind, my passion for art just grew and grew. I was not an artist; I loved art. I instinctively knew good art, and despised bad art. When my girls were 2 and 3, I began taking them to museums. Our first experience was at a "Student" museum in Champaigne, Il. My 2 year old was in a stroller, and my 3 year old was walking. They had already been exposed to art books at home, did art, and loved it. They also knew the rules about touching art in museums.

There was a "guard" at the door. He scowled when we walked in. And then followed us around! I asked my daughters to show me the "good" art, and the "poor" art. They were mostly on the mark. But when my two-year-old put her hand out of the stroller to point, the guard came running up, yelling, "Do NOT touch the art." I wanted to smack him upside his head. Instead, I said coolly, "These two children have been taught not to touch art, and furthermore, are able to recognize which of this is good."( I REALLY wanted to say, Can YOU???")  He backed away as if he had been bitten by a rattlesnake, and we were left in peace. LOL! But, we did not stay very long.

I became passionate about certain artists. I still remember being in Philadelphia in 1976. (Yes, I did go to Elton John's Philadelphia Freedom Concert!) I went to the Rodin Museum. "The Gates of Hell" framed  the museum entrance. I stood there forever, entranced, amazed, perhaps a little frightened. The outside was infinitely was more fascinating to me than the inside. I am not really a big fan of sculpture, ancient artifacts, and don't even have a desire to go to Louvre. Sacrilege! Don't hate me. I would much rather be on the streets with my camera, or be with some of my favorite artists friends, mangling French, and letting them laugh at me. But Rodin? I am totally in love with his work.

Van Gogh: Most people love his work; I love his life. His beginning pieces (which many have said are very crude) are my favorites. Why? Because they show his phenomenal love for people, and remind me of the lengths to which he went to become like them, almost to the point of starvation. Was he insane? Or was his compassion for people what led him to brokenness. His relationship with Gauguin (another artist whose work I love, but an artist whose personal life I despise) is the one thing I do not understand. Everything else--I totally get it.

Big jump here...I think you can tell I have a deep love for not just pieces of work, but for certain artists as well. Their stories move me; some break my hearts. The first time I saw "The Scream," in an art book, I realized it was an existential cry that existed from the beginning of time, and always will be. It has been often replicated, and I have had it in much of my own work in various forms.

So, back to art galleries. I have been in many. I have my favorites. Around the country. And in London. But there is one in particular that changed my life; it was called Headfooters Gallery in Cleveland, OH. I had already discovered that the very bizarre art I was compelled to do after a severe trauma was called Outsider art, because of a book I had seen at Borders book store. So when I moved to Cleveland, I drove by this teeny out-of-the-way gallery one day, and made my husband drive me back there.

I walked in, and on the wall was a huge, huge painting by Alexandra Huber. (If you want a detailed biography of when she started painting, and what drives her to paint, you can google her name.) I was completely blown away. I stood in front of that one painting for 20 minutes and my husband could see something on my face (I think), because he left me completely alone. The price of the piece was $10,000. But I swore that some day I would own a Huber. Some day...

I have one favorite (only one) online gallery. I stumbled on it about three years ago, when I was googling Outsider art, Art Brut, and some other terms for Outsider Art. It was a site: The gallery owner, Beverly Kaye, had, can you believe it, Alexandra Huber?? I sent her a message immediately, began conversing, and realized this woman was a wealth of knowledge. Kaye is amazing! And she shows the best artists out there. She is so well-educated in the field of art, and stays educated, which is something that is extremely important to me.

She has a Huber that I will own! If you buy it, I will hunt you down! And check out Sesow! His work is definitely unique, and interesting. And she has recently added a couple new artists who are fascinating. She does love sculpture, and antiquities, but that's o.k. I have so many beloved friends with whom I disagree about little things, that I can allow her that:) I consider her my art mentor. She has a blog. I suggest you go to her site, read it, and become a follower.

A bonus for me...she is a reader! So I get to send her books, and she send me books to tear up for art, but I keep them. I mean, she is famous! But a woman who is filled with grace, and kindness? I doubt you could meet a better woman.

I will be writing more about art, specifically outsider art, and the way it is changing and becoming mainstream. Of course I have an opinion on this (you can laugh now, if you know me), and will talk about that. And will tell you that, as of now, I have only purchased self-taught artists-something else Beverly Kaye and I disagree about, but she is much more knowledgeable than I, although I think I am probably more stubborn.

Anyhow...I don't know how art got in my blood. I think it started with my mom. It was definitely not genetic before her!

For my beloved French artists,
Au revoir:)