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Tuesday, December 6, 2016

Invitational Exhibition IV

Working the Canvas

If you read the last post, you know my Book of Faces for this invitational exhibition at the La Quinta Museum, Women In Art:  Tell Me A Story, was completed and the work on the canvas which would support the book began.


The 18 x 24" gallery wrap canvas was painted with hues used in the faces and a composition similar to other paintings in this series, Native American Basket Weavers. Shapes inspired by actual designs used on baskets created by these women were added.


Cutting out stylized butterflies to paint and adhere to the canvas.


Because this has become a mixed media piece, snake skin was added as a representation of basket design work.  The creation of the canvas design is still on going.  Come back to watch it all come together.

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Monday, November 28, 2016

Invitational Exhibition III

Next Part of the Process

Once the statement for Tell Me A Story:  Women In Art was complete (it was included in my last blog post), it was time to begin the actual work of art for the exhibition. Requirements: 1.  Must be specifically created for this show, 2. Must be presented on an 18x24" gallery wrap canvas.

My thought was to create a painting in a style similar to the last two Basket Weaver paintings completed;  Madame Butterfly and Guadalupe Arenas, Snake Weaver.  

Madame Butterfly
40 x40


Guadalupe Arenas, Snake Weaver
48 x 48



If you follow my Facebook Artist's Page you have seen photos of the beginning and progress of the new painting. 

Beginning of new painting

Additional progress on new painting

New painting with stylized basket designs used by Delores Patencio circling around her.

However, every time I stepped up to the easel I had a nagging thought that this painting just wasn't right.  It wasn't the painting itself, it was the idea behind the painting.  This is Delores Saneva Patencio, an historical, basket weaving member of the Agua Caliente Band of Cahuilla Indians.  She would be a perfect subject and one I have painted several times. Eventually I realized my problem was connected to the statement.  The statement that will be exhibited with the painting talks about telling the story of the women, not one woman.  This work needed several faces, not just one.

It was a break through that brought additional ideas.  If I was to paint several faces, representing several different women, why not present them in book form?  After all, this is telling a story, and stories are found in books.  This required book making research.

Creasing 140 lb. cold press paper with a bone folder.

 
Punching holes to facilitate stitching the pages together.


Sewing the pages together with waxed thread.

I decided I would present eight faces, eight actual women who lived in the Coachella Valley and are known as basket weavers from the late 19th and early 20th centuries. I created one book of 8 pages, but before painting these pages thought I would paint on loose sheets and then perhaps create another book, with the painted papers, after the paintings were done.  This so I could paint freely, not worrying about mistakes, and have the option of using one or another.  After more research about basket weavers and hours of time in front of the computer to locate photographs, I selected the following seven women and painted them in large, rapid brush strokes: Ramona Lubo, Rosa Lugo, Guadalupe Arenas, Mary Kintano, Delores Saneva Patencio, Maria Los Angeles, Mercedes Nolasquez.


First a black and white palette with the thought of 'bringing the women out of the shadows'.






Then Raw Umber added into the palette,


Burnt Sienna added, 


Burnt Umber introduced, 


and finally Yellow Ochre was added.

For the cover sheet of the book I created a compilation of the women:



Back to the process of actually making a book out of the painted sheets of paper.  This time I used a raffia type of material to sew the pages before gluing the spine and attaching snake skin as the binding. Both the raffia and snake symbolize materials and designs used by these basket weavers.






Now that the paintings were actually in book form, names of many noted Coachella Valley basket weavers were added to the cover, circling the head of the woman.  Designs were added to her head scarf which symbolize those woven into some baskets.


As you can see, I also ripped the pages to obtain an undulating, wide, deckle edge which would allow the successive pages to peek out beneath the top page.  With this book of faces in hand I had to address a very blank canvas and figure out how to attach the book and what to create behind the book.  Stay tuned....

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Sunday, November 20, 2016

Invitational Ex hibition II

Tell Me A Story:  Women In Art
An Invitational exhibition at the La Quinta Museum that will open January 1 and run through April 1017.

The invitational exhibition Tell Me A Story:  Women In Art , in which I am participating, requires a 300 word statement about the artist or the art work. It can be fact or fantasy.... that is an open door of possibilities. My mind started to spin in many directions when I learned I needed to write a statement, but settled on the continuing growth of my series of Native American Basket Weavers.  After all, I am telling their story through paintings. It is a significant part of my story and certainly it is theirs, but how to present this in word? 




I repeat over and over, time after time, in many different situations, "I am a visual artist, not a verbal artist."  This part of the project seemed a daunting challenge.  

While hiking with an author friend of mine I brought this up and started asking questions; we discussed and bounced ideas back and forth. Shirley encourage me to address why I paint portraits of basket weavers, the motivation behind the work. We dissected my years of involvement with weaving, painting, Native American culture and how it all worked together.  



It was time to tackle this statement.  After a write, re-write, edit, another write, critique from Shirley, another re-write or two, counting the number of words, edit, counting....you get it....long process...sometimes a frustrating process....I decided it was complete.




Finally, finally I was satisfied with the statement.  Here it is:

Let me Tell You A Story

This is a story of the responsibility to tell a story.  I was tapped on the shoulder and inspired by a mother who claimed a previous life as a tribal member, tapped on the shoulder when, as a basket weaver myself, I learned about Native weavers, tapped on the shoulder by the invisible hand of the tribal weavers, given the responsibility to tell the story.  The story that took place across the land, the story of an art form passed from mother to daughter, of cultural history, artistic vision and innovation;  the story of women working with natural fibers producing utilitarian containers.  The story of women who honed their basket making skills from childhood, developing a close relationship with their natural environment, creating vessels designed to carry burdens.  But the story changed and the burden shifted with the influx of settlers who appropriated the land.  It shifted as the basket makers became domestic employees in settlers' homes.  The art and skill of basket making came close to being sacrificed to the advance of the settlers' alien civilization.  Eventually the settlers recognized the skill and artistry required to create these beautiful baskets, and tribal women began to create baskets for the Curio Trade.  This is the story of innovation as the basket weavers recognized how to have their designs appeal to a non-native consumer, utilizing traditional techniques, relying on what their mothers' and culture taught while developing artistic expression within the baskets.  Their baskets became emblems of heritage, statements about cultural evolution, sought after by collectors, dealers, museums.  What started as an art created out of necessity evolved into a form of expression.  Today we see their spectacular basketry, but we do not see them.  This is the responsibility to tell their story.  

Thank you to Shirley and others who encouraged, guided, and  helped me shape this statement.  

Statement done, so on to the next part of the project.  Next blog post will start to take you through that process.



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Tuesday, November 15, 2016

Invitational Exhibition.

What is an Invitational Exhibition?

We will start with that.  Basically, a gallery or museum contacts artists and asks them to participate in an exhibition. Typically there is a theme or purpose of some sort.  An artist is invited to show a piece or pieces of work, frequently given guide lines and restrictions.  The altar I created for Day of the Dead at the Palm Springs Art Museum was actually an invitational exhibition, because along with a few others I was asked to participate.

Day of the Dead Altar of Guadalupe Arenas, Snake Weaver.




A couple months ago I received another invitation, from the La Quinta Museum, to participate in an exhibition this winter called 'Tell Me A Story: Women In Art'. I accepted, and so while working on the altar, I was also working on various parts of what I will show in this upcoming exhibition.  

One hundred female artists have been invited to join a 4 month exhibition celebrating women in the arts.  Each of us will show a piece of art created specifically for this exhibition which runs from January 2017 - April 2017. A showcase for each artist and her story, this is also an observation of International Women's Day on March 8, and part of Women's History Month.

My work on portraits of basket weavers fits perfectly into the theme and female emphasis.  I would like to spend the next month of blog posts taking you through my creative process, the inspiration, what I have been doing and working on to fulfill the requirements for the exhibition.

Dat so la Lee with Five Digikup
48 x 36

Madame Butterfly
40 x 40


Dat so la Lee with Eight Digikup
24 x 24



It all started with a 300 word document.  Now that may sound like a lot of words, but when you have a lot to say it's easy to blast through 300 words.  I spent days writing, editing, asking for help from friends who write ( I am a visual artist, not a verbal artist), writing and rewriting and finally ended up with a statement that I find perfect.  It is creative, unique and explains why I am painting these women.  It begins....  This is a story about the responsibility to tell a story.  And it goes on from there.

Next blog post will contain the statement in its entirety.  I think you will find it intriguing.   I will also talk more about the struggle to write such a statement.  Until then....

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Dat so la Lee, Queen of the Washoe Basket Makers
24 x 24






Wednesday, October 26, 2016

Day of the Dead V

Altar Installed

The Palm Springs Art Museum is a stately, modern building which houses an extensive permanent collection as well as featuring rotating exhibitions of note.  What an honor and delight to have been asked to create and install an altar for their Day of the Dead celebration.  And installed it is.

Altar honoring Guadalupe Arenas installed in Palm Springs Art Museum

The design and construction of this altar is meant to honor the tribal women, who were basket weavers and members of the Agua Caliente Band of Cahuilla Indians. The focal point of the altar consists of the painting, Guadalupe Arenas, Snake Weaver, by Pamela Hunt Lee, representing Arenas who lived and worked in the Coachella Valley during the late 1800’s into the mid 1900’s.  



Included on the altar are photos of other basket weavers, including Delores Patencio, who created utilitarian vessels and eventually baskets sought after by collectors during the early 20th century and what was known as the Curio Trade.  Arenas and her counter parts lived in harsh desert conditions, creating beautiful vessels, a craft handed down from mother to daughter.  In the painting, Guadalupe Arenas is shown surrounded by design elements used in her weaving.  The composition of strangling snakes, her serious look and the palette are symbols of a life led in harsh conditions while creating spectacular baskets. 



The museum’s current exhibition, Grass Roots: Native American Basketry of the West, displays several of the baskets created by Guadalupe Arenas, Delores Patencio and their contemporaries.



All vessels on and around the altar are baskets, some filled with plants symbolizing juncus, sumac and deer grass laboriously collected, prepared and used to weave baskets.  Rocks collected from the desert and small paintings of cactus symbolize the arid environment.  Photographs of Guadalupe Arenas, Delores Patencio and others honor these basket weavers. 



This altar will reside in the Museum through Day of the Dead Celebration on Sunday, October 30, 10-5.  Hope you will join me at the celebration.

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Saturday, October 22, 2016

Day of the Dead Altar IV

The Altar is Almost Complete.


More work on the altar is bringing it close to completion. The cut out shapes of eagles, snakes and lizards have been painted to match those in the painting which is the back drop and focal point of the altar.

Painting the eagle shapes.



An adventure into the desert provided a variety of rocks which now fill the baskets sitting on the altar and symbolize the desert in which these basket weavers lived.


Rock filled baskets.


Additional small canvas board paintings were created and now join the other small cactus paintings on the altar providing symbolism of desert plants.

Altar Cactus
8 x10

Pink Barrels
5 x 7


The altar is almost complete, ready for installation. The various components have been assembled and the altar set up in my studio.  Now it will be deconstructed, boxed, made ready to be moved to the Palm Springs Art Museum.


Photos of Coachella Valley Basket Weavers
Detail of Altar


The Palm Springs Art Museum is hosting a Day of the Dead celebration, Sunday, October 30, 10-5.  This altar, honoring Guadalupe Arenas and other indigenous basket weavers of the Coachella Valley will be on display.  Hope to see you there.

Thursday, October 13, 2016

Day of the Dead Altar III

What is Day of the Dead?

Image result for day of the dead

A few nights ago I was asked by a friend, 'what's going on in your studio?"  I launched into an enthusiastic description of the altar I am creating for Day of the Dead at the Palm Springs Art Museum and after quite a monologue she asked another question, " What is Day of the Dead?"

sketch of the altar 


Interesting question, and one I thought I would answer here. Day of the Dead is a multi day, Mexican holiday that focuses on gatherings of family and friends to pray for and remember friends and family members who have died.  It is Dia de los Muertos. Among traditions connected with the holiday is the building of private altars honoring the dead, and the Palm Springs Art Museum celebrates the holiday annually with a few altars scattered through out the museum.  I have been asked, by the Artists Council of the museum to construct an altar.  Typically skulls, marigolds, favorite foods and beverages of the deceased are on placed on the altars.  

Image result for day of the dead  A typical altar

If you follow this blog, you know that the altar I am building is not necessarily typical;  no marigolds, no foods. It does, however, have skulls, flowers and decorations that pay homage to Guadalupe Arenas and other native basket weavers who lived mid 1800's to mid 1900's and whose baskets are revered and collected today. The women to whom the altar is dedicated lived in the Coachella Valley, location of Palm Springs.  

Guadalupe Arenas, Snake Weaver
48 x48 original acrylic painting
This painting is the basis, background and inspiration for the altar.

Items on the altar consist of design elements in the painting such as the lizards, eagles and snakes. These are also some of what was used as designs in the baskets created by these women.

Lizards, before they have been painted, crawling up and over the flowers.

Eagles, before they have been painted, flying up the altar and over the baskets.

Snake skins cascading and undulating over the altar.

Small desert plant paintings that will be displayed on the altar to represent the desert environment.



The altar is under construction, and continues to be a creative endeavor for me.  There is more to do to accomplish the completion and install the altar on October 23rd in the Palm Springs Art Museum. There is also a Day of the Dead Celebration in the museum on October 30, 10-4.  Hope to see you there.

To contact me click HERE
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