Well Hello Dali

Salvador Dali

What’s better than a visit to see art by Salvador Dali? Seeing art by Frida Kahlo at the same time and place! I took advantage of spring break and traveled south to The Dali Museum in St. Petersburg, Florida where the largest collection of Dali art (outside of Europe) is on permanent display. While there, I encountered the current exhibit of Frida Kahlo at the Dali. 

Before I get started, I’ll have to admit I enjoyed Dali’s art more than Frida’s. Dali was just so free spirited and experimental! I was shocked at the level of his technical mastery. When you’re standing face-to-face with a Dali oil painting, it’s his imagination, brushwork and attention to detail that blow you away. That man could PAINT. You can look and look and keep finding more. His imagery morphs, melts, and impacts. Along the way, you’ll learn a bit more about Dali and his contemporaries. Dali seems like a lot of fun to have had as a friend.

Frida Kahlo

Now for Frida. This is my message to her ghost, “Frida, Frida, Frida. We all know you had a painful existence and your art was your therapy. That bus crash changed your life forever and I wish it had never happened. However, you did good things with what you had to work with, even though you only lasted for 47 years and lived with a lot of physical and emotional pain. Thanks for all the monkeys and flowers. You dressed cool and had a helluva time on earth. I especially like it when you got weird, but some stuff is a bit of a drag. You continue to empower a lot of women to be whatever they want to be. Thank you.”

Closing note: The Dali Museum building is composed of gray slab concrete accented with an impressive glass atrium, unique garden, and rocks representative of Dali’s Catalan heritage. The galleries are on the 3rd floor. They sell beer in Cafe Gala!

 

Time Traveling

Recently I had the pleasure to visit the New Orleans Museum of Art (NOMA) and view A Life of Seduction: Venice in the 1700s. A visit to a museum offers revelations into the past that could only be learned by time traveling or historical research, but through art and artifacts, a museum visit offers visual satisfaction and tangible evidence. The lure of a tactile experience is just beyond reach! For tactile, visit the Sydney and Walda Besthoff Sculpture Garden, also part of the NOMA collection.

Located a few blocks from my Mid-City accommodation, NOMA is located in the 1300-acre City Park and is an impressive neo-classical building situated a short walk from Morning Call, a great place for beignets and café au lait in the morning. My visit was on a Monday, and the crowds were manageable. Admission is very moderate, just $12 for adults. I was delighted to received purple beads with a NOMA badge to wear during my visit.

I spent time reading the information, staring up close and then backing away for the full experience, and took only a few pictures. My iPhone was sadly broken so I did my best! A surprising thing that I did not know was that Venice was composed of 118 small islands. I had previously thought it was flooded low land! However, due to my art history classes, at least I was aware of the lifestyle and grandeur of this period.

Would I want to live there, then, or here and now? That’s a hard choice! A bit unrealistic unfortunately, but a very romantic notion.

Learn more at https://noma.org/exhibitions/life-seduction-venice-1700s.

A Beautiful Oyster Shell (for those seeking pearls)

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A Beautiful Oyster

I found a beautiful oyster shell while wading along the bay in Port Saint Joe on the Gulf Coast. Most I suppose would have not bothered, as oyster shells are everywhere in the area, creating parking lots and tossed into piles or back into the sea. At some point after this one was alive, it was very likely served on an icy tray to someone fond of fresh seafood. How long ago could this have been? Judging from the smoothness, I imagined it had been tumbling among the other shells at the sea shore, through storms and sunny skies, long enough to erode its own sharpness away. Examining it, I could see layers, ridges, pitting, coloring, and pearlescent whites.

Although this one is a common oyster of the food variety, it’s fascinating to understand that the long gone succulent oyster inside created its own environment by filtering saltwater and secreting calcium carbonate and other trace minerals. Only rarely does an oyster of this kind create a pearl by surrounding an irritant with layer upon comforting layer with a smooth coating called ‘nacre’.

This oyster shell is beautiful to me because of its curvy shape and texture, the layers, lines, and pits, as well as the colors within. I see purple and gold, and I’ve used the Prisma app filter to more obviously show all of these characteristics. I’d still like to be the lucky one to find a fresh oyster with a pearl inside!

Fine vs Find Art

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Found Funny Face

Beyond the usual media used in fine art, the paints, pencil, canvas, paper, metal, clay, glass, and beyond.. there is even more beyond. This form of find art is referred to by a few names: trash art, junk art, and found object art. Look around your house, there are some great artsy things to be made with objects you already have! Bent forks, tin cans, paper clips, buttons, glue, cereal box cardboard, and string could become your next level of expression and creativity.

I’ve seen some surprising and impressive found object art by a few artists that I follow on instagram and their art includes items found out in the streets. These are really serendipitous! Imagine visiting Mexico City and making your way around on foot. The sights, sounds, and smells tell a picture, but what you find, well that’s another indicator level of what’s going on. It’s cultural anthropology! Merge this with an artist’s expression and the results are some surprising assemblages. The heel of a boot, wires, bottle caps, and a picture of a mouth torn from a cigarette package become a mask. This is about as universal as you can get. Everyone recognizes two eyes, a nose, and a mouth. Adjust the shape, add brush bristles for hair, nails for horns, and the assemblage becomes a bull. The artist who indulges in this form of art is both playful and offering a cultural commentary on society.

When I go out, I enjoy walking and exploring, so this past weekend I made a point to find interesting objects. I did not want to include the usual rubbish, and where I live that means lots of cigarette butts, fast food bags, and plastic water bottles. I found and decided to keep rusty wire, a marble, a metal object, an aluminum can pop-top (I don’t think they make these kind anymore), and a bit of fisherman’s net. The result is a quick funny face.

While at the public library, I was wandering through the shelves and lucked up by finding a fun book called Trash Origami. It has 25 paper folding projects that you can make by reusing printed materials that almost everyone has around, including soup can labels and magazine pages. Don’t just hoard your colorful paper when you can make something aesthetic or utilitarian!

All this is reminiscent of childhood collages using glue, cut paper, glue, macaroni, beans, and cereal. But hey we’re grown up now! Aren’t we? Now it’s find art.

Here’s a link to 11 Artist Doing Amazing Things With Recycled Materials.

Wabi-Sabi Life

lluskart-elite-traySometimes you get lucky and feel like you hit the jackpot even when you are rifling through discarded things. While I did not discover a pot of gold under a rainbow, I saved this beautiful Elite serving tray from becoming part of the city dump. Thank you, universe!

Though it’s suffered through some hard times and corrosion (haven’t we all), all it needed was a little clean up with Iron Out Rust Remover, then two thin coats of Rust-Oleum Satin Clear Enamel to bring it back to life. It wouldn’t be that easy to fix me!

Elite Trays were manufactured by the Metal Tray Manufacturing Company Limited in London, England. I believe the company predates the internet because I could not locate a web address for them. However, I found many Elite Trays on both Etsy and eBay, but none with this particular design. This tray measures approximately 16×13 and depicts Japanese magnolia blossoms.

This tray is a great example of the Japanese concept of wabi-sabi. From the wikipedia article at https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wabi-sabi, “Wabi-sabi represents Japanese aesthetics and a Japanese world view centered on the acceptance of transience and imperfection. The aesthetic is sometimes described as one of beauty that is imperfect, impermanent, and incomplete.” The tray retains enough imperfection to have character and to show that it has survived many years. It also retains a simple message of natural beauty and the integrity to keep on being useful for many years. I find that this philosophy fits very well into my own ideas of responsible ownership and minimalism. I am not a constant shopper! I believe in the principles of reduce, reuse, recycle, repair, and repurpose.

Beautiful pink Japanese magnolias bloom in late winter. Some people do, too.

Free Art Movement

llusk_free-art-10The Free Art Movement is a global effort by artists to engage the world with ideas through art. I adventured with the Free Art Movement by participation in Atlanta’s Free Art Friday, known on Instagram and Twitter by the hashtag #FAFATL.

My free art drops have been mostly paintings on 3×3 or 4×4 mini-canvas, but sometimes larger 5×5 canvas or found media such as brick or wood. I’ve also included my FwURK Apparel t-shirts (available from Society6). Art drops, as they are called, are left in public places for art hunters to hunt or finders to find. Occasionally, my free art is also available as a giveaway on Instagram and in other cities. I’ve been able to share my art in interesting ways because of the Free Art Movement.

Past the Moon

Work in progress.
Work in progress.

Exhausted from a stressful life event, I collapsed into bed in my hotel room on the fifth floor as the full moon rose in the sky. I felt like I was alone in a tower, safe and needing rest to battle an evil that had invaded. Sleeping but actively dreaming, I felt my spirit walk out into the moonlight. I walked past the moon and on towards the “New” with feet firmly on the ground, following the path of a river.

From this, I was inspired to learn more about the moon regarding its phases and influences on the planet. I found a lovely, simple reference page for the lunar cycle and phases of the moon at http://solarsystem.nasa.gov/galleries/phases-of-the-moon. Regarding the lunar cycle and it’s influences on human behavior, I found that there is no real conclusive evidence, although the general romantic notion is that human behavior is affected by a full moon in interesting ways. My theory is that when the moon is full, it’s generally easier to see at night, and hence inspires more activity among people.

Dreams often inspire art. This dream, while deeply introspective, manifested itself into a much less serious Objet D’art. I drew four phases of the moon with waking faces onto a weathered old board from an abandoned house. Keeping the faded white paint intact as the background, I believe it captures the magic of moonlight. I added bats.

The stressful life event righted itself again. Life happens and we all float on.

“Batshit Crazy”

Lucky 2017

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Lucky Lusk four leaf clover with clubs, diamonds, spades, and hearts.

“Peas for pennies, greens for dollars, and cornbread for gold,” goes an old Southern saying. So, following the superstition to ensure my luck, I cooked. The crockpot brimmed with corned beef, carrots, potatoes, and cabbage, while the black-eyed peas boiled with ham and the cornbread turned to warm gold in the oven. We ate heartily and later slept like bears. Welcome 2017!

With this new year, and this new blog, my outlook is more deliberately focused on my art future more than ever before. My observations of art peered at through French Quarter gallery windows in wee hours of the morning has tempted me to experiment stylistically. I see my reflection in the gallery windows, and I see the pop-ups in the parks and along popular locations, and I want to be included.

Do I paint well? Is my art vibrant enough? Is there an energy or a message that others will appreciate in my art? These are questions that I believe all artist ask themselves. To learn and to grow is to seek new experiences and do new things. I do paint well, but do I need to? Do I have the confidence to allow myself to be more expressive and loose with my colors and brush?

I will work hard and find out. Throw the cards, roll the dice, and maybe I’ll get lucky!

Pelican Encounter

llusk_pelican-encounterAround the Gulf Coast, there are plenty of pelicans to be seen gliding through the air or perched around marinas waiting for boats to haul in their catch. Sometimes they appear out of nowhere!

Picture me driving slowly along the coast, approaching a bridge over a bayou, and then a pelican swoops from the left out of the bayou right toward the bay, so close to my windshield that I could see its eye. Magical! Just the evening before, I had spent about an hour in my studio looking at images and thinking about pelicans and how they could become a part of my Southern Wild Art series. My sketch depicted a pelican flying left to right across a stormy sky. When I arrived home after the encounter, I erased this sketch and replaced it with a close-up of a pelican waiting for the storm to pass.

Symbolically, pelicans have long been associated with religion, myth, and culture. Pelicans represent death and the journey to the afterlife in Ancient Egypt, based on their reputation as skilled travelers. As a totem, pelicans represent confidence, calmness, and abundance when witnessed with a full bill. In Christianity, they represent caring and self-sacrifice often depicted by a mother pelican wounding her own breast to provide nourishing blood to her young.

As I wrote this blog post, I was contacted by telephone by a blood donation organization regarding a drive for my particular blood type. Lucky timing??

Ingredients of Great Art

llusk-sketchbook-note-great-artIs my art great? Collectively, no, I don’t consider it great among others. Neither is it terrible, and there are some works that are more satisfying when completed than others. On the whole, my art is personal, and a work in progress.

In my quest for understanding art, I look at other art and art history. What I noted from Art: A New History, by Paul Johnson, found on page 727, I wrote in my sketchbook.

  • Unforgettable image
  • Meticulous execution
  • Moral purpose
  • A shock to the senses

Do I want to be great? As I ponder this, I have not decided to work towards greatness at this time. I wonder if it’s even achievable for myself. My objective is to work towards being personally satisfied. However, I look forward to greatness when and where I can find it!

Johnson, Paul. (2003) Art: A New History. Scranton, Pennsylvania, USA: HarperCollins.

Hygge in the Winter Studio

llusk-studioHave you heard of hygge? Pronounced hoo-guh, “it derives from a sixteenth-century Norwegian term, hugga, meaning ‘to comfort’ or ‘to console,’ which is related to the English word hug.” You may know it as a way to experience more appreciation, coziness, or comfort in life, and more so during the winter season.

More on this concept can be found in a New Yorker magazine article at http://www.newyorker.com/culture/culture-desk/the-year-of-hygge-the-danish-obsession-with-getting-cozy.

How do I produce hygge in the winter studio? I appreciate the details. In my small studio space, which is currently the corner of a spare bedroom, I have an old metal desk and a shelf made from an old board I found washed up on the beach. A ceramic pot and an old blue & white plate (I found this beside the road in a pile of discarded things) contain brushes, color pencils, markers, and such. The drawers are full of acrylic paint tubes, bottles of watercolor, drawing media, and paper. A tabletop easel holds my current work, and I often tack up my sketches and reference photos on the wall. A collection of interesting artifacts inspire a creative mood. A blue light lamp illuminates my efforts from the comfort of a squeaky old office chair. A rug and a pair of socks keep my feet warm.

I light a candle. I indulge in a rich cup of hot chocolate or hot tea. Then, I put on my reading glasses, choose my tools, and get lost in my thoughts as I sketch or paint. I switch back and forth between being concerned with technical accuracy and allowing creative license to flow. I ignore the rest of the world. Well, I try to ignore… until my dog needs to go out!

It Lives!

llusk_sketch-rise-up-1The process of creating is magic. Creating invokes a new thing where once there was nothing. An idea appears from the realm of the imagination, and the desire to make it ‘real’ pushes and pulls it into being. This is where artistic license offers insight into the idea.

The new creation, whether visual art, analog or digital, 2D or 3D, music, dance, or theatre, becomes a memory, a thought, and an experience… where it lives!

I keep a sketchbook for my ideas. Often these sketched ideas are really rough. Very often they are drawn badly! I include a date or notes to help summarize the idea until I can develop it.

Tranquility

This small study of a water lily floating in a Japanese garden koi pond invokes tranquility. I chose to focus on this as a restful departure from my darker subjects.

Everyone has heard the clichéd advice to “stop and smell the roses,” and this isn’t unlike that. There should be times in life to stop and relax. Making this ritual a daily practice is a healthy choice. It allows you to recharge, regroup, and then move ahead.

My work, my life, the world, spins from Yin to Yang in a balancing act. How lovely it is to rest. How lively it is to not!

“Tranquility” 8×8 acrylic painting