Another Art Review for TAKE CARE!!!

Art Review by Ellen Wright Clayton, MD, JD

Rosaline E. Franklin Professor of Genetics and Health Policy, Professor of Pediatrics, Professor of Law, Director of The Center for Biomedical Ethics and Society at the Vanderbilt University Medical Center

 

Motherhood is about caring and connection. Recent developments present new challenges to this fundamental institution. Some of the developments are social. Women have always cared for other women’s children, especially since women until recently frequently died in childbirth.  Women historically confronted pregnancy, labor, and delivery with no small amount of fear.  Literature is full is stories about stepmothers, some of whom were wonderful, and a hopefully exaggerated proportion who were not. In today’s society, with divorce and remarriage, children often have two or more mothers at the same time, which can stress notions of the unitary family that characterize our society’s dominant discourse. Other developments are scientific. New technologies can enable pregnancies that otherwise would not occur.  Conception can be separated from carrying and birthing. The fetus can be visualized during pregnancy. Baby’s first picture is often a sonogram. And while blood ties have always had particular social salience, increased understanding of genetics has t ended to make them even more important. Not so long ago, efforts to establish paternity depended on whether the child looked like the father. Now the relationship can be established with certainty, using a blood sample or a simple swab of the inside of the cheek.

The artists in TAKE CARE explore the ways that social and scientific developments influence our understanding of motherhood, of connection and caring.  Sometimes, new knowledge of connection is beneficial. Take the case of mitochondrial DNA, the focus of Annette Gates’ work.  Unlike most of our DNA which comes from both parents, the DNA in mitochondria, the energy sources of our cells, comes entirely from our mothers. As a result, we are connected directly with our mothers, and their mothers, through generations. Maternal inheritance became important after hundreds of young professionals and dissidents were “disappeared” by the military regime in Argentina in the late 70’s and early 80’s. Their children were confiscated and placed in new homes, seemingly without a trace. But the grandmothers, the abuelas, enlisted the aid of Mary-Claire King who used the mitochondrial DNA to identify and return their grandchildren.

But the supremacy of genetic connection is not always so benign. New reproductive technologies allow many to overcome infertility, but often at a steep price. Some women experience the process of hyper ovulation, egg retrieval, and pharmacologic support of gestation as alienating, as transforming them into the objects of the medical gaze.  Jeanette May’s at times almost comical images of eggs serve as a counterpoint to quotidian pictures of women and sonograms. And yet women pursue these procedures specifically to create a family with children to whom they are biologically connected. Notably, while some women use donated eggs so that they can have the experience of gestation, it is far more common for women to implant and carry to term embryos created with their own eggs, evidencing the importance of genetic connectedness.

 

Our laws often enact the primacy of genetic connections. A number of courts have ruled that gestational surrogates, women who carry embryos created using the egg of another woman, usually the woman in the couple who commissioned the surrogacy, are not “mothers” of the resulting children and so have no basis on which to seek custody or contact. In these cases, the experience of pregnancy, with its risks,

discomforts, and obviousness, simply disappears as a matter of law.  Monica Bock’s inclusion of bits of umbilical cord, amniotic fluid, and the amniotic sac into dustpans perhaps symbolizes gestation as waste, of women as fetal containers. In our legal system, children are permitted to have only two parents no matter how many adults play a role in their lives, and those two parents have supremacy over all the others. In blended families, where the genetic parents separate from each other and then form new relationships, the new adults – the stepparents – can struggle to define their roles as parents, particularly as against the genetic parents whose claims once cemented by a modicum of nurture persist unless severed by abandonment or abuse. It is rage against the iconification of the genetic link that Kristina Arnold explores in her work. In her Drip installation, red glass pieces encased in hastily stitched plastic covers, protrude from the wall.

 

While behavior is almost surely the product of complex gene environment interactions, much effort has been devoted recently to dissecting the genetic contributions. Several years ago, for example, Caspi and his collaborators demonstrated that children with a particular genetic variant who were seriously abused during childhood were more likely to have serious behavior problems as adults. Such findings can be used in a variety of ways – to identify children who need special protection (although all children deserve a safe home), to identify druggable targets for treatment, to undermine the inadequate mothering explanation for children’s problems. Each of these uses raises its own ethical and policy challenges. As light dancing on Obermeyer’s beadwork shifts one’s perception of the work, so might new findings shift our understanding of behavior.

 

For millennia, women have worried that their children would be born with something visibly wrong. The ability to visualize the fetus using techniques such as ultrasonography and MRI has transformed pregnancy, providing the potential to make these fears concrete. These technologies can and often do provide reassurance, which is one reason ultrasound has become routine. At times, however, they reveal variations, some of which resolve but many of which are serious problems, leaving women with decisions about whether to continue the pregnancy, whether to undergo fetal therapy where possible, or whether simply to prepare for what may lie ahead. These concerns are represented in very different ways by Sadie Ruben and Libby Rowe.  Ruben represents the fetus as alien, strange, frightening, floating in liquid evoking amniotic fluid within the womb, taking over the woman’s body. Rowe’s malformed sock monkeys, by contrast, suggest that we are meant to accept and love children no matter what their challenges.

 

Finally, some of the artists comment on the technology itself. Sher Fick celebrates pharmaceuticals, which allow her to live. Her pill bottles are covered with fabrics, many of which show story book characters from our childhood.

 

Adrienne Outlaw intersperses colorful scientific videos of the embryonic heart and blood flow using such techniques as confocal microscopy with pictures of the dailyness of mothering and taking care – breastfeeding, snuggling, nurturing. The science is spectacular, but which is the more wonderful?

 

Read More

First Review of TAKE CARE: The Art, Science, & Bioethics of Motherhood

 

Written by Tonya Vernooy, Art Critic/Writer, 2009 for TAKE CARE: The Art, Science, & Bioethics of Motherhood Exhibition.

  

Scientific progress makes moral progress a necessity; for if man's power is increased, the checks that restrain him from abusing it must be strengthened.                                                                                                     -- Madame de Stael, 1835[1]

 

 

As molecular medicine, genetic manipulation, cloning, and stem cell research their rapid progress so too must the morality and ethics that assist in governing their boundaries. Through an examination of the gray area between enhancement and therapy, necessity and desire, parent and child, the nine artists participating in Take Care: The Art, Science, and Bioethics of Motherhoodreveal that there is no definitive right answer to the question of biotechnological advancement. It is the informed dialogue that is paramount. The political philosopher Michael J. Sandel writes, "Breakthroughs in genetics present us with a promise and a predicament. The promise is that we may soon be able to treat and prevent a host of debilitating diseases. The predicament is that our new-found genetic knowledge may also enable us to manipulate our own nature...to make ourselves 'better than well.'"[2] Caught in the middle of this is the mother whose fundamental need to create, protect, and support her offspring to the best of her ability has to contend with biotechnology's possible repercussions While scientists are driven by the aspirations of discovery and improvement, the artists serve as the cultural conscience, helping to explicate the complex and question the ramifications of a science that will pervade social, political, cultural, and self beliefs.

  

 

Both Sher Fickand Lindsay Obermeyer examine normality and the question of enhancement versus therapy. But what is normal? In May 2008 USA Today reported that 51% of Americans were taking at least one prescription drug for a chronic condition, a 50% increase since 2001. In 7 years time, maintaining a certain standard of health by taking daily medication had become the norm.  In Coping SkillsSher Fick constructed a table to hold all of the medication she has consumed in her "pursuit of physical and mental health;"[3]prescriptions that enable Fick to become, and remain, an attentive, present mother. The structure exists as both an altar and a vanity. The mirrored shelf implies a dressing table that might hold cosmetic goods. Yet, the artist challenges this notion by carefully encasing each medication in a finely made quilt with suture seams. The preciousness or fragility implied by these colorful coverings can be attributed to either the medication itself or, more likely, the medicine taker. The coverings themselves contain varied images of skulls, religious imagery, monetary symbols, band-aids, plant life, 1950s children playing, and Frida Kahlo, who suffered a tragic miscarriage.  The vibrancy and symbolism along with the altar itself suggest Dia de Los Muertos, a celebration that honors lost loved ones. Could it be that the artist is commemorating her past self and simultaneously rejoicing in the person these pharmaceuticals have allowed her to become?

  

 

Lindsay Obermeyer also deals with the pain and stigma of someone who requires medical and pharmaceutical intervention. Her fastidious beadwork enables the viewer to visualize the complexities of emotional and mental health care. All three portraits show her daughter in profile. In Shadow – Blues the internal silhouette is made up of clear crystals while contrasting shades of blue fly and swirl around her. She is completely still, unable to move, amidst a sea of activity; she feels empty, cold and alone. In the other portrait, Shadow – Red Hot, the pattern and complex beadwork take place within her profile; as if her mind and body are on fire. The world around her seems to melt away, again she is alone. In Voidthere is only her faint profile leaving the viewer asking: will her daughter ever emerge? Obermeyer's work calls out to the audience for help. The artist desperately wants to know if mood and mind altering medications will help or hurt. Are the trials and side-effects worth the possible outcome? Currently, geneticists are working on  prescriptions tailored to a patient's genetics, eliminating most trials and tribulations while opening up the door to enhancement possibilities. Nicolas Agar suggests this may become a slippery slope. "Some think that we should pass different moral judgments on enhancement from those we pass on therapy. They say that while therapy is justifiable, enhancement is not. The problem is that it is difficult to make the therapy–enhancement distinction principled. It is hard to find definitions of disease suitable to serve as a moral guideline for genetic technologies."[4]

 

 

The idea that our genetics will one day define our medical treatment is at once promising and scary. Everyone wants to be seen as an individual yet that individuality should not be an uncontrollable deciding factor in receiving health care and insurance or in becoming someone's companion, lover, parent, or child. In Kristina Arnold's Drip installation, the artist seems to be questioning how blood defines a person. The "drips" are dark red projections in clear plastic pouches with sutured edges, each unique in size and form, like individuals in a family.  The plastic pouches resemble microscope slides while each blood drip casts a long shadow on the white wall. These silhouettes of bloodlines are altered by light changes in the room, implying the coming changes in how a person is perceived as genetics becomes interchangeable with the definition of self. The self then becomes a commodity as Jeremy Rifkin, president of the Foundation on Economic Trends, predicted in 1998, "It’s likely that within less than ten years, all one hundred thousand or so genes that comprise the genetic legacy of our species will be patented, making them the exclusive intellectual property of global  pharmaceutical, chemical, agribusiness, and biotech companies."[5]While Rifkin's forecast proved over-eager, it certainly seems to be progressing. Stefan Lovgren of National Geographic wrote in October 2005, "A new study shows that 20 percent of human genes have been patented in the United States, primarily by private firms and universities." If one-fifth of our genetic material is owned by companies and colleges what does that leave for the individual? 

 

 

 

Focusing on the definition of self, Annette Gates creates porcelain organisms that are casts of originals; they are the structures left behind once the fabric shells have been destroyed in a firing process. The end result is an archetype, similar yet distinct from its mother. Within current cloning practices, where one de-nucleated donor egg is injected with another donor's genetic material, the end result is a clone with replicated DNA but this does not mean an exact duplicate. First, the genetic material from the donor egg does become a part of the clone, and second, as the clone matures the environment that created the original can never be the exact same thus its gene expression will vary. Gates' organisms tell tales of a fragile future where they cannot meet the expectations of the original; they are new conglomerations of old material. As the British philosopher, Jonathan Glover, points out, "There is the objection that a child created as a replica is treated, not as an end in himself or herself, but merely as a means."[6]Those means, he goes on to explain, can be the wish of a parent to live on after death or the desire to recreate a passed loved one. In the end the clones, like Gates' organisms, will always be fragile reproductions.   

 

Libby Rowe's Womb Worries series addresses the anxieties all mothers-to-be have when they prepare for a new life. Currently, genetic testing is still in its early stages, generally for upwards of only 14 genetic abnormalities. However, a laboratory at Baylor College of Medicine has begun trials for genetic testing that looks for 200 different genetic diseases. Its chair of molecular and human genetics, Arthur Beaudet, believes that this screening process will become routine in five years time. The Houston Chronicle reported, in December 2008, the issues surrounding such a test include potential false positives, which could lead parents to abort a healthy fetus, the implication that a life with a disability is not worth living and disparity between those who can and cannot afford such a test (it is currently $1600).[7]  It is interesting then that Rowe has chosen to use the sock monkey to convey her worries. The sock monkey was historically a working class child’s toy, made from red-heeled knit socks used by factory and farm workers. The artist has taken this toy and remade it for adults as either a cautionary tale or to highlight the possible horrors that await us if we don’t get tested. Although each monkey is still smiling, unaware of their abnormalities, ready for love, how is a parent supposed to care for a child that has two heads, one genital, and no legs? Like Paul McCarthy's Tomato Heads of 1994, whose "novelty item appearance hints at the manic consumerism of our theme-park utopias," Rowe makes us aware of the capitalistic culture behind these natural maternal anxieties.[8]There is no right answer, it is an individual choice, but one that is made for a price. As Richard Hayes, Executive Director of the Center for Genetics and Society, states, "We support the use of that [genetic screening] to allow couples at risk to have healthy children. But for non-medical, cosmetic purposes, we believe this would undermine humanity and create a techno-eugenic rat race."[9]

 

Whether through cloning or genetic manipulation, Sadie Ruben's Alien Fetuses ask if the aberrations that originate from gene expression errors are worth potential desired results. Her creatures' destinies are unknown as they sit, brewing – growing – within glass jars that seem to resemble pasta containers used in the kitchen rather than scientific vessels of experimentation. Ruben's fetuses are commenting on the commoditization of lab created embryos. The gold flecks adhering to their opaque, amorphous bodies indicate their precious worth. But we are left to wonder what happens to them if Ruben is unable to care for them? They are helpless and completely dependent upon human ministering. These beings can be seen as a critique of trendy hobbyists trying to genetically engineer life in their garage. With visions of becoming the Steve Jobs of biotechnology, laypersons are beginning to experiment with new life forms at home. A group known as DIYbio has begun a community laboratory where amateurs can explore their scientific ideas. Co-founder Mackenzie Cowell suggests that this type of unrestrained environment could lead to some very important discoveries. He added, "We should try to make science more sexy and more fun and more like a game."[10]But Ruben's fetuses tell a different story, one of a nebulous future where their lives are not entertaining rather they exist in a lonely laboratory.

 

This laboratory lifestyle could become a reality if Dr. Davor Solter, developmental biologist at the Institute of Medical Biology, is correct in his prediction of the future use of artificial wombs. He says, "In essence, it would eliminate all the limitations we have now: you could have as many or as few progeny as you want...I can visualize a fetus floating freely in fluid and the umbilical cord attached to a machine."[11]The work of Monica Bock questions the current and evolving value of the mother in our society as biotechnology advances. Bock's Afterbirth (Sac, Fluid, Cord) focuses on the importance of a mother's body in keeping her fetus alive and growing. Yet it is the placenta – whose sole function is to provide nutrients and oxygen from mother to child – that is so quickly discarded after the child is born. The three dustpans reference this quick disposal and hint at the possibility of life as a commodity. That they are three in number indicates birth, life, and death or mother, father, and child; all are easily swept away in the world of biotechnological progress if they do not meet decided standards.

 

 Embryo selection and enhancement is key to Jeanette May's investigation of a mother's role within these new biotechnological advancements. The artist's initial question seems to be: Is it not the mother's responsibility, nay, purpose, to want the absolute best for her children? The use of slick photography and poster-size imagery draw the viewer into a bright environment surrounded by happy, beautiful people, colorful plant life, and a consumer-happy lifestyle. Upon closer inspection, we realize that all is not right with this world. Eggs are forced into square molds, growing fetuses are compared to plants bred for certain characteristics and mommies-to-be are perusing magazines imagining their lives as Michael Kors advertisements. May's posters seem to ask: once society has screened for all possible defects, how long until we manipulate those genes to acquire certain traits under the auspices of having a "happier" life and the duress of "keeping up with Joneses"? The Wall Street Journal recently reported that Fertility Institutes of Los Angeles will soon offer its clients the ability to pre-select their "choice of gender, eye color, hair color and complexion, along with screening for potentially lethal diseases."[12]Is it the duty of the future mother to provide the best that technology has to offer for her children? Or is she turning her children into accoutrements?

 

Adrienne Outlaw continues this examination of maternal responsibility within the realm of advancing technology. The artist posits: How far should a mother go to protect her young? Does technology offer the best outcome for a child born today or tomorrow? In Outlaw's Fecund video series, electrified, metal breasts protrude militaristically from a white wall, each containing a unique video. The recorded imagery shows either the latest in biophysics research, such as green florescent proteins tracking tumor growth, or the natural tenderness that exists between a mother and her child, like a newborn baby breastfeeding.[13]As the viewer's get up close to the metal nipples to peer inside, similar to a breastfeeding infant, they become aware that the hard material of the bosom creates a distance between mother and offspring; technology seems to be getting in the way.    At the same time, however, the viewer is given a chance to see the amount of knowledge possible at the cellular level, thus parents may be given the opportunity to make sure their progeny's cell division is developmentally on target. The question then becomes one of what happens when a cell goes awry.  Is it a mother's duty to make sure that her embryos, her fetuses, have everything they will need to survive and succeed in the 21st century, even if that means genetic interference? Professor Ronald M. Green of Dartmouth College suggests that with gene manipulation we could live in a disease-free world, he asks, "Why not improve our genome?"[14]

 

While Sher Fick and Lindsey Obermeyer investigate the growing pharmaceutical role with advancing medicine, Annette Gates concentrates on the idea of the self within the world of cloning, Libby Rowe   and Sadie Ruben   examine the rights of the fetuses within genetic progress, and finally Monica Bock, Adrienne Outlaw, and Jeanette May explore the function of the mother within the biotechnological age. Through their artwork these artists explore the crucial social, economic, and ethical implications of biotechnological advancements and create a space for important dialogue. As Dr. Sirine Shebaya, Greenwall, Fellow in Bioethics and Health Policy at the John Hopkins Berman Institute of Bioethics, writes, "The best way to avoid slippery slopes to bad outcomes is to have an informed, democratic discussion that takes into account both expert opinions and social values. We need regulations because scientists and the general public need clarity about what they can and cannot do, a convincing rationale for permissions and restrictions, and a voice in arriving at decisions with such important ramifications."[15]These artists are that voice.

[1]

De Stael-Holstein, Madame Influence of Literature Upon Society (
New York : William Pearson & Co., 1835)  

[2]   Sandel, Michael J. The Case Against Perfection: Ethics in the Age of Genetic Engineering. (

Cambridge , Mass: Harvard
University Press, 2007) p 5-6.
University Press, 2007) p 5-6.

[3]See Sher Fick's artist statement

[4] Agar, Nicolas, "Designer Babies: Ethical Considerations," ActionBioscience.org, American Institute of Biological Sciences, 2006.

[5]Rifkin, Jeremy. The Biotech Century (London: Phoenix, 1998), p.63.

[6]

Glover, Jonathan. Choosing Children: Genes, Disability, and Design (
Oxford : Clarendon Press, 2006) p. 65.  

[7] "

Houston
Chronicle Examines Prenatal Genetic Test That Can Detect More Than 200 Conditions," The
Houston Chronicle, December 24, 2008.  

[8]Rugoff,  Ralph, "Deviations on a Theme – works by Paul McCarthy," Artforum, October 1994.

[9]Steere, Mike, "Designer babies: Creating the perfect child," Cnn.com/technology, October 30, 2008.

[10]Wohlsen, Marcus, ""Hobbyists try genetic engineering at home: Critics worry amateurs could unleash an environmental or medical disaster," MSNBC.com. December 26, 2008.

[11]Pearson, Helen, "Making Babies: The Next 30 Years," Nature, Vol. 454, July 17, 2008, p. 260.

[12] Gautam Naik, "A Baby, Please. Blond, Freckles -- Hold the Colic:  Laboratory Techniques That Screen for Diseases in Embryos Are Now Being Offered to Create Designer Children," The Wall Street Journal, February 12, 2009, page A10

[13] Created in

collaboration with biophysicist Dr. David W. Piston of
Vanderbilt
University .
 

[14]Britt, Robert Roy, "Designer Babies: Ethical? Inevitable?" www.livescience.com, January 11, 2009.

[15]Shebaya, Sirine, PhD, "Are 'Designer Babies, on the Horizon?" www.scienceprogress.org, May 15, 2008.

 

 

Read More

Open Studio - Get Ready, Get Set, Go!!!

    This is my 'before' view of the studio space in July 0f 2008.  I was blessed to find a house with a walk-out Daylight Basement, including one wall of windows looking out over trees, a creek, and an empty field.   Over the months I have added massive amounts of lighting, covered the insulated walls with a patchwork of mattboard, old paintings on canvas, and tyvek.  This view is of the North end of the studio - you can see my lighting which is actually outdoor lighting with movable cans - - windows all along the right-hand side provide addition light during the day and a beautiful view of nature.  Along the left/back side of the studio I have multiple shelving units for supplies, storage of completed work. This image shows the double-sided counter-height workbench with storage that I purchased from Goody's going-out-of-business sale, they are also on casters and anchor the north central section of the studio . . . you can so the great windows on this end of the studio, as well.   My favorite spot in the studio: the wicker porch swing were I can meditate on nature right outside my window, read, research, enjoy some of my friend's artwork (see CASSIE, the shoe sculpture on the left of the window by artist John MacMullen) . . . all I need is a lampshade! Below is the South End of the Studio - future office/bedroom . . .   Side of the office/future bedroom end of the studio . . . 16'x22'  (above) Below, my last stop before art is shipped, any hanging devices, polishing, wrapping and packaging, love having a space set aside for this task . . .   Left view is of the workbench area - the central section of the studio - with lots of open space to move around . . . and storage for wood and boxes . . . of course, I have my refrigerator stocked with ice-cold Diet Cokes!     So I hope you have enjoyed the tour of my studio - - - it has been a long journey of waiting patiently, focusing on my specific needs (custom lighting and electrical outlets) and scrounging to find the perfect furniture and units for my needs - - - I have already created some new encaustic paintings and am working on several installation pieces and the space is very conducive to my creative process. I'm looking forward to continuing the improvements and organization - I can't tell you how fantastic it is after years of working in corners, garages, and dining rooms to have MY space, MY studio - exclusively FOR ART'S SAKE!
Read More

What Defines Art?

Question posed:  Is Margaret 's Oppenheim's Fur Cup (actually titled "Object", 1936, created in Paris by the Swiss Artist) art?   My response: Any type of expression is art. A fun game to play is “Is this Art?” on http://www.ovationtv.com link for Robert Rauschenberg http://www.ovationtv.com/programs/14 the documentary they just did on him is phenomenal (I am so sad he died, I’ve never met him, but I was in his presence in 2004 at the Whitney Biennial opening) and he actually tells the story (in this documentary) of finding the goat in a thrift store in NYC, he was supposed to pay $50 but the guy went out of business before he finished paying . . .   and, he did many versions before the tire was the “one” . . . titled "Monogram", and referred to as combines.  1958-1959, Robert Rauschenberg, American Artist. What is important about this type of art (altering ready-mades or found objects) is that the focal object is transformed - just as in Oppenheim’s “fur cup” (a Dada creation) the utility of the object is negated and the artist (manipulator), [think of Marcel Duchamp's Bicycle Wheel   , third version shown, circa 1951 and Man Ray's "La Cadeau" - (image provided by www.MOMO.orgimage of right, 1958 copy of 1921 original) these can also be referred to as ready mades] . . . creates a reincarnation. To me this is almost a bigger talent than creating something from thin air, because you have to KNOW the essence of the item, deconstruct its tautology and change it enough so that the alteration stands up equally to the original inference. There is a syndrome that is a strong, fervent reaction to art: Stendhal syndrome, Stendhal’s syndrome or Florence syndrome, is a psychosomatic illness that causes rapid heartbeat, dizziness, confusion and even hallucinations when an individual is exposed to art, usually when the art is particularly ‘beautiful’ or a large amount of art is in a single place. The term can also be used to describe a similar reaction to a surfeit of choice in other circumstances, e.g. when confronted with immense beauty in the natural world. [wikipedia definition] So I have had 2 episodes of Stendhal - one was at the OLD (my preferred) MOMA in NYC, standing in the DADA room, I thought they would need to call an ambulance. After studying art for years, I expected (and thought they deserved) for each piece to be in an altar or alcove all its own. I was stunned that the pieces were just squished together and grouped in vitrines . . . happy to see them, but felt that they were diminished by their placement. Note: The new MOMA is a thousand times worse. It is beyond bad. The architecture itself is great, but the way it is dis-organized and crammed, paintings grouped behind vitrines and propped on shelves - I am desultory.  Although the statement is that they designers followed the 'meandering' path of contemporary/modern art - I personally feel it sucks as an art viewing experience.  Guess I will never get a job or show there, huh????  But Andy Warhol was rejected for years, so who knows?! 2nd episode - 2007 standing inside the Romanesque cathedral at Ravenna, Italy. Victorians would have said I got the vapors (but I think that means gas, and that was NOT the case) - Donny took a photo of me with my mouth hanging open and tears streaming down my face, I looked like that all day. I am getting chills just thinking about it. Note: there is no way to photograph the entire visual of standing within Ravenna, because it is as if you are INSIDE a snow globe and glittering glass and metallic mosaics are flickering in the filtered light - above, below, and on all sides.  It was truly a sacred, transforming, spiritual event for me. Post script: I have used fur in some art work - it is very effective.
Read More

Eat Your Words - Museum Installation 2010

oh, speaking of “donating for art” - I am making this constant, never-ending sculpture of crazy-quilted prescription bottles - and I received hundreds (of bottles) from everywhere - you put out a call and the people will deliver!!! To the right you see the first stage of the prescription bottle installation - I sent our requests and I received envelopes and boxes from the following: Nancy Hayes, Julie Anderson, Lydia Weaver, Lydia Weaver's Whole Water Aerobics class, Dr. Nancy Kelker, Andrienne Outlaw, Alicia Beach, Lloyd and Shirley Curry.  I hope I haven't forgotton anyone! The point being is that we are RE-USING an item prior to its location in landfills, thus clogging up nature for hundreds of years.  We are not even melting them and reshaping them - we have found something useful to do with them in their current  discarded stated!!!!!  Pre-Cycling!!!   This is how the prescription bottle piece turned-  COPING SKILLS, 48"h x 53"w x14"d, wood, mirror-floored shelf, crazy quilted attached prescription bottles.  Honors the help that myself and others receive from altered mood and anti-anxiety pharmaceutical assistant.  I am thankful for the joy I can now have in my life because I am not a raging lunatic anymore! BE PART OF 'EAT YOUR WORDS'  My next “community” piece is going to be “Eat Your Words” - it will be an acrylic-suspended table, with all clear acrylic dishes/silverware/bowls, etc. and the “food” will be colored paper printed with hurtfully email messages which have been sent and/or received. This idea came about when I had a dream that I was cooking fried chicken breaded with shredded words (one of my personal icons in my work) . . . so if anybody wants that nasty email from Uncle Fester to be part of the piece, email me a copy of said emails (you can edit names or addresses, but the papers will be shredded/cut) to: sherfickart@gmail.com with “Eat Your Words” in the subject line If you prefer snail mail:  Sher Fick, 1023 St. Hubbins Drive (Studio), Spring Hill, TN 37174   Such as:  an entry might look like this: To: sherfickart@gmail.com From: joejones@jonesy.com    (provide real name and address if you want to be listed in the exhibition catalogue - your name won't be with your words submitted, and REMEMBER the worlds will be shredded! Re:  Eat Your Words Installation "Well, I hope you feel good about yourself now that you made Granny cry on HER birthday.  Who do you think you are.  What gives you the right to take the attention away from Granny just to say you are pregnant with another brat.  You are getting too big for your britches, Girl!  You better watch yourself.  You gonna steal all Granny's money cause she feel sorry for you.  Over my dead body". I will also give credit to all donators in the exhibition catalogue, so send your name, address, with email along with it, so I can keep you posted and give credit where credit is due! Feel free to pass this information along - the more the merrier - and this series might take on a life of its own and last as long as the prescription bottle one - i.e. - my whole life! When Adrienne did her last piece (Shelter, see http://www.adrienneoutlaw.com ) we had hundreds of volunteers . . . it is amazing to do community projects. I believe that with eat piece of paper that is donated, that we can erase those negative words from our minds as they will be ritualistically shredded and then used as a piece to great a fantastic social-interactive event.
Read More

To Resolution, or Not To resolution?

  "The Call" by Remedios Varo To me the real question about whether or not to make New Year's Resolutions is simple:  No.  I don't do that. What I do is review the prior year and project what I wish to accomplish in the coming year. Many divergent areas of my life are considered.  Have I been the Mother I need to be in 2008 and what can I do better in 2009?  Not just say "I will be a better Mother" - but, specifically, what are the actions I can do to make that occur.  I can turn off the music in the car and actually have a conversation with the children while we are enduring the endless pick-up/drop-off phase of our lives.  I can instigate conversations and ask what their opinions are and why.  I can NOT turn every conversation into a lecture.  I can listen.  I can color more with my 6 year old.  In my marriage I could make dinner a few more times a week and I can turn off my computer and sit and hold his hand while he watches TV.  I can play some Wii golf WITH him instead of reading on the couch.  I could go work in the yard with him instead of holing up in the studio on the weekend.  We could start doing some of the things we both love to do: hiking, nature photography, playing cards, and Scrabble. As a sister I could call my siblings more frequently.  As a daughter I could take some time to mail my mom cards and hand-written notes as she does not do e-mail.  I can collect things I know she will love and always have a gift bag ready for any time I see her.   If 2009 is this cabinet - I get to fill it with all the dreams I have and hope to accomplish: 1.  Better actions as a mother and wife 2.  More completed artworks/applying for grants/fellowships and to VISIT real art again - a major trip for art viewing 3.  More shows to share my artwork 4.  I could finish posting my Etsy shop so people don't have to beg me to sell things. 5.  Start my series about my Italian experiences 6.  Get more active on my own blog ;) - pursue my writing with a more defined goal, write some of those memoir stories for myself and then decide if I want to share with others 7.  Nurture and maintain my new and old friendships 8.  Take time to reflect on my own life and the balance of my selfs: physical, spiritual, creative, and dreaming 9.  Become more fully who I am intended to be 10. Make sure I am following MY CALLING
Read More

The Excavation UNEARTH Series - Encaustic Paintings & Assemblages

    UNEARTH Encaustic on Watercolor Paper on Wood, Mica, River Rocks 15.25”h x 19”w 2006 - Private Collection of John Svara/Haven Kimmel Statement on Series, of which UNEARTH was the 'focal' piece . . . This body of work, titled Excavations, is an ongoing exploration of archaeological content begun in 2004.  It includes 3 sub-categories: but I will focus on Identification of Personal Archeology for this posting. These works explore and integrate both my personal and cultural iconography.  Repeated media includes encaustic (molten wax with pigment) and found objects on wood.  I choose to work in encaustic for its properties of luminosity and layering, as well as its flexibility with mixed media.  The found objects represent personal associations of childhood [in UNEARTH the river rocks are like the ones on my Grandfather's Indiana Farm and the mica was actually found, in its natural rock state, while hiking in North Georgia, as I peeled the layers apart, it metaphorically revealed the translucency of my life/humanity], as well as the broadened idea of cultural experiences.  By exploring contemporary interpretations and pushing the limits of idea, material, and presentation, I celebrate the sacredness as well as the irony of the objects. Here is a link to an Essay regarding my theories on Eco-psychology, which was the impetus for the Diptych UNEARTH. http://www.typepad.com/site/blogs/6a00e54eea3ea0883400e54eea3ea38834/post/6a00e54eea3ea0883400e550033d268833/edit More specifically, what I do is question what sparks my childhood interests and then delve into that from every direction . . . archaeology blows my mind - not just the history but the literal physical act of searching, digging, failing, revealing.  The organic lines UNEARTH are actual topographic lines and the grid is created from real archaeological screening material (my kids took a Summer Archaeological class at the college I taught at in FLORIDA) . . . that sifting can reveal many things - trash, organic manner, man-made relics, etc. - - by overlaying the translucent theories of virtual psychological archaeology with the empirical science of archaeology, using personal icons from my childhood & beyond, this came up. The blue squares contained in the grid represent the metaphorical "treasures" found (and is the same way that found items are recorded by archaeologist's). Other works in the EXCAVATION series include:   Reliquary, 7"h x 18"w x 11"d.  Encaustic on Watercolor Paper on Pine Wine Box, Sliding Box Top, Interior contains black river rocks.  Floor Installation. AVAILABLE.     Open view of SLICE OF LIFE, altered Wine Storage Box, Private Collection: John W. & Sarah MacMullen.   Closed view of SLICE OF LIFE. 14"h x 8"w x 3"d  

  

  

  

  

  

 

 

INCENDIARY (above, right)

Souvenier Matchbox, Matches, Mica, Encaustic in Found Box

Opened size: 10” x 5”

2006 - AVAILABLE

 

 

SAFETY ISSUES (left)

Box, Safety Pins (personal icon of artist), Encaustic, Rusted Mesh, Iron Tacks

4" x 8.25" open

2006 - AVAILABLE

 

 

Remnants of Truth (left)

Encaustic, Box, Wire, Rice Paper, Oil Pastel, Found Wire from East Green (Central Park)

2006

Available 6"x 8.25" (open)

 

 

 

Hope you enjoy!

 

 

Read More

Abide With Me

  We are not alone.  We exist in a beautiful community of souls.  This post is dedicated to Haven Kimmel and to her beautiful community of souls which have enriched my life since I stumbled (it was fate) upon them in August.  [  www.havenkimmel.com , click blog]. The above work (entitled CATCH ME IF I FALL) is a perfect visualization of my experience in Havenland.  [begun with this bizarre altar niche I found in a thrift store in Fort Walton Beach, FL, it costed me only $6.00, which is a perfect example of where I get my main inspirations (junking or dumpster diving).  The doll face was cast from my original Krissy doll (the one that you pulled on the string and her red hair went shortor long).  One of my more prominent motifs are the wide-spreading oak trees (as it dominated the 'house yard' of my grandfather's Veedersburg, IN farm) and the handmade wooden rope swing that I spent many hours dreaming on as I strove to walk the sky].  Although this work can be disturbing as you notice the barbed wire which entwines the rope, and you realize that to stay balanced you would have to grip that barbed wire (what is supposed to keep you safe might BITE you), to me it is all about the hands that reach up under the swing to . . . catch me if I fall. As a child, due to many mitigating circumstances, most out of my or my 'guardian's' control, I rarely felt safe or that I had a soft place to fall.  Now that I am grown I am allowing myself to rely and trust in and on others . . . these are souls that have become guardians of my creativity and celebrants of my soul. I hope you can see the resilience of this peace and celebrate with me, the beauty I have found not only in Haven's blogland, but in the world that seems to shine brighter with hope.   Barbed  Guardian, 2006.  (Porcelain Doll Head, Rusted Wires, Encaustic, Gold-leaf) As the child's eyes reveal in Catch Me, we, as adults, are reflections of our childhood experiences.  I want to celebrate those that have been able to nurture 'little sher', she will always be a part of me. In Barbed Guardian, a friend of a friend heard about my search for rusted barbed wire/other objects and she shipped me objects from her farm in Sevierville, TN.  That is love.  To the left is WINGED GUARDIAN.  She is a perfect example of my friend's and family's support of my work.  My sister, Lisa, collected the remnants of a cardinal on a nature walk and carefully saved the skull (with its carmine beak) and the wings . . . this forethought and support is what, I believe, imbues the pieces with the ethereal essence I constantly seek to capture.   Lastly in the guardian trio is DOMED Guardian, she is veiled and unknowable.  She is the hidden spark of resilience I believe we can all find in our own souls if we protect it and treasure what is sacred and pure in our hearts.  She IS BROKEN, yes - but she remains. 'find a sanctuary inside oneself, no matter how small' - Lemony Snickets, A Series of Unfortunate Events
Read More

Scarecrow Installation - Vincent Van "Cr"ogh's "S(c)a(r)y Night"

Here are a few views of the scarecrow I created for Cheekwood Art and Garden's Fall Celebration (www.cheekwood.org): Van "Crogh's" face was created over a hard floral Styrofoam ball, covered with crazy quilted burlap and then embroidered.  His "hair" was attached via a rug hooking technique.   I just love creating art that will amuse and entertainment the children, as well as their parents and other family members. If anyone is in the Nashville area, stop by Cheekwood and enjoy its beautiful 50 acre botanical garden, award winning restaurant, and, of course, the art museum! Fall is my favorite time of year - I was so happy to be a part of such a creative event.  I can't wait to see all the other scarecrows!!! For Art's Sake, sher
Read More

What My Kindergarten Report Card Says About Me

"My Kindergarten Progress" (7"h x 5"w, encaustic on board with attachments) reveals so much to me as I view the years through the veil of time. Many things still ring true, that I do indeed still "LOVE TO TAKE PART IN ART ACTIVITIES."  But what is so poignant to me is the fact the teacher felt the need to state other things, as well: "The difficult spelling of Sher's last name has made it difficult for her to learn" - obviously I was scarred for life, barred from the learning I so desperately sought. Creating "My Last Name Was Creekbaum" (5"h x 8"w, encaustic on board) was just as cathartic as I reviewed my assessment.  I rejoice that my mother so lovingly stored this and many pieces of my childhood art.  Because of her forethought, I re-discovered and was reintroduced to myself as a child.  Somethings never change:  Unbeknownst at the time I was dyslexic and STILL "Need Improvement" in that area of knowing "my right from left". Although time goes by, I can still see myself in that little brown- toothed girl (I had two crescent shaped "milk" teeth for my two front teeth) and recognize her spirit in my kindergarten progress report . . . and again in this image from 1st grade. Though much heartache has happened since I was an innocent kindergartener, there is still a sense of unbounded joy to be had in life. Celebrate the child you once were and try to relive the innocence and beauty of discovering a new butterfly in a color you've never seen before and in wading in creeks (that were really just sewers) and making mud pies.  Live your life like an innocent child:  one day, one moment, one breathe at a time. Protect the innocence of the children your life - encourage their curiosity, celebrate their efforts, dry their tears.  But most of all, speak with them about life and what it means and how important they are to the world. "you, too, are a child of the universe, no less than the trees and stars . . . "  excerpt from the Desiderata of Happiness, by Max Ehrmann
Read More

Even When We Feel Static, Progress Is Occurring

Even though I feel many days that "I got NOTHING done" - I can look back on the last 7 days and know that progress is being made. Artistically:  I was juried into another regional exhibition for contemporary art - this exhibition will be at the Renaissance Center in Dickson, TN - a jewel of an art center, literally, in the middle of nowhere - but they have fantastic exhibitions and programs.  This is their 10th Annual Regional Exhibition covering all of the Southeastern States. I will be exhibiting SANCTUARY, 36" x 36" x 36", Mixed Media Installation.  Materials: vintage crinoline/lace/wire/bird's nest/robin's egg/kozo paper/ink/encaustic. The viewer will bend over from the waist to look down into the assemblage, which will be installed on the floor. After creating this piece I saw  A SERIES OF UNFORTUNATE EVENTS and I was enamored of the ending where he mentions that the Boudelaire's "found a sanctuary, no matter how small" everywhere they lived.  As a woman/human, I feel I have to maintain an inner sanctuary where I can go - it is where I hatch my plans and nurture my soul.  The second piece that will be exhibited is "MYTH OF INNOCENCE", an altered rubber doll.  9" x 4" x 3" . . . it refers to some personal icons (safety pins) and the idea of our outer shell (here a girl in her "Sunday best" underclothes and shoes) and our inner strength and resilience (the built-in altar). Materials: Found 1950's rubber doll, vintage lace, acrylic paint, liquid lead, acid, gold-leaf, safety pins (represent the "christian" school dress codes which required safety pins in all slits of skirts and between gaping buttons, and to hold down wrap-around skirts, etc.) I would love to hear back from you, my wonderful viewers/readers, what these art pieces say to you, I learn the most from feedback and can never really be offended as I know all comments are useful to my future pieces. So, what do you think?  Do you see any universe symbols that I didn't even realize I used? Personally: The studio is coming along and I only have about 3 more van loads of supplies that my wonderful hubby, Donny, is promising to get out of storage this weekend.  Isn't he gorgeous???? We celebrated our 17th anniversary this weekend, not counting the 1.5 years of living in sin before . . . Here he is on the boat between Murano and Burano, Italy.  Our first day there after about 20 hours of planes, trains & boats . . . Anyway, I wouldn't be who I am today if it wasn't for his belief in me and his support through the college years, the paxil years, the pregnancies (9 mos. x 3 of puking and hospitals and bed rest), births, breastfeeding, and he is always the primary caregiver once he is home . . . he is a catch!  And, no, you can't have him - I am his, he is mine. We don't believe in any of that - you complete me, Jerry McGuire BS - we are each independent beings with our own interests - he plays tennis, basketball, and Tiger Woods Golf on the Wii, and he is a very gifted nature photographer . . . I paint, antique, read, blog, photograph, knit, crochet, bake . . . and we let each other have our own fun and then get together for major fun - together we like to hike, kayak, make up CSI homicide scenes (then photograph them), no kidding, play Wii, scout out waterfalls . . .watch the birds . . . it is a simple life (except for the 3 busy kids!) Work:  so now I am working on 15 ink illustrations for an art history book: Faking Ancient America by Dr. Nancy Kelker and Dr. Karen Bruhn . . . I also created the cover art of some "fake" Pre-Columbian masks.  I am also working on finishing the Vincent Van "Cr"ogh Scarecrow for Cheekwood Museum. I'm busy, but happy.  Spending lots of time on Haven' Kimmel's blog www.havenkimmel.com and then remember I might want to actually post on my own! Here are some updates on the kids: Claire, turning 6 in 2 weeks, is enjoying 1st grade and making many new friends.  She is wild about the new tire swing we hung up in the 300 year-old huckleberry tree we are lucky enough to have in our backyard. Here she is being the main nurturer for SNAPPY, our new, tail-less kitten.  Snappy is named after Lauren's favorite Monday night restaurant, Snappy Tomato, the pizza buffet. Other names we considered: Waldo, Pompeii, Ash . . . Snappy won out.  But Claire and I usually call her "OOpsey!" Dylan, the soon to be 16 year old is  busy taking driver's ed (god save me), ROTC, Drill, Forensics and Latin Club - he is busy!  He continues to astound me with his philosophical insight, intelligence, and purity of heart.  We are blessed to have a gifted mentor for him at his school, Ms. Z, who is always there for him as he navigates his way through an athletic crazed school, below his level teachers and classes and generally helps push him from behind while I coax from the front - two more years and he will be off to college - we have so little time to prepare him for the big world. Dylan also has this great taste in music: Beatles, Tom Petty, Peter Gabriel, Rolling Stones . . . it goes on and on - and he is an actor and even sang 2 solos in the MusicMan this summer at the Algonquin in Manasquan, NJ - I can't wait to see what he decides to do for his life's work . . . we are so proud and admiring. Lauren, 14, has started babysitting and otherwise spends her time on-line, on her cellphone or chattering incessantly to me after school, and to us after dinner, and until we tell her to go to bed . . . she has been doing egg experiments: you soak an egg in white vinegar for 24 hours and the shell dissolves (she can tell you why), then you just have the membrane sack, the whites and the yolk, which you can see, and pick up and it is like jello (don't squeeze)....then you soak it in food coloring water over night and turns that color, but translucent - it is so awesome, she says you can throw it at something and it will splatter everywhere - it is gorgeous and I want to photograph a bunch of them.  Lauren is so gorgeous and beautiful and I am frozen in fear for her in this big bad world. so, we are busy - the kitten knocked over the hermit crab tank, the moles are taking over the yard, I have 52 mosquito bites . . . but all is well in our little corner of the world. sher
Read More

Shaky Ground

written Aug 31, 2008, during insomniatic wakening

There are layers.

My truth is only one view through a convoluted, rippled memory.

As a child, my experiences and observations came with no contextual identifiers.  Even reactions were downplayed and re-assigned in acquiescence to an elder's (church's) desires.

In what format does a child live?  One person's most tragic day could be another's fantasy castle.

Pastelsplitself_2 The fact of some tragedy (ies) does not rob a child of their memorial joy, but it does cast a long shadow on their psychological future.

Sensory triggers are psychoneuroimmunilogical and those re-wired synapses cannot be re-instated to their seminal semantics.

This time of personal archetype development can overrun the soul.  Souls become lost in the netherworld of loss.

While surrounded by birds chirping in the clear blue sky, this, my tattered soul, is grasping at slippery roots to regain a sense of solid footing.

Shall it come to pass?

In my life, moments glimmer with mica-glittered foundation stones, until a new tremor comes along - it is hard to stand on such shaky ground.

What are my "seismic" pre-tremor shocks?

- thick, twisty "devil" eyebrows

- greasy, slicked-back, receding hair

- fishhooks

- knobs turning under a porch awning

- jelly

- banana seat bikes

- flyswatters (especially if shaped like a butterfly)

- keys or money being jangled in a pocket

- creaky swings

- fish eggs pouring from a fresh fish

- black, glossy tarmac from the glare of the sun

- dirty fingernails

- vans with no back seats

- trailers

- pencils

- having my head pushed down

- "Good Girl"

- religion

- blankets too light to feel "safe"

- the urge to pee at night and the danger of going to the nearest bathroom

Raggedy_digital Images:

Image 1 - above - "Split Self", pastel on paper, 32"h x 24"w, 2006.

Image 2 - immediate left - "Your Story Begins At Home", Found Object/Altered Doll Sculpture, Self Portrait, 42" h x 16"w x 17"d, 2006.

Read More

Why, In Our Current Culture, Bother Making Art?

Throughout human existence, individuals have spoken through their arts. 

By studying a culture’s uncovered arts, we discover clues to their spiritual beliefs, daily lives, traditions, and human relationships - to name just a few benefits.

 

Therefore, artists in today’s world can bring forth these same revelations.  An artist has a chance to make social commentary (to me the most important), statements on spirituality, celebrate life, question the unanswerable, and reconcile their struggles. 

 

By communicating visually, the artist traverses the cultural/lingual divide.

No one needs to know your race, religion, or gender in order to view and interpret your art.

Ideally, art can be the great connector.  I believe expressing yourself also sends energies into the Universe – thus communicating with all forms of life.

 

It is of vital importance to express yourself in some creative manner (all liberal arts are inclusive in expression) in order to avoid repression and illnesses of mind and body.

 

 

 

Written August 2000 for Advanced Sculptural Form, University of West Florida, Professor John P. Donovan’s class.

 

 

 

Post Script - "Note on SOLE MATES, above":

 

 

 

Assignment was for a found object/recycling project: 

 

I utilized junk from the trash pile at my favorite antique/junk store in Niceville, FL - the legs and an old cabinet door was part of my loot.  I wanted to reassign the purpose of objects as well, thus changing a door into a table, etc.  While working on this project my favorite pair of boots literally fell apart while I was working in the studio.  It was a pair of "parachute" boots I had purchased while engaged in 1990 (so they were 10 years old by this time).  I was so mad, they had molded to my feet and were like working in bare feet, but safe!  I was ticked and was dropping them in the trash can (something I would NEVER do since) when I glimpsed some ART? on the sole of the boot . . . I quickly retrieved them and found this amazing rubber stamp design on the sole - in fact it was THE SOLE of the boots!  A gorgeous global map with "leave footprints of peace" or something like that . . .

 

 

 

I had been leaving those footprints for 10 years, completely unaware of my effect on my environment.  It was what we consciously and unconsciously do in our daily lives that effect the world around us. 

 

 

 

I now try to be aware and choose the footprints I leave behind.  I still re-cycle/pre-cycle my garbage, as any view of my studio can attest . . . you NEVER know when you can use/re-use something.

 

 

 

For Art's Sake,

sher

 

 

Read More

Hiatus Ended

It is unbelievable that I have pulled an ostrich for the last few months. OVERWHELMED would be the only word to describe my state-of-mind. Fabulous things have happened since I last posted . . . 1.   We FINALLY, after 10 months, sold the house 2.    We bought our dream house with an 1,100 sq. ft walk-out basement studio for me. 3.    I am now trying to balance decorating and furnishing the house, pulling a rabbit out of the hat to set-up the studio, settling the kids in school and after-school activities . . . 4.  Maintaining a busy exhibition and commission schedule. Anyway, I'm back.  Ready to conquer the world.  I've been doing tons of reading, researching, sketching, dreaming, sharing, and am ready for several new series of work as a result of this low energy ebb - as is all things, my life is cyclical and I feel on the output upswing! Here is the empty (pre-purchase view of the studio) i.e., my "blank canvas" - still figuring out how to set it up, run some electricity, etc. So I am back in the saddle and will be posting with more regularity . . . For Art's Sake,
Read More

Made it into the SEJE 2008 Biennial

At left, KERPLUNK, has made it into the SOUTHEASTERN JURIED EXHIBITION 2008, A Biennial Competition for Artists in a Twelve-State Region, which is held at the Mobile Museum of Art in Mobile, AL  www.mobilemuseumofart.com. I'm really excited about this exhibition as it is highly competitive, it has a great contemporary curator and provides a fabulous catalogue - I'd have to say that my hard work is really starting to pay off and that I am beginning to feel the fruits of my labor. I'm also getting revved up for working in the studio again - really interested in creating some of the installations that I have been imagining over the last 4 months of production on Rapunzel - the new works will be delicate and evoke the same type of childhood innocence that was coming forth in the Childhood Game series . . . will keep you posted! This Biennial will be exhibited from July 11 - Sept 14, 2008.  The opening is the afternoon of July 13th (Sunday) - which I don't get to attend because it is the same weekend as my niece's wedding.  If you are planning on going, let me know and maybe we can meet there another weekend! For Art's Sake, sher
Read More

Happily Ever After - Rapunzel's Tower Unveiled

Installation on Rapunzel's Tower went great!  In fact, I was finished 2 days early! Here I am with artist Denise Johnson (me on the left, Denise on the right) at the Designer Party given May 21st. Cheekwood knows how to put on a spread - the Brie with honey, brown sugar and grapes reminded me of Italy! Wednesday was the first day we got to see our fellow artists' designs installed. This year's selections were fun-filled and I especially enjoyed Kristina Arnold's "Three Billy Goats Gruff" installation.  Another favorite had to be the "Three Little Pigs" by Andee Rudloff - especially seeing Andee trying out her own slide!   From the time we arrived on Saturday morning Rapunzel's Tower was swarmed . . . Here are the first visitors descending the hill . . . I really had to catch my breathe - but it really couldn't have gone better - the smiles on the parents' faces at times out-shined their childrens' - literally, the best compliment possible. We knew when we saw parents spreading out blankets and camping out around the Tower that we had a hit on our hands! Since I finished early I decided to add just a few additional elements: a birdhouse based on the model I presented to the Curator back in January, a balance beam (built by my husband, Don), and a mailbox. They were all a great hit and gave ample opportunity for the children waiting to climb the rock walls or get their turns in the sandboxes, to have some fun, too: This blond darling is using the ringing bell as a microphone or megaphone - I think she thought she was talking to Rapunzel!   And here you can see some of my family getting in the "balancing act": at front, my niece, Grace Victoria (6) followed by my daughter Claire (5) and niece Morgan (10). One of the best surprises of the day was the special notes left by admirers and potential "Prince Charmings" to Rapunzel - how adorable is that?!  The above image is thanks to fellow artist and friend, Aletha Carr. The day was a blur and I now understand what my teenagers mean by saying "I'm skyin' ."  That is exactly how I felt. Here's to all the people that made my day so fabulous: my sisters Lisa and Susan for bringing their families (from Indiana and South Carolina) to share my joy, my mother (from Illinois)for her proud smile, my brother-in-law Steven (from Kentucky) for bringing his great wife, Shawn, and their daughter Taylor JUST FOR THE MORNING - I'm so glad we all got to enjoy luncheon on the deck at Cheekwood's Pineapple Room - it was a true delight! Additional thanks to: artist Denise Johnson for the Enchantress panel, to Selena Long for the Queen/King panels, to Aletha Carr for helping install and photography (not to mention our lovely art days), to hubby Don for putting up with me and helping whenever and however he could, to my kids for not abandoning me, to Leigh Anne Lomax for her great help as Cheekwood Garden Director . . . the list goes on and on . . . I feel that I have climbed the golden stair, thanks for your assistance and needed "boosts". My side of the family . . .
Read More

TAKE CARE: The Art, Science and Bioethics of Motherhood

The TAKE CARE Exhibition has found a home on the web:

www.n-cap.org/take_care.html

Please view the exhibition essay by Veronica Kavass, New York Based Writer-Curator, in the Exhibition Brochure.  You may also view the included artists and their websites:

Annette Gates - Kristina Arnold - Adrienne Outlaw - Sher Fick - Lindsay Obermeyer - Monica Bock - Sadie Rubin - Jeanette May - Libby Rowe

Many thanks to Adrienne Outlaw for organizing the critical essay, brochure and website!!!

I'm really looking forward to exhibiting with such a fine group of strong female artists.

 

Read More

Rapunzel Installation Finished!

  Rapunzel is finally ensconced in her tower - finished the installation yesterday, May 19th. Whew - I'm exhausted.  Thanks for help from Don (hubby), Denise Johnson, Selena Long, and Aletha Carr. It was great to finally see all the components merged together for the first time - I had never been able to have all three levels together in the studio. Looking forward to seeing it "in action" with the children on Saturday and also seeing the previews of the other installations Wednesday night at the Designer's Party. A friend reminded me this week that after I moved to Nashville in 2003 we had visited Cheekwood and that I was so enamored of the Museums and the Gardens and mentioned at that time that I would love to exhibit there . . . wow!  It really confirms that "Reality is a Dream Enacted." I added the birdhouse, sandtoys, and the mailbox after the fact and my husband built in a balance beam nearby . . . just a few more things to see and do spread out around the footprint of Rapunzel's Tower. Cheers! For Art's Sake, sher
Read More

In the Studio . . .

  Just a few images from the studio . . . The roof of Rapunzel's Tower which will have a tolling bell installed inside; Rapunzel's head is completed; my daughter Claire helping out with painting the pegs; my studio break of some fantastic Pomegranate wine; you can also see the portraits painted by Selena Long of the King and Queen.  All is going well and it is time for the bells and whistles . . . I'm having a blast - but I know several important people in my life are feeling a bit neglected.  Still searching for balance . . . For Art's Sake, sher
Read More

Update on Rapunzel's Progress

Here is an update of my progress on Rapunzel's Tower: This is an image of the gorgeous logo that Cheekwood Museum Art & Gardens has created for the exhibition - isn't it wonderful!??!!  Please visit their website at www.cheekwood.org for more press releases related to the exhibition.  One of the great things about Cheekwood is that you hit every essence of visual art - botanical, visual, historical . . . it goes on and on - even the old stables have been re-used as installation and video exhibition spaces - and, even though it is an historical venue, they include gallery space for Contemporary Art as well.  Next year, along with a group of amazing women artists, I will be included in an exhibition "CARE: The Art & Science of Motherhood, a Bio-Ethical Debate" curated by Adam McCoy.  Please visit Cheekwood if you are anywhere NEAR Nashville, TN! Upper level of Rapunzel's Tower, minus the roof and lower tower level, minus the 3-D sculpture of Rapunzel, and minus the portrait panels of the King, Queen, and Enchantress.   A view of the roof panels (uncut) with the custom-dyed glazes for the panels. I also purchased all of the flag/banner material and have been working on the designs for the flag . . . busy, busy, busy!  It really came in handy to have kept all of my class materials from teaching Renaissance Art at the elementary school - I've even used the stencils from our Heraldry lessons.  Everyone always wonders why artists need so much storage space . . . my reply is - "to you it is junk, but to me it is an artist's treasure trove." Just a few weeks to go! For  Art's Sake, sher
Read More