Monday, January 26, 2009

Following leaders - Don Primiano and Barack Obama

The opening at Imago for Don Primiano was packed, and to talk to the master himself one had to get in line. There is still plenty of time to see the show, its up until Jan. 31, details can be found HERE.

"Don Primiano, now 84 years old, started Don's Art Shop in 1955. Despite opinions that his business would never get off the ground, his business had an incredible flow of local artists and those who wished to become artists. He taught numerous classes, offered a wonderful array of art supplies, and offered a comfortable setting for people to come, even if it was just to visit. Don Primiano is an icon in Warren. His outgoing personality and friendly approach has won him hundreds of friends. " READ MORE...

And don't forget to check out an audio slideshow of Don's war paintings, narrated by Don, HERE

• • •

I meant to post a detailed report on the inauguration, but after reading my fellow traveler Mary Grady's impressions I realized I couldn't say it any better, so will LINK to her's. I watched the acceptance speech last night again, and it gets even better the second time around. If only the country can live up to it. I wish I could be sure.
Above is my quickly edited video of the long cold journey from the Greenbelt metro stop, where the bus dropped us off, to the Mall. The exercise kept us warm though, and the high feelings kept us cheery. A good time was had by all...

Friday, January 23, 2009

Don Primiano at Imago tonight!

If you are anywhere near Warren, RI, stop in to the Imago Gallery for the opening reception of paintings by Don Primiano. Check out his work here. The gallery is at 16 Cutler St., Warren.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

The best day in DC in a long time....


I returned from the Inauguration at 6:30 this morning when our shabby tour bus pulled into Providence. Lying in wait were camera crews from 2 local TV stations following up on their "Rhode Islanders travel to DC" theme. One had cornered me on the departure, but there was no way I was now going to be photographed or quoted after almost 35 hours of walking in the cold and sleeping in the bus, without a decent bathroom even to wash my face in the whole time. So I slipped around the front of the bus, drove home to shower and change, then back to the city to be at my desk at 8:30.

So I'm not going to post a very coherent impression of the inauguration today, but will soon, along with a video of the movement of masses towards the Mall. (See the aerial view above.) All those people! All happy! What a world!

Sleep tight, America.

Saturday, January 17, 2009

Screeching towards DC

The more I draw owls, the cooler they seem. All fluff and fierce little faces. Today I drew screech owls. The 2 hour class isn't nearly enough time, I could draw these little guys for a month. Next week though, it's on to barred owls.

After class, Mary and I went to the Liberty Elm Diner to plot our journey to Washington DC for the inauguration. We decided to bag trying to go to the parade since it would mean traveling light enough to pass through the security checkpoints. There's no guarantee that we would even see much if we did make it through the long lines, and since the bus is probably dropping us off far from the Mall we decided to enjoy the luxury of carrying provisions in backpacks while staying outside the security zone. Plus I'm hoping to pick up some cool inauguration swag and I'll need somewhere to stash it!

Other than that our planning consisted of how to stay warm and get enough sleep. Layers, handwarmers, and free museums on the mall will help keep us warm, earplugs and pillows will help on the bus. We are leaving Monday night, riding all night and waking up in Washington at 5am. I expect it will be an exciting day, and then back on the bus by 10pm and in Prov. again at 5am on Wednesday, which will give me just time for a shower and breakfast before I head to work...some of my friends say I'm crazy, all I can say is .... Yes, I am!

Monday, January 12, 2009

Vaults of fur and feathers

At the suggestion of my friend Mary (who always finds unusual and cool things to do) I signed up for "Drawing from the Collection" at the Museum of Natural History in Roger William's Park.

"The collection" consists of hundreds of taxidermied birds and mammals, even foxes and bears. They're stored in a surreal series of underground rooms behind heavy metal doors under the Museum. At first all that's visible are rolling shelving units, but turning the cranks on each unit reveals treasure aisles of dry, stiff, furred and feathered bodies, fit as close together as a puzzle. The swans on their backs, the owls with wings spread in confrontational poses, the sudden blackness of a mass of vultures. Most are from the mid 1800's, when the back-to-nature movement consisted of killing and stuffing exotic wildlife to display in the parlor.

There were also thousands of shells, fossils, and art objects from all over the world. I had left my camera behind when we were given the introductory tour of the vaults, so I have to be content posting a picture of the specimin I chose, a Barred Owl.

After the vault tour I didn't have much time to draw, but the course goes on for 4 sessions, and I've reserved my objects for the next time— a couple of little screech owls. I had seen a few last year on the wires across the street from my house, but it was always too dark to get a good look at them. This will be my chance to see what used to be a screech owl anyway, and may lead to a painting.
If you're interested, the 4 class session costs $60. and all levels of artistic involvement are welcom. The teacher, Dawn, can help in any number of (dry) mediums, or you can just draw on your own...
Here are the sessions:
Session II: February 7, 14, 21, 28
Session III: March 7, 14, 21, 28
Session IV: April 4, 11, 18, 25
More info at this link

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

The art of rejection

As much of a bummer it is to get a rejection letter, I actually missed the formality of it when my rejection for the State Council grant was lost in the mail. I have gotten at least 15 rejections from this particular grant in the past. I know this because I take a perverse pleasure in saving all my letters in a file that is over an inch thick now.

I'm coming to realize that documenting rejection letters is a fairly common obsession among artists, for example...
  • Although she hasn't posted in a while, Suzanne Melbourne has an entire blog devoted to it at
  • Dan Senn created an art installation using them.
  • I still remember Providence artist Jessica Rosner's piece she exhibited at List Gallery of collaged lines cut from rejection letters. She said every artist who came in felt the shock of recognition when they saw it.
  • Catherine Wald is the President and Chief Rejecutive Officer of
  • Note that this writer's few acceptance letters were not mounted but "tossed in" to her 1930's scrapbook of rejection letters, almost as an afterthought. When I think about it, I haven't even saved my acceptance letters!
So rejection letters have been sent out for a very long time, but the urge to save them and the language that they use hasn't changed. Most all have these elements...

Although some believe in laying it right out there with an immediate "We regret..." or "We are sorry to inform you...", most try to soften the blow by beginning with "Thank you for...".
You know though, don't you, what that means.

Then they may try to make you feel not quite so much of a loser. They...
"would like you to know that the entries were of a consistently high caliber and the selection process was a difficult one... The sheer volume of entries was enormous...the quality of submissions was indeed very high... We have be overwhelmed with the high number and quality of submissions this year... There were may high-quality submissions, making selection extremely difficult... The jurying process proved to be quite difficult due to the overall quality of the work...this was an usually competitive year... Given the high quality of submissions, the decisions were difficult, at times wrenching."
Although not so wrenching as this one, I'm sure..
"Not only was competition intense, but jurying was delayed when lead Juror B--- V--- gave birth to a child on the very day she was scheduled to sit down in front of hundreds of slides."
OK, just breathe...

Then they try to give you a glimmer of hope..
"...strongly urges you to submit your work for future programs... encourage you to resubmit your work... we encourage you to continue to submit slides... certainly do reapply next year"
And for a moment you think that they noticed that your work rose above the "sheer volume of entries", until you realize that the letter is addressed to "Dear applicant".

Then they close with a cordial invitation to the opening that you are only going to attend to see who they thought was better than you.
"Please accept our invitation to the opening reception... We hope that you will be able to join us at the special members preview... You are cordially invited to attend the opening..."
Some throw a nice gesture or genuinely helpful advice...
"As a gesture of appreciation for your participation...we are awarding you a family membership in the Museum." "Submit your entry early...but if you are delayed, don't waste money on FedEx. Our deadlines are not so hard and fast that missing a day or two would disqualify your entry."
Or really offer sincere encouragement...
"The jury was very interested in your work and was considering it in the final round of the selection process." "Your work stood out as exemplary and would have been chosen if not for the limited ..."
and the business card clipped to one that told me I made the short list 2 years in a row.

But you can also get the little zingers...
"None were so interested as to be future clients. The work, while vivid and strong, did not have sales appeal... Perhaps your work might be better represented elsewhere... I have no use for this artwork at this time... I do not see an arrangement that would be mutually beneficial to either of us."
This one speaks not only for the gallery, but the entire art market, extinguishing all hope...
"A show would not be beneficial to either party...should the market become more receptive to your mode of work we can contact you."
The only one I ever received that was inexcusably rude was from a gallery in the Berkshires that advertised for submissions. Like I usually do, I meticulously labeled my slides, put them in a slidesheet, in a 9x12 envelope with cardboard backing, with a folded self addressed, postage paid return envelope. I received the slides back with only a note on a torn piece of paper. "Next time use a smaller envelope". I wish I had saved that particular rejection, but I was so incensed I sent it to the director with a piece of my mind. Of course I never heard back.

Other than that I have developed quite a thick skin about rejection, rudeness is after all very rare, and I appreciate the efforts of the galleries and art venues to reject nicely. I would probably write very similar letters were I in their place.

As one gallery says...
"Please interpret this exclusion in the most positive of terms. Keep the faith.
Keep working."

Ok. Thanks. I will.

Thursday, January 1, 2009

Hello 2009

Well, so much for temperatures in the 60's. The new year is starting with fresh snow and freezing temperatures. But it's all good. It's time to plot new explorations and the indoor months of January and February are a good time to do it.

New Year's Day is a wonderful unstructured holiday with time off but no mandatory rituals. So today I had the luxury of time to think about how I'm going to approach fulfilling my Artist in Residence obligation to Mesa Verde. I need to send them a picture, but Mesa Verde is very difficult for me to make my own somehow. The park has such an identity with the people of the cliff dwellings, their architecture and pictorial language. I mean, how can I hope to express myself as well as Pueblo native Verda Toledo does in her fabulous pottery (I was lucky enough to by this from her while I was there).

It's going take some thinking about, that's for sure. And it's good to shift my focus from the shoe machines and stretch my mind in another direction. I may even try to interpret the park through printmaking, and finally book some time in AS220's printmaking studio.
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