<![CDATA[RM Cimini - Angle of Reflection]]>Sat, 02 Dec 2017 06:32:48 -0800Weebly<![CDATA[Feel the Fear]]>Thu, 14 Sep 2017 21:13:21 GMThttp://rmcimini.com/angle-of-reflection-blog/feel-the-fearA friend suggested (kindly) that I do not write blogs frequently enough.  As I explained why the last one took so long to draft, I noticed that it sounded an awful lot like someone making an excuse for herself.  So I started to think about what the next  blog topic could be?  And I decided to blog about the decision to embark on a new challenge.  The earth shattering challenge? To continue the cloud/atmosphere series  which had been painted on mostly smallish canvasses and create the next one on a much larger canvases.  There is a technical challenge, paintings that work in a small or medium format do not always translate to a large format.  And at this point in the series I am really focusing on sky/atmosphere without the "grounding " a horizon line provides.  So here was a challenge to do something I hadn't before.

Then I thought, no one but an artist will understand why this is daunting, everyone else will just stop reading because they won't be able to relate.  Thinking again, I said to myself, "Oh no! everyone has those moments when they must decide to move forward without assurance that the step they want to take will result in a sought after objective."  Maybe you decide that this job is no longer suitable and you must  look for a new one, or go back to school.  Or that you really need to go speak to that person and clear the air. Or take that first step into a new relationship, or end one that is not serving either party. How about the decision to go ask your boss for a raise?  In other words everyone comes up against big (or not so big) challenges that are challenges because they require us to step away from what we are comfortable with, what we know we can do, or what we can "live with" and start some endeavor that has an uncertain outcome.  We imagine that we might not succeed. And this, my friend, can cause fear to rise up. If we turn away because of that fear, no growth will occur. 

At times like these I think of a mantra I first heard intoned by Jack Canfield,
"Feel the fear and do it anyway"

So back to my challenge.  I had started some 9 months ago creating little (6 x 6") paintings of clouds. I started working on these really small (for me) canvases, in order to keep on working and to focus on  consistency, something we witness everyday, as I was trying to cope with my fear of what would happen to our country after this last election.

Here are two examples of the little jewel like paintings I produced.
Over the ensuing months I made some increasingly larger paintings. Now I had become aware of a drive within me to see if I could capture the impact of clouds and light on our psyche. When you are painting in this  large size (48 x 48"), the size becomes as much a tool as the paint, color, texture and canvas.  Working large enables the artist to surround the viewer, encompassing their field of vision.   Think of the difference between the feeling you get when looking at a scene you are standing a short distance from and compare that to the feeling you get when you stand on a hill and look across at a landscape.
Being aware of how this works in the viewers experience, I wanted to employ this to my benefit as I create the painting.
The first painting, has a dramatic focus on light from the sun breaking through clouds in a deeply dark sky. The vantage point seems to be of a person looking up directly at the sky.

As I was working I made a decision to leave the  bold gestural strokes in the lower right hand corner without any "finessing", breaking any  three dimensional illusion created in other sections of the canvas.
In the second painting, I wanted to capture the clouds and sky with movement from dark to light and I wanted to capture the intensity of storm clouds.
In this one, the handling of the paint along the bottom of the canvas is left rough,   reinforcing the two dimensional nature of the painting and contrasting with the three dimensional storm clouds.
The depth was developed through the application of layer on layer paint. I had a great time painting this one.




Willingness to say yes to a challenge, stepping forward with no assurance of success, is important for each of us.
If I can offer a simple word of advice on what might help you to feel your fears and do it anyhow, might I suggest meditation? ( I know you are surprised - I never suggest meditation!) Meditation works in a way that is similar to a form of behavioral therapy I learned about when I was an undergrad. Relaxation training occurs when a person who has been brought to a state of deep relaxation is encouraged to maintain that state of relaxation while thinking of a condition that normally causes fear or anxiety.

When sitting in meditation, this same condition can occur spontaneously.  As one progresses in their meditation practice, repressed memories of hurtful experiences that you would prefer to not experience are sometimes brought to the surface.  As you continue your meditation, sitting with the fear, anxiety or hurtful memory as you focus on your breath, your mantra  or your sacred word, a healing takes place.

Later when you open your eyes and walk back into everyday life, this experience helps you cope with challenges that you might otherwise run from, as you are afraid of hurt or rejection.

I know if you are not an artist you will probably think I am exaggerating how fearful one can be of a blank canvas (of any size) and it sounds silly as I write it, but believe me it is real.  It is so easy to continue doing what you know you can do because you have done it before.

I offer this suggestion, the next time you notice you are afraid of taking a step you truly think has the potential to benefit you, allow yourself to experience the fear, breathe through the fear in a calm manner and notice that all is well.  Taking the step - is success in itself.


One final note, I suffered a severe injury to my back the first weekend in July.  On this day mid September I am partially recovered but can not sit or stand for more than two hours before I need to go lie down.  then I must wait a few days before I can return to what I was doing.  Obviously this has been another challenge.  Responding to the challenges of life with pain will be the subject of the next blog.
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<![CDATA[Art and Soul]]>Sat, 02 Sep 2017 20:33:16 GMThttp://rmcimini.com/angle-of-reflection-blog/art-and-soulIf you want to work on your art, work on your life.
—  Anton Chekov
We seem to be always on the brink of one disaster or another in these recent weeks and months.  Listening to the news has been terrifying.  It is all too easy to succumb to fear and anxiety.   These difficult days, it is hard to not let anger, bitterness and even hate rise and reside within us.  I know my response must be one of love.  It is not easy to respond with love, but in my heart I know that my commitment to my journey requires me to keep faith and respond with respect and belief in the interconnectedness of all beings.

“Peacemaking doesn’t mean passivity…It is about a revolution of love that is big enough to set both the oppressed and the oppressors free.” ~ Common Prayer: A Liturgy for Ordinary Radicals


In the days after Charlottesville,  I condemned the actions of those people marching into the night with torches, shouting racial slurs.  I also wrote and spoke about cultivating peace within ourselves so that we may bring peace into the world. I was challenged on quite a few occasions, people interpreted my response- to cultivate inner peace and respond in love - as supporting these hateful actions performed by people hoping to incite violence

So I am asking myself what must my response be?  How can it be love?

I know one thing, I must continue to cultivate compassion. 

Each of us wants to be seen, acknowledged, and appreciated.  All of us walking on the earth suffer losses, all kinds of losses; loved ones die, relationships falter and are lost, success is elusive.  When we experience a deep loss, be it physical, emotional or psychological, we can no longer prop up our sense of self, there is nothing left. When we get to that painful, stripped down place, we begin to heal.  In the process of healing we find hope and a new understanding of the conscious and unconscious world.

When we are are faced with our own vulnerability,  we can discover the strength we carry within our selves.  If we release our fears and expectations, we experience deeply seated love.  In that moment we are connected at the deepest level with all creatures.

Every one has this ability to sit in silence, to learn how to be in the moment, not worrying about the past or the future. 

While sitting in meditative silence I receive a sense that we are all united, I discover a sacred interconnectedness and come to understand that the idea of separateness is an illusion.  In the silence I allow myself to heal. When I open my eyes and come out of that moment, I have a responsibility to  remember the glimpses of interconnectedness and then to carry that healing and understanding to those around me.  I must find ways to sustain this peace in the face of negative actions ranging from disrespectful and rude to hateful and violent and try to bring peace to those I meet and interact with. On a personal level this can mean, allowing people to be grumpy and complaining, angry or arrogant.  Not pushing back, defending myself or turning away in response, but allowing, accepting and returning a smile or silence.  I can understand the hurt and fear beneath the lashing out because I have touched it in myself.
"religious geniuses of all ages have been distinguished by this kind of Cosmic religious feeling… In my view it is the most important function of art and science to awaken this feeling and keep it alive in those were capable of it...I maintain that cosmic religious feeling is the strongest in the noblest incitement to scientific research."
Albert Einstein
How can I express my knowledge that beneath the constant flux of daily life there is a deep peaceful river?  That we each contain an invisible world of consciousness where we experience the sacred flowing ? I paint. 

As an artist, I strive to expand my capacity for compassion as I work, to sustain the feeling of interconnectedness, and peace, in order to communicate it to those who view my paintings.

I use color and light, to convey the experience I have had:  the energy that flows through and around me is the same energy flowing through and around every being.

Looking around us we do not see energy but we do see light and color. Light reflecting and bouncing off objects gives them definition.  In this way light gives form to energy. Color communicates emotion and movement. I take in the world and create paintings using my external and internal experiences as raw material.
“Life is passing rapidly. Fiercely commit to every moment you find beautiful and remember it. Record it. Fully, whole-heartedly inhabit it. Awareness is one of the greatest things you can possess in this life as it is as important as the very air we breathe and water we drink to stay alive.” -Victoria Erickson
I choose to bring art rather than hatred to the world.



For additional support in developing a compassionate mind, I recommend contacting Compassionate Mind Training https://m.facebook.com/CompassionateMindApproach/?ref=bookmarks
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<![CDATA[Warning! Resentment Construction Zone!]]>Sat, 25 Mar 2017 22:23:45 GMThttp://rmcimini.com/angle-of-reflection-blog/warning-resentment-construction-zoneNote:  It has been a long time since I posted a blog,  What follows was mostly written late March.  In April my brother died.  This caused me to look with new eyes at my life and everything around me.  Someday I will write about grief and living with absence, but for now here is a blog about an experience I had as an artist that is common to all of us when we attach our definition of happiness to some extrinsic occurrence.

I have been meditating for over three decades now, and I am here to say that this has not resulted in walking around in a steady state of joy and happiness.  However I do notice pretty quickly when I am creating stories in my head that are contributing to my own sadness and suffering.  Then it is up to me to adjust my thinking and release that suffering.

Funny thing, sometimes it takes me a while to give up those thoughts that are causing me grief.

Expectations are resentments under construction.
Anne Lamott
I think all of us seek happiness and wish happiness to those we love.  Yet we persist in pinning happiness to achievements and often these achievements are beyond our control.  If someone came to us and told us they wanted some achievement so that they could be happy, we would be hard pressed to keep ourselves from pointing out the folly of that plan.

And yet.... we make this deal with ourselves all the time.


I did this, recently.

A few months back there was an opening of a two woman show, where one of the two woman presenting work was yours truly.

The opening was well attended.  Many friends from different corners of my life came out in support of me.  Many lingered.  I did have the opportunity to speak to new people about my work on display.  One of the attendees that I had not previously met told me that she loved just looking at my work, that she could totally get lost in the paintings, she found them so soothing.

There were so many positive aspects.

And ....there were no sales from the exhibit. I had hoped for, nay, I had expected there would be sales.

The lack of sales took predominance in my thoughts. I questioned why I am doing the work at all. Specifically the work on exhibit.

My work has evolved over the years, and is evolving still, but in these paintings I had been experimenting with cloud-scapes that were much more directly tied to what we see every day, than the synthesis of my experiences  (which has been the focus of my  painting for some years now.)

As I was working on these paintings I knew they were worthy paintings, but now that I was showing them I was looking for extrinsic confirmation of their worth.  And I had predetermined that the sales of paintings would be the measuring stick whereby I would prove to myself the value of my work.

I know that when I set expectations
and get attached to one particular outcome,  I am breeding disappointment.  And to seek affirmation of one's worth (or prove the worth of one's work) via some external source is a fool's errand.  But it is so tempting to look for affirmation outside of one self.  We shore up the sense of our self that we carry around and polish up by looking to others to acknowledge and affirm that narrative we weave.


What I want, what I believe,  what I think I love, what I regard as the aim of my life,  all of these are tentacles of the ego, and a false sense of self.  So here is a lesson for me to learn again.  Do not breed disappointment by
binding myself to my ego, that false self. 

Meditation helps me release attachment to the false self because when I sit in meditation  the hold of expectations and self definitions is loosened, opening the possibility of  growth.  Regular practice enables me to notice when I am falling back into that self aggrandizement or self belittling.  It enables me to chose when to stop that chatter in my head.
Every second, every minute
It keeps changing to something different
Enlightenment, don't know what it is
Enlightenment, don't know what it is
It says it's non attachment
Non attachment. Non attachment
I'm in the here and now, and I'm meditating
And still I'm suffering but that's my problem
Enlightenment, don't know what it is

Van Morrison "ENLIGHTENMENT

Quieting the chatter and keeping the ego at bay, maintaining  an open channel, is very important to my painting as well as my spiritual growth.

In the gallery are more paintings in the cloud series, the paintings are playing increasingly with the idea of contrasting the flat surface of the canvas with the illusion of space.
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<![CDATA[A Sense of Space]]>Sun, 29 Jan 2017 20:29:59 GMThttp://rmcimini.com/angle-of-reflection-blog/a-sense-of-space
The new year makes us think about new beginnings.

The summer before last we had very little rain but very impressive clouds.  I took a lot of pictures and eventually began to think about painting these clouds.

This raised a lot of concerns for me.  My work is abstract, not representational,
my work was non-objective for years.   Non objective slowly transformed itself into work that was informed by the visual stimuli in the world around me.  I internalized  and distilled visual stimuli and painted to discover what the synthesis of the experiences would produce.  But while the paintings were informed by the world around me they remained abstract.
I continued to take photos but did not allow myself to paint for a long long time.
Then I gave myself permission to do a cloud painting, however I set myself certain constraints; I switched from canvas to paper and limited the size to 9 x 12 "or 12 x 16"
instead of 30 x 40" or 30 x 48". 
 
This is the first piece.

Artists can think their way into a condition that is a paralysis, a kind of prison of self limitation that is insidious and cruel.
I have a friend whose work I very much admire, her paintings are atmospheric.  She recently created a painting that has an un-blended area that almost resembles a cloud.  It is a very strong painting.  She  is worrying herself and the painting, uncertain because it is unfamiliar territory

I am writing about artists here, but we all do it.  The hamster spins on his little wheel in our heads, we worry about what might happen, we are overcritical of ourselves, we repeat over and over some scene or conversation that did not go the way we wanted it to.  That constant self dialogue; judging who we are in comparison to others, or who we should be, or how we should act, results in paralysis. 

We can find no peace and we can make no progress.

We talk ourselves out of taking that next step, leaving our job, starting a relationship, whatever that next step might be. There can be no relief from the hypothetical scenarios our minds create. 

Unless we just stop.  Decide to ignore the chatter, muster our courage and jump.

Meditation helps with this.  When you focus on your breath and quiet your mind even if it is only for a minute or a second, you get relief and can hit the reset button.

Having given myself permission to explore, I did.  I was offered an opportunity to exhibit in a gallery, but they wanted canvases, so I switched back to canvas.

Some paintings I liked better than others.  When I don't like something about a painting, the next one leaves behind the aspects I did not like and examines more deeply that aspects I did like.

Eventually I noticed that these paintings 
are more similar to the abstract work I felt I was turning from than I ever could have anticipated.

Even though I start with an idea of how the painting will turn out, I learn as I go where the painting wants to go.

I still work with formal aspects of painting, I leave some areas with no paint reaffirming the surface I am working on and build up texture in other areas. I still concern myself with line, shape and the interaction of colors, all while painting sky, atmosphere and yes clouds. 

Now I see that this is all work.  I do not know where it will lead.  But that does not matter.  What matters is I am learning and exploring and creating some art work.

And when the voice inside my head starts to criticize, I leave that painting alone and try to come back another day with fresh eyes and a quieter mind.


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<![CDATA[Every one needs hope]]>Tue, 22 Nov 2016 22:01:52 GMThttp://rmcimini.com/angle-of-reflection-blog/every-one-needs-hopeThere are many times in the course of an artist's life where they just cannot work, the reasons may be external or internal but it is a phase that must be ridden out or overcome.
In the past few years I have had quite a few conversations with artist friends who have stopped working due to life circumstances.  Chatting with a friend who  is getting a divorce, after listening to her concerns and stories about the kids, the house, her plans for the immediate future, I ask how is your work going.  "My work!? I am not working."  I suggest that this is probably temporary
, and she replies "I don't miss it.  I think I'm finished."  I thought to myself - oh no you are not, but of course I did not say that.
I have a friend, a really great artist, who is a single mom with two children, one adolescent and the other pre-adolescent, she is so busy with raising them ("they suck the life out of me") and her work responsibilities,that she has not done any art work in a while.  One day she spoke of her frustration, I promised to harass and encourage her to get back into the studio. Subsequently, we have gone together to open studios and openings to inspire and and encourage both of us.  In going through a series of open studios, one day we met up with a woman of advanced years, still active still producing fantastic work. My friend discussed her distraction and frustration.  The wise woman counseled my friend,  telling her, it is still all there and will come out when you are ready.  She told her start small, just some little activity, don't reach for high art, just start where you are and pretty soon it will open back up for you.
I have been through those stages, I worked a full time job while in a marriage that demanded a lot of my time and attention, had a baby, went through a divorce and raised that wonderful child.   Sometimes all you can do is put the creative process on hold and find satisfaction in what life brings you and know that your life experience is nourishment for the time that will follow.
I did start back in the studio slowly and increase as time became more available. And by that I mean I grabbed time, made time, disciplined myself to work when sometimes I wanted to read a book or watch TV.
  I am not a saint or a hero, I just wanted to get back to painting.

Time, attention, energy and focus, is what is needed for making art.
People who do not make art, do not understand the level of energy that is absolutely needed. Physical, emotional and mental energy are all mandatory.  No, you can not use time in the studio to relax from a long hard day at work or at life.

The solutions to being blocked are as varied as the artists experiencing and working through a block.
In my own life I have learned that sometimes I just can't work in the studio. I carry ideas in my head, sometimes I sketch, sometimes I take  photos of something that inspires me at the moment, so I can have it later when I have the time and energy and focus needed to work.
I can tell you that when I lived in the city and had my studio in my living space, I was literally living in the studio, I had to go out to get away from the art I was working on (and then I carried it in my head). When ever I was stumped, not knowing where to take a painting, or how to begin, I would just sit with the painting, sitting and looking, sitting and thinking, or sitting and reading (whatever the book of the moment was) or just sitting.  Waiting to find the entry point to working and solving that problem.
I am less likely to do that these days, as there are more partitions in my life these days.  Now when I go into the studio there is always a period of acclimating to
that environment. What is constant is the presence of the work in the back of my mind when I am not looking directly at it.

Artists know that you must have the right balance to begin to work ( not a perfect balance , none of us will live long enough, you make do with what you have . 
Still when the balance goes off because of external factors or one's emotional reaction to life, and you finally have some time carved out to work and you come up dry,  the reaction,more often than not, is to throw up your hands and worry what has happened?  "How can I get back to my work?" Or to give up "I can't do this anymore."

This reaction to external factors, is a variety of artist block.
All great artists draw from the same resource: the human heart, which tells us that we are all more alike than we are unalike. Maya Angelou
Read more at: https://www.brainyquote.com/quotes/quotes/m/mayaangelo578762.html

I suppose there are as many reasons to paint as there are painters. For most of the painters I know personally, the act of painting is a means of making sense of the
the shared journey of existence. And when that external shared journey is full of overwhelming events, well you get overwhelmed.

The recent past has been particularly trying for many, and I have seen many postings and heard many discussions among artists saying they have no idea how to proceed.
Last week when the events of the external world asserted itself, I needed to find an internal space from which I could face the world, from which I could do some work.
Lots of mediation helped.
Still, when I decided to get to work, I found that I could not continue with the paintings that were in progress in my studio.  Sitting and waiting was not going to work this time.  I decided to take a hint from that wise woman and start small.  I also decided to work on something that was not trying to expand the work to places I had not explored yet, but to stay with comforting... images of sky and cloud. 

Nothing ground breaking here. But sometimes healing is the order of the day.
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<![CDATA[What I did on my summer vacation]]>Mon, 05 Sep 2016 19:44:02 GMThttp://rmcimini.com/angle-of-reflection-blog/what-i-did-on-my-summer-vacation “The paradox of relaxation is the renewal of mind; rekindle of spirit and revitalize of strength.”
Lailah Gifty Akita
I have been procrastinating  as part of the process in writing this particular blog.  There has been a lot written about the value of procrastination recently, so there has been a lot for me to read, enabling further procrastination.

Of course what they are stating is true.  Once you commence working on something and then walk away, you continue to work on whatever it is.  It percolates away in the back of your mind.  I recognize this as the way I process whatever it is, painting  or writing, that I am engaged in.

Part of this percolation process, is extended research. You are drawn to resources that will help you resolve  what you are working on.
My topic  was the wonderful experience I had vacationing with friends in August.
In addition to the articles on the glories of procrastination, I found many articles on the value of  friendship and relaxation.

This summer I was lucky enough to be invited by some dear friends to their home on the north shore of Boston. The house I was invited to was the summer vacation home of the wife in the couple, when she was growing up.  It is right on the water, a little slice of paradise.

T
his visit was very restorative for me.  Very nourishing.
Being with long standing friends, allows you to relax.  It is a great gift to be invited by friends, to be welcomed with open arms and a broad smile.  To be received secure in the knowledge that your actions and words will be accepted.  When I am among friends, I can drop the worry that I will be judged and found wanting.You do not have to be on good behavior. These old friends know my peccadilloes and accept me anyway.  Being with friends increased my sense of belonging  and reminded me of my self-worth, their steady acceptance helped me deal with conflicts I was experiencing in my life at the time.

The gift of acceptance is so powerful, and frequently overlooked by both parties.


We had lots of time for visiting, we cooked together, ate together, went for walks together and sat about reading or looking at the beauty around us.  We also spent time on our individual projects.

For me that time was spent each day working on pieces, inspired by the beauty around me.  While I was there I continued a “side project” I began last summer.   when having photographed the amazing clouds in the summer sky, I decided to make paintings of them.

Now my “work” is all abstract, so this feels like treachery to work on pieces that are rooted in direct observation of the world. But I started.  the experience of working with some idea of what the end result will look like is a different experience then working on abstract work where every brushstroke has the innate ability to send the painting off in a new direction.

In my regular work, the act of painting is similar to a conversation between me and the paints.  The color, the lines, the shapes and the textures afforded by oil paint each contribute to the conversation.   Lines and colors are where the conversation begins, often the beginning  painting is completely obscured by the work that comes after, as the painting evolves into something deeper.  The painting is revealed  through a process of addition and subtraction.  While my inspiration is always rooted in my experiences,  I am not setting out to portray any one place or subject directly.

Working on the "cloud series" was like constructing a building with an infrastructure in place.  The infrastructure does not dictate the outcome, you still make choices in materials, and methods of construction which dictate the final product, but the whole process is shaped by the first decision to use that infrastructure.

So starting last year I continued painting largish canvases, "my paintings", exploring and pushing, while pursuing a parallel effort rooted in the observed world.  These "cloud series" are smaller pieces worked on paper. 

When the subject of your work is the painting itself, it leads you to work with color and texture in a self reflexive manner.   In the "cloud series" I was concerning myself with local color and texture.  I of course related to the color and shapes and lines in the cloud series as I do in the abstract work,    As I continued with the “cloud series” I realized that doing this work was giving me the opportunity to work with color and texture as reference to some objective reality, and I  was playing with layering of color in a new way, making new choices.

Looking through the completed pieces, I considered the ones that stood on their own pictorial merits (that is not looking so much like the original source reference) to be more successful than those that looked just like the clouds at sunset (for example).

Gradually this led me to be exploring atmosphere, more than representation of  clouds and sky, trees and land.

This realization snuck up on me, I only saw this in retrospect.
Picture
So here is a painting I did just before I went to join my friends.

 Looking at this, I clearly saw the emphasis on atmosphere.

You can read a landscape there, but the details are swallowed by the "sense" of the locale.

Picture
My first day, on vacation, it was raining. The rain and heavy atmosphere flattened the vista. When I sat down to work I tried to capture the feeling of peace and space, the rainy day provided.

Picture
The next day was overcast. 
While the air was thick with moisture the horizon seemed further away this day.   Again the atmosphere was wonderful to luxuriate in, as I was looking for respite from my hectic life.

Picture
The nest day was a shiny day.
I was creating a painting of warmth and brightness.

Picture
The next day there was not one cloud in the sky.  The air seemed thin and the vista long.

Picture
The last day I decided to locate all the atmosphere in a specific place,   I included foreground rocks which frame the water and give it more definition.

The water existed in the earlier pieces, as a reflection of the sky and an indication of the difference between air and liquid. Here the turbulence of the water took pride of place as it surged around the rocks.

Picture
And then I came home and looked at the sketches I had done and thought a lot. 
I did some other pieces, exploring shape and color and waited patiently for the fruit of those studies to appear. 

Then I received a photo from a friend who'd been walking a beach on a rainy day and it inspired me to make this one.
To me this is the culmination of the studies on the North Shore.  This one combines the atmosphere, the sense of space the calm and works as an abstract piece.

The fruits of the vacation and time with friends continue to flower.

And below you will find more images from my vacation... enjoy!

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<![CDATA[Painting in the present]]>Sun, 26 Jun 2016 19:49:28 GMThttp://rmcimini.com/angle-of-reflection-blog/painting-in-the-presentThe aim of art is to represent not the outward appearance of things, but their inward significance.
Aristotle
I trust that you, like I, have been trying to come to grips with this latest atrocity in Orlando.
I was ready to post a blog on my frustrations in the studio when the news came in and I was stopped in my tracks. 
Many of us are feeling helpless and hoping to convert that fear, anger and helplessness into some positive action. 
In order to take any positive action we must begin with a willingness to work on ourselves, from this basis we can reach out to others.  We must see goodness in ourselves and everyone else we interact with. 
My personal path includes meditation and a daily practice of gratitude. 

I returned to my blog on the summer solstice.  As it coincided  with a "strawberry full moon" it occurred to me that, as this was a night full of illumination, it provided a good opportunity for each of us to look at what it is that we seek and to set an intention to become peaceful and more loving. To make the changes we desire in our lives.  Taking advantage of the light, we can see, not only what is missing from our lives, but also to notice that even as we are seeking change, we already have abundance in our life.  Once we become aware of our blessings, we become grateful and better able to share with those who need solace, rather than reacting from a place of anger.

 May we all be aware of and grateful for our many blessings and may we all extend support and love to everyone in our lives (even those who are difficult).
   ****

 
For the past days, weeks and months, I have been muddling around in the studio with no idea what I am doing!  I am aware that when you don't know what you are doing in painting, that is the point of exploration, and a good space to be in, because this is where the creativity comes into play.  There ...easily said (or written) but not so easy to work through. It is painful and it is frustrating and it is a very common experience in the studio.

Painting is an immersive state, I must be fully present to the work as it is being done, In order to progress in my art work, I have to fully give myself over to an unstudied, nearly unconscious processing when initiating a painting and then I must continue with immediacy. 

My painting process depends on sitting and looking, painting and reflecting,  painting, adding a color then another, removing, adjusting, simplifying, complicating until at a certain point, there is a presence developing in the painting.   At this point there is a flowing into  a universal experience where everything comes from and converges again.

My state, while painting, is similar to that in my meditation practice where I go into my room, sit quietly in a dignified posture and allow thoughts / emotions to drift by without analysis.   I let pass whatever flutters to the surface.    Both practices bring you to a consciousness best described as "and" and "and".  As you  open your gaze and allow  thoughts, feelings and preconceptions to disintegrate, you naturally include more  space into your awareness.  Without an openness the artist might miss the significant experience when it appears on the canvas.  When I begin to feel that presence developing it becomes my job to midwife it through to resolution. I must be aware and evaluate but I cannot judge, I must let it grow with my assistance and if I am not careful or if I am insensitive to this moment, I will lose it.

However, in painting as in writing, I cannot completely abandon myself to the process. Once the experience registers, I alternate between a directed critical assessment of the work at hand and the receptive, nonjudgmental openness. There is a coiling and uncoiling inherent in the process.
So while the process is similar to meditation, it is not the same.

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Still, this surrender to the act of painting would be unbelievably hard unless I had learned to trust the very act of quieting the mind, turning my focus away from my constantly chattering mind, releasing judgments and surrendering to the inner life, through meditation. 
Emotional and mental upheaval can result when you stop or abandon the practice. At such times, resuming the practice can feel like the last thing you want to do. Your mind will fill with thoughts and emotions which  collide and bounce off each other.
And when you try to still your mind to meditate or focus on painting you may feel like jumping and running from the room.  The reward for persistence is a calming of the mind and a deep quieting, almost peaceful state.

Of course I open my eyes at the end of each session, and I leave my studio and return to the market driven world that values doing and product rather than being and presence.

All of this is high falutin’ language and philosophical meanderings about the nuts and bolts of the actual painting.

Back in the studio, frustrated by my perceived lack of progress, I had to find a way to proceed.   The "series” I am currently working on started not as a series, but as an individual painting.  As I got to a point in the painting where I was not sure how to proceed I began a new canvas.
As I worked on the next and then began the next painting, I challenged myself to work with similar formal concerns.  I painted in large gestures, creating variations of light and dark by juxtaposing strokes of color that grade into one another.  I broke up large areas of color by smaller brushwork.  I limited my palette for all of the paintings in development and used the same size canvas. 

And so I continued, to paint, but also I continued to fret. I had a lot of information on three canvasses but was not at all sure I saw any approach to a cohesive statement in the work.   Then, the other day as I was speaking with an artist friend and sharing my frustrations in the studio, I said, "My greatest fear is that after I go through all this, the paintings I finally complete will look just like all the others!" 

Her wise response to me was , “Just do the work.“

And so I returned to the studio, and looked for what was there.  I focused not on what I was missing, but on what I already had.  Suddenly, I had paintings.  I was in the flow. 

Sometimes all it takes it to “show up”.

 

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<![CDATA[Painting Horizons]]>Sun, 05 Jun 2016 21:55:48 GMThttp://rmcimini.com/angle-of-reflection-blog/painting-horizonsAll great art contains at its center contemplation, a dynamic contemplation.
Susan Sontag
PictureLorraine DeProspo in front of a wall of the exhibit
I find myself exhausted by the political swirl and the constant need to do everything faster.  I find respite in meditation, in nature and in art.  On Friday evening I  found respite when I went to the Monmouth Museum for the opening of Lorraine DeProspo’s exhibit The Rhythms of the Sea.

This is an exquisite show and I encourage everyone who can go there, before the show comes down on July 3, to do your self a favor and go experience these beautiful paintings.

Walking into the gallery you are enveloped  by the environment.  You stand in contemplation as if  you were on the shore looking out to sea. We, like the artist, are drawn to the sea, to quiet ourselves and to witness the nature of the ocean; immensity and accessibility. Standing in front of the ocean we are reminded that the past and the future are contained in the present moment.   In front of these paintings one senses the same momentariness and fluidity as when standing with your feet in the damp sand.   


Picture Winter Scape 1 Oil and cold wax on canvas 48 x48" image credit: Peter Jacobs
As  an artist, I am all too familiar with the insecurities faced in the studio while engaged in a dialogue with painting after painting, you begin to wonder will anyone else join in the conversation?  Lorraine’s work is an object lesson in what can be achieved when you learn to ignore such questions and do the work to which you are called.  
Lorraine has been called to study the ocean and fog. And she has responded.  One result of this ongoing in-depth study is her ability  to distill the experience of fog and ocean with deft  and minimal gestures.  We see this in Winter Scape 1,  where using a sliver of reflected light she defines not just the horizon, but by contrast, the fog above and the water below.

Lorraine describes these paintings as  an “ongoing diary of the seascape”.  I find this an apt description.  Study begins with observation and continues as one ponders and analyzes, looking for the key to understanding. Diaries are a tool used to capture reflections on observations and  enable deeper exploration. Lorraine's paintings breathe the atmosphere she has come to own through her ongoing exploration.

PictureLow Tide Oil and cold wax on Canvas 36 x 36" Image credit: Denis Connors
My definition of an artist, (I am not speaking of visual artists only here) is  a person who internalizes, synthesizes and transforms their experience into a vivid visual image (or poem or dance or song...) and communicates the derived essence to the viewer. 

And so, in the presence of Lorraine’s paintings we do not hear the waters movement nor feel the cool damp on our cheeks but we see what the artist has depicted and we remember both the physical sensations and the tranquility we have experienced.  Once again we paradoxically have the sense of being apart from and a part of   the world in which we live. 

I need to be clear on one point.  These are beautiful paintings which impart their own truth to the viewer. 


I like the darkened corners of some of the paintings, they serve as a frame, reminding us of the “objectness” of the painting.  These dark corners  remind me of pictures from the infancy of photography, (I always think those corners are burned).  Here they remind you of the physicality, the surface of the painting.  For a visual artist, the idea, the experience or whatever it is that initiates the art making process, must be translated into a physical object.

This translation of inner experience to outer communication, necessarily includes tools and methods of working.  Lorraine has devised her own method for creating these paintings. She never uses brushes, she uses palette knives only.   Lorraine works in a restricted and subdued palette to evoke not only mood but a sense of space using the bare minimum of color, line and edge.  She paints in oil with cold wax medium which gives a soft depth to the surface, appropriate for these atmospheric paintings. All of  these choices contribute to the success of this work.

Lorraine will give an Gallery talk on June 8, from 7 - 8 PM

The gallery which is located at The Monmouth Museum and Cultural Center 
765 Newman Springs Rd.
Lincroft, NJ is open
Tuesday–Thursday 10 AM–5 PM
Friday 10 AM–9 PM
Saturday 10 AM–5 PM
Sunday 12 noon–5 PM
www.monmouthmuseum.org/artists/njea/ 


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<![CDATA[Keep on Keepin' on]]>Sun, 06 Mar 2016 21:46:30 GMThttp://rmcimini.com/angle-of-reflection-blog/keep-on-keepin-onAll of us, regardless of our calling, who put our best effort forward feel the sting of rejection at some point.  Start ups fail, a great idea you propose gets rejected, you lose a job or are turned down for that opportunity you had your heart set on ( and maybe had worked toward for such a long time) and of course just like many pop songs tell us, love hurts when that someone just does not love you back.

I have previously written a blog about facing rejection from a show.  That call had been very specific and I actually did a painting, like an assignment.  I must admit I was surprised when they did not accept my work for inclusion, but as I stated in the blog, the rejection had less sting because it was the piece I made specifically for the submission, not “my work” , they had rejected.  What I submitted was simply not what they were looking for.  ( I attended that show - I still can’t tell you exactly what they were looking for ).  So it was a little easier to take the high road and be philosophical.  

This time was different. During the same week, I was tuned down by an artist’s cooperative I had applied to  with high expectations. Ouch!  Then there was the highly selective show with a guest juror I was really hoping for.  Rejected. (“we had many, many worthy applications blah blah blah”...), there was the state Artists Fellowship, and  then I was turned down for another hoped for opportunity in another aspect of my life.   

Then, I did a bad thing.  I piled all of these things one on top of another.  I hugged them to myself, like they were precious.  I reminded myself of other “failings” and lacerated myself with my shortcomings.  I built my own  personal hell within my mind.
Sadness at the loss of a dream can overtake you.  You can lose your vision.  You question if you should even continue ( “Oh why bother to paint anymore?”)  Finality seems to be writ large.


Suddenly, I realized this painful experience of rejection was of my own doing and that this is an opportunity to develop resilience,  to keep on keepin’ on

Once I realized that I was creating the source of the mental anguish, it took a little while to truly choose to leave the hurt behind.  That is ok, sometimes you need to take recovery time, but at some point you will cripple yourself if you don’t stop and look for a new approach.
 
Let it go
When I was ready, I pulled myself up, I stopped stockpiling,  stopped reliving the rejections, and examining them for new ways to hurt my pride.  I let myself be.  I looked with curiosity at what it was about the rejections that caused me to feel so badly.    I took a few deep breathes ... And I started taking care of myself...


Turn to your support system

I reached out to friends.  My writer friends listened compassionately to my stories.  They helped me put all the losses into perspective.  Then they shared their rejection stories.  “Do you remember your first rejection letter?” they asked each other... I heard their stories,  including the one about the rejected submission put aside and accepted for publication four years later without a single edit.   I felt connected  to all of them and realized this experience I was having was not special to me.  

I am blessed with people who understood what was going on and why I was so hurt. Sometimes the people around you just cannot understand why the rejection cuts so deeply.  If you cannot speak to anyone who can sympathize, find a practice that will make you whole again.

In my case I meditate daily.  I practiced as usual and added sessions.  I turned a corner after I did a guided meditation “Allowing, accepting and releasing”. Something in me shifted

Another of my spiritual practices is to look for a reason to be grateful in all circumstances.    I started to look for joy in every day occurrences, I looked for  reasons to be grateful. The next day I noticed how many people were so very nice to me.  I could easily have overlooked all those kindnesses if I was still paying attention to the disappointments.  

I decided to be more then a survivor, I decided to become a willing participant again. Which brings me to

Get back up on that horse
Start again, sing, dance, write, add up a column of numbers, do what you do and recognize there is value in your work. As an an artist, I know to go back into the studio to see what I can discover.  Writers tell me they go to the next project.  The work becomes the the path back to yourself.  Paradoxically by shifting your focus away from yourself and those rejections to your work, you get a better understanding of your capabilities and who you are,. You come to recognize that what is happening right now in your life is truly enough.  Nothing needs to be added to make this moment good, true, and right.


If you are lucky, or blessed, the hurt you experience is a stimulus to develop more compassion toward everyone you come across in your life, including the person who turned you down. I found myself writing an encouraging note to a Face Book “friend” who received one of the same rejection letters I had .  No, I did not say “me too”. Instead, I told her the story of my very accomplished artist friend who submitted the same water color to two shows.  Rejected from the first show, it was accepted for show in the  prestigious national watercolor society and awarded the first prize at the annual exhibit that year.

Noticing that I was reaching out in kindness to someone I barely know, I said to myself “well look at that....”

Picture
And here are the two new pieces under development in my studio

30x 40"

Picture
I am looking forward to spring 30 x 40"
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<![CDATA[On Not Being a Production Artist]]>Sat, 06 Feb 2016 23:31:28 GMThttp://rmcimini.com/angle-of-reflection-blog/on-not-being-a-production-artistTurn sideways into the light as they say

the old ones did and disappear

into the originality of it all.

Be impatient with easy explanations

and teach that part of the mind

that wants to know everything

not to begin questions it cannot answer.

David Whyte

I began my last post with a quote referring to a studio as a laboratory for exploration. One of the commenters challenged this assertion saying all artists do not take this view, that for some artists it is a production line where they reproduce artifacts.

True statement, there are production artists who create only what can be marketed, much as pop stars produce hit after hit. 

This comment brought to mind an experience I had at a commercial gallery a few years ago.  I went in and asked the owner if he was open to viewing work from unknown artists.  He was, and he gave me some good advice. From his perspective artists need to show a consistent body of work, which he defined as repeated variations of the same painting.  He pointed out the paintings on exhibit.  There were maybe 10 or 12 paintings which seemed to be squeegeed paint in vertical pulls.  Mostly monochromatic. He then showed me a catalog of this artists work, more of the same.  I am not criticizing the artist nor the work. These were in the formalist school, paintings about painting, reaffirming the surface of the painting and not referring to anything outside the experience of the painting.  The gallery owner made the point that he could sell this work to art investors because this artist had an identifiable style that varied little.

All very interesting and not the way I work.

I am not a production artist. I am in the experimental camp, my work proceeds from the questions I ask myself.  If I were to “re-do” the same painting I would be bored, disaffected and disengaged.  It is important to me to be focused and to feel inquisitive while I am working. I am trying to use my work to connect with others. 
 
Regardless of the type of work you do, you have to decide what your intention and your purpose are, the reason for your work. If you want fulfillment and you want to have impact through your work, you must become self-aware, and you must build skills beyond technique.

When I started as a student of art and in the beginning years (when I called myself  a “painter”  not daring to be so bold as to proclaim myself an artist,) I was trying to learn techniques.  I copied old masters, then explored the moderns, I poured paint and I experimented with tools and media.  I was exploring and the entire shebang was about the product.

As I’ve gotten older I have come to realize that making art is part of the spiritual journey I am on.  And my spiritual journey is part of my being an artist. To pay attention to the present moment and not be rushing toward the future or wallowing in the past is necessary for both art and any spiritual expression. To open yourself and listen is prayer. Grace, praise, healing, mystery and paradox constitute  my artistic journey as they do my spiritual journey.  I believe they are part of everyone’s life and journey.

To my mind artists try to create work that touches some quality of shared human experience. Viewing art can give rise to emotional reactions within the viewer, enabling the viewer to explore and interpret those emotions and increase self awareness.

For me, as an artist, my work begins with experiences in the outer world. Through the process of painting, I synthesize observations and emotional reactions in a deep conscious/unconscious place and then externalize the inner experience. 
Many creatives, photographers, novelists, poets, dancers, musicians work in a similar way.

Picture
I visited friends at Rockport, MA this past summer.  We spent time at the quarries.  The quality of light is varied at a quarry.   The light bouncing off the water differs from the light reflecting from the granite and then the trees and under growth which surround the quarry absorb  the light.  You do not experience these multiple sensations in many other places.
When I returned I did two paintings inspired by the quarries and the light.  This  12 x 16 " oil on oil paper

Picture
and this oil on canvas entitled "Daylight irrigated the Quarry"
36 x 36".


I present these as examples of synthesized experience expressed as paintings.

Continuing to grow in the studio means that I cannot rely on techniques that I have mastered.   If I am not experimenting I am not learning.  The explorations enable me to communicate by visual means, what I can not express in words.  Artists must allow themselves to be vulnerable in their attempt to communicate the inner truths they are working to understand.  When they show this work it is an act of courage, you are always aware of the possibility of failure.  One of the best antidotes for fear of failure is to view the studio as a safe place for exploration.  Working in this manner also puts me in touch with a feeling more commonly associated with child hood discovery.  “Wow look what I found!” It is a  wonderful thing when you look on a piece you have just finished and discover something new created by your hand.
 
Enriching the lives of others is only possible if I first tap the innermost regions of my being to express that shared experience, displaying my humanity, and my personal experiences. 

This is what is important to me and why I must experiment in the studio, and not churn out one variation of the same painting after another.  This is why I spend my time in the studio.  It takes time to seek and find.
Picture
The Winter Has its Own Beauty 30 x 40" In private collection
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