ARTICLE: A Profile on Michele Bledsoe from 2005

MoonLiquor

Michele Bledsoe “Moon Liquor” acrylic on canvas 30″ x 24″

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While searching through my email recently I stumbled across a long forgotten gem, from all the way back in 2005. It was a profile I had written for an online art site about my wife, artist Michele Bledsoe.

The website, “ARTish,” is long gone. It was based out of Phoenix, and at the time it was a nice venue to share images and happenings on the local arts scene. Looking at the submission email, I can tell I was still in the midst of my artistic crisis; the message I wrote was so tentative and apologetic about “being out of the loop.” But the response was positive, and the one article I produced for them was online for many years.

Full disclosure: this piece is written about the woman I consider the most wonderful and fascinating person in the world, so I am biased. But as a professional artist and cultural activist I stand by everything I said. In the decade that has passed Michele has continued and expanded her amazing creative work.

Some things have changed since then. This was before I discovered the international arts movement Remodernism; it was before we made “The Secret Kingdom.” But what I wrote then still holds up. Here, I present in its unedited entirety, a piece written almost 11 years ago.

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Like Writing Down a Good Dream

A Profile of Painter Michele Bledsoe

 

It’s hard to say when art started happening in movements. There has always been change in the visual arts, but cultural evolution used to take decades, even centuries, to manifest itself. Like any profession, most people working in the arts were competent rather than inspired, talented tradesmen fulfilling orders provided by the all powerful Church or State. Occasionally some regionally isolated genius would appear, and create innovations that would be refined and dispersed by acolytes and imitators, but this would be a slow process in an era when travel was difficult and reproductions of artwork were rare.

But easy mechanical reproduction, as it developed, changed everything. When photography came along, painters lost their role as the primary image-makers. The artists learned their lesson when machines replaced their jobs; they became moving targets.  Maybe this is when the pace picked up, as artists had to redefine their purpose in society. It seems like the definition of what is quality in art has been in constant flux for over a century. No longer would the powerful dictate forms or content, artists would figure out it for themselves, using the works of the past only for a contrast. When groups of like-minded people agreed at least temporarily to a set of artistic priorities, and created bodies of work exhibiting shared influences, a movement was declared, either by the artists themselves, or interested observers. The attitude was usually, forget all that other stuff that happened before-at last, it is we who have gotten it right.

One of the more memorable –isms that moved through the culture was surrealism. The idea of it survives today even to the mainstream, even if it has been reduced to a synonym for weirdness. Starting off as a mainly literary group, surrealism moved through the door kicked open by the irreverent Dada movement, who rejected the “rational” way of life that allowed the disasters of World War I. Dada might have been the work of some wry practical jokers, but what they unleashed took on a very serious nature. Through that door they breached lay all the darkness, perils and delights of the non-rational.

Surrealism embraced the darkness. It admired art by people considered uncorrupted by bourgeois concerns-primitive tribesmen, children, the insane. To discover the pure impulses that inspired these outsider artists, the surrealists looked to dreams, the subconscious, spontaneous gestures, and odd juxtapositions.

The idea of being part of an “art movement” seems kind of dated. The experiments and fads of the past can be analyzed more objectively now all the hyperbole has passed. And there is much to learn from the past for contemporary artists. Surrealism may be history, but the tools of exploration it identified are still useful today.

Phoenix painter Michele Bledsoe is a surrealist, although she didn’t set out to be one. All she does is represent what her imagination shows her. Looking inside, she views a twilight world of planes, steps and corners. Placed throughout these shadowy structures are seemingly unrelated objects-fragmented toys, body parts, plants and small animals, streaming ribbons, curling ivy leaves, pastries, all in a soft focus, but highly detailed. These items are familiar, solid-but they are also disarranged and jumbled. There is a feeling of contradictory movement between the various elements, a disorienting swirling sensation. A mysterious story is unfolding, a secret that only the artist knows.

Michele describes her choice of content as “Memories I have, things I saw or thought about when I was younger, mixed up with current thoughts.” When asked for an explanation for the various motifs that seem to repeat throughout her work, she rejects any calculated reasoning: “Not everything has some deep symbolic meaning; I think its more personal than that. Symbols are more universal. I’ve made up my own language.”

Surrealism is a tradition of art that prizes the unexpected, yet Michele’s painting technique is very methodical. She paints in acrylics on canvas, using tiny soft bristle brushes. There are no brushstrokes visible, even though every millimeter of the surface has been worked over and over again with layers of subtle analogous colors. She avoids the extremes of chiaroscuro, creating tonal works dominated by soft grays, purples and greens. There is also control exerted over composition: “The composition is intentional. I like to drag people through my paintings,” she admits. “It’s kind of a guided tour.”

But where the automatism of surrealism comes in is the objects that wind up appearing in the paintings. “The composition is one of the few intentional things that happen. I’m the one in control of where I put these things, and how I present them. But all the imagery is stream of consciousness.” As for the repetition of some of her content, she asks, “Ever get a song stuck in your head? It plays over and over.” She can’t verbally describe what goes through her mind while she is working. “While I’m painting I disappear. I disconnect-or maybe, reconnect. I can do it anytime I sit down to paint, for me it’s simple.”

Michele painted for almost ten years before she ever sought out any chance to exhibit her art. She worked alone, practically “in my closet” she laughs. “It never occurred to me to show them. It was my sister who finally convinced me to give it a try.” Now she has been exhibiting around the Phoenix area for about five years, and recently has become one of the studio artists of the Paper Heart Gallery. Experiencing public response to her work has been intriguing. “I paint for myself. I’m not painting for audience, I’d paint even if I didn’t have an audience; but I like to show my work because it’s nice to see the reaction. It’s almost like getting connected to somebody else’s imagination for a brief moment, plugging into some else’s deepest thoughts.”

Michele views her work as in a constant state of modification. “I like to look at my work in order; when I look at my work from 10 years ago, I see that I’ve come very far.” But she considers she has still further to go. “It’s a personal journey to get my skill to match up with my imagination, to bring it out clearer,” she says. “I’m looking forward to it.”

 

lost and found

Michele Bledsoe “Lost and Found Again” acrylic on canvas 30″ x 40″

STUDIO: The Image Morgue

Image Morgue 2

These fragments I have shored against my ruin: a sample of my reference material

 

“The model is not to be copied, but to be realized.”

-Robert Henri

In painting, there really are no rules. But understanding painting as I do, there is a prevalent practice these days which I find completely undermines the integrity of the act.

Projector artists. Artists who cheat themselves and their audience by projecting an image onto their canvas and doing a paint-by-numbers routine to create their works. Artists like this have reduced themselves to a mere cog in a mechanical reproduction process, not creating, but taking dictation from their gadgets. They let their tools make their discoveries for them. It is an inferior mode of creation.

If you’re an artist, do your own rendering.

Now I am not rejecting the use of source material. I learned the hard way, through years of artistic practice, I lack the omnipotent powers of observation and recall to paint strictly out of my own mind and produce the results I want.

How do a frog’s legs attach to its body? How many wings does a mosquito have? What is the musculature of a horse? These are just some of the composition problems I have encountered. I can’t see clearly enough into my memory to reach the level of realism I want in my paintings.

So I use source material. Not all the time, but when it’s important to get something right, and I can’t summon the depth of detail I’d like to. When needed, I find photographs on the internet of what I want to portray, print them out, and study them.

But then-and this is the really important part-I put the photograph down, and paint what I remember about it, what I learned about it.

The image passes through the filters of my consciousness and becomes more me. And that is vital in art: depicting your own unique sensibility.

I leave a scattering of paint spattered sheets of paper lying around the studio. But then, my wife Michele Bledsoe comes along and rescues them, and files them away in our office. Safely stored in a drawer, there’s a manila folder bulging with pictures. It’s my image morgue.

A morgue file is an old hard-boiled term, dating back to the days of gumshoes and ace reporters. It was a way they described the newspaper clippings they collected for quick reference. The idea still creates a powerful tie to the past.

Looking back through this folder today, I was amazed to see a history of my paintings unfolding before me. Seeing the crumbled pages brought back memories of the times I was actually utilizing them in my artistic struggles. It was like visiting with old friends.

Image Morgue 1

A small sampling that I can relate back to 6 different paintings

ART QUOTES: Visionary Experience

perseus

Max Beckmann “Perseus”

“All important things in art have always originated from the deepest feeling about the mystery of Being.”

-Max Beckmann

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Jung

Carl Jung “Solar Barge”

“Your vision will become clear only when you look into your heart. Who looks outside, dreams. Who looks inside awakens.”

–Carl Jung

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Thomson

From “Crazy Over You” Charles Thomson
“The artist to a certain extent is a seer or a visionary.”
-Charles Thomson
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chateaunoir1904bypaulcezanne
Paul Cezanne “Chateau Noir”
“What I am trying to translate to you is more mysterious; it is entwined in the very roots of being, in the implacable source of sensations.”
-Paul Cezanne
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guston7Philip Guston “Painters Forms”

“There comes a point when the paint doesn’t feel like paint. I don’t know why. Some mysterious thing happens.”
-Philip Guston
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William_Blake_003
William Blake “The Great Red Dragon and the Woman Clothed with the Sun”
“The man who never in his mind and thoughts travel’d to heaven is no artist.”
-William Blake  

 

EXPLOITS: “Infinite Monkeys” – The Trunk Space 8th Anniversary Show

Lavinia

Michele Bledsoe “Lavinia” acrylic on canvas 10″ x 8″

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Today, May 7, will be the end of an era, as treasured Phoenix multimedia venue The Trunk Space leaves their current location after 12 years-a mighty run for an independent art space.

So many wonderful memories were created there. The first piece of art they ever sold, on their opening night in 2004, was one of my paintings:

Rookery3

Richard Bledsoe “Rookery” oil on wood panel 24″ x 24″

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The Trunk Space hosted one of the exhibits I’m most proud of: 2014’s International Stuckists: Explorers and Inventors.  We displayed works from artists from 6 countries in downtown Phoenix, cutting edge pieces that challenged the dreary conformity of the contemporary art market. Other highlights included 2015’s Booked: Contemporary Literary Art and 2016’s Spineless: Invertebrate Art.

But thinking over the glorious labor of the love the Trunk Space has been all these years, I had a flashback to an earlier anniversary, all the way back to 2012.

My wife Michele Bledsoe and I received the following email on January 20, 2012:

Call for Artwork
Trunk Space 8 Year Anniversary Show

“Infinite Monkeys
April-May 2012

In the 1913 article “Statistical Mechanics and Irreversibility” Émile Borel wrote “A million monkeys randomly hitting keys on a million typewriters, under the supervision of illiterate Editors, working hard ten hours a day. The Editors would gather these pages into bound volumes, and after a year these volumes would be found to contain an exact copy of the books of all kinds and of all languages stored in the richest libraries in the world.”

Of course, Borel wasn’t talking about literal monkeys, it was a clever metaphor for probability and randomness.

To put it another way, an infinite number of monkeys, typing on an infinite number of typewriters, for an infinite length of time would eventually type out the complete works of Shakespeare.

What the heck am I talking about?
The number eight.
See if you can follow me here . . .
Trunk Space is 8 years old this April.
The number 8, on its side, closely resembles . . . the symbol for Infinity.

Which bring to mind that quote (often misquoted, it’s actually a saying that ‘evolved’ more then ‘happened’). Which brings me to mind our 8 year anniversary art show.

Please let us know if you would like to participate in “Infinite Monkeys [Infinite typewriters, infinite Shakespeare] (aka infinite Art)”.

Any new (previously unseen) artwork involving monkeys, typewriters, Shakespeare, infinity, any combination of, or otherwise inspired by that awesome quote is welcome.

 

Needless to say we both created art for this exciting installation. Michele was inspired to paint “Lavinia” (pictured above) after a character in Shakespeare’s most gruesome tragedy, Titus Andronicus. 

This piece added a beautiful example of the generous synchronicity of the universe, as in 2010 we had seen the band Titus Andronicus at the Trunk Space, while I was in an obsessive frenzy over their brilliant album The Monitor.

For my painting for “Infinite Monkeys,” I went a different route, and tried to pack a lot of chaos and references into a small canvas:

Globe of the Apes

Richard Bledsoe “Globe of the Apes (London’s Burning Captures The Conscious of the King Kong)” 

acrylic on canvas 20″ x 16″

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Thanks to the vision of Stephanie Carrico and her team of super friends, I know the Trunk Space will continue, and evolve into evermore surprising forms. I’m looking forward to the next chapter in their ongoing adventures!

 

EXHIBITIONS: The Provocative Art Show

Sabo

Sabo “Hillary 2016”

ARTICLE: A Provocative Art Show in Phoenix, Arizona

What is provocative art in a hyper-politicized age?

It’s art that dares to express dissent from the orthodoxy of the ruling establishment. And despite their best efforts to camouflage the nature of their oppressive and destructive grip on the culture, the establishment these days is a hive mind of Progressive dogma.

In this era of integrated information, we are witnessing the most concerted attack on freedom in world history. The powerful are colluding to manipulate the powerless to act as the shock troops to enforce the agenda of the New Aristocracy of the Well Connected. From positions of power in government, administration, academia, media, and the arts, they promote lynch mob tactics against anyone who does not conform to their Orwellian programs of doublethink, thoughtcrimes, and Two Minutes Hates.

The festering ambition in the corrupt hearts of the elitists is unaccountable power for themselves; now they fancy they have the technology to make their tyranny truly global in scale. They like to proselytize about the direction of history, and appeal to idealism in order to sucker the useful idiots they need to act as their muscle. Yet in practice their proposed model will end up looking like every other attempt since Marx: a small group of privileged thugs standing on top of mass graves, while the enslaved populace toils away in fear and hopelessness.

There’s nothing progressive about what the Left proposes: it’s a regression to the same old feudalism that is as old as mankind itself, tarted up with some buzzwords and hypocrisy. The Gramsci long march through the institutions has been effective in degrading the culture to make a society ripe for totalitarianism.

We are on the edge now. All too soon, we will either see their plot succeeded, or we will find out what happens when their overreach crumbles, and their grand designs collapse under the weight of hubris and backlash.

What those who prefer freedom over submission do have in our favor is the reverse Midas touch of the Left: everything they take over, they turn to shit. Their dysfunctions can only be sustained when they can enforce a monopoly. There is perhaps no clearer visual evidence of the failures of the establishment than the contemporary art world.  Under the guidance of careless elitist caretakers, the arts are undergoing a crisis of relevance. This actually presents an amazing opportunity.

The elitists think they have the arts all sewn up. It’s the last place they expect a counterattack to come from. And yet, for any real challenge to the current establishment hegemony  to take place, it has to start in the arts. As a smart man once said, “Politics is downstream from culture.” This can be seen as a reiteration of what visionary English artist William Blake noted centuries ago:  “The foundation of empire is art and science. Remove them or degrade them, and the empire is no more. Empire follows art and not vice versa…”

Empire in this sense doesn’t refer to a specific form of government but more so a culture, the authority of a way of thought, a sense of shared values. The elitists have weaponized art into an assault on the achievements of Western civilization, but they have nothing coherent, useful or enduring to replace those achievements with; all they offer is their lust for domination and self-aggrandizement. This makes their program a very niche market.

So the answer is to bypass the filters of the establishment, and take the change directly to the people. In April, at Lotus Contemporary Art of Phoenix, Arizona, a group show of citizen artists took a stand. This will hopefully be the first show of many.

Coordinated by Provocative Art 2016, this exhibit brought together renowned artists from across the country, including Pulitzer Prize winning cartoonist Michael Ramirez, National Review cover artist Roman Genn, and controversial guerilla public artist Sabo. As organizer Melissa Dawdy states, “…what provokes interest today is artwork that that expresses freedom within the context of Western Civilization.  Artists are planting a flag in the sand, saying ‘Art is not about conforming to a political view.’”

It was an honor to take part in this show. Many concurrent streams of free expression were presented: street art, illustration, and fine art shared the space, displaying skill, humor and integrity.

As the revolutionary Remodernist Manifesto declares:

It is quite clear to anyone of an uncluttered mental disposition that what is now put forward, quite seriously, as art by the ruling elite, is proof that a seemingly rational development of a body of ideas has gone seriously awry. The principles on which Modernism was based are sound, but the conclusions that have now been reached from it are preposterous.

We address this lack of meaning, so that a coherent art can be achieved and this imbalance redressed.”

We are the swing of the pendulum.  This is only the beginning.

THE ART

floyd

               Floyd Alsbach “Solon’s Demon 2 (Ares Berserker)”

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The Collective

Richard Bledsoe “The Collective”

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Abstract

Denise Fleisch “Untitled”

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che obama

Roman Genn “Che Obama”

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lazarus dancer

Sharon McGovern “Lazarus Dancer”

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anchor

Michael Ramirez “The Anchor”

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cruz

Sabo “Ted Cruz”

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diminished

Tanya Slate “Diminished”

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obama

Marc Stolfi “Mmm..mmm..mmm”

Update: Welcome Instapundit readers! Please see other articles here for more commentary on the state of the arts.