EXPLOITS: The 2017 48 Hour Create-A-Thon – Two Gardens

Richard Bledsoe “Two Gardens” acrylic on canvas 24″ x 30″

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It was that time again. For the last three years I’ve taken part in Camelback Bible Church‘s 48 Hour Create-A-Thon. Starting on Friday night February 24, a group of artists gathered at the church, where we were presented with our inspirational theme. By 4pm on Sunday February 26, we needed to have a completed artwork created on site, ready to share at a reception. Throughout the weekend, the public was invited to visit with us to see the artistic process unfold.

This year I had a different experience than how the 2016 Create-a-Thon started. For 2017 we had two juxtaposing inspirational passages: Genesis 2:8-17, the description of the Garden of Eden, and Matthew 26:36-46, the story of Jesus’s agony in the Garden of Gethsemane,  where He prayed to escape his destiny if possible, but put himself in God’s hands.

This year, as soon as I heard the subject matter, the vision came. I saw the image in my mind; now I just had to bring it out so everyone else could see it.

I immediately laid in broad planes of textured colors. I don’t like working straight off a white canvas. In this shot I’ve actually flipped the canvas over to get better access to the blue area; in the completed work, it’s the upper right corner. I stayed until about 9 pm that night, just getting the under painting laid in.

A fast start

I was there around 9am the next morning, and stayed until almost 5pm, a good solid working day. I didn’t even take a break for lunch, as the church provided us lots of good snacks, and cup after cup of coffee.

No time to lose, had to get the drawing in right away

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The first thing I did Saturday was crudely block in my two essential elements: Christ and the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil. Then, with wide swoops from the shoulder, I dragged loops of white paint over the blue, and gray over the yellow. These were the faint beginnings of Eden’s hazy atmosphere and Gethsemane’s tangled branches. The rest of my time spent on this painting was spent revising and refining these loose beginnings.

An action shot from the 48 Hour Create-A-Thon

My wife Michele Bledsoe was there for support. She wrote her own blog post about the experience, “Marathon Painting and the Art of Sitting on the Sidelines.” She spent her time drawing and taking pictures and videos. Michele spends a lot of time on her art. She jokes if there is ever a 480 Hour Create-A-Thon, she might take part.

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Finishing touches

By the time I came back Sunday morning, I was well positioned on the painting, and I spent time on all those little details and touches that can make or break a painting. One of my ongoing quotes about this stage is “That’s why painters go mad.” Anyone who has ever seriously engaged in painting has probably had that experience when the most minuscule adjustment or mark can make a work spring to life-or crush it into a mess. As an intuitive painter, I never know in advance what mark that may be. I have to discover it.

To see my art is to see me, performing my role as a conduit for something else 

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So the question for me becomes, if the Create-A-Thon shows I can complete a resolved and meaningful painting in really less than 48 hours, why do I normally work on them for months?

In that environment, in that experience, the Spirit really moved me, I suppose.

The Remodernist’s job is to bring God back into art but not as God was before. Remodernism is not a religion, but we uphold that it is essential to regain enthusiasm (from the Greek, en theos to be possessed by God).

-The Remodernism Manifesto

PAINTINGS: Versus

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Richard Bledsoe “Versus” acrylic on canvas 12″ x 16″

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I’ve written before on the connections between toys and art. In 2016 I participated in a show that gave me a chance to explore this fascinating synergy. The Firehouse Gallery was hosting “Toy Art 6.” I used the call for entries opportunity to work in a style unusual for me: still life.

That’s right. The epic confrontation depicted above is actually a very literal depiction of my toy Godzilla, and my wife Michele Bledsoe ‘s wind up pressed tin panda bear, on a table top. They tell such a story by simply being placed together.

I usually work intuitively. How different to be able to see the thing I was trying to recreate in paint. It takes me back to my student days, when I worked from observation. It was important to learn to control the medium: to make a painting capture something of the essential nature of what I was observing.

Later, I started trying to make my paintings capture something of the essential nature of my inner world. It’s a fascinating task, trying to evoke the subtlety  of thought into a visible form.

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“It should be noted that technique is dictated by, and only necessary to the extent to which it is commensurate with, the vision of the artist.”

-Billy Childish and Charles Thomson, The Remodernism Manifesto

ARTISTS: Joseph Cornell

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Joseph Cornell “Untitled (Hotel Eden)”

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“Beauty should be shared for it enhances our joys.
To explore its mystery is to venture towards the sublime.”

-Joseph Cornell

After I moved to Phoenix, Arizona in 2000, and spent some time absorbing the local art scene, I noticed something very different than what I was used to. I had come from Richmond, Virginia, where at the time painting was the predominant art form. In Phoenix I saw lots of assemblage. Assemblage Art is like making three dimensional collages, creating composed groupings out of just about any object imaginable. I’ve become a huge fan of this technique, which can be utilized to create such poetry: visual fragments shored against our ruins.

On thinking of assemblage art I think of Joseph Cornell (December 24, 1903 – December 29, 1972), the undisputed master of the genre. Looking at the mysterious little worlds he evoked out of dime store trinkets, you would never imagine the seemingly mundane life the artist lived. He spent his entire adult existence in a tiny suburban home in Flushing, New York, which he shared with his mother and invalid   brother, for as long as they lived. His workshop was in the basement. Here he created the shadow boxes that described his romantic dreams about legendary ballerinas, faded Continental hotels, contemplative aviaries, and the celestial heavens themselves. This painfully shy self taught artist was accepted as a colleague by the Surrealists during their War World II exile in New York City. They recognized true vision when they encountered it.

Untitled (Tilly Losch), c. 1935 - 38 Box construction 10 x 9 1/4 x 2 1/8 inches (25.4 x 23.5 x 5.4 cm) The Robert Lehrman Art Trust, Courtesy of Aimee and Robert Lehrman, Washington, DC Photograph by Mark Gulezian/QuickSilver, Washington, DC © The Joseph and Robert Cornell Memorial Foundation/Licensed by VAGA, New York, New York

Joseph Cornell “Tilly Losch”

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Joseph Cornell “Untitled (Celestial Navigation)”

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Joseph Cornell Naples, 1942 Box construction, 28.6 x 17.1 x 12.1 cm The Robert Lehrman Art Trust, Courtesy of Aimee and Robert Lehrman (c) The Joseph and Robert Cornell Memorial Foundation/VAGA, NY/DACS, London 2015 Photo: Quicksilver Photographers, LLC Exhibition organised by the Royal Academy of Arts, London, and Kunsthistorisches Museum, Vienna Press use is considered to be moderate use of images to report a current event or to illustrate a review or criticism of the work, as defined by the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988 Chapter 48 Section 30 Subsections (1) - (3). Reproductions which comply with the above do not need to be licensed. Reproductions for all non-press uses or for press uses where the above criteria do not apply (e.g. covers and feature articles) must be licensed before publication. Further information can be obtained at www.dacs.org.uk or by contacting DACS licensing on +44 207 336 8811. Due to UK copyright law only applying to UK publications, any articles or press uses which are published outside of the UK and include reproductions of these images will need to have sought authorisation with the relevant copyright society of that country. Please also ensure that all works that are provided are shown in full, with no overprinting or manipulation.

Joseph Cornell “Naples”

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Observatory: Corona Borealis Casement, 1950 Box construction 18 1/8 x 11 13/16 x 5 1/2 inches (46 x 30 x 14 cm) Private Collection, Chicago Photograph by Michael Tropea, Chicago © The Joseph and Robert Cornell Memorial Foundation/Licensed by VAGA, New York, New York

Joseph Cornell “Observatory – Corona Borealis Casement”

ARTICLE: Michele Bledsoe in “The Labyrinth Beyond Time”

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Creatures Great and Small: Michele Bledsoe with her painting “Under the Pillow”

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I’ve written a number of times on the amazing creativity of my wife, artist Michele Bledsoe. 

Michele was recently the featured artist in an article in The Foothills Focus, a weekly newspaper focused on life in north Phoenix and its environs.

Read the article at this link: “The Labyrinth Beyond Time,” by Shea Stanfield.

The writer does a great job summing up the spirit of Michele’s painting by referencing a quote from Marcel Duchamp: “To all appearances, the artist acts like a mediumistic being who, from the labyrinth beyond time and space, seeks his way out to a clearing.” Stanfield goes on to relay significant details about Michele’s experiences and attitudes towards art:

“She filled tablets with sketches and ideas that bound through her imagination. Creatures great and small would eventually be rendered in paintings as she taught herself the techniques. By all accounts, Michele has been successful on all fronts. Today, she paints in her home studio in Central Phoenix, her canvases supported on an easel her father gave her for Christmas 25 years ago. His passing a few months later added an extra portion of meaning to his gift and confidence in her, as well as Michele’s inspiration.”

The art of Michele Bledsoe does indeed navigate a special vision, her own enchanting world apart. It was a pleasure to read this article’s commentary acknowledging her achievements.

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Forever (2)

From the article:

“Michele, over the last 20 years, has exhibited in various art galleries and venues.  Recently, she was invited to participate in an art show, at Skolkovo Art Gallery, in Moscow, Russia. The exhibit featured a number of international artists involved in the Remodernism Movement. As Michele would put it, ‘Who would have believed my painting “Forever,” a painting of a snail, is the one piece, out of all my work, that has ironically traveled furthest!’”

PAINTINGS: The Finish Line

Finish Line

Richard Bledsoe “The Finish Line” acrylic on canvas 20″ x 24″

Sometimes the paintings just take off in unexpected directions. When they do, it’s best just to follow their lead.

We, as artists, act as conduits. Through us pours the source of all creativity, into vessels shaped by our own particular consciousness.

It takes faith to get out of the way of that flow.

“Spiritual art is not religion. Spirituality is humanity’s quest to understand itself and finds its symbology through the clarity and integrity of its artists.”

The Remodernism Manifesto

EXHIBITIONS-Russian Stuckism: Registered in Moscow and Moscow Region

Russia Stuckism

The exhibition in Moscow

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“Communion has been one of my artistic goals for as long as I can remember.”

-Ron Throop

It’s been a very busy year.

I am thrilled to announce Michele Bledsoe and I were invited  as special guest artists for a July exhibition in Moscow, Russia. Also featured is New York painter Ron Throop, who has been very busy himself with an ongoing DIY cultural exchange with the Russian Stuckists who organized the show. He documents their exploits on his blog, Round Trip Stuckism.

I wrote about Ron Throop’s vision when they first launched the project. I really admired the initiative and enthusiasm shown. Grassroots painters separated by half a world and some really intense history were using art to come together, to learn from one another, and to provide support, despite vast physical distances, language barriers, and cultural differences. It’s really inspiring. Ron’s achievements were recently recognized when he was awarded a grant from the New York State Council for the Arts Decentralization Award Program.

The art they are making is fantastic.

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Andrew Makarov

“The Pretty Lady Takes the Andrew Makarov’s Phone Number in the Yard of the Ministry of Labour and Sotsrazvitiya”

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Stuckism, the most visible manifestation of the Remodernist art movement, has spread to 236 groups in 52 countries. It truly is an art of the people. We have a mighty task to accomplish: to redeem art from the crisis of relevance that elitist malpractice has inflicted on the culture.

I was very grateful when Andrew Makarov sent me a Facebook message inviting us to share our paintings. Michele and I sent works to Russia for the show, and included a copy of our children’s book The Secret Kingdom as a gift. I’m looking forward to more exchanges with these creatives. We all speak the universal language of art.

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Michele Bledsoe “Forever” acrylic on canvas 5″ x 4″ 

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deep diver

Richard Bledsoe “Diver” acrylic on canvas 5″ x 4″

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From the Handbill:

“Russian Stuckism, registered in Moscow and Moscow region — an exhibition at a Moscow gallery “Skolkovo”, July 2nd – 30th. The exhibition is based on works of Moscow painters, who has joined the Stuckism International about a year ago: Alexey Stepanov, Andrey Makarov and Lena Ulanova. Their artistic way highlights the meanings of collectivism, equality between process and the result, and registering the events around them without judging the events. Alongside with the Moscow representatives of the Stuckism, you will see their colleagues from St. Petersburg (Ilya Zelenetsky and Sergey Uryvayev) and American artists Ron Throop, Richard and Michele Bledsoe. When exhibited together, the works of these artists suggest one of the answers to the question on the place of picturing in the modern art.”

ARTICLE: A Profile on Michele Bledsoe from 2005

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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″