Thursday, December 12, 2019

Everything old is new again

Looking around our "new" house (circa 1725) I realize that many of my art treasures actually look like they belong here. This is kind of helpful as we try to settle in. Because after 42 years, 4 daughters, 7 grandkids, 5 dogs and countless friends who helped instill fond memories in our first old house this new old house might have felt rather empty.
Our new old house in Andover, MA

It's actually anything but empty. Although we decluttered and de-collected for the move, we've still got "stuff". Some of what came with us probably confounded the movers - like old barn boards with peeling paint that I bubble-wrapped because just-the-right-amount-of-paint was curling away from the wood. I'm not sure if it's the design effect of peeling paint or the sense of history that intrigues me, but those boards made the move. I like old stuff.

Functional objects have meaning and purpose to rely on but old, vintage objects have stories and personalities that sustain their value. Maybe that explains why an old Bavarian teapot got together with a Shawnee-era pig planter to form a relationship. And Blind Date was born.

pig pottery, german teapot
©2018 Dorothy Lorenze, Blind Date
These things make me smile even when the memories aren't technically "mine."

But, there are plenty of things around here that hold memories of ours. Like the giant crockery jug by the fireplace. It collects change that grandkids have counted and coin-rolled for us, keeping a roll of coins for themselves. I'm hoping that's a fun memory for them.

In fact this photo of our new home is full of memories already. My first sculpture, an old man sitting on a bench, was greeted and kissed by our one year old grandson this week. The sculpture is not exactly a Michelangelo, but I remember it as an early attempt at realism and apparently my grandson thinks so too. On the mantel are some vintage Santas as well as a small oil painting of ornaments that hung on my parent's childhood Christmas trees. Just some of the things making this new house feel like home.

vintage christmas ornaments,mercury glass ornaments,
©2014 Dorothy Lorenze, Christmas Keepsake 1943
I have managed to paint a little since we moved, but I was working on a Christmas gift so it can't show it yet. Instead, here is a glimpse into my studio which is nearly unpacked and somewhat organized. (If the video is not live here - never tried to upload a video to my blog - you can take a look at it on Instagram at @dorothylorenzefineart or on my Facebook page Dorothy Lorenze Fine Art here.)

Holiday traditions are a big deal. And while they are special, fulfilling them can be overwhelming. My advice: keep the ones that feed your soul, ditch the ones that don't, and borrow the ones that feed your belly (full disclosure: I make latkes in December). I'm learning, during this life transition, that traditions are a warm thing to wrap yourself in, a reminder of your personal story. Traditions invite nostalgia, which as I've written before, is more about reaching for belonging than loss or wistfulness. It's looking inward, not backward.

That's what painting does for me. I enjoy the challenge of rendering realism - it definitely feeds my soul. And the vintage items that are my subjects tend to develop relationships that add some meaning - whether touching or humorous! This painting of shaving brushes really is about families, their similarities and differences, but clearly, all of the same tribe. It's called Family Resemblance, naturally. This painting and Vintage Barber Brushes can be seen at Mark Twain Library in Redding, CT through this week.
vintage shaving brushes, badger brush
©2019 Dorothy Lorenze, Family Resemblance
Also on view at Whistler House Museum is my cheeky painting Chick Please. That show goes through January 25th in Lowell, MA.
diner scene, classic 1950s diner, ceramic bird, vintage coffee pot
©2018 Dorothy Lorenze, Chick Please, 11 x 14"

The objects we surround ourselves with matter. I hope you follow your heart in creating the space you live in. Make it personal, not just trendy. I'm grateful that my appreciation of the past and the vintage objects that relate to it help me find deeper meaning and connection to the present.

As we put this crazy year behind us, I wish you all warm connections this holiday season, with an abundance of peace, joy, love, laughter and deliciousness!

Thank you, once again, for joining me on my art adventure. Happy Holidays!

Please feel free to share this post with anyone you think might enjoy it.

Monday, October 7, 2019

A new chapter

Not much to tell in the way of art news at the moment because the big news is that, after 42 years in our home in Somers, we have moved from NY to MA. It's been a long and utterly exhausting process that won't be over until everything has a new (perhaps temporary) resting place.

And I won't feel settled in until I'm back at my easel.

Might take awhile. That's the studio four days ago.

We're looking forward to this new adventure. The main reason for the move was to be closer to family so we are in Andover - near enough to the kids and close to art opportunities from Cape Cod to Boston and Newburyport. I've already joined the Whistler House Museum Art Center, entering their annual show, and am looking forward to exploring the local art world. 

The original part of our new - old - house was built in the early 1700s and has the historic character I love, along with modern amenities like... bathrooms. There is also a beautiful white marble kitchen! But studio space was a priority and the new(ish) lower-level room with three full-length windows, plus French doors, will be perfect.

This weekend I took a break from unpacking to paint the studio walls a mid-tone grey and set up bookshelves for my painting props. It's beginning to look like my space. I had planned to fix up a little corner, ignore the boxes for a bit and get to work on a small painting. But first... I'll have to find the paint! Needless to say, there is more unpacking do. 

Early in the move-planning I did carve out time for these sweet vintage shaving brushes. A great exercise in distinguishing subtle, neutral color in the brush hairs.

Vintage shaving brushes, original oil painting, barber, antique brushes
Family Resemblance ©2019 Dorothy Lorenze 6x9"

Somewhere between accepting an offer and preparing for our closing I gave in to my painting urge to work on this pair of barber brushes. It was meant to be a simple continuation of neutral brush color exploration. But then I added a fabric background reminiscent of 1900s wallpaper for a little interest... and a lot of detail. Obviously I was missing painting and I love how it ended up.

1900s brush, antique barber supply, vintage brush, original oil painting
Vintage Barber Brushes ©2019 Dorothy Lorenze, 8x10"

Initially I had felt bad (aka lazy) about not working during the move prep. But it's not that I was too tired, unmotivated, or didn't feel the muse. I pretty much always want to paint. The real problem was all the thinking! Nothing is routine and your mind is on overload. 

I've written about the decision making aspect of painting before. Each stroke is either lighter or darker, warmer or cooler, vibrant or neutral. I can honestly say that my time away from painting was not due to being physically worn out, but about being mentally exhausted. 

Decision overload is a real thing. Basically, having fewer decisions to puzzle over leads to better decisions-making. Figuring out the move was where my mental energy needed to be and painting without being able to make good decisions just isn't worth it. 

So, it's been a frustratingly "dry" time but I don't feel disappointed with myself. Other priorities really had to take precedence. We are beginning to settle in and each day turns a page in our new chapter.

This photo of the studio was taken just a few days after the first one. It's getting there! (Full disclosure: the large pile of unopened boxes is still to the right).

And just for fun, below is a pile of drop cloth that made me smile. It reminds me of a giant version of Sadie Valeri's vapor-like still life compositions. Seriously, check out her paintings rendering diffused light through semi-transparent waxed paper and you'll see what I mean.

So, I'm thinking about painting canvasses while painting walls. Good mental prep! I look forward to sharing new paintings very soon.

If you enjoy reading my artsy newsletter, please share with anyone you think might find it of interest. Thanks for joining me on my art journey. 

Greetings from Andover, MA

Tuesday, August 6, 2019

Humbled by the women at Steamboat Art Museum

You know how they say "it's an honor just to be nominated"? Well, it was an honor - and a humbling experience - to have my painting Chick Please juried into American Women Artists' national exhibit, Looking West, at Steamboat Art Museum. While I didn't "win", I did gain signature status with AWA and that feels pretty good!

china chick, vintage, check spindle, diner scene
Chick Please ©2018 Dorothy Lorenze, 11x14", oil on linen

American Women Artists is an important organization not just because they support women artists, but because they provide opportunities for the public to view more quality works of art - that just happen to be made by women. That's a win-win.

According to the Smithsonian, 87% of artists in our museums' permanent collections are...not...women. Fortunately the under-representation of women artists is being seriously challenged and organizations like AWA are working every day to eliminate gender bias in the art world. A good example is this exhibit at Steamboat Art Museum.

Looking West art exhibit

western art show reception
An admiring crowd of art lovers at the well-attended Steamboat Art Museum reception.
San Jose Mission Doors by Nancy Lilly, pastel
award winning paintings, women artists

celebrating women artists

I was able to attend the reception and symposium in Steamboat Springs where exhibiting artists  were very welcoming to this newcomer!

Still life by Dorothy Lorenze

During the symposium we learned how women are making headway in the art world today. Four artists spoke about their work and their artistic experience. Heide Presse demonstrated her depth of research to illustrate a woman's journey along the Oregon Trail. Carole Carter shared how she reinvented her art practice and effectively markets her work using social media. Jann Haynes Gilmore researched, resurrected and published the story of Olive Rush, a valued artist in the early 1900s. And Donna Howell Sickles spoke about achieving success in the firmly male world of cowboy - and cowgirl - art. Educated, hard-working artists, all.

Below is part of the special exhibition featuring Heide Presse's work based on the actual journal of a woman who travelled west by stagecoach in the 1840s. To accurately represent the experience Heide sewed authentic wardrobe including quilted sun bonnets for her contemporary cast. Talk about dedication and preparation!

We Set our Faces Westward exhibit by Heide Presse

Steamboat Springs is a charming town with gorgeous snow peaked mountains behind storefronts reminiscent of a mid 19th century mining town. Entrenched in history and art, it was the perfect setting for this exhibit.

While my AWA adventure was enlightening, it was also a bit intimidating. These women are professionals in every sense of the word, fully dedicated to their work and it shows. Their paths were inspirational. How they manage to be so accomplished is probably a bit more complicated and nuanced. Life happens. No doubt all have been through periods that challenged their productivity.

Art-making takes preparation, dedication... and time. I've been asked how to find the time and my  answer has been to make the time by prioritizing painting. True enough, but lately that's been difficult as we are preparing to move. It takes time - and exhausting mental energy - to wade  through years of accumulated treasures, memories... and junk! This week I was pretty fed up with my lack of painting time and finally plunked myself in front of a canvas. It's not going all that well.

The thing is painting is a series of decisions. With every brush stroke you consider color, value, hue, contrast, edges, form. Every. Time. That's a lot of decisions. I'm painting a simply elegant pair of antique barber's brushes. But, because I can't leave well enough alone, I added a rich fabric background, reminiscent of vintage wall paper, for contrast.

Feel free to roll your eyes because... no, I will never learn.

My studio (which doubles as a storage bunker) is under siege as we purge for moving so I'm set up in the kitchen where the light is terrible but the AC is good. It's a bit of a struggle. (Plus there's the distraction of knowing I should be packing.) I'm giving myself a few days to substitute making painting decisions for making packing decisions and while it's frustrating, it also feels like a gift.

Work in Progress: Barber Brushes ©Dorothy Lorenze

I could go on and on about the chaos of moving... but then there would be no time to paint! (or pack, or sleep). So if you're wondering why it's taken so long to write about a Steamboat Springs trip from back in June, now you know. And if you find yourself in Colorado this month you can still check out Steamboat Art Museum: Looking West which is up through September 2nd.

Thanks for joining me on my art journey... and for staying connected as we literally journey to a new home and studio. Challenging times bring even greater appreciation for my community of artists, friends and supporters. So. Many. Thanks.