Introducing my New Website

To visitors of my old Freehawk Art blog, I now have my own website and own domain name to better showcase my work as an artist.  I invite you to visit http://www.dianeswansonart.com, my official website.

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Making some Changes

I am currently working a new website to better feature my artwork.  I will update accordingly.

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Filling the Empty Space

Waiting for the artists

Gallery 99, Art in the Public Eye’s temporary art gallery, opens on Thursday, with a reception from 5-8pm and runs through Saturday.  We are using a recently renovated empty ground floor location in the M. Dolan Jr. Building, 3 Broad St., Glens Falls, NY.

It’s an amazing and eclectic space-no square corners anywhere, according to Gary McCoola, the architect who owns it and has been painstakingly renovating the building.  I love the spirit of the place.  It was many things in its life, including a liquor business and shoe repair shop, and now it awaits it’s next incarnation.  In the meantime, we get to use it for Gallery 99 for a week.

Patrice and I spent yesterday afternoon hanging out in the space, taking in artists’ work.  Around 4:30pm, the sun colored the buildings across the street beautifully and cast a shadow like a painting on the wall.  The buildings across the street are a crazy and wonderful mixture of shapes and colors, not to mention functions.  I’m already planning a painting of that view.

Here's a painting waiting to happen

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A perfect Fit

A couple of months ago, I wrote about 10 little wooden gold frames that we bought at a tag sale for a dollar the entire lot.  They’re beautiful, made in Mexico, and have a standard 5″ x 7″ image area.  I pondered about what I would do with them, since they had been sitting in my studio for close to two years.

I finally found a use for a few of them.  As one of the exhibiting artists in Gallery 99, a temporary art gallery where all art is for sale at $99, I had to find a creative solution to the challenge of presenting my art for sale at such an affordable price.  I am painting small vignettes of lake scenes in acrylic on  5″ x 7″ gessoed masonite and placing those into the dime-a-piece frames.  The paintings only take me about 4 hours to complete.  Between materials and labor, offering these pieces for sale at $99 each will actually work.

The other 14 artists in the show each have found ways to sell art for $99 or less, whether it’s to offer work unframed (which is allowable in this exhibit), prints of originals, explorations in different mediums, or just work that has been hanging out in the studio for  awhile, not shown.  You never know who it might appeal to, so it’s a good idea to pull some of the older stuff out and expose it to a new audience.

Gallery 99, presented by non-profit arts org., Art in the Public Eye, takes place Feb. 2-4 at the M. Dolan Jr. Building, 3 Broad St., Glens Falls, NY.

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Vacant Spaces

A trend in exhibiting artwork at unoccupied storefronts/businesses/public spaces is currently occurring throughout the country.   No Longer Empty www.nolongerempty.org, a non-profit group in NYC, exemplifies this current trend by producing and promoting exhibits of contemporary art in vacant or unusual spaces.

I love their bold initiative to exhibit conceptual art in vacant areas, completely exposing the viewing public to new ideas, while making use of these great, under-utilized spaces. And they have a large interactive component as well, involving local children and other viewers in projects related to their exhibits.

No Longer Empty exhibit site in NYC

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Gallery 99 Returns

The M. Dolan Jr. building, temporary home to Gallery 99, Feb 2-4

Gallery 99 is a temporary art gallery set up in vacant spaces, selling art for $99 or less.  I developed this program last year for a non-profit arts group I was involved in, Art in the Public Eye (www.artinthepubliceye.com) as a way to raise funds for them through art sales commissions, provide exposure for artists (including myself), and further the business collaboration that is part of Art in the Public Eye’s mission.  The concept combines the current movement of utilizing empty storefronts, business locations for art space and the trend toward selling more affordable art that many artists have started exploring in response to the shifting economy.

The first Gallery 99 ran for 4 days in February 2010 in a wonderful streetside empty space in the newly renovated Empire Theatre building on South Street, Glens Falls, NY.  South Street is known locally as The Street of Dreams, consisting mainly of bars and nightspots ranging from the completely nasty and rough to the fashionably seedy.  And of course, South Street also is the home of the local OTB, perfect for the Street of Dreams.  Over the past year, South Street has been receiving a major overhaul; buildings being torn down, refurbished, sidewalks replaced, some new and different businesses moving in, all part of Glens Falls’ overall journey in growth.

This year’s Gallery 99 happens on the other end of the South Street Street of Dreams district, in another newly renovated ground floor location, formerly a shoe repair shop (M. Dolan Jr. building) The temporary exhibit runs from February 2 through 4, and all art is $99 or less. 15 artists  are participating, including myself, and I’m fortunate to have the same great group of people helping me put together this event.  Complimenting the exhibit will be a musical performance by the wonderful fun all-female a capella group The Skirts on opening night (Thursday, Feb. 2) and a talk by Mark Fleischer, Artistic Directory for the Adirondack Theatre Festival on Friday evening, Feb. 3.  I will provide more details on the exhibiting artists and performing artists in future blogs.

In the meantime, I’ve got 4 paintings to complete for the show, so it’s back to the studio I go.

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Finally Got Around to it

I do house portraits.  People commission me to paint portraits of their houses or their friends’ or family’s houses.  I think these portraits help people tap into a bit of nostalgia about where they’ve lived, where they’ve been happy living.  Houses are solid symbols of comfort, family, memories. 

This particular house portrait is actually of the second house my husband and I lived in, while our children were very young.  We only lived there 3 years, and moved from there 9 years ago.  I began working on this piece right before we moved, set it aside after we moved, dabbled with it about 4 years ago, and then did not touch it again until a couple of weeks ago, when I decided it was time I finally got around to finishing it. 

Originally it was just going to be a straight house portrait, but I added our children in at the ages they were when we lived there.  The addition personalizes the piece for me and gives me the nostalgic feeling that I suppose other people are going for when they commission me to paint their house portrait.  It becomes an illustration, depicting the time when the boys were little, evoking so many memories, a little bittersweet, but nice to visit.

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Ten Little Empty Gold Wood Frames

Last year, at a tag sale, I came across a deal I couldn’t pass up.  A pile of 10 small gilded wood frames sat in a pile with a price tag of $10 for all on them.  It was late Saturday afternoon, and as I stood there contemplating whether I should get them or not, the owner offered to sell them all to me for one dollar total.  Needless to say, the debate whether to get them or not was over, and I took home my new purchase.  I figured I’d eventually use them for something.

They have been sitting in a neat little stack on my studio floor since then.  I know they would perfectly house a cohesive series of works, done in either oil or acrylic.  Their small size (8″ x 10″, with an image size of 5″ x 7″) particularly appeals to me, since I tend to work fairly small more often than medium or large, and my smaller works tend to sell more regularly. 

I keep pulling the frames out and looking them over, hoping for some inspirational visualization to strike, telling me what to paint for them.  There are little “Hecho en Mexico” tags on the backs of them, which somehow makes me glad that they were not made in China, as so much else is.  They are not garish, like some gold frames can be, and have a simple patterning around the edges.  I believe they are made of pine, which will make affixing the painting into them and wiring the back so much easier, working with the softer wood.  I love everything about them but continue to be stymied as to what to put in them.

For now, as I wait for some clever idea to surface, they will remain empty and sitting in a stack on my studio floor.  They don’t take up much room, but as symbols of artistic potential, they loom large in the creative spaces within me.

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“Well, it certainly is interesting…”

So, I entered this piece of fusion art into my local pastel society’s annual member show today (since I sometimes use pastel as a medium, I am a member of the Adirondack Pastel Show, but not a very active one).  The fine art portion of the piece is done in pastel, but as one can see, I’ve incorporated some computer parts (motors, chokes, other round items) into the piece that reminded me of the haybales depicted in the painting. Thus the title, Haybales Reimagined.

I fear that the volunteer/pastel society member taking in the artwork for the group show really did not know what to make of this piece; she reacted with a phrase that probably most, if not all, artists exploring the unconventional, have heard from time to time: “Well, it certainly is interesting…”

Typically pastel paintings are framed in neutral matting, under glass, with conventional frames.  This piece clearly defies that standard, so before entering the show, I sent an image of the piece to the pastel society’s president to see if I should or could enter it.  She is an open-minded and gracious person, and responded that she encourages experimental work, and that I should put the piece in the show.

It would be safer and certainly less scary, to have taken the painting out of its unusual casing, rematted and framed it to the standard, before entering it into this exhibit.  But I chose not to.  I want people to look at it and puzzle it out.  I accept that some people might absolutely hate it, and hope that quite a few more are intrigued by it and like it.  Perhaps someone might even love it enough to buy it.  But most likely, there will be many that will simply react with “oh, that is interesting…”  Art, so often, attracts that ambivalent response.

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Helping Out

Over the next three weeks, I am helping out two different non-profit arts organizations with their respective fundraisers.  It’s harder and harder these days for these types of organizations to survive; the little money people have available to give tends to go to more human service oriented orgs, and state and federal funding for the arts are being cut all the time.  So arts organizations need to resort to creative fundraising to maintain operations.

There are essential differences in these two orgs and their events.  One is a long-standing established organization (Lake George Arts Project, www.lakegeorgearts.org) with a proven signature event called the Black Velvet Art Party, that helps to fund LGAP’s art gallery.  LGAP has two paid staff members and a relatively active volunteer board. The other organization is very new and struggling to stay afloat (Art in the Public Eye www.artinthepubliceye.com) and is putting forth a dance party event themed around the Rat Pack years.  APE has no paid staff, and is only run by volunteers, most of whom are self-employed with their own demanding businesses, so needs of the organization are met sporadically due to the volunteers’ other life demands.  I spent a very active year volunteering with Art in the Public Eye in many capacities, but had to step away for a number of reasons, mainly to address my own growth as an artist. 

Both events charge admission, run silent auctions, seek donations from partygoers to help raise funds.  Both organizations have crossover volunteers, who have mutual interests in both of these groups, since their missions are similar and important, yet their projects vary.  There even has been a little attempt at symbiosis between the two groups; APE presenting LGAP’s public video project on APE’s own huge inflatable outdoor screen and projector.  But which one survives over the long haul?  There’s only so much money, time and energy on the part of interested supporters.

I can do only a little to help out and hope that others can do a little too.  Maybe if all people interested in seeing arts and culture survive in their home towns, helped out just a little, these arts organizations would then stand a chance.  I maintain that art, in all of its forms, is necessary to our culture and these homegrown arts organizations are the gatekeepers and barometers for what’s past, present and future in each region’s arts and culture.

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