Natures Nation - Exhibit at Peabody Essex Museum - with video links

On Monday, we went to Salem, MA for a visit to the Peabody Essex Museum and the Natures Nation: American Art and the Environment exhibit (on view through May 2, 2019). Following along historical lines with an emphasis on how we humans have impacted the environment, curators offered works from various points in history combined with modern art.

From PEM’s website: “Nature's Nation: American Art and Environment is the first exhibition to trace environmental awareness in American art over the last three centuries. More than 100 works, including iconic masterpieces as well as rare works by such artists as John James Audubon, Albert Bierstadt, Thomas Cole, Valerie Hegarty, Winslow Homer, Georgia O’Keeffe and Jaune Quick-to-See Smith (Salish-Kootenai) compel us to reconsider the relationships between art, the environment and ourselves.”

This is not a review of the exhibit. I am sharing a few works from the exhibit that I particularly enjoyed.

The exhibit began with indigenous artifacts of the past and a Land Acknowledgment reflecting PEM’s presence on what was land once occupied by native people long before it was settled by Europeans. Rachel Allen, one of the PEM curators who worked on this project, wrote this about the statement in her blog post:

“Twelve of the 22 works in the show by Native American artists are from PEM’s collection. The first one you will encounter, a delicately carved bear sculpture, accompanies the Land Acknowledgment — a statement that formally recognizes the Indigenous caretakers of the land and serves to show gratitude to Indigenous people of the region as well as their ancestors and future generations. “

This statement was followed by a video work by Nicholas Galanin. These videos combined indigenous music with modern dance, and then modern music with native american dance. There are two parts with more about his meaning in the description of each video (click to see). I shared on my story on Instagram but the links didn’t work so I wanted to share here:

Another powerful piece, among many, was the video of “Mirror Shield Action 2016” from the protests at Standing Rock in 2016. Click on photo below or link above to see a video of this project.

http://www.cannupahanska.com/mniwiconi

http://www.cannupahanska.com/mniwiconi

While there was much more to the exhibit, these video works really spoke to me and were something I wanted to share. I hope you will take some time to read through the links and view the videos. Even better, swing by PEM yourself before May to have a look!

Summer 2018 Sketchbook Video

This summer I did a short sketchbook for our travels to NYC and the Adirondacks. I blogged about the trip a few weeks ago here.

Last summer, I did a larger (and longer) sketchbook that captured our many beach days. That flip thru was one of my very first videos... have a look here.

This summer, I kept it a little simpler, with more of a vibe of what we did during this trip on each page. Plus, I included some brush lettering practice. Have a look at this video and let me know what you think!

Travelling with my art supplies

I recently traveled to NYC for an art-y meetup, so not only did I need my regular sketching kit, but I needed a few things to work with while we were hanging out making art together. I thought I would share what I usually pack for art making on a day trip and compare that to what I brought to NYC. 

My typical travel set-up for a day trip includes my travel watercolor kit (I have had this one for many years), a water brush (holds water in the handle), a pencil or two (plus extra eraser), a micron, and my sketchbook.

For my trip to NYC I included a few more items. We were travelling on foot, so I wanted to keep it light. In addition to the day-trip kit, I included a mini Messy Artist journal, my favorite midnight blue acrylic (Paper Artsy Fresco Finish, purchased here...not sure if they still have this color), small brushes, a glue pen (not pictured), some collage material, stapler, hole punch, scissors, and some mark making items (small circular stamps, etc). I also brought a handmade journal (not pictured...but I am planning a flip through soon!) and collected materials from our travels. While in NYC, I bought two brush pens and a gelli pen from Muji as well as the Kuretake white ink and sumi ink. I also collected lots of stuff from our travels, and included a fun art decisions dice my kids gave me. 

I put it all into a pencil case (my own from Society6) and a take out dumpling container!

Do you create when you travel? I'd love to hear what you pack! Happy travels!

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Getting outside and making art

Scene from 4th class at Pettengill Farm, Salisbury, MA

Scene from 4th class at Pettengill Farm, Salisbury, MA

I recently completed a 5 week class painting with oils outside (Plein Air Alla Prima). It is kind of funny...at each class I wondered why I was there. Oils are not really my preferred medium to use and I have zero experience with realistic landscape painting other than some quick watercolor sketches at the beach. But I wanted to take an in person class and I wanted to be outside enjoying the weather. I also have a series of cold wax oil paintings that are stalled and I thought some instruction and time working with oils in a different way with a focus on the landscape might help.  I am happy to report that I did find some connection!

Step 1, sketch in scene with vine charcoal

Step 1, sketch in scene with vine charcoal

We met for each class at few locations throughout Northeastern MA. This included two class meetings at Maudslay State Park in Newburyport, two meetings at Pettengill Farm in Salisbury, and one class meeting (the first) at Bartlett Mall in Newburyport near Frog Pond. I found it worked best for me to walk around and sketch out some possible scenes in my sketchbook as a first step. When I felt confident with the layout, I would set up the materials and sketch out a scene on my canvas board using soft vine charcoal. This step is the time to measure out the scene with a viewfinder and the paintbrush handle as a ruler. Vine charcoal wipes off easily when you are ready to add paint, but I was heavy handed with the charcoal, so I also found it worthwhile to use a pink eraser to get off as much as possible while still leaving the outline of my sketch behind. The Charcoal would muddy the paint (especially the white!).

After 2.5 hours of painting, ignore left side which is unfinished

After 2.5 hours of painting, ignore left side which is unfinished

I found the focus of the class for me was to "draw what you see." This may seem obvious, but I tend to draw what I see blended with what I assume is there. Every time I would come up against perspective or other measurements being off. This would skew the whole painting and even in an abstract painting, having the perspective and sense of space correctly laid out makes a huge difference. Funny enough, it actually connects quite literally to the figure drawing sessions I have been sitting in on lately. Measuring out what you see and where it goes on the canvas or paper using a view finder or other tool to measure is critical. "That's no fun" you say? Well, I used to think that too. I love the abstract landscape (and there is more on that to come for me I am sure of it), but it really hit home for me that in order to make a successful abstract landscape or figure drawing you have to know how to paint it realistically (-ish) in the first place.

Another challenge was color. Instructor and artist Sue Charles (please, stop now and click on her link... her work is GORGEOUS) recommended a set of colors which did not include black or gray-Cadmium Yellow, Yellow Ochre, Cadmium Orange, Cadmium Red, Alizarin Crimson, Ultramarine Blue, Cerulean Blue, Viridian Green, Sap Green. We were reminded that complimentary colors will get you the grays you are looking for with a tint of color that will bring energy into the piece. Each week I wished I had taken the time to make swatches of the colors, but I never did. As a result, I was really challenged to get the colors that I wanted out in the field. There was a lot of green (duh) and I wasn't falling in love with the greens I was mixing. I still need to sit down and swatch out these paints.

Composition also presented some challenges. The first few classes I plopped my pile of stuff (there is lots of 'stuff') right down and focused on the first scene I saw.  By the fourth class I realized a few things; 1) I need to sketch out a few composition options before I set up easel (etc) so I know that is the place I will enjoy painting for 2+ hours and 2) I like a man made focal point in the painting (not all trees).

It was HARD and took a lot of brain cells and I needed a nap after each class to recover. But I felt that I was learning something new and that was exciting. The instructor let me borrow her old french easel. The thing was a beast to carry, but she saved me some $$ and let me borrow it for the summer!. Other materials included oil paints, soft vine charcoal, Gamblin Mineral Spirits, Paint brushes, Palette Knives, Palette, rags/paper towels, snacks, water, bug spray and a hat.

painting from my second class, house in center unfinished

painting from my second class, house in center unfinished

painting from third class ... no man-made focal point, and I found the reflection/water in the foreground very challenging!

painting from third class ... no man-made focal point, and I found the reflection/water in the foreground very challenging!

Painting from the last (5th) class...I can see a big difference in what I learned here. While water in the foreground is dark and reflection a little awkward, overall I am pleased with this one! I love how the shadow and light on the bright green grass came out. And the trees in front really do bring the perspective and depth into the painting. This was also my largest panel!

Painting from the last (5th) class...I can see a big difference in what I learned here. While water in the foreground is dark and reflection a little awkward, overall I am pleased with this one! I love how the shadow and light on the bright green grass came out. And the trees in front really do bring the perspective and depth into the painting. This was also my largest panel!

April Trip to the Peabody Essex Museum

Over our April school vacation week, my daughters and I took a day trip to Salem, MA. The girls were both born and lived their earlier years in Salem, and we always enjoy visiting when we have a chance. We love to check out our favorite places and find new spots-Salem is really a fun city-and The Peabody Essex Museum is usually at the top of the list. This visit, we each picked a special exhibit we wanted to see; two were temporary, and one was a permanent exhibit.

Selfie in the PlayTime exhibit

Selfie in the PlayTime exhibit

We were ecouraged to sketch in the T.C. Cannon exhibit

We were ecouraged to sketch in the T.C. Cannon exhibit

First, we stopped in to see the T.C. Cannon exhibit, On the Edge of America. T.C. Cannon was a Native American artist from the 1960s and 70s whose work balanced issues of the Vietnam War as well as historical implications of the treatment of Native Americans by the U.S. government. I was stunned at how contemporary the work felt, and how well the curator linked current racial tensions with the issues the artist was raising. One highlight was a wall-sized mural. The curator commissioned a Native American musician alive today to write and sing a piece of music that played in the gallery. This was so wonderful and moving. This exhibit is up through June 20, 2018 - I highly recommend a visit before it closes.

Our second stop was the Yin Yu Tang House - "a 200-year-old Chinese house that was brought to America and re-erected at the Peabody Essex Museum". This is a permanent exhibit at PEM, but we haven't been inside in a while. My daughters were keen to visit this time, so we picked up the self-guided audio handsets and went in for our scheduled tour. This house was lived in until 1982 when the final residents moved out. It is really worth a visit - the audio tour guides are super helpful.

The final exhibit for us was PlayTime, which is up through May 6, 2018. Hurry to check it out! "PlayTime is the first major thematic exhibition to survey the rapidly evolving role of play in contemporary art and culture. Nearly forty works by seventeen leading contemporary artists—including large-scale installations, sculpture, photographs, video and tactile interactives—examine how play catalyzes creative expression, enchants the ordinary, and helps us understand ourselves in new ways." This exhibit was very interactive and a lot of fun for all of us. PEM has also set up a website with more art, writing, and other ways to explore how play is changing. Perfect way to wrap up the visit.

 

View across the courtyard in the Yin Yu Tang House

View across the courtyard in the Yin Yu Tang House

DIY sculpture in the PlayTime exhibit

DIY sculpture in the PlayTime exhibit