Stefan Barton – Woodcuts

I am not a photographer. I mostly paint and draw. I really only take pictures with a camera if I feel I have to. I do it because I think nobody else would. The images are surprises I find in nature, in artifacts and in the play of light and shadow on some sort of topography. There are pictures of rips in plastic-foil glued to window panes, cracks in concrete walls, shriveled and nevertheless sprouting vegetables, light coming through glass-bricks, cracks in floating ice sheets on a river – and trees. What is different about the following tree pictures is that I manipulate them with my computer. Read on and find out why.

On a random road-trip through the countryside one of us got car-sick and we stopped for a short break. I got out of the car and walked around a little bit, eager to continue with the driving. Then I noticed something odd in a pairing of trees in front of the wall of some dilapidated and rather ugly farming-compound: nothing of importance, just a vague geometric sensation, an aesthetic challenge presented by the coincidental arrangement of lines and spaces. I debated with myself, but then got the camera out of the car and took a picture. I wanted to preserve the sight and find out if the vision would hold up on the computer, in a different environment, at a different time…

Some weeks later, I stood at the living-room window, staring at a row of far away linden trees. Again it took me quite a while to decide to get the camera, feeling a little silly. A hint of dancing, floating, naked figures, headless…

Another tree I could see from the same window, looking back at me somehow…

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Walking in the countryside, armed with camera. The realization that in a forest, in small groupings and single trees, there are countless perspectives, countless compositions of trunks, branches and twigs. I would sometimes run around among the trees for hours, circling them, walking away, getting nearer, studying the bodies, arms, faces, eyes. I could imagine seeing myself from a distance: some weirdo with a camera running randomly around in the forest, obsessed with something invisible in the canopies, in the bark of tree trunks, stumbling, unaware of the path, spellbound, unable to look away. Or standing motionless for minutes, seemingly lost in thoughts.

Afterwards, the downloading of selected images, manipulations with software. Careful cutting and deleting of content, rearranging, little alterations, leaving authenticity to a certain extent intact, the taste of the original randomness, a sense of believability, the possibility of the composition. Simultaneously creating an odd shift in reality, a perforation of it.

The manipulations leading to something recognizable, hinting at something familiar, classifiable, interpretable.

Is there something in forestscapes that wants to be seen; are there hidden images in trees, manifestations, truth in observation?

The way of the wood – branching, the dendritic ramifications – is in reality too chaotic for us to recognize the true emergent and complex structure of trees. It is chaos –  and self-organization. A tree is in its slowness something like a frozen fractal. But it is slow only to us. In its own temporal reality it grows rampant, shooting upward waving about greedily for light, competing for height and size. The procession of days is a flicker.

There is beauty in trees. They are reassuring and steadfast. But they are also mysterious, incomprehensible.  One can, as in clouds, choose to see metaphorical images, maybe meaning. The barren treetops and the geometry of wood transcend the apparently mindless growing-ons and sproutings. One can refine it, purify it, even show the absurdity of it.

Wood doesn’t blush.

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Stefan Barton resides in a village near Hamburg, Germany where there are many patient trees, but he spent 20 Years in the US (San Francisco and Boston Area). He works on paintings, drawings and printmaking. Once in a while he is transfixed by taking pictures and manipulating these in a peculiar way. To see more of his images contact Stefan (stefan.bartongmail.com ) visit  http://clex-werk.blogspot.de/  or look at a book:

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Holly Soffee Bohannon – Art love

Art has been in my life for as long as I can remember. I loved everything about it.

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In grade school, I would look forward to art class more than any of the other classes.  In high school I was like a kid in a candy shop trying to decide which art class to take.  I wanted to take them all!

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I got married and started a family quite early. I continued to keep it close to me whenever I could, usually through my kids. My husband would always nag me ” You need to paint.” He knew deep down how important it was to me. It wasn’t until my late thirties that I finally realized, there was no ignoring that voice in my head any longer.

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I started taking painting classes, and automatically it all came rushing back. My first love, my true love, my art.

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I have  worked in different mediums, but my favorite these days is graphite and charcoal.

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I love being able to control the pencil and detail that you can achieve, especially when working on a portrait. I will usually save the eyes for last, because I believe that in the eyes there is a connection to the source- something that goes beyond what we know.

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Over the years, my art has lead me to become more connected with my spirituality.  It is almost meditative.                                                                                                                           

IMG_2582The world around me can be beautiful or grim, and it doesn’t matter. When I have my canvas or paper in front of me, life pauses and I can just “Be” even if for a moment.

 

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Holly lives in Richmond, Va. with her husband and two teenage sons. She has been drawing and painting her whole life, and started selling her work in 2010. She is always willing to start a new project if anyone is interested in a commission.
Contact Information:
Email: Jidmoski@yahoo.com

Kelly Anona Kerrigan – Documenting a life on canvas

I feel most alive and most connected to the world when I am creating.  In college, I fell in love with painting.  I received a very traditional art education as an undergrad, learning the foundations of painting, drawing, and sculpture.  Our studio time was spent exploring still life setups and the human figure.  In graduate school, I branched out and explored other ways to use materials while trying to find my own vision.  Through my exploration, I discovered that my work always come back to portraiture.

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Anona 2010, oil on canvas

There is something about painting a portrait that feels like a special connection that I am making with my subject.  I want to invest the time to really see a person in a way that we don’t get to do on a day to day basis.  I use portraiture to explore identity and personality, and how much we can really know each other.  I feel a rush of adrenaline when a painting starts to form on the canvas, representing my personal relationship with and interpretation of the subject.

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Anona 2011, oil on canvas

When my niece, Anona, was about 10 months old, I painted her portrait.  At the time, I wasn’t thinking past that initial portrait.  I just wanted to capture her as I knew her that day.  Anona is now 7 years old, and I have painted her portrait every year since she was born.  That first portrait started an ongoing project that, for me, is about more than painting.

Anona 2012, oil on canvas and Anona with her early portraits.

Anona and I live on opposite sides of the country, so I don’t see her very often.  The distance and time between visits make it seem like she is growing up so very fast.  It is amazing to see how much she changes and exciting to watch her grow into her own unique individual.  Each year, I try to capture her in a way that feels true to my interpretation of her, and shows her personality.  In a sense, the portraits become a representation not only of Anona, but of my relationship with her.

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Anona 2013, oil on canvas

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Anono 2014, oil on canvas

A theme that runs through my work is one of identity and what shapes our sense of who we are and how we present ourselves in this world.  By painting Anona each year, I am watching her grow up and become who she is, while creating a lasting document of milestones throughout her life.  All of the portraits of Anona live with her on the west coast.  While compiling these pictures of the paintings today, I realized that this is the first time that I’ve looked at them all together.  I love seeing them as a group and noticing how she changes from year to year.  I’m pretty sure she enjoys seeing herself on canvas, as well.   I am determined to add to this group every year, for as long as she will let me!

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Anono 2015, oil on canvas

Anono with her 2016 portrait and Anono 2016, oil on canvas

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Kelly Anona Kerrigan is an artist living and working in Boston’s Fort Point Artists’ Community.  She received a BFA in painting from Boston University and an MFA from the School of the Museum of Fine Arts/Tufts University. In addition to painting, she also enjoys designing and making clothing and costumes.  Some of her favorite things in life are running, nail polish, and the Red Sox.  See more of her work at www.kellyanonakerrigan.com

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Jenny Brown – On Being an Artist

I decided early on that becoming a full time artist was my goal in life. I was 19 and a painting student at Bennington College, where the life of an artist was presented to me as almost a beautiful dream: a messy loft in New York City, ramen noodles for dinner, and the sudden discovery by a Chelsea gallery that would solidify my place in the art world… and would allow me to spend my life painting and traveling and in general just be cool.

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Brown, Jenny. Gray Pearl Cephalopod.  2016.  Pen, Ink and Collage on Paper.

I got an internship at Art in General gallery in 1994 (I was 20 years old), and I got my chance to live that fantasy. I slept on a couch in an apartment in Soho with people I barely knew, existed on pita bread and coffee for sustenance, and did embarrassing things like load all of the slides in the carousel backwards for a presentation at the gallery without realizing it. I was hungry and tired.

And I loved every minute of it.

After graduating from college the harsh truth set in: I wasn’t from a wealthy family or have a trust fund to fall back on, so I need to make money- not only to live, but to pay back the $30,000 I had to borrow to go to art school. I worked as a barista, a teacher, a waitress, a telemarketer, a medical secretary, and pretty much everything in between. I was broke but happy, and carved out time to make art between jobs in my bedroom. But I was tired- not only physically, but tired of people asking me when I would get a real job, tired of nervous calls from my family asking me what the heck I was doing, tired everyone asking me when I would get married and have children. Around that time I had the very good fortune to get to live and travel in Europe for two years. One night I was in Paris at a party and I told another guest, who was French, that I was an artist. Their face immediately lit up, and they proceeded to ask me all about my work and life like it was a CAREER. It had never happened to me before.

And it was all the motivation I needed to keep going.

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Brown, Jenny. Effervescent Flowering Scallop. 2017. Pen, Ink and Collage on Paper.

My work progressed. I had always loved working with collage material and it finally started to make sense in my work. I applied to grad school year after year and was rejected. When I finally got into the School of Visual Arts in New York, I thought it was all coming together (btw it took me NINE years to get into grad school). I figured I’d get an MFA which would lead to a great teaching job, which would lead to financial security… which would lead to me getting to just make art.

But it didn’t work that way at all.

I moved to NYC and immediately went into a downward spiral. The relationship I was in at the time came to a dramatic end. I found myself in New York with nowhere to live and and it was too late in the school year to quit. I had to borrow $50,000 to live and pay for school, work 4 part time jobs, and was almost laughed out of my classes for showing an interest in “paper ephemera.” I got sadder and more tired. I abused alcohol to almost a life threatening degree (which was thankfully a short lived phase). I felt I had made the biggest mistake of my life. I was now EIGHTY thousand dollars in debt with no plum spot in a gallery, or really much to show from my time at school but a piece of paper.

But something kept me going.

I wanted to survive and make art.

I moved back to Boston to be by friends and figure out my next move. By then I had discovered that no one really cared that I had an MFA or had lived in New York. Unable to find any decent paying job in the art field, I took an office job that had nothing to do with art. Art was relegated to nights and weekends. Other artists I knew told me I was a sell out for taking a job in the corporate world. People in the corporate world didn’t take me seriously because they assumed I was a flake and not committed to my day job. I felt like I couldn’t win. But I kept showing up. Slowly but surely, I had a little money in my pocket and the confidence to keep working on my collages. And slowly they got better. Life was quiet and studious.

A few years later I met my husband and moved to Providence, RI with him. Not only did my husband truly believe in my work, but in Providence I found artists and friends and galleries did too. I got out of my comfort zone and started sharing my work on social media, and found another incredible community of artists and colleagues online, many whom I now call real life friends. I made the wholehearted decision to make my flowered-sea-creature-alien collages and be just happy with having the chance to make them.

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Brown, Jenny. Wandering Coral. 2017. Pen, Ink and Collage on Paper.

Right now, I am proud to say I work with 5 different art vendors and galleries. Some months, I make great money on my art and make almost as much as I do at my day job. Sometimes I go for months without even selling a print. And people still feel really inclined to share their feelings about my lifestyle, whether it be too corporate or too artsy in their view.

I think the real point of this story is to tell people that being an artist is really about committing to a whole life of art: the uncertainties, the doubt, the financial stress, the sudden successes. Someone recently said to me, “isn’t it WEIRD to really want to be an artist but spend all day in an office?” Another said, “don’t you wish you had never gone to school and didn’t have any loans so you could do whatever you want?” I honestly believe that all of these experiences, even the painful ones have taught me that I am TRULY committed to being an artist. Because some of the experiences really are painful. And yet I keep going towards my goal.

I am proud to live a life of non-conformity, complete with all the criticisms that come with it. I see people everyday who are unhappy and anxious and feel stuck and sometimes even tell me they wish they had been brave enough to pursue what they love, rather than be behind a desk all day. I hope they find the courage to take a step in that direction of what they love, even if it’s a little one.

I can’t promise them it will be easy, but I can 100% promise them it is worth it.

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Jenny Brown is visual artist living and working in Providence, Rhode Island, whose primary mediums are drawing, collage, and works on paper. Her work brings to life a mythical world of sea creatures and celestial beings, realized through her love of paper ephemera.

Her recent collage works focus on a dream of representing harmony amongst different elements of the natural world (flora, fauna, the moon, the sea). An abundance of flowers in the work represent the hearts and souls of these fantastic creatures. Branches and tentacles share their yearning to be connected to the most basic elements of life which created them…water, mineral, and the stars.

Jenny studied art at Bennington College and received her MFA from School of Visual Arts in New York. She is a featured artist in Issue 3 of Create Magazine, as well as part of the recently released “Craft Companion,” published by Thames & Hudson. She has also been featured at recent pop-up shops at West Elm & Anthropologie in Providence, RI, as well as Kate Spade in Pasadena, CA. Her work is currently available at Collier West in Brooklyn, NY and Good Eye Gallery in Los Angeles, CA.

Tess Runion – Why I shoot daily

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A usual day in my life is filled with chaos, kids, and lots of coffee/wine. Work, kid’s activities, homework, a college student, 2 dogs, maintaining a functioning household can be overwhelming, fun, joyful and tearful. I pick up my camera to find beauty in my ordinary. To document for my family the realness that is their life. So that they can learn as I have that it’s this beauty in all the little things that make up our big thing. That nothing is real without connection and emotion. So that they can remember to always find light and beauty in their regular and in doing so be more grateful little people.

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Based in Richmond, Virginia, Tess Runion is a documentary photographer specializing in black and white imagery. She strives to capture connection and to tell stories in each image. A mom of 3, she is inspired by her husband, children, good friends and good wine. To see more of her work visit www.tessrunionphotography.com.

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Brendan Ciecko – Seeking Grit and Ghost Signs

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I strolled along the cracked sidewalks and buckled paths of the “fossil American Venice” as Pulitzer Prize winning writer John McPhee once described this city. While passing through the sprawling district of canals littered with old brick mausoleums, I always notice something new. A century ago, that serpentine curve of the Connecticut River must have been a sight to be seen. Smoke stacks bellowing, trains roaring, and the bustle of things being produced in those factories. Each time I return, I examine the widespread decay, hoping that the “Queen of Industrial Cities” has stabilized and that she is in better condition than when I saw her last.

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“Hamilton Street” by Brendan Ciecko

Although many buildings and businesses continue to fall into ruin, the lack of forward motion has acted like a time capsule in some ways – preserving visual culture, commercial history, and proof of a more vibrant time. Behind flaking paint and around each corner, loom the ever-fading ghost signs.

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“Depot Square” by Brendan Ciecko

Most of my professional life has revolved around all things digital. Design is core to my being, and typography, a notable passion. When I travel my camera fills up with pictures of antique typography; hand­-painted signs, neon masterpieces, and chiseled cornerstones.

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“Haberman’s” by Brendan Ciecko

One of the things I can count on when visiting Western Massachusetts is that my ghost signs are still holding on tight. I’ve counted hundreds of interesting specimens within a mile radius of Holyoke’s majestic Neo-­Gothic City Hall.

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“Coca-Cola” by Brendan Ciecko

Oh, those ghost ­signs! High Street and Main Street have always been a feast for the eyes. Just look at the texture of the downtown, with its signage, old and new. But, the real treasures are of the businesses and advertisements long gone.

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“Main Pharmacy” by Brendan Ciecko

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“Essex Street” by Brendan Ciecko

Like a shoe-gazer on stage, you’d be surprised by what you’ll find with your head down. Terrazzo in the dipping entries of the old storefronts. Smashed marble and glass with hand-formed numbers and names of old departments stores. There must have been an old appliance shop here judging by that GE emblem, but I’ve never had the time to look it up.

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“GE” by Brendan Ciecko

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“Thom M” by Brendan Ciecko

In the 1960s and 70s, internationally renowned photographer Jerome Leibling took to the streets of this city’s raw downtown. During his time at Hampshire College, he brought along his students, including a young Ken Burns, to open their eyes and capture the grit of life.

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“Behind tenement” by Jerome Leibling

New York Times photographer Mitch Epstein documented the story of his family’s rise and tragic fall by the hands of Holyoke.

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“Newton Street Row Houses” by Mitch Epstein

A few months back, while visiting the deCordova, I came across a photograph in an exhibition titled “Overgrowth.” It was of a half­-shredded tenement with a hand-painted sign as an added bonus. Without reading the label, I knew where it was.

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“Coca-Cola, 1982” by Bill Ravanesi

These declining American cities have always captured our eye and imagination. I hope someday they’ll rebound, but until that day, I’ll continue collecting my snaps of signs and scenes of these formerly glorious New England mill towns.

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Brendan Ciecko is an entrepreneur, designer, and technologist. He lives in Boston, MA.