Sunday, February 22, 2015

Inspiration Roadblock or Not!

"Those who don't want to imitate anything produce nothing." Salvador Dali

The quote above interests me. In October 2014 I had an illuminating experience (illumination will figure in this story). While standing close to someone looking at one of my paintings, (the one pictured below) I heard her say, "Well, this is just a rip off." I was taken aback. I should have turned on my heal immediately, but did not. Instead, I asked her what she meant. After she determined that I was the artist, she said that my art was copied from work made by an artist she knew. I was aware of the paintings created by said artist (she has also paints trees).  My work isn't the same as hers, and I told my accuser so. The conversation never improved, but my attitude about it has. The woman was rude in the extreme, but her barbs made me think. What she said could have stopped the enthusiasm I have for painting the subjects that I choose to paint. Instead, her comments have made me think about originality, creativity, and inspiration. I personally think that we can be inspired by so many sources. I am not sure that I would call these influences imitations, as Dali did, but I get his meaning.

Reaching- Richmond, 24 x 18 inches, Pastel  © Lynn Goldstein
Fast forward to a recent visit to the Harn Museum of Art at the University of Florida. While there, I took in the exhibition, "Monet and the American Impressionists." The Harn Museum was a wonderful surprise, and this particular exhibition was well worth the visit.

I was stopped in my tracks when I saw a particular painting by Helen Maria Turner. Turner impressed me as a successful female artist in a time when a woman working outside the home was particularly difficult. Turner was more than fifty years old before she achieved both critical and commercial success. Though she traveled widely, Turner’s greatest source of inspiration was the wooded ambience of Cragsmoor, in Ulster County, New York.  Cragsmoor was an artists’ colony where she maintained a summer home until the 1940s.

Summer residents at the artist colony at Cragsmoor used Japanese paper lanterns to light their way at night, which explains her use of the lanterns in her painting entitled, "Lilies, Lanterns, and Sunshine," painted in 1923. The reproduction below doesn't begin to do justice to the painting I viewed in Florida.

Lilies, Lanterns, and Sunshine by Helen Maria Turner

The minute that I saw Turner's canvas, I was reminded of John Singer Sargent's "Carnation, Lily, Lily, Rose," as that painting includes two figures with Japanese lanterns as well. Sargent's painting was completed in 1885-6. I realized that my antagonist would have likely castigated Helen Maria Turner for "copying" Sargent since both paintings included Japanese lanterns and two figures in the compositions. I don't know if Turner saw the painting by Sargent, but they are clearly different pieces of art with different sensibilities. If I ever encounter a barb from a viewer again accusing me of copying another's work, I have my answer ready!

Carnation, Lily, Lily, Rose by John Singer Sargent

Monday, February 9, 2015

Inspiration Story — One More Time

Travel can lead your inspiration down unexpected roads, and your work can 
end up in a remarkable destination.

In 2012 my husband and I visited Iceland. While there, we went to a restaurant that was located in an old farmstead, which had been owned by the same family for generations. The restaurant was fascinating, and the food was delicious. In fact, our lunch was so yummy that we went back again for dinner. There were old books on each table of the upstairs dining room. Inside the books were photographs and stories about the owners of the farm. Books were also utilized as menus for the evening meals.  I was charmed by these creative ideas using books.
One of the books at the restaurant in Iceland
Fast-forward several months, and I was asked to participate in a show to commemorate the Holocaust. Those books from the restaurant in Iceland had stuck in my mind. As a result, I made the decision to use books for "Treatise," my Holocaust commemorative art installation. "Treatise" has been displayed at the Jewish Community Center of Northern Virginia, and also at Temple B'nai Shalom in Fairfax, Virginia. Now, it is on view at the Smithsonian S. Dillon Ripley Center in Washington, D.C. with other art in the exhibition entitled "Artists At Work." I have included images of "Treatise" as it looks at the Smithsonian, and other art that is also on view until May 1, 2015 in the same show.

Sherry Winkelman's quilt entitled "Interchange" is described here:"I am the technical lead for the data archive for Nasa's Chandra x-ray telescope. The primary function of the Chandra Data Archive is data recovery and dissemination, making Chandra data available to astronomers around the world. In this quilt, I began with an image of a highway interchange, replacing cars with computer chips and other components to represent data and science flowing between the archive and researchers."

Danny Robbins' lovely wooden stool was made using magnolia wood from a tree in the front yard of his first home, while the persimmon foot rest was from a tree in his grandmother's backyard. He states that working at the Museum of American History has inspired him to look at his own past.

As you can see, the artists were free to submit any medium of their choosing. Our inspirations were as varied as the media incorporated in the work. So, when looking for inspiration, you can look no further than your own office or backyard, and for fun, you can find inspiration far from home!

"Treatise" on view at Smithsonian S. Dillon Ripley Center in Washington, DC ©Lynn Goldstein

"Interchange" (Detail), Quilt, 2011 © Sherry Winkelman

"Interchange," Quilt, 2011 © Sherry Winkelman

"Heart Stool," Magnolia and Persimmon, 2014 © Danny Robbins

Friday, January 23, 2015

Don't Give Up, Inspiration May Sneak Up on You.

Resource for "Tattered Draperies"
Wherever I go, I am always finding inspiration for more paintings. Sometimes, I see something that looks perfect, snap a bunch of photographs, and then sigh with discouragement when the resulting images are a disappointment. That is just what happened when I visited family in Florida last year. The light dancing through the branches of some beautiful live oak trees caught my eye. I snapped away, taking pictures of the trees with Spanish moss dripping off of the branches. When I got home from the trip, and looked at the photographs, I wasn't moved at all. Rather than be discouraged, I just waded through other photographic possibilities.

I keep scads of resource photographs on my computer and my iPad. This has been a boon to finding inspiration when my imagination wanes. It is a good idea to have your photographic resource organized into folders that are labeled to make sense to you. I am not as organized as I would like to be, so I am going to give myself the challenge of doing just that this year. In the meantime, when I am looking for my next painting or series of paintings, I look at my resource. Something always catches my eye.

Having given up on the Spanish moss draping the branches of the live oak as a painting possibility, imagine my surprise when I was moved to make a painting of one of those photographs? I tried to talk myself out of it, thinking that my initial response must have been a correct one, but I couldn't let it go.

I have included the photo resource. I do not aim to replicated a photograph exactly. As you can see, I cropped, changed the proportions, and also changed the colors for the final piece as compared to the photograph. This is the result of listening to my gut and going for it.

'Tattered Draperies," Pastel, Acrylic, Watercolor, 24 x 24 inches © Lynn Goldstein

Monday, January 12, 2015

Teaching Yields So Many Rewards... and Surprises!

Teaching painting has rewards, both tangible and intangible. I believe that my work has improved in no small part due to my teaching for almost eighteen years. Simply put, my students have asked me questions that make me truly think about everything that I make, from why I chose a certain color scheme, to why I have chosen a particular subject. Most importantly, many of my students have become cherished friends. So, I am grateful to those who have put their trust in me as a teacher. 

Sometimes, I am given something tangible as a result of teaching. That happened last week, when one of my students handed me a small box. The box was in great shape, but clearly old. I opened it to find 6 almost pristine pastel sticks. I often joke that I am  the Imelda Marcos of pastel. You may see a sampling of the pastels I have collected to use over the years below. 

Lynn Goldstein's Pastel Collection
Including Great American, Girault, Unison, Mount Vision, Sennelier, Schmincke, Rembrandt, Art Spectrum, Diane Townsend, and Terry Ludwig brands... to name a few!!
Although you can see that I have quite a collection of pastels, I had never seen anything like these Gunther Wagner babies. They were manufactured between 1900 and 1930, from what I can tell. Gunther Wagner was a chemist who started the Pelikan Ink Company. How the pastels came to the United States is a mystery. This is how they came to me:

The  92 year old aunt of my student's wife died this past year.  In going through the aunt's things, getting ready to auction off most items, they found a box that apparently came from the desk of her father-in-law. The aunt just boxed everything up and brought it to her own house after both the father-in-law and mother-in-law passed away.  As far as anyone could tell, the box had been untouched for MANY years. Items like these have basically no auction value but are too good to be thrown away. Therefore, my student thought that I would enjoy them.  Well, what an understatement. I am thrilled to have these, and to share this experience. Here's a photo of the resurrected box, and its contents. 

Gunther Wagner Pastels 

My surprise:
Gunther Wagner Pastels

Tuesday, December 2, 2014


First painting inspired by the same resource photo
"Facing West- Unexpected," 36 x 24 inches, Pastel © Lynn Goldstein
"Unexpected," 17 x 11 inches, Pastel, © Lynn Goldstein
After finishing a painting (shown above) recently, I was struck by a question that one of my students posed. She asked why I had selected the photograph that I had chosen to use as a resource. I was a little taken aback. I remembered the feeling that I had when I took the photograph, and mistakenly thought that others would experience the impressions that I had on that day when I snapped the shot. I was with my family on vacation in California. We were traveling on Route 101, an eye-popping area of the country. Although views of the Pacific Ocean were magnificent, I became fascinated looking at the vegetation growing along the roadside. Sadly, there was no safe area in which to pull over, and I had given up getting any images of the scenery as I watched everything speed past me in a blur. Suddenly, we ground to a halt as a result of a mud slide. While waiting to be able to pass on what was now a one-way road, I opened the window and let the camera do its work. Below is the photograph from the experience. As you can see, I don't copy a photograph verbatim. I realize now when looking at the photograph, my student couldn't possibly read my mind. For that, I needed to put pastel to surface, and express the magic of that hillside as best I could. Looking at the photograph again, I may have to make another painting of the same scene. This wasn't the first time I had been inspired by the same photograph. Included here is also the first painting that I made of the scene.

Resource photo for "Unexpected"

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Art is Everywhere- Part 2

If someone had told me when I began training as a docent at the Smithsonian National Portrait Gallery (NPG) that I would still be leading tours after seventeen years, I would have been surprised, to say the least. That said, I am so happy to have had the experiences that I have had as a result of my connection with the Smithsonian. In fact, I was introduced to an opportunity to experience art in another unlikely place because of information passed to me through my Smithsonian connection. 

In September, NPG had an appreciation event honoring the docents. These events are always special. The food is terrific, seeing my fellow lover's of NPG is always a treat, and an interesting presentation is often a part of the evening. This year, the presentation shed light on an upcoming exhibit of art that was most unusual. The evening included an announcement given to us from the director of the Portrait Gallery, Kim Saget. Saget stated, “I want to expand the idea of what a portrait is,”  “The Portrait Gallery commissions paintings, video, photography and drawings all the time. This is about pushing the boundaries of portraiture outside the walls of the museum.” Her excitement was palpable, but she didn't have to convince me. I was fairly bursting at the seams to see the work she described.

During the month of October a giant portrait could be viewed from atop the Washington Monument on the National Mall. This portrait was commissioned by NPG, and was made by the Cuban-born American artist Jorge Rodriguez-Gerada using approximately 2,300 tons of sand and 800 tons of soil. His work, he says, “will avoid any negative impact on the environment.” (That’s a requirement of the National Park Service, which will install soccer fields on the site next year.) Using GPS, he mapped the ground with 15,000 pegs to indicate facial features. He then linked the pegs with string to form a template for placing pale sand and dark soil.

To see this piece in a short video, click here

Here is a photograph that I took from atop the Washington Monument on a nearly perfect day before it was deinstalled. The clarity was not as precise as when the art was first completed, but my excitement at seeing the work was not diminished. Art is everywhere!

"Out of Many, One" © Jorge Rodriguez-Gerada

Thursday, November 6, 2014

Art is Everywhere - Part 1

"The Steward" at Saint John the Divine in New York City © Lynn Goldstein
Caravan Artwork in the Cathedral of Saint John the Divine
Lately, I have been contemplating how art seems to spring up in very unlikely places. This is due in part to my recent activities, and just plain dumb luck. After completion of my piece for the CARAVAN exhibition, "Amen- A Prayer for the World, " I was struck by the art that was present in the National Cathedral in Washington, DC. The Cathedral in the nation's capital is in the beginning stages of hosting art exhibitions, while the Cathedral of Saint John the Divine in New York City has been hosting art exhibitions and installations for years. Synagogue Temple B'nai Shalom was very excited to install "Treatise," my piece to commemorate the Holocaust, last year. So, religious institutions are not new places to show and see art. That said, I was in for an eye-popping surprise when I first made my way into the Cathedral of Saint John the Divine in New York City. I was expecting to see my piece alongside the 47 other sculptural forms. The CARAVAN exhibition was beautifully mounted there. What I didn't expect was the stunning installation suspended from the ceiling of the giant cathedral.

The Catholic church has a long history of including art in their edifices. The Protestant movement has traditionally been less than enthusiastic regarding art displays. That has been changing for some time. What met me when I walked into the Cathedral of Saint John the Divine were two giant phoenix sculptures by the Chinese artist, Xu Bing. The artist culled refuse from construction sites in Beijing for two years, and used what he found to create two birds that are suspended from the ceiling of the church. The view was astounding. I was astonished to find out that the combined weight of the sculptures is 12 tons. It was an amazing experience to see this monumental work, and to have my artwork under the same (giant) roof.

"Phoenix" at Saint John the Divine in New York City © Xu Bing