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Posts Tagged ‘creativity’

Artists Jeffrey Nowlin, Cedric Harper and Me

Lucky for me I was standing next to two incredibly photogenic people. Via the following link you can read more about the opening reception for the exhibit, “Inspiring Change for the Climate Crisis,” at UVA’s Arthaus Gallery in Allston. The exhibit can be viewed through September 16th. Drop by if you can and then check out some of the local restaurants in the area.

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… then there’s Steve who decides to make a cedar tongue and groove liner for the drawer that will hold some woolens. Last year, in 2020, around this time he’d crafted a dining room table out of three different woods, made a cutting board out of some of the remainders, and gave me some of the shavings from the tapered legs so that I could experiment with some wall art.

This year he received a commission (from me) to create a side table. He purchased some live edge wood and is experimenting with mortise and tenon jointwork for the legs. That incomplete project is leaning against the wall in his woodworking shop with one experimental leg sticking out. The focus right now is to methodically complete the cedar lining for one drawer, and with the remainder make some cedar blocks to hang in the closets.

The former owners of the house left behind a large wooden piano seat top. He’s planning to turn that into a utilitarian table to help organize his work space and properly sort out works-in-progress. I asked, silly me, why don’t we grab a hammer and some nails and put legs on that thing right now. With an arched eyebrow he described his plan to make a frame, the seat will rest on the frame, and legs will attach to the frame, just like the dining room table.

But of course.

2021 was a hard year physically (though not as hard as some I can remember!). He is not pleased at how long it is taking him to complete a project or sometimes even to saw through a thin sheet of wood. As his “sous chef” in the shop I am picking up a whole new language involving woods and tools. I’ve learned how to loosen a hold fast and help make a handle for a delicate Japanese saw blade. But mostly what I’m learning is a different kind of patience. Patience in working with the wood … you can’t rush it or you’ll destroy the wood or worse yet tools. Patience with that fellow as he learns, at least I hope he’s learning, to be patient with himself as he moves forward in the world at a different pace.

Oh, did I mention he has plans to make another dining room table? The plans are just in his head for the moment. When he starts to sketch it out on random pieces of paper that he leaves lying around the house then I’ll know he’ll make it real. At this pace … and keeping in mind I will co-opt his time with gardening related matters … he may not finish that table until Christmas 2022. And that’ll be just fine.

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On view as you enter the front door.

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When Steve tapered the legs of the dining room table he made by hand this pandemic season … I gardened, he made furniture … these pieces of wood were left behind. Now he told me about these pieces before I actually saw them and said, “I can turn them into a fan for you to do something with. I just need to get the right bolt.” “You mean like a Japanese fan?” He shrugged. “Yeah, more or less.” And I exclaimed with glee, “Yes, make that and we’ll hang it on the wall.”

Given that I don’t work with wood yet and he can’t read my mind yet, we each merrily traveled down a mental path completely unaware that we were not on the same page. He made the fan, 9 pieces bolted together and because of the nature of the design they have to hang down and not up as I had imagined in my head. And while I thought it was a totally him piece … his creation … he seemed stuck on this idea of collaboration. Well, I do declare. “You can stain it like you did the table,” I said. He nodded slowly then said, “But I think a watercolor wash might be better. That’s just me.” And for an eternity … actually only a few moments … we went back and forth. Finally I threw up my hands in exasperation. “Okay, mister, I’ve got some watercolors somewhere. What’s your vision?” He shrugged. “I don’t have one. You’re the artist.” He walked away as I semi-glared.

And then I began to play …

… knowing that nothing would be perfect and that I was learning along the way.

There are nine leaves to the fan. I began to think of the leaves as nine opportunities to tell a story or vignette. I think that is how I will handle such an opportunity in the future.

Watercolor on wood. You can’t get much more ephemeral so who knows I may use these same thin pieces again one day. But this fan can stay as it is for a bit because a certain someone is beginning to work on a new table. A much smaller table. We’ll see what falls by the wayside this time for our next collaboration. Be well,everyone. 🙂

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“I have always wanted to paint from nature, but it is too late when my work is finished for the day, so I am confined mostly to copying. On Sundays and holidays I go out to the country and paint, but holidays are few and far between and the weather doesn’t always permit. I’ve done a few farms, and last spring I did a picture of an old New England farm which I sold to C. A. Coffin of Lynn.”

The Boston Globe, Sunday, April 30, 1911

In the spring of 1911, the Boston Globe shared the story of artist John P. Rollins. Born in Lynchburg, Virginia, in 1852, he trained as a house and sign painter. While in Philadelphia practicing his trade, he began exploring painting as an art. His efforts caught the attention of African American artist David Bustill Bowser.

Bowser mentored the young artist and even encourage him to set aside his trade and focus on fine art. But Rollins was aware, despite Bowser’s success, how hard it was to make a living as an artist especially for a Black man. Curious about the world, a world he might paint one day, he took a job as a sleeping car porter on trains traveling cross country. He finally settled in Boston and worked at Young’s Hotel located in the Financial District. He worked there for 20 years, painting during his off-hours. He managed to find time to take vocal lessons at the New England Conservatory. He sang in Baptist choirs across the city and eventually served as choirmaster for several churches including Boston’s Twelfth Street Church.

After leaving Young’s Hotel, Rollins was a messenger for a large banking house. A personable man, Rollins made connections with a mercantile and social elite who began to purchase his artwork. He was able to copy the works of great masters from a simple postcard. Both his reproductions and original art caught the attention of Boston artist and teacher Walter Gilman Page.

Page allowed Rollins access to his studio. As the two men developed a relationship, Rollins introduced Page to others in the black community who were artists as well. Like Rollins they pursued their dreams of painting while working whatever jobs they could find to make a living. They worked as elevator operators, waiters and janitors. With Page’s support, in 1907, the men formed the Boston Negro Art Club. Soon thereafter they had their first exhibit showcasing many works of art. Rollins served as Vice-President of the group.

“There’s nothing like seeing other men doing good work to make one want to keep up to the standard,” said Rollins. “But the fact of being able to sell your pictures is probably the greatest help. I have always been particularly interested in painting Venice. It has been the wish of my life to go there; from the time I was a little shaver down in Virginia … Venice has been to me like a stick of candy, way up high on a Christmas tree …”

“State Street, 1801” by James Brown Marston located at the Massachusetts Historical Society

“One of the best copies I have ever made is of ‘State Street, Boston – 1801,’ the original of which is at the rooms of the Massachusetts Historical Society. There are a number of people who take an interest in my work and when some of my friends go away and travel either in this country or in Europe they send me all the postcards they can of the scenery, and it gives me great pleasure to copy and enlarge them.”

After its debut in 1907 the Negro Art Club had a few more exhibitions. By the time Rollins was interviewed by the Boston Globe in 1911 the group had likely disbanded. A 1920 Census shows that Rollins was still working as a porter at the bank and one can hope that he was still painting. Whether any of his paintings survive is unknown.

Sources and Additional Reading

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/David_Bustill_Bowser

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Artwork in the square. Deceptively simple looking and especially quite elegant when a gentle breeze blows and there’s plenty of breeze in Copley Square.

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I’m all about bringing nature indoors. That’s why its been such fun this winter to sip tea and to work with images in the public domain, as well as my own photography, to update my redbubble shop. I selected several artists whose works moved me personally and sorted through merchandise I would actually use. First up … William Morris.

I’m a fan of Morris’s bright, bold prints but I liked these for their unfinished quality and the softness of the colors. Very soothing to me. See what you think when you visit the shop.

And you can learn more about Morris via this Wikipedia page.

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entering my home office area

Let’s see …

Designing — Working with creative colleagues at Trinity Church to “think outside the box” during these days when buildings are currently closed for tourism and developing new ways, indeed even fun ways, to share the beauty of an historic landmark. In addition to sharing stories of people and place, we’re putting together an online shop via Redbubble to highlight imagery and designs inspired by the art and architecture. Check out the shop via this link.

Researching — Completing contractual assignments to research and write biographies about African American men and women from the late 18th to early 20th Centuries (my favorite periods to research) whose stories have been forgotten or overshadowed over time. That means I need to velcro my bottom to the chair instead of continually wandering about the little garden. I’ll just have to make the garden my lunch break spot!

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a nook in my office area

Curating — Thanks to the energy of some fellow creatives, commencing conversations with them to possibly curate an art show in February 2021 featuring artists of color. It has been a pleasure to be involved with these folks and this event in past years so I am hopeful for the future. Stay tuned for updates.

Submitting photography — Get back into the groove of submitting photography and not just posting on Instagram (which is so much fun!). I’ve put together my first submission calendar in ages.

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And then there’s writing, I mean personal writing and with writing will come grieving which is a healthy thing. I feel a renewed yearning to tell stories of the past and those stories involve family no longer here. I want to tell stories of the present and some of those stories involve angst because of my husband’s health and chronic uncertainty about the future. But I also feel compelled to write about hope. I think it’s talking to my young nephew and other young friends.

So that’s what I’m working on … or at least my endeavor … as summer starts to ease into autumn.

Hope you continue to join me on this journey of words and images! 🙂

 

 

 

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rosegold

One of the first times I picked up a camera in a serious way was to capture the glory of the rose gold sky I kept seeing as I walked home from work. It was never the same shade of rose or gold of course. I remember once the sky was so magnificent that I paused on the sidewalk and a man standing on his lawn … well, we just shared a moment of staring into the sky at the clouds being lit from below by the setting sun.

fireinsky

I think one of my creative goals in this strange year is to train my camera to the skies once more. We’ll see what happens. Meanwhile if you’re interested in acquiring these images as prints or on merchandise, please visit links below.

Evening Light in Rose and Gold

Fire in the Sky

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Nasturtium and borage blooms on the garden salad. Mostly for show. Like painting the green salad with dabs of bright paint.

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