Saturday, October 24, 2020

 ART IN THE TIME OF CORONAVIRUS

Schingoethe Center of Aurora University

 



 I am right now exhibiting these three "Migration" panels, in the "Art in the Time of Coronavirus" exhibition of the Schingoethe Center of Aurora University (12"x12" watercolor, graphite and burn marks on wood panel).

Here are the links to this online exhibition and my short contributing video

During this unprecedented time of the corona virus pandemic everyone's routines have changed, nothing is quite the same, and we are all learning to adjust to every single day as it comes. The country's political and social crisis adds an intense layer of uneasiness and uncertainty.

It is interesting to me that my new series on wood panels, the one I started last year, titled "Migration", emerged as a reflection on the changes and perpetual adjustments in my process of moving from Croatia to the United States many years ago. This feeling of unknown, of being suspended rather than grounded has only intensified, and I am certain it is now the prevailing feeling for practically the entire humankind.

Every day I find gratitude in the ability to add small marks to my sketchbooks, whenever an opportunity arises. Sometimes it comes while my kids are playing in the yard, sometimes while sitting by my kindergartner during his online school meetings. It's all more fluid now, and that is a nicer way to say: the concept of time feels quite blurry. There is more time, and yet less rest for the mind.

I feel, if all ends well, and we push through, and survive, this pandemic will probably be a time to remember how much we got to be together. And yet, in this moment, however blissful the cuddles and playing together (and doing school together!) are, there is a huge lack of "alone" time. Time for reflection. Time for a quiet room, with nobody else but yourself, for just a couple of hours. I am not counting here the very early morning that I am already stealing when I wake up a few hours before everyone else in our house...

If it, indeed, all goes well, I am asking myself, will I remember the richness of the time together, and reflect on it with a sense of nostalgia; once my studio resumes being again just - my studio, and no more also a makeshift classroom of my little brother-in-arms.

Tuesday, September 15, 2020

 MY GRANDFATHER FRANJA'S 100th BIRTHDAY...

A few days ago I celebrated my 44th birthday. I distinctly remember my mom turning 44. My sister and I wrote her a card. It said: "Happy birthday, mama, this is the year when you will be sitting on two chairs." I think we drew that 44 to resemble two chairs. And I drew a small flower. It feels so far away now, like it was a hundred years ago!
Today, if my dad's dad - Franja, was still alive, it would have been his100th birthday. I just recently discovered September 15th was his exact birth date when my sister stumbled upon a Wiki page about him. Well, instead of 100, my grandfather lived to be only 26. He caught tuberculosis during the second world war, and died from it, along with his wife, Kornelija, my grandmother, who outlived him by only a few years. She died at the age of 33. My dad lost both of his parents to tuberculosis - dad at 2 and mom at 13. The story of their lives holds so much power for me now, especially at this time when the world is in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The passing of time and its relativity is so very strange. What is - a long time, what is - only a little bit? Regardless whether there is a way to answer that question - it is so apparent that our (human) fragility is very real. Every moment truly counts. My grandfather lived to be only 26, he was on the battlefield, fighting the Nazis, probably completely starved, wet, cold and miserable, like so many around him. And though he had a short life, he studied Slavistics at the University of Zagreb, he passionately wrote poetry, and in Vinkovci, the city where he lived, where my dad was born and where I was born - a street was named after him. He left a little mark. Not to mention, he had my dad, and so without his existence I wouldn't be here, my sister wouldn't be here, our own children wouldn't be here today. Franja and Kornelija made our lives possible.

I don't know much about my grandfather Franja, my dad never really got to meet him. We only knew stories from other people. That he was incredibly bright, passionate, that he would be stuck indoors and devour literature, while his siblings were playing outdoors. His younger brother would tell him - "Franja, why don't you come outside, get some sunlight, play ball with me?" But he was so driven and obsessed with his books, he would just forget to get out. I only have this small selection of his poems. It is so unusual to read his words, see his handwriting and his young face on a black and white photo, see my grandma's name (Kornelija) mentioned in some of these poems.

The two of them, though I never met them, were at some point in time perfectly real, and alive, had their loves, and passions and joys and sorrows. And they lived a very short life. 

It is so strange to think I am already - so much, much older than either of them got to be.

 

Saturday, July 11, 2020


Three Summer 2020 Exhibitions



Announcement for the summer exhibit at gallery 1871, on view now through September 5th, 2020


As the summer is passing in such a very different way than any summer before, just like everybody else right now, I am reflecting on what is behind, and what in front of me.


Image from the gallery 1871 exhibition with five of my watercolors


My gut reaction to the general instability and uncertainty of this time is to try and weather the storm the best way I can.
Honestly, I continue being active with my art practice as if I am holding on for dear life. I can sense my instinct is at high alert, reminding me of the turbulent time of war during my teenage years in Croatia. Thankfully, the art proves to be my haven every time when the going gets tough, and presents itself as something secure and stable I can rely on. It helps me cope with the present, tremendously.I have to mention that I am lucky to have such a great support from the three galleries that represent me.
That being said; today is the opening of the three-artist summer exhibition at Gallery 1871 in Chicago, where I have over a dozen of large scale watercolors, all elegantly framed.



Above: current exhibition at  gallery 1871, my three Origin watercolors on the left, Elise Morris canvas on the right



Above: gallery 1871, my Blush Nebula left and my two Origin Aqueous watercolors in the back, right


This is my debut with the Chicago Art Source's gallery 1871 and I am simply thrilled with this new representation, here in Chicago. 


One of my Origin pieces is on the announcement poster on the building's facade (image above), and it feels fulfilling to see it from the street, a sense that this calming image hopefully for a moment brightens up a gaze for so many passersby.

In addition to this three-artist exhibition in Chicago (featuring works by Patricia Finley, Elise Morris and myself), my work is also right now on view at Walker Fine Art in Denver, in "Power and Fragility" : a six artist exhibit that explores the bold and powerful, as well as the delicate and fragile aspects of nature (featuring works by Tonia Bonnell, Patricia Finley, Jane Guthridge, Allison Svoboda, Zelda Zinn, and myself).



Migration, 24"x36", watercolor and burn marks on wood panel


At Walker, I am showing my recent Migration series on wood panels. You can see a brand new video from the Curator's Insights series, with the gallery owner Bobbi Walker presenting this body of work here.Migration, 2020, 24"x26", watercolor and burn marks on wooden panel*, now on view in "Power and Fragility" at Walker Fine Art, Denver CO.
My large scale Origin watercolor is also right now in the online exclusive exhibition "Transparent" at Kathryn Markel Fine Arts, and it can be acquired directly through the gallery website here.



Origin, 95"x55", watercolor on paper


Lastly, I would like to end this note with a sincere hope that you are somewhere safe and healthy, that we all push through this challenging time, and that every cloud must have a silver lining.

Monday, June 01, 2020



HUMANITY, TODAY

Origin, watercolor 20"x30"
I have started my Origin series many years ago. Moving from my native country, Croatia, to the United States seventeen years ago created a feeling of nostalgia, a sense of never fully belonging. I came here as an adult, so the complicated nuances of language that can't be translated, and the cultural differences are always there with me. I carry them as a tiny weight. A small price to pay to live a life where I want to be.
When I was a teenager we had a war in my country and many of my friends of different nationalities fled the county overnight. My best friend was one of them, and I didn't know if she and her family were alive for several years. They just disappeared overnight. The city where I lived became a war zone and was under constant grenading. My entire high school was "transplanted" to a remote area where it was safe, and we lived there for a full year.
We were lucky we were alive. 
Those were difficult times in my life, and it hurts to know what people are capable of, how cruel humanity can be. And today it hurts me to think a human life can be extinguished on the basis of race. It sickens me to see the color of one's skin can make a difference in life or death. 

Tuesday, May 19, 2020

TWO EXHIBITIONS DURING COVID-19
Spring/Summer 2020

Transparent @ Kathryn Markel Fine Arts NY
Power and Fragility @ Walker Fine Art Denver






During these unprecedented times of the COVID-19 pandemic, it is hard to grasp the entire world is affected and foresee what deep impact it is still about to have on all of us.
One thing is for certain; the way we perceive our life and our world is changing dramatically, and we are all shaken to our core.


As an artist, my practice is now complicated by the lack of studio time, as my once standard working hours are now exchanged with time taking care of my kids. Simultaneously, my need to create is more heightened, my want to express and react to this new state is full of urgency.
And while it is challenging to carve out uninterrupted moments to work, I am grateful for being still healthy, for my family being healthy, for being in this together.

 I am thrilled to have my work right now included in two concurrent exhibitions. 
 "Power and Fragility", at Walker Fine Arts, and "Transparent" at Markel Fine Arts.

In "Power and Fragility" I am showing my new series on wooden panels, titled "Migration", a series I started late last year after I officially became a US citizen.




                                     Above: Migration series, mixed media on wood panels, 24"x36", 2020*, available through Walker Fine Arts.
Here is the link to a short video about my work in this exhibition.

"Power and Fragility" opens for viewing at Walker Fine Art gallery both this Friday, May 22, 2020, 3-8 pm, and Saturday, May 23, 2020, 11-5 pm. There is an online sign-up for 20-minute viewing sessions through Signupgenius.com  LIVE virtual tours will also be broadcasted on Walker Fine Art Facebook and Instagram pages at 3 pm, 5 pm and 7 pm on May 22nd.
 

"Transparent", is Markel Fine Arts' online exclusive exhibition that can be viewed both on the gallery website as well as Artsy now through June 27th. All work is for sale directly through the gallery website and Artsy. A new feature on the Markel Fine Arts website is "view on a wall" which brings the artwork scale in space closer to the viewer.
         
I believe art has the power to comfort and heal, and I hope my work brings solace to those who feel the connection with it, aesthetically and emotionally.



Above: New series Flow/Earth, 22"x30", watercolor on paper, now available @ Kathryn Markel Fine Arts *

Sunday, May 10, 2020

MOTHER'S DAY
My mom is my inspiration
When I was a little girl, my mom was a high school math teacher. I had a nanny, teta Gita, who would come every morning, pick me up and I would spend the day at her house. I remember in the evenings the sound of my mom's car, driving over the gravel road and approaching my nanny's house. It was the most exhilarating feeling. I loved my nanny to pieces, and I never missed my mom during the day. I played on the street in front of my nanny's house with neighbors' kids. But when my mom would come to pick me up I was simply overjoyed.
In the evenings at home, my mom would play the piano, lots of Chopin, and I would dance behind her. I loved dancing but back then I thought "her music" was too melancholy and sad. But since I grew up on Chopin - his music became a part of me. I have the gift now of always having my mom with me when I hear Chopin. That is, if it is played well ;-) If there's too much technique and not enough soul involved, I simply can't bear it. My mom is one of those overly sensitive people who feel everything, and she is guilty of all my sensitivities, irritabilities, and just like her, of feeling too much in general. But I would never trade it for any other version of living. 


I still talk with my mom every single day, continents apart, and especially now, during the COVID-19 when she is in a full quarantine in a retirement home in Croatia, I cherish every minute of our conversations. I take a walk and talk with my mom. We talk about colors, how yellow and red together make the worst match, I tell her about my new series of paintings, we discuss different textures of watercolor paper, the ones that are smooth, the ones that are rough, more cream-colored or the crisp white... I describe the flowers that are in bloom here now and that I see around me while I am walking, and the birds that are chirping. When I notice someone walking a few steps behind me, even though there is almost not a living soul on the streets, she can feel my irritability and starts "hearing" the footsteps of the "oblivious intruder that is not sensitive enough to cross the street or make a turn, for goodness sake"! Then we laugh together at our ridiculous sensitivity. 
There's an anecdotal story from my mom's childhood: One time, just before the storm, my mom was in the yard with her mother and her mother's friend who came over. A hen and her little chicks got excited and chirped after a loud thunder. The chicks seemed frightened and my mom started to cry, feeling for the poor chicks. Her mother's friend who saw my mom crying over the chicks who were unharmed exclaimed: "That child is not fit for life!". I know that comment might sound very harsh nowadays, but this was just after WW2 and it was no time to be sensitive. Yet she was and still is.
I am so grateful for my mom ALWAYS being sensitive, and funny, and so very happy, and so very sad, for feeling everything, and feeling too much, and for being so so kind, and most of all - for being the best mom in the whole world to me and my sister!
Happy Mother's Day, mama!

Sunday, April 26, 2020

Art during COVID 19 shelter in place
April 26th, 2020

So what have I been up to these days, when the entire world is affected by the COVID 19 pandemic?

I have been, mainly, spending a lot of time with my children, Albert and Karl, who are my "wild things" (and I can't imagine them being any other way). Sure, it is more convenient to train one's children to be obedient, but that always just feels so smothering to me. So I let them be free and wild. It is a blessing and a curse, of course, and my studio practice suffers. This is the time when the difference between being a parent (or a caretaker) vs. being without children, or someone else to take care of, is so staggeringly apparent. This is the time when being present, alert, and serious about the needs of your dependents is an absolute number one. And art, though a soul-feeding necessity, at the same time becomes a luxury. 

Most days now more than ever are about parenting, or better say, socializing with my kids. The Croatian language has a nice word "druzenje" that somehow means "time spent in quality-hanging out". I am sure there is a beautiful and rich word in English for that but it somehow escapes me. Just to say "socializing" or "hanging out" with my kids sounds too superficial and distant. I feel we are bonding on a much deeper level because we have all the time in the world for each other. Anyway, that is not to say they are not driving me completely insane on any given day, and that I don't miss my alone time dearly. But I know that they come first, and they are now stuck at home, without their schools, friends, their normal routine, so I must be present. 
So though it feels like I have been completely robbed of my studio time, I still somehow haven't (for the life of me, I don't know how!) completely lost my connection with my art life.

 I will list my art-related practices and events here in the form of a checklist of sorts just so I can read it myself and conclude that there are still many relevant moments to be acknowledged.

1. My work is right now in an online exhibition at Kathryn Markel Fine Arts, titled "Transparent". Other featured artists include Ky Anderson, Sarah Irvin, Eric Blum, Daniel Brice, Jeffrey Cortland Jones, Gudrun Metres-Frady, Annette Davidek, Laura Fayer, and Debra Smith.

From the exhibit description: Artists use transparencies for different reasons - To illuminate processes,  to reveal a paintings' history or to mask it, to create new spaces, or to veil figures and shapes.  Sometimes, the transparencies are intentional, sometimes just a function of the media or process, but they always add a sense of depth and history.
Rendering of my "Origin" painting on the wall, @ Kathryn Markel Fine Art's website in the current online exhibition "Transparent".*

This online exhibit is now also on Artsy.net with all the works available for purchase.

2. I have started painting a small scale 9"x12" series (just like I did with Albert's and Karl's series when they were babies and I had practically no studio time).  I titled the series appropriately "En Passant" (In Passing), as these pieces are literally created during stolen moments in the early morning when everyone else is asleep, or later in the evening when my husband's work is done for the day and he takes over the kids.
  
                                            En Passant series
3. I am also doing a lot of scribbling in several small sketchbooks; very fresh, very lose little croquis pieces, that I can work on outside of the studio space; in the yard, while my kids are playing, or when I am talking on the phone with my mom (who is in a retirement home in Croatia and is room-bound). These everyday conversations with my mom are also my long-distance-caretaking moments since she has no close family there, and can't visit with friends due to strict rules of social distancing. She spends all her day confined to her room and is thankful for the library and the coloring books that she carefully colors with colored pencils. These days we often talk a lot about various color matches and different shades and compare them to flowers or moss, or sky. I feel more aware (and grateful!) just how much love and passion for the matters of aesthetics the two of us share.

                                            Sketchbook
4. I am working on new "Migration" paintings on wooden panels, and these will be featured in the upcoming exhibition at Walker Fine Arts in Denver, in May. The exhibition is titled "Power and Fragility" which truly captures the feeling of the moment. I intermittently feel like I am both of those things. The exhibition will present works by Allison Svoboda, Jane Guthridge, Tonia Bonnell, Patricia Finley, Zelda Zinn, and myself. 
Here is the link to a little "introductory" video about my new work for this exhibition.
And though it now seems very unlikely that "Power and Fragility" will have a physical opening in May, it is still planned and scheduled to be installed, and while the opening reception will probably be virtual, and the artists and gallery staff will join via social media, the paintings, real-life ones, still have to be made. Finished. Photographed. Filed in a database. Wired. Packed. Shipped. The show must go on.
                                            Migration series