Sunday, October 19, 2014

Art Blog: Where is the JOY?

I keep saying this: I am so glad I am old. I say this because I don't recognize the world anymore. Many of the things I value are not valued anymore by our society. There is so much stress and strife now. It is difficult to cope.

I have been an artist for decades. Those decades have been monetarily supported via art sales and teaching. When I first started teaching art in 1980, it was a magical thing. I could go into a room of young students, suggest ideas, and then, let them do their OWN thing. We all created masterpieces. They got to experience creativity without judgment or restrictions. They were artists all. We were free.

It is very, very different now. These are the days when I have to march kids to the computer lab for a standardized test which basically quizzes them on the elements and principles of art. I think this is horrific. However, it is what it is in this time of restrictions and data collection. Art teachers now are even told what projects to teach. These "scores" go into a database and will be compared to more numbers at the end of the year. It is so ridiculous.

I work with kids who have rough lives. I don't care if they know the "Elements and Principles". I really don't. What I care about is the smile on their faces when I show them how to mix colors. I care about their happiness when they arrive at the art room. I care about the pure JOY they feel and express as they are making their art. This is what is truly important.

We, as a society have lost our way. We seem to think if a product isn't made, judged, scored, and documented, it is worthless. Would any of you turn to a child and tell them "Sorry, your work is not good enough!"? I remember when I was in elementary school, art class was about just making stuff. I was filled with joy with each class. I wonder if someone judged my work so brutally, would I have ever become an artist? Have you ever seen a child's face when her/his work gets rejected from an art show? I have and it isn't pretty. SHAME ON US!

"ALIVE"
Acrylic on Canvas
24" x 24"
Sheree Rensel

We all have to remember the product and the dollar can only go so far.
Our quality of life is also linked to our personal expression and experiences.
We all need to have experiences that help us realize the JOY of being ALIVE!
I think we have forgotten that and it is tragic.

Friday, October 10, 2014

Art Blog: Time To Move On

For weeks, I have been in a droop. It has been a kind of downward spiral. As reported in my last post, my friend Gilda died. Her death has rocked my world. She was a fantastic person. However, she represented so much more to me.

We went to school together way back in the 70's. So losing her represents the end of that era. It is strange. Recently, we spoke about death via FB message. So many of our friends were dying. I told her that we are at that age. It is going to happen whether we like it or not. I just never thought it would be about either one of us.

So now, she is gone. It has taken a month for me to even say this. I need to let it go. I need to let her go. I need to get on with my art and life. I am so glad we shared a history. She was one person who I could talk with while voicing the same kind of "art speak". Right now, I am talking to myself. NO. I am still talking to her. She just doesn't answer immediately. I am sure she will send me signs. I am sure she is still listening to my crazy rants. I am sure she is thinking "That Sheree. She is like that."

She will always be part of my DETROIT memories. It is my hometown. She was my home girl.

Love ya Gild.

Click pic for larger view

Saturday, September 13, 2014

Art Blog: LEGACY

I remember the day the space shuttle blew up on January 28, 1986. I had been teaching all morning and I was on my school lunch hour sitting at a red light. The news was on the radio. It felt like I was stung by a million bees. After finishing teaching the rest of my afternoon classes, I left school. I drove to my Dad's house. I walked in, saw him drinking his beer at the table. The first thing he said to me was "Where did all those brains go?" My daddy was not an academic. He never finished school. Instead, he worked in printing factories for his entire life. Yet, he had a very primal wisdom. "Where did all those brains go?" This was his less than elegant way of asking what happens when we die. We accumulate all this knowledge. Then, we die and are silenced. Our physical bodies give out. Where does our essence go?

This week my best art friend died. Her name was Gilda Snowden. I cannot start to tell you what a phenomenal woman she was. I met her in the mid 70's at Wayne State University. We were comrades in undergrad and grad school. We have maintained our friendship for nearly 40 years. Her sudden and unexpected death has left a hole in my heart. She was more than just a friend. She was part of my spirit.

When I heard of her death, I remembered what my dad had said. "Where did all those brains go?" I thought of this because Gilda's foremost goal was to be a scholar. She wanted to be smart about art and life. OH, she attained her goal. She was one of the smartest people I know. I could talk to her about anything and everything. This is a rare gift. I too am a knowledge seeker. Sometimes I feel all alone because I think of things nobody else cares about. Gilda always did. So where do those brains go? Every day when I am teaching, I am met with smiling faces ready to make art. Gilda had the same thing happen. We all touch lives. We share tidbits of knowledge and experience. Those seeds are scattered into the Universe. Everything we do and share is distributed all over our worlds. Little pieces of us are floating in the air and caught by the people we touch. That is the answer Daddy.

The happiest thing for me is just weeks ago, I sent her a crown for her 60th birthday.
On the day it arrived, she put it on and sent this photo to me.
I will always love you Gilda.

Saturday, August 23, 2014

Art Blog: In the BLOOD

I have had the pleasure of meeting 500+ new students this week. It was a hot, crazy mess. However, I loved every minute of it. I was reminded that every human being needs to learn about creativity. Also, there are special individuals who are true, young artists. It is in their blood. For example, I met one little girl who cut her own bangs. I asked her about this. I asked her why she did this. Her response was "Because I wanted to." I asked if she got in trouble for doing this? She said "NO". That made me smile. She has a great parent or two. Some might see this as misbehavior. I see this as the work of an young artist trying to express themselves.

Despite the fact we need to teach everyone about creativity because no matter where your place in the world falls, you will need to be creative. There are always individuals who "get" this already. These young human beings already know the way. They are born creative. They express themselves through their dress and style. They might be moody even at a young age. They are different. Maybe this is why some artists feel like they have been outsiders their entire life.

It is very difficult to try to get close to so many students at one time. It is almost impossible to have a working relationship with that many students each week. This is why I focus on the art kids first. I can spot them from a mile away. They were born this way. Creativity runs through their veins. They are my young artists.

These are my people.

Saturday, August 16, 2014

Art Blog: Blue Teeth

SOCIETY. We have a problem. Our values are so skewed. What are we thinking? If you watch TV, you will see people spending thousands of dollars on purses or being famous for doing nothing other than posing for selfies. What is going on here?

Even though I am a wise, intellectual woman, I too fall for the joke. I will admit. I have felt lesser due to all the stuff I see in media. When I see all the star studded opulence and grand lives parading in front of me, it is hard not to think "My life sucks!"

Then, there are moments of clarity. This week I was hired to teach full time again. I took two years off. This past year, I was an Instructional Substitute to help make financial art ends meet. During this time, I realized that I am an artist without a doubt. However it dawned on me, I am a natural teacher too.

I stopped at the store after work today. As I rounded the corner of the aisle, I saw a little girl looking at me. Our eyes met. Her eyes became as big as saucers. I smiled back and said "I know you!" I was her substitute teacher for a couple of days last year. She smiled the biggest smile. I guess she just ate a blue popsicle or something. Her teeth were all blue. We talked for a few minutes. I told her I couldn't be her sub anymore because I am a regular teacher now. We hugged and I wished her well. I told her to do a great job in 2nd grade.

When I left the store, I thought about all the little bits of Sheree I have left around the world. My art is floating around the globe. More importantly, I have decades of blue tooth children who have experienced my Sheree wisdom and weirdness. It will stay with them. This is why their faces light up when they see me. They remember the experience of being around me. Like morsels dropped on a path, I have left a trail.

This is what really matters.

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Art Blog: Believe In Yourself

"I have wanted to take all of my art and put it in the garbage and burn it and say "F" this!, many, many times...ahh..then I don't. I just keep going because this is all I know. It just takes a couple of paintings and I am good for a year or two. Really.. You keep the hope up!"
Heather Wilcoxon

As artists, we have the power to drift off into our own imaginations. We live in our own heads. We believe those inner voices. We heed the good and bad of those listenings. Sometimes, we believe we are alone in our thoughts. We see the uniqueness of our own creativity, but we also think we are the only ones feeling the feelings. This is not true. I was reminded of the camaraderie of artist's experiences while watching a video about artist Heather Wilcoxon. As her gentle voice narrated the film, my mouth dropped in awe. Her words were my thoughts. I could say the exact same thing about my art life. She could have been describing me.

"I have been making art all of my life since I remember. Making my own world. I lived in my little world. I am still doing the same thing. It is what I do. It is who I am. I feel very privileged on one hand." Heather Wilcoxon

Especially in the past two years, I have realized more than ever, I live in my own little world. I have constructed walls around me. Yet, if I think back on all the years of my life, it has always been this way. I have lived my life in a home blown bubble. It was for safety and privacy. However, it has also been a way to protect my privilege of being special.

"It took me years to find my voice..." Heather Wilcoxon

This quote made me step back. As artists, we all develop our own vocabulary. The images we create and the type of strokes we make form together to make our personal alphabet. Some of the strife I have been feeling lately has to do with this. I want to deny my own vocabulary. I have wanted and tried to throw out the dictionary of my own language because it seems like nobody else understands what I am saying. This is not really true at all. It is one of those negative listenings I spoke of earlier. It is my black muse talking trash.

"Because I have been a fine artist and relied on sales, I have always had the up and down. I think when you get to be my age, it gets old. You think by the time you are 65 it is all going to be paying for itself. ha ha ha ha ha! SO NOT!" Heather Wilcoxon

These words too rang so true, she could have been shouting at me. Much of the drag I feel lately is because I am tired. I keep looking and seeking some little bump that will give me back my oomph! I have been on an art marathon. I am huffing and puffing right now. I have needed time to just stop and rest for a moment. I am not done with the race. I just need to stop for a sip of water and think about the words of wisdom that we all know to be true.

"I have to pick myself up because I have been there so many times. You have to believe in yourself. You've gotta know your work is good. I know my work is good. It will have its time." Heather Wilcoxon

Click pic to watch

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Art Blog: ARTIST OPINIONS WANTED!

I am 100% serious. I want opinions. I especially want the viewpoints of artists. I have this art concept idea. I have been thinking about it for months. I have already titled it. It will be called "9-22 Project". It has to do with finding out what my neighbors think about art. I live in a low/middlish class neighborhood in my city. Nobody really knows I am an artist. In fact, my next door neighbor was shocked to find me in my studio recently. She didn't know what to think. The weirdest part is I could see on her face she had no clue why I would do the stuff I do. Nobody talks to anybody around here. We all just live on this street.

Months ago, a mayoral candidate came to my door and we talked. ART is a hot topic in the downtown area of the city. However, the general populous is not very well informed about the arts or culture. One thing I said to him was "People in this area of the city have no idea about art. I doubt they have any art in their homes!". He listened and then left. After he was gone, I started thinking. I have no idea what my neighbors do or think about art. I just said that on a hunch. That got me thinking.

What do my neighbors really think about art?
What is their perspective or thoughts?

I decided to create the "9-22 PROJECT". I would like to send a snail mail letter to everyone in the 1.5 mile stretch of my street and ask them about ART. My current idea is to ask them to take a photo of the most artistic thing in their homes. They don't have to tell me their name. They don't have to tell me their address. I just want them to email me a photo of any "art" in their home. From this, I want to create new art in response to their art "inspirations".

After that, who knows. I haven't gotten that far yet. An exhibition? What if I actually met the people who sent me photos of their concept of art? That right there blows my mind.

This is why I have my hand out to artists.
What is positive and the drawbacks to this kind of art project.
I want your opinions.