Wednesday, April 25, 2012

For My Brother
My brother Chris at summer camp, 25 years ago

I have dedicated the Noah's Ark Exhibition to my brother Chris. Those of you who have purchased the Exhibition Guide now know that. I wanted to wait until this week to share my story on the inspiration for the show.

When I was 11 years old, my brother Christopher was born with Down Syndrome. My parents did not know much about what to expect. My mother knew that Christopher was going to change our family forever. We would all have to learn and grow with him. Hoping to introduce us to children with multiple physical and mental challenges, my mother enrolled me and my younger sister Aimée in the counselor in training program at our local Kamp for Kids. 
Kamp for Kids was founded by an amazing woman and mother, Judy Hoyt. Dick and Judy’s son Rick was born as a spastic quadriplegic with cerebral palsy as a result of oxygen deprivation to his brain at the time of birth. Dick and Judy were advised to institutionalize Rick because there was no chance of him recovering and little hope for Rick to live a “normal” life. My parents were advised to do the same with my brother. Dick and Judy fought to integrate Rick into the public school system, pushing administrators to see beyond his physical limitations. They would take Rick sledding and swimming, and even taught him the alphabet and basic words, like any other child. My parents and my siblings did much the same with my brother Chris. Dick and Rick went on to form the incredible Team Hoyt.
Judy realized that there were no summer camps in the area where handicapped kids could experience swimming, exploring, learning, growing and singing camp songs alongside their able-bodied peers. She decided to change that when she started Kamp for Kids in my hometown of Westfield, Massachusetts.
I worked at Kamp for Kids as a counselor from my 12-year-old summer until my graduation from college in 1990. I worked one-on-one with children with autism, spina bifida, deaf, blindness, emotional disorders–you name it. I learned compassion and caring, love and acceptance for our kids and their families. Most of all, I learned that our kids wanted to be silly, have fun and experience summer camp just like any other kid.
My experience working with handicapped children greatly influenced the kind of teenager I became and the adult I grew up to be. I am happy that my Mom signed us up to work at camp that first summer. I have wonderful memories from the time I spent as a counselor, a swim instructor and lifeguard. Using sign language to teach a deaf child to swim required creativity, encouraging autistic kids to participate in group activity was a challenge, and opening your heart and mind to people with disabilities came with the territory.

Lyrics to Rise and Shine, click to enlarge

The song Rise and Shine reminds me of those summers spent with our kids. We sang it on the bus, we sang it in the morning circle, we sang it in the building on rainy days, we sang it as we walked from one activity to another. The kids loved the animals, the rhymes, and repeating the chorus over and over. 
When I was asked to create 50 pieces of art for this show, I couldn’t think of anything better than 25 sets of twosies twosies. A show of this magnitude should have a theme, a central focus, a personal connection for the artist. I have been creating animal portraits for some time. Being a New England girl, I began with cows, roosters, sheep and other barnyard friends. For this show, I pushed the limits of my imagination, and my comfort zone to include animals such as degu, box turtles, ostrich and chameleons, just to name a few.

My brother, my father and my daughter in Orlando about four years ago

I dedicate this show to Chris. Having a brother with Down Syndrome changed my life, and I believe I am a better person for it. Building an ark is quite an undertaking. There were times when growing up with my brother could have been described as much the same. He often pushed us to the limits of our patience and abilities, but he also made us laugh until we cried, and he made us happy to hug him tight when he exclaimed “I just love you.”

My brother now travels from MA and attends camp 
for two weeks each summer in Florida, right 
around the corner from my house!

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

My Trifecta Ultimate Weekend

April 27-29th, 2012

Thrasher Horne Center for the Arts Gallery
#1 Art
As many of you who follow my art know, this Friday April 27th from 7-8:30pm is the opening of my Noah's Ark Series solo exhibition at the Thrasher Horne Center for the Arts in Orange Park, FL. This show has been in the works for a year now. I have been blogging and FB-ing the progress of these 50 pieces of collaged animal twosies since last June. I can't wait to see all 50 pieces hanging in the gallery (above) especially since I have been boxing them up and storing them as they were created.

Yours Truly exiting a "safe zone" fresh water swim 
#2 Athleticism
In addition to being an artist, I am also a triathlete. This Sunday April 29th at 7:56am I am challenging myself to push beyond my comfort zone and compete in St. Anthony's Olympic distance triathlon with an open ocean swim. If you missed my post on Facing Your Fears (of sharks) in art and athleticism, check it out here.

#20 in Cynthia's online gallery, my dress for the opening
#3 Fashion
Fiber artist and designer Cynthia LaMaide creates garments in a multitude of ways by weaving, knitting, felting and hand painting each silhouette. Her whimsical, colorful  designs are made by hand art to wear. Last year I purchased a dress from her collection for a cruise and received never-ending compliments on this beautiful hand-made wearable art. Since my Noah's Ark Series is the largest solo exhibition I have created to date, it was an easy decision as to what I would wear to the opening. This week Cynthia will be shipping me #20 (above) from her new collection. I just love the hand painted green silk for spring! I can't wait to pick my shoes and jewelry...

Thank you for sharing my progress for the last year on this Noah's Ark Series as well as my many other artistic hopes and dreams. I can only aspire to be able to motivate others to reach higher and wider for their personal goals, and never give up!

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Delivery of Noah's Ark Exhibition

Boxed work has been stored in my extra bedroom

Packing the van this morning for the 2+ hour drive

Today I delivered all 50 pieces of my Noah's Ark Series solo exhibition to the Thrasher Horne Center for the Arts in Orange Park, FL (a suburb of Jacksonville). I have been working on these pieces for a year, and have never seen them all together. The pieces (primarily 20x24 in size) have been boxed up and stored as they were completed.

Thank goodness for GPS as this is WAY out of my 3-mile radius!

I am very much looking forward to the opening next Friday, April 27th from 7-8:30pm. Please join me if you are a local! This opening will kick off the exhibit which runs through June 16.

I was asked by the executive director, Tony Walsh to display my work in his fantastic venue over a year ago, but today was the first time I have visited The Center. Many thanks to Kathryn Wills for giving me the grand tour! I am proud to say that the gallery is stunning! I zipped through it today with Kathryn to appreciate the Salvador Dali exhibit they are currently displaying.

The gallery space, love the green walls and red wood flooring!

Posing with Tony Walsh today in front of Peter Peafowl, the largest piece of the exhibition

I still remember the VERY first piece I worked on for this show last June. The Toucan was done in my state room on a Nelson family cruise! I hit the ground running when I realized that I had a year to create a themed grouping of 50 pieces. I chose the Noah's Ark Series as a tribute to my brother Chris who was born with Down Syndrome. My sister Aimée and I worked at summer camp for handicapped children for years after he was born. The Ark Song was just one of the wonderful memories I have of those days.

You can read more about this story and see all 50 pieces in the printed Exhibition Guide. 

the first piece of the exhibition, in progress

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Murder and Mayhem and Mother Goose!

poor cock robin

As you known, I often tear up nursery rhyme books to create my animal collages as these old fashioned poems quite often have fauna references. I am working on a rooster right now and have found plenty of cock-a-doodle and fine hen limericks.

I have to tell you though, I have found these old books to be full of violence! Between the rhymes and Wile E. Coyote dropping that anvil on the Road Runner's head... it's amazing we turned out as well as we did. And how about Tom and Jerry? Geez!

I often suggest to my students that they try putting text in collages upside down when it's not related to the subject matter, or they do not want it to be read and processed by the viewer. Be careful not to include the obituaries or police log in your work, too.

As for Cock Robin, may he rest in peace.
And I think I would not even include him upside down.

Saturday, April 7, 2012

Please Save The Date and Join Me?

Easter Chickens

Chick-A-Dee, 24x24, collage on panel, Grand Bohemian Gallery

Being Easter Weekend and all, I think the Chick was a good piece to bring the the Grand Bohemian Gallery in St. Augustine this weekend. The opening for the show and my demonstration of collage technique was enjoyed by a very consistently large crowd at the gallery on Friday night.

The crowd was steady on Friday at the Grand Bohemian Gallery in St. Augustine

I started the chicken piece as a companion to Rock-A-Doodle (a rooster), which I also completed this week for the gallery and my featured exhibition there.

Beginning stages, pencil sketch on birch panel

Beginning stages, acrylic underpainting

Beginning stages, acrylic underpainting

Beginning application of collage paper overtop

Rock-A-Doodle, 24x24, collage on panel, Grand Bohemian Gallery

Monday, April 2, 2012

Penultimate Peafowl and other flying things

Peter Peafowl / 36x48 / collage of hand painted papers on panel

The peacocks were the penultimate set of twosies for the Noah's ark exhibition which delivers April 17th for an April 27th opening. I had a great time creating Peter, he dominated my easel and my studio with his width! Peter and Priscilla will be the cornerstone pieces of the exhibit due to both their size and my signature image being the peacock. 

 Dover Dragonfly / 20x24 / collage of hand painted papers on panel

 Deandra Dragonfly / 20x24 / collage of hand painted papers on panel

The final set I created for the show, by popular demand, was dragonflies. When I asked for suggestions with regards to what to make the final set, an overwhelming amount of people suggested these colorful insects! And many thanks to good friend and fellow artist Kim Santini for sparking the red/cyan color combo through our many inspired art convos. 

How does it feel to be done? Well, it's been a year in the making and now that it's done, I'm thinking I'll do something other than animals for a while. Botanicals, portraits, flowers, maybe?

But rest assured, I've got another deadline right behind this one....

Sunday, April 1, 2012

Noah's Ark Series Exhibition Guide

The Exhibition Guide is a 56-page spiral bound booklet in full color

The Noah's Ark Series opens this month at the Thrasher Horne Center for the Arts at St. John's River State College in Orange Park, FL. This show has been one year in the making and is my largest solo exhibition to date. To commemorate this event, I have designed and printed an Exhibition Guide for the show which features all 50 pieces, 25-sets of twosises.

The Exhibition Guide is a 56-page, 8x10 spiral bound booklet with graphic design by Yours Truly. The Guide features 50 large color images with several insets of work in progress photos.

Opening Reception April 27th
Show Runs April 28 - June 16