Los Dos lados del Mar – The two sides of the Sea

14480518_10157487441935273_39366996468908192_o

<<Traduccion en español disponible en audio/podcast. Click o pegue en su servidor: https://www.spreaker.com/user/beatrizacevedoart/los-dos-lados-del-mar-traduccion-del-blo?fb_action_ids=10157490982615273&fb_action_types=spreaker_radio%3Aupload&fb_ref=image_bigbutton>&gt; It’s been a while since I last wrote my blog… I’ve missed it! Keeping a blog is like conjuring the moment by recording what is going on … Continue reading

Mastering the Selfie with Maria Lassnig

Selfie, in response to Maria Lassnig

If our Instagram celebrities think they know everything about selfies, they may be surprised about the possibilities of using the self-portrait (not only the face but the whole body) as developed by the artist Maria Lassnig  (1919-2014).  She really pushed … Continue reading

What would Frida Kahlo do? Exhibition at Menier Gallery (Artists Pool), London. August/2016

Frida and Me (partial)

Why people like a painting? What makes them connect with an image? For my coming exhibition at the Menier Gallery about “Frida Kahlo: Lust for Life” (http://www.meniergallery.co.uk/Menier_Gallery/Home.html), I have been pondering these questions. I prepared two paintings: one, Frida in … Continue reading

“No sex please!” The art of Georgia O´Keeffe

Albeit the work of Georgia O’Keeffe is often associated with femininity, sexuality and mystique, the truth is that she did not mean anything of the sorts.  IN fact, all her life she tried to dispel the simplistic associations and the labeling of calling her one of the “greatest “female” painters” in America, the world, the 20th century!  With the great retrospective of American Artist Georgia O´Keeffe at Tate Modern (until October 2017) we are having the opportunity to re-evaluate and understand the work and life of one of the greatest artists of the 20th century. Beyond the sinuous flowers and the appropriations of symbols and meanings that various groups have made of her work, this exhibition connects ideas and inspirations relevant for artists today, and why not, to people searching for independence.  IN this post I will try to weave threads from my reading of Roxana Robinson’s biography of O’Keeffe with my own digital paintings, made in situ with my iPad. I do not try to “copy” what I “saw”, but rather the ipad paintings show how I did “see and feel about” Georgia’s paintings.

(Podcast en español, disponible en http://www.spreaker.com/user/beatrizacevedoart/georgia-okeeffe-en-espanol)

Born in 1887 in rural Wisconsin, Georgia was the second child of  a family of hard working and independent women. Early in her teens, she decided to follow an artistic path, defying conventional roles, her own rural background and in so, struggling to find and speak her own voice. Soon after she finished her formal training as an artist, she came across the work of Arthur Dove, urging for an spiritual and emotional connection with art, hence, rejecting mere representation to give place to emotions, feelings and spirituality. As described by Robinson in the artist’s biography, Georgia -who used to be the best in her class- soon realised that it is not the technical ability but the possibility of communicate a feeling, an emotion, a personal story, that really connects the work, and makes it art. This idea can be applied to education in general, and as a lecturer my purpose is not to convey information that students can find in books and internet, but to seed a yearning for knowledge and learning, to promote values and virtues and in general to make that both students and educators find creative ways to engage with our responsibilities.

iPad paintings made with Brushes App. Original by Beatriz Acevedo. Copyright.

Nevertheless, her breakthrough in the world of art happened in New York City, when her dear friend Anita Politzer showed a bunch of Georgia’ charcoal paintings to the gallerist and photographer Alfred Stieglitz in 1915. The purity and clarity of these paintings, an early example of a home-grown American Modernism, impressed the art promoter, who exhibited in his gallery The “291”. This was the beginning of a long standing correspondence and alliance that would become a romantic liaison in 1918 and a challenging marriage six years later, when he was granted his divorce, in 1924. In spite of the age difference, and the so opposed personalities, the relationship flourished and allowed them to feed in each other talents.  Alfred took some revealing and beautifully captured pictures of Georgia -now assuming the role of model- while she was interested in finding her own voice and take on modern topics such as the metropolis, but also, in her own inclination for the West landscapes and its impressions on her, for instance, trying to represent the sound and might of a herd of cattle in the Texan sunset…

As part of her life with Alfred, Georgia was sucked in Alfred’s family routine of spending every summers in Lake George. She tried to carve her own space with solitary walks, and soon she had to escape to nearby Maine for peace and silence.  At the time she was fascinated with water, the flow of rivers and the might of storms, the windy waves of the Atlantic In Maine. According to her biographer, this flowing quality appealed to the Georgia of this time, the flowing, the accommodating, yet the power and the fury. In the meanwhile,  Alfred was the centre of artistic development and a man of habits, also a philanderer, who could not see a disagreement in his search for beauty and the betrayal of his first wife, with Georgia, and later of Georgia herself with other ladies who attracted him.  Albeit he supported her, every time that Georgia started a new project, he was nervous and rather discouraging… For example, when she started on the series of Flowers, she was focused not on the “feminine” but rather in transforming the “humble flower” into a powerful and aesthetic statement, “flooding NYC with flowers”.

iPad paintings made with Brushes App. Original by Beatriz Acevedo. Copyright.

In 1929 she travelled for the first time to New Mexico, where she stayed at Mabel Dodge Luhan’s house in Taos: a rich and eccentric lady who was part of an artistic community in the place. Taos was a magnet for artists and writers, such as DH Lawrence, Aldous Huxley and his wife.  Georgia became fascinated with the landscape and its immensity: there she learned to drive and took on huge hikes across the expansive country.  She also got impressed by the resilience of the people, descendants of Indian and Spaniards cornered in that arid and difficult land, with their gods and their beliefs. She found the “Penitentes Crosses” fascinating and that connected her with her own development of ideas, which tried to reaffirm her own particular personality, and reconnect with what Steven Spielberg calls the “inner voice [that] never shouts, only whispers”. For doing so, Georgia chose the expansive landscapes of the West, the Territories taken from Mexico, where the terrain is arid, the view is enormous and the inhabitants resilient and hardened. This was Georgia´s ¨country¨, a place where she could be herself, be in silent, a place to build her independence both as an artist and as a woman.

iPad paintings made with Brushes App. Original by Beatriz Acevedo. Copyright.

This first encounter with New Mexico was also her way to deal with Alfred’s authoritarian and rather careless ways, his affair with Dorothy Norman ( a young married woman who became obsessed with Alfred), as well as his neediness and his possessiveness over Georgia both as a woman and as an artist.  The pressure got to its climax when she accepted a commission for the NY Music Hall, defying Stieglitz strong opposition to this project and the fact that she excluded him of the negotiations.  The situation got even more complicated because in the middle of the process, some of her preliminary work was damaged by humidity and there were some bureaucratic quarrels that broke her trust and her self-belief. This prompted a dramatic nervous breakdown, caused by the years of bottling up her resentment for Alfred’s affair and authoritarianism, her sense of failure with the Music Hall comission, and the fact that she was sucked and fed up with having her life spinning around others’ interests – mainly her demanding husband and his fixed routines -.

After almost two years of solitude, care and much rest, Georgia recovered and miraculously, the marriage survived. This breakdown shocked Alfred who realized how dependent he was on Georgia, and how he was somehow responsible for her fall.  After some months, she decided to travel back to New Mexico, this time to a new area, beyond the gossipy community of Taos.  She installed herself first in Ghost Ranch, and later on the beautiful town of Abiquiu…. from there she explored the landscapes and fell in love with the mountains and its colours: the tones of ocre, terracota, golden, black land of her surroundings, replacing the flowers with skeletons and skulls of cows and antelopes, and the city skyscrapers with blue mountains and bright skies.  According to the biographer, Georgia’s former fascination with water was replaced by an earthy sentiment, perhaps, a way of re-connecting with the elements, and affirming her decision of keeping her feet on her own ground.

iPad paintings made with Brushes App. Original by Beatriz Acevedo. Copyright.

And I am there… in this part of the biography… I know that she will have still many years to live. I know that she survived her husband who died in 1946 and since then she moved permanently to New Mexico, where she found her place in an adobe house in Abuiqui. She also travelled the world and kept on painting, moving more and more toward abstractionism, toward the simplification of forms and the distilling of feelings and emotions. And that is precisely what I get from this exhibition… the realisation that from my coming out of the closet I have been experimenting and trying to find my own voice. As a self-taught artist, this is a solitary process: in the absence of an educational structures, I have to try and fail many times. I learned at my own convenience and although informed by my own reading of the world of art and contemporary trends, my path is only mine, and my transformation is intimate and personal.  I only hope that in this slow process I am also transforming myself, and that my art -not only paintings, illustrations, but also writing, podcasts and ways of being- become the testimony of such a change…

 

London, July 20, 2016

 

Experimental Making with Michael Atavar (1)

the flowering of pleasures

How can we feel more creative? this was a provoking question by author and creative enabler/consultant Michael Atavar, at the Experimental Making course at Tate Britain (London). In my case, it is when i don’t have high expectations or I … Continue reading

Boobs, bras and knickers: my naked story.

Although big breasts are celebrated in the media as sexy and desirable, the truth is that they can be troublesome and not entirely glamorous.  On the other hand, the humble underwear can become a journey of reconnaissance and identity. In reaction to the prohibition of drawingin the V&A exhibition “Undressed” , I decided to transform my anger into something creative and thus I want to investigate my own relationship with underwear. I started by taking all my undergarments of my chest of drawers (pun unintended) and spread it around, so I could examine how I feel with each of those humble yet key garments in my life. I realised that my worst nightmare would be to leave the house without my underwear… it don’t care about clothes but underwear… that’s my thing.

In fact, my life would not be possible without bras, literally. My parents met when both were working at Leonisa, the successful underwear factory in Medellin (Colombia), in the earlier 1960s. My mother had moved from the country side, a very beautiful and educated girl, having to make her way as a worker in the big city. Just weeks after she was in the shop floor, she was promoted to factory coordinator: in charge of the production of undergarments for the country. My dad, on the other hand, had been touring the west of the country as a “tinker”, honing the selling and negotiating skills which later would saved his life, and in his perambulation he got to Medellin. This was the second most important city in Colombia and one of the motors of the textile industry.  My dad, then a young man in his 20s, rented a room in a family house, who took a shine on the lad who was home-trained and good with the kids.  The hosting family happened to be related to the owners of Leonisa and they found my dad a small admin job.  The story, as told by my parents, is that my dad had of course noticed the beautiful factory coordinator, but he took a bit of time to gather some courage (and save money) to ask my mum out, to what she said she would asked her mother first.  My grandma, albeit kind and open minded for her time, had only one question: “Is he a liberal?”. This was crucial for giving the permission, because conservatives, in her view, were the “enemy”. Conservative against liberals was the struggle at the heart of the longest civil war that engulfed the country, and it was said that Church priests encouraged the violence by saying that murdering liberals was not a sin. This conflict pushed both my parents away of their families’ lands to try their luck in the cities.  So, yes, the thing that bonded them was their work in the bra factory and their political views.

I had a good look on my underwear and I found that The bras, specially, are high quality garments. I try to buy my bras in conjunction with the knickers, and I am terribly fussy about them. I had moved from the Leonisa traditional pairs, to the reliable M&S undergarments, with some incursions to other brands such as Bravissimo and Triumph.  These are the ones that have my size… Having been gifted (or cursed) with a generous rack, bras are part of my identity -my daily armour-, the way in which I face the world frontally! Which makes me think of my troublesome relationship with my boobs, and how bras are part of the story. It began when I was 12 or 13 and got my first period, and soon my childish barren chest, began to grow, and grow, and grow and grow… and grow.  The first t-shirt bras (called “acostumbradores” in Spanish or “getting used”), were replaced with more sophisticated garments, and the cups began to go through the alphabet… A to B, to C  to D… to… etc.  At school this evolution did not pass unnoticed, and soon I began to be the attention of unwanted gazes: my breast became an object of desire for the boys, intrigue for the girls, and also an excuse for laughter and bullying. I was called names, banned from certain sports (my love for gymnastic was drastically finished, and I showed no interest for “bouncing” activities like basketball, volleyball or simple running!), and in general I was thrown into a sea of confusion, hormones and insecurity. It did not help that the epitome of beauty was the twiggy figure; it was years before the Kardashian’s fever for big breasts and generous bodies. But the bras have been always there giving me support… Of course, the ones I wanted were those flimsy, delicately laced bras, which came only in small sizes… so I had to go to the “ladies” section to get the ones that were suitable for me… it is just until the last 10 years that brands have noticed the growing demand for bigger and sexier bras, a welcome evolution!

I have now some favorite bras, those that are comfortable, protective yet alluring.  In my exploration of  I discovered faithful bras in traditional colours (black, white, nude), but also sexy underwear in red, lace and lovely design… But definitively it is the support that draws me in. I have tried underwired bras for a while, but they are not my favorites, too uncomfortable; I have also experimented with the so called “reductive” bras; with sporty ones (not recommended as they make of breast a single amorphous mass), and I have never needed wonder bras or padded ones.  Bras are a big part of my story, and I could tell it through bras and underwear. When I finally separated from my first husband, my first shopping trip was to get new bras and underwear. I remember buying some interesting underwear which was immortalized by the camera of the photographer Nereo, a way of re-connecting with my own (battered) self-esteem and my new found sensuality.

Which takes me to the knickers (or lack-of…) well, the knickers exploration does not compare with the bras.. here the collection is more diverse and varied. From nice designer knickers, to reliable M&S satin ones, to cotton colourful ones from H&M. Downstairs things are a bit different as I find evidence of greater experimentation: from high leg, low leg, minis, briefs, tangas, and dental floss panties (!) to an increasing collection of Bridget Jones’ granny knickers, definitively the best for daily life.  I also found some “spandex”, a beige structure that goes  from the diaphragm to the mid tights. The design is really interesting as it is constraining and shaping. The true is that I only wear them with summer dresses, to avoid the uncomfortable chaffing but also because summer is less forgiving with the old muffin…

The beautiful thing about this whole experience/art project has been to discover my own underwear story, to explore through the materiality of those garments, my own memories: made of insecurity, fear, but also pride and identity.  It is true that having a big rack has advantages: I am popular with babies (of all ages!), and it sometimes can be used as storage (unintended pieces of food are lost in the bras), but most importantly I have healthy breasts. The twist of the story with bras and boobs is that five years ago my mum got breast cancer, and that changed my relationship with my breast.  My mum got a malign one and she had to be operated almost within days of the diagnosis.  The tumor was extracted and her left boob was reduced. She had to go through radio-therapy to curb the risk of spreading. Now, thanks God and the excellent Surgeon who operated her -La Doctora Sandra- she is well and without further problems. But I also know that this operation marked the beginning of an increasing ageing process. Of course, this has increased my awareness of the condition, and I keep examining my breasts and getting regular mammograms.  My mum, who worked in the bra industry is as fussy as me when getting the right underwear, and she is smitten by M&S brands, so every time I visit her I must bring some of those trusted garments.

So, in a way, the prohibition of drawing, liberated my breasts and opened stories that I had well buried under my exterior.  This is the power of art, the power of protest and the way in which my annoyance at the Undressed prohibition has prompted me to an interesting personal journey, a bare view at my story, a naked view to my body and the possibility of transforming frustration into art: drawing, photography and story telling.