'Treats' Acrylic on wood assemblage ©robinrkent

Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Folk Art Diary: A Trip To The Candy er, Hardware Store

'Milkman' folk sculpture
©robin r kent
I remember being dragged along as a six year old or so, doing Saturday errands with my father. One of the most dreaded stops for me was the hardware store. 'Too much stuff with too little color (dull grey), and what was the point of it all?,' I thought. How boring.
When I grew up I found myself still as the companion in hardware store stops. My energy immediately drained when we hit the threshold. It was a man's world in my mind. Let's get outta here. How boring.
But as I grew into creating contemporary folk art, I found I was missing the tools and thing-ys needed to make the wood sculpture and assemblages do what I wanted.  I gradually understood those thing-ys had names and functions.
Come to think of it, the workbench in my family's basement belonged to my grandmother. She was the daughter of a Swedish boatbuilder turned carpenter. Must have some of that dna. My favorite childhood toy was the wooden cobbler's shoe: you'd bang the (colorfully painted) dowels down into the sole and then flip it over and hammer again.
Self Portrait with Tools
©robin r kent
It all began to fit together. Um, maybe not so boring.......
I started to notice what a difference 1/4 inch of a screw length can make when it bores into your palm. Or how a dull bandsaw blade can set off the fire alarm without any notice.* And the classic purple thumbnail caused by a misguided hammer, or my favorite moniker for it's cousin: 'the persuader'.  No wonder they call some folk art 'naif' or 'naive art' and 'art brut.' Not boring at all.
My bookkeeper thinks it funny that under 'Artist Supplies' I have the following listed:
band saw blades, exterior screws, fastener bits, panel nails, washers, baling wire. Well, bailing wire in Vermont, anyway. All these little silver thing-ys have a function.  When I see them now in their boxes hanging on the store display, I can picture them already doing their job.
Glad to be part of a profession where some of it's skill comes from evolution and intuition. How 'bout you?

*It lends an atmospheric mood to the shop with low hanging clouds of smoke - a similar ambience can be found in my kitchen while I sear a steak in a cast iron pan.)

Thursday, May 19, 2011

4-Eyes View the World

Vermont Ain't Flat  Acrylic on Masonite
copyright Robin R Kent

I just got new glasses. With all the bells and whistles. These lenses do everything but wash the dishes. First, they are the new and improved prescription which had been longed for for too long. (Newly retired ones were circa 2007.) Have you noticed when you get new glasses, your eyes are not in sync? Gives me a 'fresh eye' when objects look like they're in a 3D movie. Everything slopes downhill. The ground sure ain't flat. They also change color with the sun and the lens line disappears between the distance and reading part.  I'll look like a movie star and a lot younger in these babies. Especially when I take them off to check. Yep, still dewy complexion with no age lines...
But I've always loved my earliest memories of not seeing well. Such sweet fuzzy views of the world. I finally got glasses around the third grade and what I saw wasn't pretty. I was forced to face reality. These were not your rose colored glasses.
Gone were the soft-focused pastel colors of sky and clouds, of tree leaves and grass. For the first time, I saw the grass and all its blades.  I could almost see each santoku edge and imagine my father sharpening them one at a time during Sunday's predinner ritual. All nature had turned against itself - diamond reflections on the water that cut, and again too bright; light and dark colors competing against each other. No more blending into one. Why can't we all get along? It hurt to look.
That experience has made my contemporary painting style what it is. When I'm creating in my contemporary folk art world, the favored element is volume. Guess it has to be when I do sculpture. OK - in painting, I like mass the best. And blending. Milton Avery paints how I choose to see. Big blocks of mass with soft edges. Nothing persnickety. No minutia. Well, can't resist some dots or graphic additions at the end...but I never was an edgy person.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Art Zen: Go Slow

'Meditation Box' Commission piece

I was tickled to find myself as 'Guest Artist' on Folk Art Mary's blog just a day ago. Although we're different, Mary and I create folk art out of wood. I felt like I hit the jackpot coming across her blog. And I recognize some of her previous guests as artists I have long admired. I'm a starry-eyed folk art groupie.

Back to earth. With the start of the season here in Vermont, I've morphed my artist persona into a car jockey, squeezing in new work deliveries. (April 2nd post) There's only so much one can do in a day. Blog or drive? I've begun to not push as hard. I allow myself the time.
So now I'm mulling over my current quandary: time. How to use it wisely to still get important things done. Like a circus clown's long balloon, I squeeze at one end and it slips away. I'd rather it be like a log of salami, and cut it in chunks. Nope. Doesn't work that way.
The last decade or so, the cultural goal was 'big'. Bigger houses, living large, etc. Now it seems the word is 'fast'. Multi-tasking, multi-texting. Less sleep, more goals.
But that seems to be slowly changing too. I've become a guilt free member of the slow movement. I've always had the potential. And the proof is I lose track of time while puttering in the barn workshop. That's the charm of being an artist. Call it 'problem solving' while it is really 'day dreaming'?  Useful time? Guess so, when it shows up somewhere down the road in future projects. What other job can say that? "Oh, no problem - take your time and just tinker around..."
And I've watched others looking at my art.  It slows them down too. The long meditative pause possibly turning into a small grin. Maybe that's part of the attraction for art lovers. Art Zen. A visual meditation.