Posts Tagged ‘harvard square’

Glass AppleI attended an event in Harvard Square a few nights ago in which the prolific novelist Joyce Carol Oates read from her latest novel, Mudwoman, and answered a variety of questions from the audience.  When asked if she kept specific routines for her writing (for example, a goal of 500 words per day) she said that she didn’t, but that she liked to hold images in her mind before writing about them. She described waking up and lying with her eyes closed for 20 minutes or so, and just turning an image or an idea over in her mind.

I found myself closing my eyes and imagining doing this, realizing it is similar to what I sometimes do when I wake up from an unusually curious dream. For me, staying with an image or an emotion upon waking helps the rest of the dream events unfold like a long cord unraveling.

Oates went on to say that it is her practice to try to hold and turn over these images without putting words to them, and letting the words come later when she is sitting down to write.

Since hearing her talk about his, I have been thinking that there must be some sort of visual art equivalent to this process she uses for writing. The night before I heard her talk, I had purchased a copy of Digital Studio, a magazine put out by Somerset. I pick up a copy of Digital Studio a couple of times a year when I have the urge to feed my experimental spirit. It isn’t that I have been lacking in inspiration. I’ve been making art any chance I get and having fun with it. But sometimes I just want to shift a little bit in another direction, without necessarily even thinking about it in those terms. Which is what led me to the massive arts-related magazine rack in my neighborhood, and to taking home a nice thick issue of artistic images to soak up. The images featured were (and usually are) collages, some made from photographs, some made from free shared images available on websites like Polyvore.

I liked the collages very much, but found that many of the images used by the artists in the magazine didn’t quite resonate with me. So what were my images? The day after Joyce Carol Oates’ talk, I began to look around at objects in my home that I especially like. Pretty things. Things I just like looking at. Out came the camera, and I began to take photographs of them from various angles and in shifting relationship to one another. It was an opportunity to spend time just turning them over in my mind, studying and appreciating their qualities.

"Pretty Things" mixed media collage, Copyright © 2012 Paula Ogier

"Pretty Things" mixed media collage, Copyright © 2012 Paula Ogier

I downloaded the photos and opened Photoshop, placing the photos, layer upon layer, onto a deep orange and white multi-layered pattern design I had recently made. I added another pattern into the mix, this one with orange, gold and turquoise. As I layered, I adjusted the transparency of each layer so that the layers beneath could be seen, and I erased in and around many of the images to bring forward what I didn’t want to be as veiled. When I was done, 15 layers later, it was like rising to the surface of a pleasant dream and stepping tired but happy onto the shore of the topside world.

I liked the piece very much, perhaps because it felt true to me. Making it was like letting that long cord unravel, beginning with the urge to find some fresh inspiration, and following it to its eventual end. But the end is always a beginning, too. What’s next, I wonder….?


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"Stained Glass Branches," copyright © Paula Ogier 2010

Are you an exhibiting artist? Has a piece of your artwork ever disappeared from a show? A framed piece of my art, “Stained Glass Branches,” disappeared this week off the wall of a gallery in Harvard Square. It was part of a group show that includes abstract works by 39 different artists. We are all either current or past students of Sheila Rice—a remarkable and experimental 80-something hardy New England powerhouse who produces abstract art regularly amidst a busy schedule of teaching, taking care of her grandkids, and being a spirited friend and inspiration to local artists. I thought it was an engaging and very interesting body of works, and I enjoyed meeting the other artists at the reception in early October.

When the new gallery coordinator called to tell me my piece had gone missing, she clearly felt awful about making the call, and at the time I may have felt worse for her than for me. I was a little fascinated by the irony of the situation. Up until this past spring, I was the coordinator of that same gallery. I had that role for several years and I knew that I would have hated to make that call, too. I’d have put it off for at least 24 hours, combing the building first. I had never seen a piece of art stolen during that time, although I think it had happened in its history. It’s a public building and over the years some things have mysteriously disappeared from it—a laptop, some desk computers, wallets, gloves. Even my favorite black cloche hat once vanished inexplicably from the building. But such occurrences were rare overall.

A fellow artist encouraged me to post an image of the piece on Facebook and ask others to re-post it. He sounded sure this would cause the piece to show up again. Completely unconvinced, I did it anyway. Some suggested it was a kind of honor to have a piece of one’s art stolen. Maybe they were being playful or kind, but I had to admit I had quietly entertained that notion myself. One friend wrote, “They say that increases the value of your other pieces,” and another wrote, “Cheer yourself thinking that someone loved your style so much he/she could not resist, and will now and from the rest of his/her life stare at your piece with a smile of content on his/her face and think ‘can’t believe it’s mine’.” Yet another wrote, “OMG-that’s terrible! But also a commentary on its future value…Already worth stealing!” I appreciated this positive spin, despite knowing I may never get it back.

I am a digital painter, and this piece was a giclée print on rag paper of an image that was painted entirely digitally. I still have the digital image, so if I wanted to, I could have it printed again. It would still be a first generation print. I like my art to be affordable and I don’t do limited edition prints—that’s why a medium-size print like this, framed and matted, can still have a sale price of $150. If you ignore the cost and effort invested in having this piece printed and framed, having it stolen certainly isn’t the worst thing that could happen to an artist. Would I like to have it back? Of course. But I do hope that whoever is in possession of it loves looking at it. That was the whole point in the first place. Maybe they really needed it. I’m willing to believe that.

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