Monday, January 1, 2018

Friday, December 1, 2017

About a Painting..."Grooming" from the Transition Series

There is a song in Richard Rodgers' musical "South Pacific"...

You've got to be taught to hate and fear
You've got to be taught from year to year
It's got to be drummed in your dear little ear
You've got to be carefully taught

You've got to be taught to be afraid
Of people whose eyes are oddly made
And people whose skin is a diff'rent shade
You've got to be carefully taught

You've got to be taught before it's too late
Before you are six or seven or eight
To hate all the people your relatives hate
You've got to be carefully taught.


Casein on Birch Panel 
12 x 12"
Photo by Jay York

Thursday, May 18, 2017

About..."Shirtwaist (Second Wave)" from the Transition Series

This piece came to me as I was thinking about my mother's contemporaries, women who began to take a more active role in the trajectory of their lives, sparking the Second Wave of Feminism in the United States. 

Moreover, there is something very disturbing about a society which to this day does not consider better than half of its citizen's entitled to their full share of the American Dream. 

The Equal Rights Amendment still languishes in Limbo.

48 x 24" 
Casein on Luan

Saturday, April 1, 2017

About..."Deterrence" from the Transition Series

"An eye for an eye will only make the whole world blind."
                                                                                                                   Mohandas Ghandi

9 x 22"
Casein of Wood Panel

Thursday, March 30, 2017

About... "Unsettled" from The Transition Series

Every now and then, I receive a comment on my work which so clearly describes my intention in creating the piece that I am left equally gratified and astonished. I posted this painting online and a Facebook friend, Anthony Taylor noted the following...

The suburban daydream being undermined by climate change and the population boom? Solipsism being undermined by unintended consequences? I see parody and social satire in your work that reminds me of Grant Wood!

I had to look up solipsism which Webster's describes thus: a theory in philosophy that your own existence is the only thing that is real or that can be known.

Well, that entirely works for me. Thanks Anthony.

Acrylic on Wood Panel
24 x 16"

Friday, February 24, 2017

About a Painting ...Five Element Charm

I am vaguely to moderately superstitious. However I do believe that lucky is generally what lucky does. There's a popular saying... "The harder I work, the luckier I get."
I decided to split the difference and create a charm for myself, inspired by the elements used in Feng Shui, while referencing the work of a dear and departed friend.

Earth, Metal, Water, Wood and Fire ...each element brings forth the next.

Five Element Charm
8 x 10"
Acrylic on Canvas Panel 

Friday, February 17, 2017

About... "The Year of the Rooster" from the Transition Series

The winds of change are blowing with might and main. I seem to function best when I channel my angst into work, and there is a meditative quality in painting with casein.
My observer is oddly composed in the face of the oncoming cyclone. I am not nearly as dispassionate, but I've always admired those with cooler heads.

The Year of the Rooster
12 x 12"
Casein on Birch Panel

Friday, February 10, 2017

The Fuji Series... James explains it all.

I am often asked about my series "New Views of Mount Fuji". No one has ever explained it better than my friend James Scarborough, who wrote the following piece for me back in 2008. I quote from it regularly. Thank you James.

Ricky Nelson anf Three Cupcake Fuji Montage
Digital Media
"Dorette Amell’s many-pieced and on-going series of views of Japan’s Mount Fuji is both funny and incisive. It shows what happens when you take something that is not just iconic (the snow-capped peak of Mount Fuji) but also so ubiquitous that it loses any aura it might have had.

Within the confines of popular culture, Mount Fuji is the Japanese version of the Golden Gate Bridge. Like the feat of engineering, the image of this feat of nature peeks through every building; it commands the view outside office windows. It’s been photographed and painted and drawn countless times. Whatever you do, it’s always there. It’s also a venerable subject for artists: consider Hokusai’s famous series of works that depict it.

But Amell doesn’t so much pay homage to the site itself as to the idea of creating serial images of the site. It’s just like Monet painting the same haystacks, the same cathedral facades over and over again, the better to capture its particular qualities present in each moment of ambient light. But she goes one step further: like Marcel Duchamp’s famous (or infamous, depending on how you look at it) LHOOQ (he expertly reproduces the Mona Lisa and then adds a little mustache), she takes a famous image and then has fun with it.

The fun consists in both the sense of scale... as well as the many and seemingly endless associations she broaches with the view: the mountain draped in leopard skin, in lion skin.

Fuji as a cupcake, subject to the forces of a magnet, decked out with horns or aliens, or else emerging from a forest; covered in rust, the destination of a dinosaur or a 1930’s Flash Gordon spaceship. Fuji as a trio of t-shirts that billow on a clothesline, in a tropical climate, in a not-so-tropical climate, decked out with flowers.

Amell’s series might look like it’s done tongue in cheek. Really, though, it comments on the way a familiar thing becomes invisible and so the only way to make it visible is to make it unfamiliar, novel, if not a little absurd.

A perfect example? Think of how the artist Christo would wrap entire islands, entire buildings, construct a fence that ran for hundreds of miles, the better to call (better yet, recall) attention to that which had escaped their public’s attention. Amell’s series of work is the bonsai version of Christo’s work: appealing, interesting, and not a little funny."

James Scarborough is based in Los Angeles and writes about art, theatre and film.

Tuesday, January 31, 2017

About a Painting... More Alike Than Not Alike

While working on this piece I was reflecting on a thought that has often crossed my mind. It is this... When we as citizens put more emphasis on our perceived differences rather than our similarities, we leave ourselves vulnerable to those who would cynically exploit an all too human tendency to blame the "Other".
Here is an excerpt from Maya Angelou's "Human Family" which inspired the title for this piece...
I note the obvious differences
between each sort and type,
but we are more alike, my friends,
than we are unalike.

More Alike Than Not Alike

12 x 12"
Casein on Birch Panel

Friday, January 20, 2017

New Views of Mount Fuji ...Obama (or Optimist) Fuji

In 2008 Barack Obama was elected the 44th President of the United States. I was so inspired by his candidacy that I painted "Obama Fuji" in his honor. 

There are those who will remember the devastated economy, the very real threat of the country sinking into depression and the near impossibility of finding work as an astonishing average of 800,000 jobs vanished each month. 

Obama gave a lot of folks the sense that somehow, someway, we would all pull through.

During the 1930's, in those very hard times... there was a poem circulating called "The Optimist's Creed" which I referenced for my humble tribute. 

As you ramble on through Life, 
Whatever be your goal.
Keep your eye upon the doughnut,
And not upon the hole.

Today the Obamas left the White House. Donald Trump was sworn into office. During his last press conference Mr. Obama said, “In my core, I believe America will be okay." 

Once again... I think he's right. There's a rocky road ahead, but I think he's right.

Obama (or Optimist) Fuji
28 x 34"
Acrylic on Masonite Panel

Friday, December 30, 2016

About a Painting... The Fool and a Blue Moon

This piece began as a relatively simple painting of two dance hall performers. Less than thrilled with the finished product I decided to make some edits, and the work became more and more elaborate with ever spiraling, synchronous and personal associations. I began the adjustments in winter, during a month with two full moons... the second full moon a relatively rare event and referred to as a "Blue Moon".

"The Fool" has the face of Curt Jergens, a German actor. I've always liked his face, his white hair and blue eyes reminded me of my Great-grandfather. My Great-grandfather or "Pa" was married to "Mutti" as in "Mutti and Pa". Ariadne's face is an amalgam of several people who I have admired. The hands are mine.

Pa was a baker. He served on a U-boat during the first World War. He married Mutti after the war. Mutti's husband had left her, my grandmother Christine and her sister Frieda for parts unknown. He said that he would send for them all, but never did... no one ever knew what had happened to him. Years later Pa made the same promise. I can only imagine Mutti's anxiety. Pa, however, did send for his adopted family after settling in Illinois.

There is a story about Ariadne and Dionysus... Dionysus looked down from Mount Olympus and saw an abandoned Ariadne, weeping and mourning the loss of her unfaithful lover, Theseus... all of this after she had taught the duplicitous Theseus a dance to escape the Minotaur. Moved by her plight and her bravery, Dionysus fell in love.

Dionysus is the inspiration for "The Fool" a character represented in Tarot Decks ...he carries a staff, holding his belongings, ready to step into the unknown. 

During the Biedermeier period in Germany, elaborate flower arrangements often conveyed remarkably complex messages. Pink carnations told the recipient that they were unforgettable ...the sender has declared  "I will always be there for you".

There is also a connection to Our Lady of Guadalupe who brought forth miraculous roses in the snow. Ariadne wears purple and yellow, balancing the mystical and the intuitive with an entirely epic rose crowning her head. She is a "Pearl of Great Price". A most worthy woman. Entire and equal.

The happy pair appear ready to dance out of the picture frame. Finally. You just never know where the fates will lead you I suppose.

This painting was completed in late 2012. I recently photographed the work. I am a better painter than photographer... but you get the idea.

The Fool and a Blue Moon
48 x 48 "
Acrylic on Panel

Wednesday, November 30, 2016

About a Painting... Frontier

In “Frontier” I've used the opening barrier as a metaphor for the ability to move beyond the boundaries of rigid thinking...  to give appropriate consideration to new schools of thought with regard to science, governance and social dynamics. 

It is wise to consider the contributions of various cultures and nations without prejudice and undue influence. 

The image also references the literal freedom to move without excessive restriction from place to place... to experience different geographic locations and peoples, and to foster diplomacy, cooperation and understanding.

8 x 8"
Casein on Birch Panel
photo by Jay York

Monday, October 3, 2016

About... In Peter's Shadow II

I am not especially religious, nor am I convinced of the existence of God in the popularly accepted sense of a Heavenly Czar, I'm an "everything is everything" kind of a girl.

I do, however, think that something is going on... that there is a connecting force at work. It is about and around and within us all. Still, I like a good story and in The Bible there is one that I find especially interesting.

One day, Saint Peter was walking through town, chatting with a group of his disciples. They passed a crippled man who lay begging in the street. Evidently Peter did not notice this man but his shadow crossed over the unfortunate fellow, who was astonished to find that he could stand up and walk. Peter kept on going, clueless as to what had happened.

In life I have often crossed paths with folks who have left me better off for the experience, an unsolicited kindness, a word of encouragement... and then off they go, like Peter, equally unaware of the blessings that they have scattered in their wake.

In Peter's Shadow II
Digital Media

Tech Notes: This piece has been adapted from a Mixed Media work...I attached my ink drawing to a birch panel, then painted the lettering and calligraphy, which translates to "unexpected miracles". I added diagonal stripes using acrylic glazes and graphite. The stripes, for me, symbolize the barriers between what is known and unknown. The work was professionally photographed by Jay York here in Maine. I put the resulting jpeg into Photoshop and applied several filters. 

Saturday, September 3, 2016

Signs of the Times or Footwear is Your Future

Update... I wrote this piece before the 2016 Presidential Election, I along with many, was sorely disappointed by the results. 

I find it more than a little fishy that in the USA, as we move ever closer to electing our first woman president... style conscious females are, for the most part, shod in and tottering atop constructions of heretofore unseen height and treacherous design.

Regardless of your opinion of Hillary, she supports the Equal Rights Amendment. It is one of my pet theories that the possibility of the ERA's passage can be directly correlated to what has been offered on the world's catwalks.

I have felt that women have been incrementally and quite literally hobbled and wondered if this had occurred to any one else. I talked to an old friend who reminded me of our platform shoes in the 70’s, and I had to agree, they were pretty tall shoes at that. I wore them constantly, with flared jeans and trousers. Suddenly I was 5’9” tall. Awesome.

I danced in those shoes, rode a bike in them, worked in them and broke my ankle in three places in them. Still... however clumsy, the shoes’ soles had a sturdy thickness, and the heel had a width that allowed some sort of balance. And young men wore them too. Socially we were on a grand trajectory ...then came Reagan and the Reactionary Hordes, ushering in decades of alarming and ultimately unnegotiable high heels.

It seems to me for at least the last 100 years, right around the time women were poised to make a quantum leap toward equality... the fashion world would begin to trend in the direction of excessive restriction. 

Clothing or shoes, or both were periodically redesigned in such a way as to drastically curtail movement. Consider Hobble Skirts... which were so tight across the ankle that they were eventually outlawed. Women on the cutting edge of cool couldn’t get across the street quickly enough to avoid oncoming traffic... this around the time women were poised to get the vote. Post World War II, there were the latex girdles and stiletto heels into which women were coaxed after a liberating participation in the fight against global fascism.

Happily, there is now a light at the end of this particular tunnel. Karl Lagerfeld... arguably the most influential designer in the industry has, in recent years, included more and more sensible footwear in his collections for Chanel. There are platform sneakers... interesting! There is an entirely sensible and pretty assortment of flats. His line of high heels are attractive and of a reasonable altitude. Knockoffs have been appearing with increasing regularity. I believe that this augurs well for the future. Forget the stars, you can read the signs in the Shoe Department. Ladies, get ready to get equal.

Update... I wrote this piece before the 2016 Presidential Election, I along with many millions, was sorely disappointed by the results. 

Dancing Shoes in Sepia
Digital Media
Tech notes: This is an adaptation of my acrylic painting "Dancing Shoes"
I put the image into Photoshop.
I adjusted the color and applied the Poster Edges filter.

© 2016 DoretteAmell