Tuesday, November 1, 2011

The Working Artist: Haricots Verts Are Green Beans


Interestingly enough, the more I simplify my work on the fluttering pages pieces, the more I intensify my deliberations and focus – and the more new variations that present themselves for consideration.

As I work, I realize there is power in simplicity, that there is no need to put a “spin” on what I create as an artist. I don’t need to call my pieces “haricot verts” to make them appear more than they are.

Working with the ideas of repetition in this series that I call “fluttering pages” both constrains and expands my choices. I like their simplicity and directness, but also relish the interesting way they appear to have movement and dimensionality as one encounters them in real life. Expose them to air and they flutter, in high humidity, some of the pages begin to curl. Their surfaces feel map-like to me as well, something I hope to accentuate in future pieces.

 What I make  is the best that I can bring forth at a particular moment in time and I am happy to appreciate the considerable work and thought that goes into my choices. I can love my “green beanness”.


Book of the Ancients 5

            Book of the Ancients 5: Hand Written,  18” x 28”, 2011, gold leaf, spun polyester fabric, fiberglass screening, pigments, thread. Screen printed, collaged, constructed. Photography by Jim Via.


Detail book of the ancients 5-1

                                     Detail, Book of the Ancients 5: Hand Written


This smaller work presents letters and words, excerpted from an unknown 19th century writer’s journal, that drift across the surface of the pages like falling leaves. 

Saturday, September 10, 2011

“Ancient” Memories


When I started working with the “fluttering pages” idea, I envisioned translating ancient texts and lost languages into visual imagery. Then I began to realize that “old” is a relative term – in American culture much of what I remember from my early life in the 50’s and 60’s is now considered ancient times.

As I’ve worked on these two new pieces,  I’ve been thinking about the fragments and details that we remember as we age. I have many vivid recollections about the various places I’ve lived and began jotting down all the addresses I could remember. To my surprise, I remembered many and incorporated these on Book of the Ancients 2: House Numbers.


Jeanne Raffer Beck, Book of the Ancients 2: House Numbers, 2011, 36” x 48”.  Acrylic paint, gold leaf, synthetic fabric, fiberglass screening, thread.


Jeanne Raffer Beck, detail of Book of the Ancients 2: House Numbers.

Working on these pieces awoke many memories of place and my Pittsburgh childhood. I began to look at maps of the neighborhoods where I was born and lived until I was 11, when our family moved to New York State. Since my nuclear family is now all deceased, these recollections from my childhood are pleasing and surprisingly vivid.


Jeanne Raffer Beck, Book of the Ancients 3: Memory, 2011, 36” x 36”. Acrylic paint, gold leaf, synthetic fabric, fiberglass screening, thread.

It felt important to imply the recollections of early memories, so I stitched suggestions of recorded memories, perhaps from a personal journal, on some of the individual pages.


Jeanne Raffer Beck, detail of Book of the Ancients 3: Memory.

Friday, September 2, 2011

Inside the Dream Space of an Idea



In my own process, I have been inhabiting a space involving memory: my own! I have been writing down  the house numbers of all the places I have lived that I can remember, cutting them out of fiberglass screening and applying them to a new “fluttering pages of my life” work in process.

Synchronicity led me to read an essay this week by Carol Becker, in Buddha Mind in Contemporary Art.  In her role as an  instructor to young artists, she encourages them to “move inside the idea as if it were an imaginary space”. By doing so, she hopes to help them evaluate and perfect an idea as it takes form.

If we think of an idea as a dream space, then as artists part of our process may be to enter and inhabit that dream space as we create. Becker asks students specific questions as their work develops. Because I am quite interested in becoming a better mentor to my own process,  I find her ideas and approach intriguing. These specific questions are taken from her article.

Move inside the space of the idea and ask yourself:

In what way do you live here?

What furniture do you need to inhabit this space?

What appliances?

How will this idea’s meaning be communicated, made visible to others?

Further along, one might ask:

Is this the work you intended or has it changed in the making?

If it has changed its course, what is its new course?

Here is a clip about artist Grayson Perry, who obviously inhabited a marvelous “dream space” at the British Museum to actualize his idea.

Perry’s focus for this two-year project honors the anonymous skilled hands over countless centuries whose finely crafted works are now preserved in museum collections.

Monday, August 22, 2011

Creative Being


Jeanne Raffer Beck, Fluttering Pages 5: Memory, 2011, 18” x 18”, acrylic paint, gold leaf on synthetic fabric, screen-printed, mounted on fiberglass screening.

I woke this morning and started free-writing my creative manifesto. It’s a work in progress, like my art and my life, but I wanted to share it with you so you can start your own creative day with these thoughts. Please add to it if you like.

I am a creative being and my life is good.

My days are rich, full and filled with purpose as I engage in creating. My practice is my true north, my touchstone, my homecoming.

Every time I select and nurture an idea to completion, I enrich and expand both myself and the entire universe. My deepest satisfaction comes from knowing that I am bringing ideas into the truest expression that I can at each point in time.

What I create is not about outcomes, although I love the fruits of my labor and intentions. My creating is about learning to trust – in my vision and in my voice and my creative spirit.

Each day I practice creating and living with an open heart, one that marvels in and appreciates life. Everything around me is engaged in creating, in growing, in expanding -- and I am part of it all.

I savor and appreciate that connectedness.

I am open to the joys and experience that a creative life brings. I allow each day to surprise me and carry me off on an adventure.

I am never disappointed. It always does.

I appreciate the wisdom of my years that I bring to my creating and the vibrant, healthy body that I inhabit. I am blessed with humor and wit. I have a generous, compassionate heart that attracts other creative minds and fertile experiences.

Each day I practice being as kind to myself as I am to others.

I am blessed as well with compassion that allows me to see everyone and everything around me as interconnected and ever-evolving.

Whenever I feel alone, all I need to do is open my heart to feel the love of all creation surround and fill me. I am part of a great power that is continuously evolving and manifesting just like I am, each and every day.

My wholeness awaits me to affirm it with the beginning of each new day. My good fortune awaits my acknowledgement that it bubbles over into every aspect of my life.

I sleep deeply and well each evening knowing that I have given my best in my creative efforts. I wake fully refreshed in the morning to a new day filled with possibilities for more satisfying expression, more pleasure, more evolving and refining.

I am a creative being and my life is good.

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Ikigai and Art Making: A Sense of Purpose


Dan Beuttner discusses the cultures and lifestyles that seem to contribute to health and longevity in this Ted talk. He touches on two ideas above and beyond diet and activity levels, which we all basically are already aware of, that strike a strong chord with me as an artist.

The first is a concept the Japanese call “ikigai”, for which there is no exact word in the English language. It translates as “ a reason to wake up in the morning.” Beuttner references research that suggests longevity is linked with having a sense of purpose in life.

My own life as an artist, which began 20 years ago in my early 40’s, fills me with great energy and enthusiasm for living. Being a maker, a person who engages in a creative process because it provides deep satisfaction as well as continual challenge, is a choice that fills my life with purpose. Whether I live to be a centenarian is far less significant to me than being able to focus my attention on creating the joy in living and expressing that refreshes and revitalizes us all on every level -- physically, emotionally and spiritually.

The second concept Buettner discusses in this talk also emerged from interviews with Japanese centenarians who live on the islands of Okinawa. Each person born in this isolated area becomes part of a group of five or six other people throughout their lives who form a social network of support. The presence of this number of people to  encourage, comfort and share with adds so much to their quality of life that these close groups have become recognized as a factor in healthy aging and longevity.

Most of us are not Okinawans. We have lived in numerous locations, had countless friendships, work associations and even intimate relationships over the course of our lives. Often this means we do not share a lifelong history with others around us, nor have the comfort and continued support that these long-term affiliations offer.

While many contemporary artists seize on this disconnectedness and alienation as their subject matter, I find myself moving towards the potential and promise of being human. I see creating and making as ways to infuse life-affirming, uplifting energy into the world. Our culture is barraged by images and words based on fear and violence; should our art mirror the ills of our culture or offer focal points that slow our whirling brains and give us a pause to reflect on the meaning and potential of our own – and all human -- existence?

I hope you will find Mr. Buettner’s research and images as intriguing and thought-provoking as I did. As a person who chooses to live to my fullest potential, it seems that perhaps the secrets to a long and happy life and a quiet, peaceful death are quite simple indeed. I hope that I am headed in that direction.


Friday, August 5, 2011

Bringing Forth a Thousand Joys


If you are reading this, then welcome back to my blog, which has been quiet for the past month or so, while I’ve given myself a well-earned period of time to relax and refresh.

This morning I found this quote from James Allen, 1864-1912, a British philosophical writer who penned the classic As a Man Thinketh, which, by following this link, you can actually read online (oh how I love the age of the internet!):

Mind is the Master power that moulds and makes,

And Man is mind, and evermore he takes

The tool of Thought, and shaping what he wills,

Brings forth a thousand joys, a thousand ills: --

He thinks in secret, and it comes to pass:

Environment is but his looking – glass.”

Which stirs up a delicious idea. What if I were to commit myself to bringing forth a thousand joys in my artistic life, starting this very moment?

Earlier today, after reading this quote, I picked up my composition notebook and headed outside, engulfed by the dazzling sun, observing and writing every sensation, sound and scene unfolding around me… the warmth on my freshly-washed skin, the buzz of cicadas, birds launching into choruses from surrounding trees as the breezes played with the leaves. Then I walked out to the garden and slowly picked the first few ripe tomatoes, the tangy scent of them lingering on my hands after I twisted them off their stems.

What leads us away from this daily bounty of glorious sensations? And conversely, what can bring us back to them?

I’ve been away from my studio for the greater part of the past month. I’ve not blogged. I’ve been mostly spending time at our cottage, where I tether my floating raft to the dock and paddle around on it.

But creativity is s bit like yeast. Add a little warm water, a pinch of sugar and it begins to bubble. It is time to return to shaping and molding, first in thought and feeling – and then with my heart and hands.

So today I am declaring this my task: to acknowledge a thousand joys, shaping my experience and my life by my thoughts. 

Joy #1 –  It is a pleasure and honor to share authentically as an artist, maker and creative spirit with words and images on this blog -- and sometimes strike a responsive chord in others. Through blogging,  I can reflect, ponder, inspect, consider, celebrate and share my unique way of perceiving and responding to this incredibly rich and inspiring world.

Joy #2 – What hilarity to receive not just one but TWO wonderfully supportive comments on previous posts today.... just as I was debating whether to continue blogging anymore.

Would you like to acknowledge your own one thousand joys with me? Imagine the possibilities of THAT “going viral”!!

Friday, June 24, 2011

SDA “Confluence” Conference Snippets


It would be a huge task to document all the exciting exhibitions, lectures, demonstrations and workshops that take place during a Surface Design Association biennial conference.

A quick sampling will have to suffice here, along with a wholehearted recommendation that you plan to attend the next SDA conference in 2013, which will be held in San Antonio, Texas.


Click on the title above and link to a pdf file with images and descriptions of all the excellent fiber-related exhibitions in Minneapolis during the Surface Design Association “Confluence” conference June 9-12 in Minneapolis, Minnesota.



Jiyoung Chung, Whisper: Jiyoung Chung's Joomchi, Minnesota Center for Book Arts, May 6 - June 24, 2011

Jiyoung Chung, a painter and mixed media artist, has developed innovative applications for a traditional Korean method of papermaking called Joomchi.


 DSCN7024 DSCN7023  India Flint, theWindfallMaps, June 9-30, Katherine E. Nash Gallery, Regis Center for Art, U. of Minnesota.

India Flint, a costumer, artist and writer, lives on a farm in rural South Australia. She uses a plant based printing process that produces vibrant and unpredictable marks and patterns on cloth.

Merge and Flow Member Exhibition

DSCN7039 DSCN7040

Erin Endicott’s Healing Sutra #19, hand embroidered antique cotton fabric stained with walnut ink. won first place in Merge and Flow, the SDA Members’ Show, on view at the Katherine E. Nash Gallery in the Regis Center for Art at the University of Minnesota. Erin also won the first place prize in FiberArt International.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Dimensional Freeform Crochet Class At SDA Conference

I attended the 2011 SDA “Confluence” Conference in Minneapolis, MN June 9-12 and arrived early to take a pre-conference class in sculptural crochet at The Textile Center June 6-8 .


The three-day class in sculptural crochet with Jodi Colella introduced me to crochet – as a left-hander, I had never seemed to be able to learn it. With my lefty neighbor and fellow student Beverly guiding me, I proudly succeeded in getting the knack of it.


Here’s a detail of a freeform crochet sample by Jodi, which definitely appeals to me.


Zooming out to show more of the piece. I enjoy the combinations of textures that her various freeform stitches create.

I appreciate how much potential the wire work has to compliment what I am already doing with my language imagery works and look forward to enjoying a bit of experimentation with the stitches and materials over the summer.

When I returned home, I discovered this TED talk featuring artist Shea Hembrey and found it so wonderful and inspiring that I wanted to share it with you. 

Once I’m settled back in, I’ll post more images of last weekend’s SDA Conference in Minneapolis. It was a great experience.

Sunday, June 5, 2011

Enjoying the Moment


Could anything be more enjoyable than being with wonderfully artistic and accomplished friends at a great opening reception? On the left, Arena Art Group friend Paul Brandwein, a ceramic sculptor, and on the right, Rochester Philharmonic Orchestra violist Melissa Matson and her husband John. Melissa is a talented surface designer as well.

The reception at the Arts & Cultural Council on Friday evening went well, with much appreciated support from family and friends and lots of interest in my work from people in the community that were new to me.  Three of the hanging Pages pieces behind us in this image may have a new home soon.

As a bonus to this lovely weekend, the summer issue of Canandaigua Magazine arrived in my mailbox with a five-page feature article profiling me and my art. Since it is only available locally, I’ve created a pdf file of the complete article; when I figure out how to post it to my blog and website, you’ll be able to read it.

Serendipitously, a writing challenge arrived in my inbox this morning from Jonathan Mead with this writing prompt:

Come Alive by Jonathan Mead

Life wastes itself while we are preparing to live. – Ralph Waldo Emerson

If you had one week left to live, would you still be doing what you’re doing now? In what areas of your life are you preparing to live? Take them off your To Do list and add them to a To Stop list. Resolve to only do what makes you come alive.

Bonus: How can your goals improve the present and not keep you in a perpetual “always something better” spiral?

I’d have to say my response to Jonathan’s question is a resounding “yes.” If I had a week left to live, I would live my life as I am living it now, filled with loving, supportive family members, stimulating interactions with artistic friends and the salty-sweet joys of creating.

Saturday, May 28, 2011

Installation Views of “Off the Page”

Area photographer Jim Via spent time at the Arts & Cultural Council Gallery with me on Tuesday afternoon and shot numerous images of the exhibition. I think you’ll agree that he did an excellent job:  












Now I can go join my husband at our cottage and have a relaxing weekend on the water and let all the tensions go.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Final New Works for “Off the Page”

Yesterday was “installation” day at the gallery for my solo exhibition “Off the Page: Reinventing Alphabets” that opens – today!

I’ll be posting some images of the beautiful gallery space and installation soon, but first, the pieces that I raced to complete this past week and include in the exhibit. I was working on these up to minutes before we loaded the vehicles and drove to the gallery.


Writing in Air III, 24” x 48”, collaged papers on synthetic polyester fabric, cut, manipulated and tacked to a gold-leafed, painted, stretched canvas frame.  The usual disclaimer that the photograph does not capture the true colors. I’ll post a better image later once it’s been photographed professionally.


Book of the Ancients”, 48’ 48”, gold leaf on synthetic fabric, painted, cut and mounted to fiberglass window screen.

Here’s your invitation to the exhibit:


Please come visit if you are in the area!  The opening reception will be Friday, June 3, 5 –9 PM at the Arts and Cultural Center for Greater Rochester Gallery, 277 North Goodman St., Rochester, NY.

Sunday, May 15, 2011

From the Front Lines or at the Leading Edge of Creation?

Perhaps I could cast myself as a news reporter “reporting live” from a battle zone.  Perhaps I could choose to identify with Richard Tuttle, the experimental artist in the “Never Not An Artist” documentary I just watched (done by the amazing Paul Gardner), drawing a line on the wall and then carefully tracing that same line with a length of wire to make a minimal and exciting work of art.

Whatever Walter Mitty fantasies pop into my head, there are eight days left to work until I must stop and mount my show – and of course there are still several pieces that I MUST complete.

Unlike the news reporter, I’m not in danger. although I do feel the tingles of risk and uncertainty. Unlike Richard Tuttle, I am not a famous experimental artist. Actually, in my imagination, which god bless it is free of all limitations of time and space, I am soaring with the focus and determination of a hawk hunting for its next meal. The work I’m making is challenging and stimulating me. It’s not perfect – is anything ever? – but it’s heartfelt and innovative and true to my artistic voice.

DSCN6882 Substrate for the third “Writing in Air” piece, foiled and over painted.


I’m collaging the whole surface at one time on this 40” x 72” piece – a new variation in my process with this third “Writing in Air” work -- and now that it is dry today, will add suggestions of handwritten texts. After that, I’ll cut the large collage into rectangles, form the tubes and mount them to the prepared canvas.



These two details show how the large surface will break down into rectangles that will become each tube.


Once the rectangles are all composed, this sample shows the cutting pattern I’m planning to use. More loops and flourishes than in the two previous pieces to suggest cursive “writing in air.”

Today I’ll complete the compositions for each rectangle and then begin printing, cutting, composing and mounting.

Saturday, May 7, 2011

New Works

The following are professional images of the works you’ve seen in process on this blog. Thought you might enjoy seeing the images done properly.


Pages: Crumpled, 48” x48”, 2011


Pages VII, 48” X  48”, 2011


Pages VIII, 48” x 48”, 2011.

These next three will hang together as a triptych on one wall.


The Fluttering Pages of My Life I, 48” x 60”, 2011


The Fluttering Pages of My Life II, 48” x 60”, 2011.


The Fluttering Pages of My Life III, 48” x 60”, 2011

I still am working on completing two more of these vertical “tube” pieces. The one below will be the image I use for my postcard.


Writing in Air, 24” x 48”, 2011.

If you live in the Rochester, NY area, please come hear me talk about my work and inspirations at the Memorial Art Gallery on Thursday, May 12 at 7 PM in conjunction with the FiberArt International exhibition that runs there through July 3, which includes one of my pieces in the collection.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Tinder and Sparks

 As a rule, there are in everyone all sorts of good ideas, ready like tinder. But much of this tinder catches fire or catches fire successfully only when it meets some spark or flame from outside, i.e. from some other person. Albert Schweitzer.

Stuart Low, a thoughtful, insightful arts writer from the Democrat & Chronicle, our Rochester newspaper, interviewed me recently because my work is included in the Fiberart International exhibit that will be opening at the Memorial Art Gallery on April 30.

The interview left me revisiting familiar questions, in an effort to flesh out clearer answers. Why DO I work in fiber? Why DO I work with language as imagery? What is it I wish to express as an artist? Why do I make the choices that I do? Talk about an encounter generating sparks. 

As far as I know, my profile will be a brief segment in a larger article about the abundant number of fiber-related exhibitions that seem to be happening concurrently in this area. What light will his summation of our hour and a half talk reflect back to me; how will my work be seen through an arts writer’s eyes?

In and around the enjoyment of being interviewed and photographed and looking forward to a special opening night VIP preview reception for Fiberart International this coming Saturday evening, I just keep working in my studio. I appreciate these interactions and the ideas they stimulate; that energy ignites new ideas and refines existing ones.


The inspiration for the new tube pieces that I’m currently working on is “writing in air.” Here’s the first segment for the next one;. I almost hate to roll it into a tube and attach it to the substrate. Maybe it will stay an open cylinder instead so the substrate is visible behind it.


There is less dimensionality plus sharper value contrasts on this piece than on the first one. The added fragment of found handwriting also is working.


Here’s the prepared substrate for attaching the completed tubes.