Monday, September 3, 2012

Transforming a Yellow Spot into the Sun


There are painters who transform the sun

into a yellow spot, but there are others who,

thanks to their art and intelligence,

transform a yellow spot into the sun.



Isn’t this a wonderful quote from an incredible artist? I found it in The Zen of Creativity: Cultivating Your Artistic Life by John Daido Loori, which I spent this past weekend reading. I had just finished an intense period of creative work last week when a wonderful new friend passed along her copy of this book to me. The timing was perfect; I was tired and stressed and somehow the thoughts and ideas that Loori shared helped me release some of the tensions that had built over the past month.

Here’s what happened. In June I had three works to enter in an international juried fiber exhibition with an August 31 entry deadline. I looked forward to taking the whole month of July off from studio work.

Then two of the works sold (who could complain about that?!) and the third one went out on consignment to an art consultant. That gave me four weeks to create three new works to meet the submission deadline. Each piece normally takes me close to a month to complete.

Somehow I did it! A key ingredient was serendipitously finding an excellent studio assistant to help. In less than four weeks, I completed three new pieces in the Book of the Ancients series and made the entry deadline!

The works in this series continue to be inspired by remembered bits of personal history,  considerations of how and what we remember over time. I’ve returned to the photographer who is able to capture the truest representation of the luminosity and colors within each work.


Jeanne Raffer Beck, Book of the Ancients 8: Remembered Teachers, 2012, 36” x 48”, composition gold leaf, spun polyester, fiberglass window screening, acrylics. Screen printing, gel medium transfers, cut, stitched and constructed.


Detail, Book of the Ancients 8


Book of the Ancients 9, 2012, 36” x 48”, composition gold leaf, spun polyester, fiberglass window screening, acrylics, oil stick. Screen printed, cut, stitched and constructed.


Detail, Book of the Ancients 9


Book of the Ancients 10, 2012, 36” x 48”, composition gold leaf, spun polyester, fiberglass window screening, acrylics, oil stick. Stenciled, cut, stitched and constructed.


Detail, Book of the Ancients 10

Monday, August 13, 2012

Photographing New Works: Your Opinion, Please

I work with three photographers. One doesn’t have a studio to photograph my larger works so I have to pay for his travel time and set up in my studio; another has a studio but it’s a two hour drive away. I took this latest work to a third photographer who has his own studio and he shot it a bit differently. Here’s your chance to take a close look and share your opinions about how it turned out – I would greatly appreciate it if you do!


We had to jury rig a hanging device for the piece. Since he is a Photoshop wizard, he was able to remove all signs of the orange clamps from the final image. Because of the slope of the hanging mechanism, the piece listed a bit to the right.

_DSC9122 800 x 800 x 72 dpi

Jeanne Raffer Beck, Book of the Ancients: Memory 2, 48” x 48”, 2012

That’s the final image above. The reflectiveness of the piece by photographer #3 is less visible than the one in the piece below done by photographer #2. Here is the question:

BECK BookoftheAncients3lres

Jeanne Raffer Beck, Book of the Ancients 3: Memory, 36” x 36”, 2011.

Which photograph best holds your attention and interest and makes you want to see more?

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Hungerford Artists Open Studios and ACC Member Showcase 2012 this First Friday


Please join me and my guest artist, Christina Laurel, as we show our work together this Friday, August 3, 6-9 PM at the Hungerford Building First Friday Open Studios, 1115 East Main Street, Rochester, NY, at my studio, #366 on the third floor,  5 –9 PM.


Christina Laurel, Black and White Fan #14, mixed media; collaged, layered, found and prepared papers.

In addition, one of my silk and thread constructions, “Pages 7”,  is in the Arts & Cultural Council Member Showcase 2012 Exhibition at 277 North Goodman Street, a short walking distance from the Hungerford Building. You’re invited to this opening as well this Friday evening  5 – 9 PM.


In total, ACC received 204 submissions from 73 member artists. The exhibition jurors selected 20 pieces from 19 artists, so I am delighted my work is among them. The exhibition runs August 3 – 30.

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Oklahoma’s FiberWorks 2012



I spent this past week in Oklahoma City as this year’s FiberWorks juror, lecturer and critique presenter.  FiberWorks, a juried annual exhibition produced by Fiber Artists of Oklahoma, is now held at IAO, an expansive new gallery in a downtown neighborhood where various studios like Paramount once stored and distributed movie films.


This exciting and diverse annual exhibition, mounted by its talented founder Sue Moss Sullivan for 34 years, showcases the full gamut of traditional and contemporary fiber art and fine craft.


A great crowd gathered for Friday night’s opening and I enjoyed giving an opening lecture to a supportive, interested audience.


The gallery is extremely spacious and well-appointed, with excellent portable walls and numerous pedestals, a spacious lecture/reception area in the back, kitchen, storage area and office space. It is a dream space and IAO is truly an asset to Oklahoma City artists.



On Saturday morning, we had a strong attendance of artists in the show who gathered for a juror’s walk-through and critique of each work in the exhibition.

I  felt honored to meet this talented group of artists and artisans and be so involved in this year’s exhibit. It was a busy week filled with lots of friendly artists and interesting conversations.

Check the Fiber Artists of Oklahoma website in a few weeks to see images of some of the works selected for FiberWorks 2012.

Thursday, May 31, 2012

Memories and Recollections: Autobiographical Imagery



How would you tell the story of your life visually?? That’s a question I’ve been asking myself as this excavation of personal memories as visual imagery continues. Memory is a quirky thing – full of random bits and pieces, some crystal clear and others a bit muddied or vague.  All fuel for artistic inspiration.

My Pittsburgh childhood in the 1950’s holds both urban and suburban recollections. One vivid memory is the streetcar or trolley car. We would dress up and take the trolley downtown to shop at the downtown department stores like Joseph Horne’s, where uniformed elevator operators with white gloves would call out each floor and its products – “Fourth Floor,Ladies dresses, Lingerie”, until we reached our desired destination.




My grandparents ran a lunch counter and soda fountain much like the one shown in this early Pittsburgh historical photograph, called the H & H Dairy Bar. The two H’s stood for Herman & Helen Haupt. Men wore hats, suits and white shirts with ties and women wore stockings with a seam up the back, dresses and high heels every day.

As a young girl, when I visited my grandparents, I slept in the front bedroom of their apartment above their store. The wires for the trolley cars ran level with the second story window ledge. As I lay in bed I could see the sparks fly from the wires as the trolleys sped by and hear the clattering of their wheels on the tracks. The trolleys lulled me to sleep.

I’ve been mining this rich vein of recollections from my personal history and contemplating how they might fit into my work.

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Living Twyla Tharp’s “The Creative Habit”


Twyla Tharp writes in this “practical guide” to living a creatively engaged life about a “blank space” that every creative person faces: “the task of starting with nothing and working your way toward creating something whole and beautiful and satisfying.”

I’m beginning a new cycle of creative exploration. I know I am because I feel like an infant again rather than someone who has been working with creative process for close to two decades. In this beginning place, where I’m heading is a mystery, spurred only by the raw material of an idea, an image, a phrase or thought.


So I do the only thing I know how to do. Begin somewhere. Make samples. Let the ideas simmer and expand. I don’t start with a completed vision of a masterful work of art, only a crumb of an idea that teases and tugs at my consciousness.


Growing from this scrap of a beginning takes work. Lots of it. Not the straight line, numerically-ordered, step-by-step, “man she knows what’s she doing” type of work. More like the “crawling on one’s knees in the dark feeling with one’s hands to find a way forward” work. But I do have an inner compass that guides this, one that trusts both the process and my skills enough to make me believe that I will indeed find a sure footing, an engagement with an idea that will lead to more focused action and work.

Twyla Tharp starts a new dance piece with what she calls “scratching”. “A dance doesn’t hit me whole and complete. Inspiration comes in molecules of movements, sometimes in nanoseconds…You can’t imagine the work, you can only generate ideas when you put pencil to paper, brush to canvas…when you actually do something physical.”


I’ve learned this. So I improvise. I create small studies. I listen to the thoughts that pop into my head just as I am waking. They whisper golden suggestions. “Create a thread map of the neighborhood you lived in as a child” was yesterday morning’s.

Today’s was “write your blog about this beginning place and how you don’t know whether you will fail or succeed, but you know you are committed to keep creating because this is who you are and this is what you do.”


Sunday, May 6, 2012

First Friday Open Studio: Behind the Scenes, Before the Crowds Arrive


Since not everyone can come to Hungerford for one of our First Friday Open Studio nights (just had this one Friday, May 4), here’s a virtual tour of my studio waiting for the fun to begin:.


First stop, the door to my corner studio on the third floor of the building. Just freshly painted green, with blue panels on either side. Of course it will be open wide to welcome everyone as soon as I’m done shooting this picture. By next month, a sign – and possibly some bright Mexican tiles along the green trim – will be added to welcome you!


Once you open the door, there’s a small entryway. My husband just painted it too so now it serves as an additional small gallery space. On the right, a quick view of my new “Big, Bold Life” painting.


Look to the left, and you see “Fall Equinox” and two 12” x 12” pieces from the “Notations” series.


Just inside the entryway, the wall on the right has another painting, “Spring Equinox”, plus one of my Book of the Ancients pieces and three small framed works.


Facing you is the dark charcoal accent wall with another “Book of the Ancients” piece.


Most everyone who comes in loves the space and comments on how wonderful the natural light is.  I love it too, but on First Friday open studio nights I wish I could wave a magic wand and create more wallspace!


Close up of the pieces in front of the east wall bank of windows.


If you stand in front of that east wall bank of windows and face the west end of my studio, you’ll see the entryway on the left again and my design wall, which gets commandeered as another display space on First Fridays.

So there you go – in just an hour or so after I shot these pictures, the halls began to fill and interesting, delightful people got to visit the many unique studios and meet the artists who work in them. What a great way to spend a Friday evening.

Do come join us if you’re ever in the Rochester area!

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Slow Art Day April 28 at MAG in Rochester, NY


Over 94 locations all around the globe are joining together this Saturday, April 28 to participate in Slow Art Day with one goal: slow down and take more time to really look at art. I admit it, I’m guilty, I rush through  many art exhibitions, overstimulated and overwhelmed in trying to take it all in.

The founder of Slow Art Day observed the same and decided to create an event that would encourage all of us to approach art with a slower, more contemplative mindset. A simple idea with incredibly rewarding results!

In Rochester, the Arena Art Group and Memorial Art Gallery are partnering to host the first Slow Art Day event in our area. Two of our Arena Art Group member artists, Liz Durand and Sid Roepke, will be on hand to facilitate observation and appreciation of five works in the gallery’s collection.

Three of us did a slow walk-through yesterday to chat about the works we had selected for viewing and the more we looked, the more we began to see in each painting. From the formal aspects of composition to questions of narrative and emotional tenor, the more time we spent looking and discussing, the greater our appreciation and connection grew to each work.

Alone, I might have spent two minutes with each of these works, but as the three of us discussed and shared our observations, I gathered more and more information and insight into each one.

We’re starting with more representational works and then moving to abstract:


Night Before the Battle, 1865 by John Henry Beard. This representational painting has a strong narrative. A cloaked skeletal form sits quietly gazing out over the rampart, his hands resting on the cannon while the first hints of dawn appear over the far horizon and a small group of soldiers lie sleeping, waiting for the battle to begin.


Jonas Lie, Morning on the River, circa 1911-12. Moody, atmospheric, the raw chill of a winter morning is palpable in this artist’s perspective of the Brooklyn Bridge on a cold, wintry morning.


John Koch, Interlude, 1963. This painting hangs next to the Hans Hofmann piece, below, and although the subject matter and degree of abstraction are certainly at opposite ends of the spectrum, the same careful thought has gone into the compositional choices each artist has made.


Hans Hofmann, Ruby Gold, 1959. I confess to breezing by this particular painting for years. Yesterday, the more time I spent with it, the more I recognized how the colors orchestrated a variety of emotional,non-verbal responses in me. I began to fully appreciate the intentionality of the impasto palette knife marks and the interactions of the color fields and shapes. So if you are one of those people who says,“my five year old could paint that”, you would reconsider that opinion if you spent careful time observing this painting.


This feast for the senses art experience will ends with discussing a work by Louise Nevelson, Dawn’s Landscape XL, 1975. This is a complex and intriguing work that rewards the slow viewer with intricate compositions within compositions. The urban influence is apparent in this work, along with intriguing compositional details that can suggest a myriad of interpretations.

These images just don’t do the works justice. Join us this Saturday at Memorial Art Gallery, 11-AM – 1 PM. Program free with paid museum admission.

If you live elsewhere, check out the Slow Art Day site and see if there is an event happening in your area!

Monday, April 16, 2012

Fiber Art Philadelphia: “Mending = Art” at Borowsky Gallery

Guest curator and participating artist Diane Savona gathers together twelve artists in “Mending=Art” on display through May 6 at the Gershwin Y, Borowsky Gallery, 401 South Broad Street, Philadelphia, PA. Open Mon- Sun,  9 AM – 5PM,

Savona writes that mending has been historically viewed at the low end of craft, “merely a humble necessity.” The artists that she has selected for the show “invert that scale, using mending as an art process, as social activism and as a statement of personal identity.”


 Diane Savona, Repair Manual, silkscreen and sewing on fabric, bound in spiral notebook, 12” x 24”. Sections of text about mending are interspersed with line drawings and text about retinal surgery.


Selections from Erin Endicott’s “Healing Sutra” series. The artist stains and embroiders vintage family textiles, signifying the healing of old emotional wounds.



This traditional Japanese boro (heavily darned old garments) from the early 1900’s is an exquisite example of the care that once went into preserving personal possessions.


                                        Detail of the mended cloth on the pant leg.














Dorothy Caldwell, Lake, wax resist, discharged cotton, stitching, earth, 13” x 13”













Dorothy Caldwell, Bowl, wax resist, discharged cotton, stitching, earth, 13” x 13”

 Dorothy Caldwell shines in any exhibition with her powerful works. Ideas of darning, mending and sewing combine with observations of the rural landscape and its cycles of plowing, planting and harvesting. The small punctuations of color seem to signify homesteads on the vast surface of the landscape.


Libbie Soffer’s Journal from the Studio, 35 pieces approximately 14” x 14” each. Muslin, silks, rayon, silkscreen, embroidery, heat transfer, marker, cotton, sewn with red thread. Using fragments from garments and old textiles, the artist creates a visual journal of women’s lives.

The artists in “Mending=Art” are: Dorothy Caldwell, Erin Endicott, Janet Haigh, Amy Houghton, Ilaria Margutti, Wolfie E. Rawk, Diane Savona, Barbara Shapiro, Libbie Soffer, Sally Spinks, Michael Swaine, Jan Vormann.

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Fiber Philadelphia 2012: Snyderman-Works


I drove to Philly for the SAQA/SDA conference last weekend and joined other attendees on Saturday trying to fit in as many gallery visits as possible offering Fiber Philadelphia exhibitions. Since there were over 40 scheduled exhibitions for this bi-annual event, time did not permit my visiting more than a small selection of the venues in one day. I’ll plan to spend more time there in 2014.

The 8th International Fiber Biennial at Snyderman-Works runs through April 28. It is a stunning show in an attractive, generous space that presents both large and small scale works beautifully. Dorothy Caldwell’s large-scale new piece, below on the right, had ample space to be viewed and appreciated.




My first introduction to Lanny Bergner’s work , above, was at a lecture he gave at the 2011 Surface Design Association Conference in Minneapolis. I loved the display of his mesh “containers” in heat-treated copper.


Equally exciting were Warren Seelig’s new steel and rock “weavings”. Above is a detail shot. The full work is easily 5 x 7 feet.


In addition to the gallery, there is also a wonderful gift shop adjacent to the downstairs gallery that offers unusual fine contemporary crafts for sale.

This year’s invitational artists at Snyderman Work’s Fiber Biennial are: Adela Akers, Kate Anderson, Lucy Arai, Dorothy Gill Barnes, Pamela Becker, Lanny Bergner, Mary Bero, Karin Birch, Yvonne Bobrowicz, Dorothy Caldwell, Kai Chan, Sonya Clark, Lia Cook, Virginia Davis, Carol Eckert, Katie Henry, Lissa Hunter, Susan Iverson, Michael James, Christine Joy, Nancy Koenigsberg, Lewis Knauss, Gyongy Laky, Ed Bing Lee, Jacqueline Rush Lee, Mi-Kyoung Lee, Pazia Manella, Margarita Cabrera, Shizuko Kimura, John McQueen, Nancy Merritt, Dorie Millerson, Norma Minkowitz, John Paul Morabito, Marilyn Pappas, Leslie Pontz, Jill Powers, Ann Coddington Rast, Joh Ricci, Jon Eric Riis, Betsabee Romero, Amanda Salm, Joyce Scott, Piper Shepard, Hisako Sekijima, Cynthia Schira, Tilleke Schwartz, Warren Seelig, Joseph Shuldiner, Hillary Steel, Wendeanne Ke`aka Stitt, Louise Strawbridge, Jo Stealey, Missy Stevens, Deborah Warner, Katherine Webb, Jeanne Williamson, and Grethe Wittrock.



Sunday, April 1, 2012

Arena Art Group Reception at FLCC



The Arena Art Group’s  opening reception on Friday March 23 at Finger Lakes Community College’s Williams-Insalaco Gallery 34 showcased 15 of our members’ works beautifully. Above is one of a series of ceramic sculptures by Nancy Valle. My work is behind it on the left and Dan Neuberger’s photography piece behind it on the right. The gentleman talking with two visitors is Stu Chait, an architect who creates abstract compositions on canvas by pouring layers and layers of watercolors.



This intriguing oil painting by Wendy Menzie sold quickly.


Jeffery Young, left,  the group’s treasurer, is a photographer and yoga teacher.


FLCC hired professional photographer Rikki Van Camp to take images at the opening. She spent time with each exhibiting artist and took shots of them in front of their works. This is Zanne Brunner in front of one of her gouache paintings of a tree spirit.


This image shows a mask piece from a new ceramic series that Richard Harvey, a mixed media artist, has been exploring.

The Arena Art Group’s next exhibit together will be in June, a show called “Anything Goes” at the Black Radish Studio in Rochester.