Friday, December 2, 2016

Marcie Wolf-Hubbard, Visual Artist, Tells Her Story

I have always loved to draw -- maybe as a connection to the world, my response, or appreciation. This goes for landscapes, nature, up close, and the figure. I think its my intimate, quiet observing that separates me from the wild, noisy, sometimes rude, uncaring world, seeking the beauty of nature.

As a student at the University of Maryland and the Maryland Institute, College of Art my focus was improving my skills as an artist. In my teaching, being able to share my love of art will hopefully inspire others and improve their skills. I continually remind students to look, and that is what I continue to do. I think that looking is how I draw.

Girl with Flowers, Charcoal, encaustic, mixed media on panel, 14"H x 11"W x .5"D

When I think about drawing and my materials Im remembering how satisfied I was when I could work with chalk pastels to develop a landscape. The pastels could be painterly, and I felt I could achieve the feel of the landscape and create atmosphere. Moving the chalk with my fingers, I would blend the colors. The combination of materials and motion of my process seemed to bring about what I saw and felt. When I worked in oils, I loved that with a brush I could move the colors, blend and draw and that seemed to work for me. I experimented with surfaces, and found that I wanted to add more to build texture. A tar paper surface works well for landscape painting. Drawing into the paint, the black textured paper shows through. Revealing the dark background gives my paintings depth.

About ten years ago I learned about weekly life drawing sessions at Montgomery College. Ive been going there regularly ever since. It had been many years since my life drawing classes in college. Now, if I miss a week of drawing, it feels like a huge sacrifice. Thats how important the weekly sessions are to me. My charcoal of choice is Generals 6B (soft) compressed charcoal sticks. Im able to draw lines with the charcoal, capturing gesture. I move the charcoal with my fingers to give the drawings a tonal quality, which can define the volume of the figure. Here, I am able to be painterly with charcoal.

Well TraveledCharcoal, encaustic, mixed media on panel,  12"H x 14"W x .75"D

I dont know if it was the first time, but I started taking notice of other artists work in encaustic in 2009 at The Divas and Iron Chefs of Encaustic Exhibition at Washington and Lee University in Lexington, VA. In 2010, I was included in The University of Maryland University Colleges exhibition, Mind, Body, Spirit, Celebrating Regional Women Artists. There, I found other artists working in encaustic and I finally thought that I would like to do this.

I think what captivated me about the encaustic paintings I saw was the surface. The painting did seem more like a construction, a play of light, with a surface you wanted to touch.

Yours TrulyCharcoal, encaustic, mixed media on panel, 14"H x 10"W x .5"D

Ellyn Weiss, an artist whom I have admired, instructed me to bring whatever I liked with me for my tutorial with her in encaustic painting. I brought my drawings from the life drawing sessions along with miscellaneous materials and started exploring encaustic painting. I was hooked and that started my love of working in encaustic. Ive loved seeing Ellyns work through the years. Im especially drawn to her palette and the energy of her paintings and drawings.

Eagle EyesCharcoal, encaustic on panel,  13"H x 9.5"W x .5"D

Today, I use the encaustic painting to highlight my drawings. I feel the added texture, luminosity, layers, and dimension all help in my construction or building of my artwork. I add, and take away, sometimes making the painting more of a sculptural form. The carving away is another form of drawing. You have to see it and touch it to understand. It is the back and forth nature of collage that lends itself well to encaustic painting. Collage elements add more texture, dimension and depth to the paintings. I may work with a painting for weeks, or over a month. It is rare to do a painting in one sitting. That is also my approach with mixed media/collage. I need to live with it, get a better look at the parts of it, and think about what may be necessary.

Snowy Trail in Rock Creek ParkOil on roofing paper, 48"H x 28"W

This past year has been a difficult year for my family. David, my husband, had surgery in July to remove a cancerous tumor from his duodenum (small intestine.) The extensive surgery was a success and he is now managing the results of the surgery and chemotherapy. Our regular walks we take together in beautiful Rock Creek Park continue to inspire me. Were fortunate to have our younger son Rigel with us now to help at home and offer his positive spirit, but we know well miss him terribly when he leaves for Armenia in March to join the Peace Corps. Our older son Orion has been working for several years in Hubbards Fine Art Services, my husbands art installation and sculpture conservation business. Orion has gained the expertise in working in metal and he thinks like an engineer to manage installing and securing art in all kinds of ways. David and I look forward to visiting Rigel in Armenia and I am also investigating artist residencies in Armenia.

Burlesque, Grande, Charcoal, encaustic, mixed media on panel,  15"H x 10"W x .5"D

This is Week 47 of 52 Artists in 52 Weeks. Thank you for reading and sharing Marcie's story today. To connect with her and see more of her work, please visit the following links:

Friday, November 25, 2016

Kim Downes, Shamanic Soap and Candle Maker, Tells Her Story

I was born and raised in the desert in Arizona so the spirit of the land and the essence of Native American culture has always been in me.  However, as time went on, I left that area for the East Coast, eventually living first in New York City and then moving to Washington DC. I always knew I would settle in Washington, DC every since taking a field trip here at the age of 12.  There's just something about this place that called to me - almost like a call to duty!

I held positions in various law firms, working as a legal assistant. (I don't really remember how I even got into that work because I have no legal background.) I remember one day looking at my outfit and thinking, "this is not me, why am I doing this? I'm an artist, with a background and a degree in photography!" It was then, in the mid 1990s, I seemed to have a spiritual awakening.  

However, while I still worked in the law firms, I began selling at Eastern Market on Capitol Hill in Washington DC, making jewelry out of plaster of Paris with various images and jewels embedded in it. Painted bright gold, it was definitely not the Washington DC conservative look! I recall sitting in the hot sun one August day and something just whispered to me quietly "make soap".  At first I thought the voice said, "make soup," but I quickly realized that would mean I was having a heat stroke!  But, seriously, I recognized that the Universe was giving me a gift and a direction, and I went with it. So, I turned down subsequent lucrative legal assistant positions and chose to put all my energy and time into creating aromatherapy products, adding candles, facial masks, foot baths, and all sorts of fun things at a time when no one was really doing any of that anywhere! As this was pre-internet days, I had to do research at the library as well as through trial and error.

As my business grew, one day I was searching the dictionary for a name for it and I happened upon the word Aurora. And that was it. Aurora was the Roman goddess of the Dawn, whose chariot arrived each day to open the gates for Apollo and let the sun to shine forth. My very first business cards read "Aurora Bath, Greet the Dawn, with a tagline: for Visionaries of the New Millennium." I did not realize exactly what that meant at the time but, in hindsight, I see the guidance that I was given once again.

After a visit to the Roman Baths in Bath, England, I took a series of photographs there to represent my business and the spirit from which I felt it rise. I was very much inspired by the Greek and Roman goddesses of ancient times and how they created things to cleanse not only the body but the spirit, as well as to heal others. It was always of great importance to me that I help heal others with the products I create.  

I saw this most intensely after September 11th, 2001, when I created a Peace Candle and a Peace Soap. I saw the emotional devastation those tragic events brought upon the DC community and people flocked to get something, anything, to help keep their spirits up, to keep them centered and to make themselves feel better in general. 

In the local community I have become known as the Cherry Blossom Soap Queen after I started creating cherry blossom products in the late 1990s. I always had an affinity for the cherry blossoms every since I was young girl and was taught the cherry blossom song in Japanese, "Sakura", which I can still sing in its entirety today! The cherry blossoms are so beautiful and they represent a nonpartisan part of Washington D.C that everyone can come together and agree upon. They've always symbolized the spirit of cooperation between the USA and Japan, and basically cooperation between any Nations and all peoples.

About eight years ago I began my formal shamanic studies with faculty from Alberto Villoldo 's Four Winds Society, training in the ancient tradition of the Laika in Peru. I completed by mesa work in 2014. I now see aromatherapy taking yet another twist and turn, especially after my shamanic studies, especially at this time in our history when things are shifting so rapidly now that we have moved into the age of light.  

I feel the community, the population as a whole, is now ready for the spiritual messages that I received over 20 years ago. I feel my products are needed more than ever. I'm called again to create new lines of candles and products specifically geared towards healing the human chakra system and keeping the vibration levels of those who purchase the candles very high.  

I so enjoy creating new products from various essential oils and channeling in the healing energy of the ancient goddesses. I have created unique artistic combinations of fragrances and products with a sense of integrity and a bit of humor. I incorporate these ideals into my life, reflect them through my business and pass that onto my customers. I think it's what I do best and it is my intention to do the very best I can to help all those in need to greet the dawn of each new day.

This is Week 46 of 52 Artists in 52 Weeks. Thank you for reading and sharing Kim's story today. To see more of Kim's soaps and jewels, please visit the following links:

Wednesday, November 16, 2016

Karen Arango, Photographer, Tells Her Story

“Who are they?” My mother had asked my father, “Stay in the car and be calm, everything will be okay”, he said.

Colombian Mountains

As the men approached the car, everyone panicked. I did not know what was happening; with one and a half years of age I was too young to be aware. We were taken up in the mountain, guns were pointing at us and the men kept saying disgusting comments about raping the women in my family. My sister crying, my brother scared, my mom praying, and my dad waiting for a miracle to happen, all while the delinquents discussed where they would throw our bodies after being assassinated. We couldn’t speak, or defend ourselves, all we could do was stay together and wait for it to be our time to die; we had been kidnapped.

This happened in the early 1990’s, when the war and delinquency was at a peak because of the Pablo Escobar movement in Medellin, Colombia. We used to live two blocks away from his home and every time a bomb would go off I would cry, the sound was overwhelming, the walls and windows of my home would slightly shake, just as a mild earthquake. This war took many lives; my brother even told me that he would see dead bodies along the street on the way to his school in the morning. In Medellin we always had to be alert, we knew the delinquency was high, and kids would get kidnapped and taken into prostitution often. We couldn’t trust many people. My mom had to fire a babysitter because she tried to abduct me while I was still a toddler; thankfully, my mother stopped her before she got on the bus to leave with me in her arms.

While growing up, I felt that I was different from my friends at school. I suffered from anxiety and was easily frightened by loud sounds, thunder, arguments, and yelling. I was often called a crybaby by my siblings, I think they are supposed to do that anyways. Everyday, as I came home from school my mother always asked me if a man had touched my private parts, this was to make sure no man tried to take advantage of me and for me to know that I had to say something in case it happened.

When I was about 7 years old, I remember going home from school in the bus. The strong gasoline smell of the bus made me nauseous and as the bus stopped at a red light, I saw a face filled with dirt, sadness, and hunger. It was a young girl, soliciting money as her mother did the same. I stared at her and she noticed me, we made eye contact for a couple of seconds. The light changed to green and the bus took me home. Our visual interaction sparked a quality in me I didn’t know I had. I had felt compassion for this girl, her sadness had overwhelmed me.

At some point, due to the dirty business of one of my distant family members got in, my family began to get threats from criminals. My dad had to gather a lot of money from his company of industrial machinery, which was a disgrace to the economy in my family, to pay delinquents, drug traffickers, and scammers or they would kill us all. Our life surrounded by scams, threats, and insecurity gave my dad no choice but to immigrate to the United States, where his family would be safe, and have a better life.

Abkhazian refugees living in Tbilisi, play in the refugee building granted by the government

As we arrived here, I felt lonely. I missed seeing the kids playing on the streets and I thought people were very isolated, always hiding inside their home. The language barrier didn’t help to make friends; it was easier to connect with kids who spoke the same language as I did. If I found someone who was also from Colombia it was as if I had found gold. We could talk about similar customs, food, and tell stories of our lives back home.

Shortly, after moving to the United States my parents separated; my mother was not willing to take any more of my dad’s male chauvinism. She was in a place of freedom and she could raise her children without worrying about the safety issues we had back in Medellin, or the fact that my dad would take us away from her. Due to the expiration of our Visa I was not able to go back home to visit my father, and he did not come back to visit us until seven years later.

I witnessed my mom work three jobs, and not make enough money to pay the rent. Some months, she would have to borrow money from friends. She was tired, we were surviving, and I was getting an education, still sensitive to loud noises and getting nervous easily. At times, I had to stay home alone after school; my siblings were also in school and my mom was working, I would be scared that immigration would come to take me and deport us back to Colombia.

Xiomara is 9 years old. Her mother and father are from Peru.
Her mother was deported when she was 3 years old.

As a child that was used to having many luxuries, including art materials, it was challenging to not have these things anymore. It was more important to have food on our plates, and a roof top over our head. We got used to the life in the United States, I slowly learned the language and my interest in art still sparked. I remember getting a set of colored chalks for a birthday once, I barely used them and I didn’t want them to be gone. Then, I began using disposable cameras that my sister would buy, and my mom had some professional cameras they had brought from Colombia.

When in high school I began to reflect about my future; I knew I wanted to be somebody and get an education. After trying different things I decided that I would do photography. My mom supported me, she always told me I could be whatever I wanted. My dad did not find out until my second year of college, he still had the old school mentality that you could not make a living with a career focused in art. My mom had been my hero and my inspiration to be the best I could. In my mind, if she had raised three kids alone in a foreign country, then everything done with a kind heart and hard work was possible.

While in college, I found my interest in art and it was a time to discover myself and what triggered my passion to take photos. The subject of culture, people and stories highly intrigued me, and I realized the great influence my past experiences had on my art. I got drawn into helping others in need, and my art took another level. I was motivated to stand out from my other classmates, and took opportunities I never thought possible.

The first time I had the chance to go back to Colombia and see my family I decided to go alone. I was already overcoming my fears and timidness, or maybe the love to see my family again gave me the courage to go back to the country I had left twelve years ago. I remember day-dreaming that one day I would arrive home from school on my birthday, and I would find all my family: aunts, uncles, cousins, siblings waiting for me as I arrived.

David, outside my uncle's home

During that trip to Colombia, I met David, his nickname was “Gamin”, slum dog in English, and the direction of my artwork took a turn. One morning, David and I ate breakfast together. He seemed quiet, shy, and he was thin too. My aunt sat next to me as I ate my arepa, or corn cake, and she began to tell me his story. “He works around the neighborhood, for a couple of coins” she said. “He helps your uncle with some errands. Your uncle gives him work to do because he has a mother and a younger sibling and they are extremely poor. He works so they can have food to eat, but he never knows if he will have food to eat the next day”, she continued. My family would give him food and money, it was the least they could do. As she was telling me the story David would look at me with guarded eyes. As my aunt finished the story I could feel the tears coming, I held them in, I didn’t want him to feel bad. Therefore, I looked at my empty plate, got up to take it to the sink and I said to my aunt out loud, “Thank you”. I was thanking her for my food, but at that point, I couldn’t hold my tears anymore; I was thanking God for giving me the wonderful life I had.

The first time I traveled overseas to Europe, through a college program, it completely opened my perspective in the world. I learned about how much I enjoyed learning about people and lifestyles. I was already working on my “Miss Behave” series, about girls who are born in the US of Latin American parents. I began to take on projects that were related to my past experiences, either with immigrants, refugees, and the abused. As my projects kept evolving I realized that as I learned about people’s stories they were being a reflection of who I was and it became a healing process for myself.

Georgian Refugee sits at her home while her daughter tells the story of how they
immigrated to Georgia on foot for a month

I could say with certainty that my past has very much helped shape my future, who I am and what I do today. My experiences in early childhood made me scared, timid, and anxious; as I matured I realized that if I did not take risks and do things myself no one else would do them for me. I decided to overcome my shyness, and my noise trauma. I learned to be more trusting, sometimes more than I should, but I became a better person than who I could have been if I had not determined myself to overcome these barriers. Photography was one motivation for me to do this; it pushed me to be social, open minded, and my ability to sympathize with other people’s feelings helped me get closer to the subjects in my photos.

Georgian vendor in the outskirts of Tbilisi

I realized that if my craft was not used for a good cause either to inspire or help others it had no purpose. Then I discovered that by telling stories and by photographing people in the most dignifying way; I could allow the viewer to connect to the person in the photo, the way I was able to do it. For the first time, I felt I could express myself and share my experiences with others and through others. All that anxiety became my fuel to explore beyond, and I became curious of the all I could experience through the use of my camera.

This is Week 45 of 52 Artists in 52 Weeks. Thank you for reading and sharing Karen's story today. Kudos to Karen who was recently selected for 2016's 30 Women Under 30. To connect with Karen and see more of her work, please visit the following links:

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