Thursday, October 19, 2017

Lauren Rader, Visual Artist, Tells Her Story

My life and art have been entwined for as long as I can remember. That symbiosis started to include writing when I was a teenager. My love for both art and writing has never wavered. Not even a little.

Cattails, acrylic on canvas, 48 X 60

I was 9 years old when I discovered my love for minimalism, though I had no word for it at the time. It happened as I wiled away my time in 4th grade placing one loose-leaf page on top of another and coloring in the holes, creating dots on the page below. The contrast of the dark circles on the white page was electrifying. And then, one day, I shaded one perfect circle onto the lower left side of the under-sheet. Just one black circle floating on a page of white. Perfection. I took it home and hid it. I knew no one else would understand. I hid it to protect myself, but I never forgot the stark beauty of that single dot.

Since then, I’ve worked in lots of different media, majoring in ceramic sculpture in college, and then carving in stone for years. For a time, my main medium was colored pencils, and then chalk pastels. But no matter the medium, abstraction has been my constant companion and self-expression my fuel and subject matter.

Seahorse, painted alabaster

One year I had the good fortune to study at Harvard. I took the opportunity to paint in oils full time. As I worked, the dot I had hidden away when I was 9 ruminated in my mind. And so, with the maturity of age, and the confidence gained through years of art-making, I finally created a body of work inspired by that original dot. For the next 3 years, I continued to keep my palette to none other than black, white, and occasionally, gold. A friend of mine calls my work from that period rich minimalism. With the rich texture and deep simplicity of that work, I think it’s an apt description.

Dancing with the Muse, oil on canvas, 83.5 X 59.5

I’ve always taught as a way to keep my art pure – I didn’t have to depend on it for money. I taught in schools for years, but in 2005, I opened up my studio to teach women, in classes I call Releasing the Creative Powers Within. My book, Studio Stories: Illuminating Our Lives through Art was inspired by the stories from the classes. Here’s a summary of Studio Stories:

"When artist Lauren Rader begins inviting women into her studio for classes in creativity, she has no idea what she is about to unleash. Drawn by a common yearning to express themselves through art, the women soon find that the path to creativity leads deep within—to hidden thoughts, buried memories, and dramatic life changes. Here, Rader relates their intensely personal journeys, along with insights from a lifetime of teaching and artistry, and from her daily walks along the river with her sweet dog, Wiley."

Studio Stories: Illuminating Our Lives through Art

I’m proud that Studio Stories has been really well received and currently has 32 five-star reviews on Amazon.

Art-making and writing have taken care of me throughout my life. From the very beginning and still now, they guide and console me through the joys and pitfalls of life. Lately, my artwork is deeply entangled with grave concerns for our world. Much of my work has been dark of late, reflecting my worries for the people of our earth and the warming of the planet. This piece, Don’t Close Your Eyes, was done for and about the Indigenous people of our country. When I sell this piece, I’ll send the proceeds to them.

Don’t Close Your Eyes, acrylic, ink, feather on canvas, 24 X 24

I believe art and writing will both have a hand in moving the people of our world toward compassion for oneself and others, and then, most hopefully, to a world of peace.

Ascension, acrylic on canvas, 40 X 30

This is Week 41 of Artists Tell Their Stories. Thank you for reading and sharing Lauren’s story today. To connect with Lauren and see more of her work, please visit the following links:

Friday, October 13, 2017

Susan J. Slack, Teaching and Performing Artist, Tells Her Story

“What do you do specifically as a Teaching and Performing Artist?”, is a question hurled my way more than once.

“Whatever I can,” I might respond as any working musician/writer/drummer/singer/actor would who needs to pay rent and eventually raise a child. I see little difference among the performing arts. Each one requires ten years of study for proficiency in a given the field. The advantage to having had so many damn birthdays is that I've had time to dive deep into several. Here is a little of what Ihave gleaned from the practice of them, although throughout my career they keep bumping into one another. Maybe you would like to try one of these.

Acting - Allows me/us to explore other viewpoints, other headspaces for a while. Then through my efforts, hopefull, the story we the actors bring to the audience will inspire or help figure something out. It's just storytelling. I won awards in Buffalo NY, moved to NYC doing off-off Broadway and touring the southern states. Had my own theater company, “Open Circle Players” and we toured schools in twenty-one Florida counties doing assembly programs and larger reading and family festivals. The test for success in Children's Story Theatre is laughter. Hint – if all else fails, fall down.

Singing - one of the best breathing exercises ever. You bet I did the hairbrush microphone-in-the-mirror thing, and then, I got to do it for real! I wore long sparkly dresses and crooned out ballads like a true jazz hipster. (With a bit of my Broadway vocal training in there for belting 'em out.) I recorded two albums of mostly originals Sunrise and Semah, and headed the Susan and the Slack Band, singing in major Western New York venues. I hope someday you get to know how it good it feels to breathe deep and let it come out rich and pretty.

Drumming – For me the drums always say to me, “You are home now.” The rhythm is how and why we first gathered as humans. You can reach a deep state of meditation without spacing out if you know any indigenous styles and techniques. I learned and am still learning from Nigeria's Baba Olatunji, several West African, North and South American, and Middle Eastern teachers; Arthur Hull, Layne Redmond, and Colin Wolcott's workshops. And I played for a lot of dance classes and professional company concerts, and learned so much about moving by watching as I sang and played for the dancers. And let's not forget about the glorious hours of ancient, five-part West African drum groups wherein one needs to absolutely give it up to the rhythms and yet be totally present and concentrated. One far-flung thought and you fall out of the tight weave of the polyrhythms. Yes, of course, you can play whatever the heck you want, but for me, this is way more fun.

Dancing – I've studied with movement teachers who have expanded my body's vocabulary tenfold. Instead of only doing what comes natural, I also have some control of arms and torso and feet and can summon up lots of classroom muscle memory whenever the need arises. It means fewer bad habits stuck in my body to cause trouble as those birthdays roll by. Explored techniques: Graham, Hawkins, Cunningham, Middle Eastern, good old modern and ballet. And then there is West African/Caribbean Dunham technique via Miss Katherine Dunham's colleague, Pearl Reynolds, and other lovely teachers in Tai Chi, mime and currently yoga. There are many neurons throughout the body and they are just as instructive as the brain in governing mood and health. Also, when one body watches another body dance, the watcher gets a huge physiological benefit as well. And when we dance together, well, you tell me.

Writing – Still a performance discipline, but this time, of the mind. This can be practiced anywhere you can hold a pen and notepad. The answer I gave the airplane steward who asked about what writing is like: “It's like taking drugs because you totally escape into another world and are unaware of time passing, except instead of costing money, you make money.” 

I have a blog, Dropping Names, on Wordpress, with lots of great stories. I wrote columns and interviews and reviews for several publications. And most impressive to myself, I've written two published books, Come Join the Circle, a non-fiction how-to for working with kids with voice, rhythm and movement, and a historical fiction, set in 4th Century BCE Mediterranean (Egypt, Athens, Sparta, Persia), Hidden From the Face of Humans, that took seven years to research. I almost didn't want to publish it, it was like giving birth when you don't really want to let go of the relationship, but then the time comes. If you like GoT, this was the real thing. Hope my story has inspired you to get going on your own exploring.

This is Week 40 of Artists Tell Their Stories. Thank you for taking the time to read and share Susan’s story today. To connect with Susan and see and hear more of her work, please visit the following links:

Friday, October 6, 2017

Carole Stevens Bibisi, Author, Artist & Poet, Tells Her Story

Kia ora, hello, my name is Carole Stevens Bibisi. I was born and raised in Invercargill, the southernmost city in the beautiful South Island of New Zealand, and many years later, I moved to Australia. The Bibisi name was added in 2002 when I moved to America in 2002 to marry my sweetheart!


I trained in Art College in New Zealand, studying Lettering, Illustration, and Design. Over the years I have gained a wealth of artistic experience, having earned my living working for major advertising agencies, newspapers and a chain of fashion stores as their advertising and display manager.I especially enjoyed creating fashion drawings for newspapers and window display art.

Earth Angel

My primary source of design, passion, and inspiration comes from animals and nature, and my deep yearning to manifest God's harmonic spirit of unconditional love and beauty, as it lives in me, and works through me in perfect harmony. Yes! The human and divine duality that occurs when our combined energy blends together in a lush palette of intoxicating rainbow colors, as we joyfully become co-creators of healing and peace on earth!

My art illustrations are inspired by not only my love for animals but also rainbows and stained glass windows. My art chose me to give life to mandalas, mermaids, angels, goddesses, and cats. The love of vibrant rainbow colors shows in everything I create. My medium is Prismacolor pencils, paints and markers.

Sad Mermaid

As a mother of three grown children and a grandmother of five, I became inspired to write children's books. My first book Tails of American Bronte was published in 2007. There's a load of black cat magic in this delightful 'Tail' of adoption. My sweetheart of a darling black cat, Miss Bronte, who has tons of cattitude, was my muse. In 2017 Miss American Bronte joined her pals over at Rainbow's Edge.

Flowers and Friends

Kids give Bronte 4 Paws Up, and a percentage of books sold helps support animal rescue. I enjoy book signing events and am an outspoken advocate for promoting lucky black cat adoptions. My second book in the American Bronte series is, Bronte's Alphabet. Another book I created, The Rainbow's Dream and Song, is a colorful story of life's lessons learned from the Rainbow.

Carole's Books

I am an accomplished musician; a singer, teacher and pianist, who graduated to the highest level in theory of Music and Pianoforte, passing final examinations with Merit and Honors, through London's Trinity and Royal Schools of Music. After moving to Australia to further my musical career, I enjoyed sharing my love of music by becoming a singing teacher and tutoring vocal workshops. My own album, a CD entitled Sophisticated Lady was recorded in Australia. Sophisticated Lady features a repertoire of jazz standards, soulful ballads, and songs from the musicals I have performed in with Duo's, Trios, larger bands and orchestras around New Zealand, Australia, and locally in Sarasota and Bradenton, Florida. One notable highlight was being chosen to sing with an American Choral group at Carnegie Hall in New York City. The CD and books are all featured on my website should you possess a little black cat curiosity!

Lucky Black Cats

"It's our choice to live in the bright rainbow of our hopes, and not the dark clouds of our fears." May you be a loving contributor through art and music, to world peace, joy and healing.

This is week 39 of Artists Tell Their Stories. Thank you for reading and sharing Carole’s story today. To connect with Carole, please visit the following links:

Thursday, September 28, 2017

Charles Gushue, Dancer & Choreographer, Tells His Story

Photo Credit - Alexis Iammarino

First, let me say that I think ideally I would spread this blog post out scattered across a room connected by threads, so that as you pull on one, various parts of it come towards you, or perhaps you pull yourself towards it, but instead it is laid out in an order, obscene amounts of parenthetical or aside information, with a structure that shifts as it appears.

(I wrote above the word first but actually I wrote this last, well not quite last as I am still writing and now will jump back down to the writing about audience which may or may not still be there at the time you are reading this.)

         — everything cast off becomes through its irrelevance, relevant, that is how I try
         and make my dances—

Photo Credit - Leslie Rogers 

My mother likes to tell a story that as a small toddler, before I was really even talking, I would entertain the many “adults” surrounding me by choreographing them around the room by pointing. I like to think that since then I’ve become much less dictatorial in my approach to choreography but no less particular (shout out to my sisters).

Photo Credit - Katherine Helen Fisher 

(I first wrote and then deleted a similar anecdote whose truth I’m equally unsure of about an elementary school teacher of mine who either told my parents that now they would have to listen to me or compared me to Orson Welles)

I didn’t write about this second anecdote, because I’m not sure I’d very much like to be compared to Orson Welles, although I guess now I have written about it so I might as well tell you that I think it had something do with me wanting to turn my entire 4th grade (I have no idea if it was actually 4th grade) classroom into a small town and I tried to draft my classmates into creating paper mailboxes to put on all their desks (I think I probably just wanted to receive mail)—

Photo Credit - Carlos Funn

In my most recent evening length work “The Augur and The Amateurs,” which I created while an MFA student at the University of Michigan from 2014 - 2016, I sought to destabilize my or any authority over the dance work.  I wanted to create a dance work that gestured toward the specific without expressing anything too reifiable.

(I just had to Google if this was a word, the first thing that came up was some coding jargon)

—I took some coding when I was homeschooled (grades 6-8), not much if any of it stuck except for the hours and hours I spent in literary-themed text-based virtual realities called MOOs—)

It is not that I think everything is open to interpretation, It’s not the work is what it is. I find nothing more maddening than an artist who coyly says “well what do YOU think it means” It’s just that whatever things I was thinking about, whatever creative devices I was employing, whatever feels important about the dance to me, isn’t itself the dance, and doesn’t live inside the dance.

It’s not that I have secret meanings that I don’t want an audience to know about, I am more than happy to talk about all of the various tributaries of intentional (and otherwise) research and thoughts and practices that I tumbled through as I make my work.

         —AUDIENCE! is incredibly important to me, so much so that my Thesis Chair, 
         Clare Croft, was  afraid that I had gotten it tattooed on my arm and had fallen or 
         been pushed off the deep end.—

(I actually got the word Adventure tattooed on my arm surround my directional symbols from Labanotation, it was a friend tattoo with Alain Paradis)

Photo Credit - Kirk Donaldson

It is more that I want an audience to not even think to ask the question of whether or not they “got it.” (this sentence originally appeared earlier in this piece of writing but I felt it made a passable ending instead)

Photo Credit – Charles Gushue

This is Week 38 of Artists Tell Their Stories. Thank you for reading and sharing Charles’ story today. To connect with Charles and see more of his work, please visit the following links: