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:

Wednesday, September 20, 2017

Patricia Zannie, Collage Artist, Tells Her Story

I’ve been in love with color since I held my first crayon. Over 75yrs later, I’m still using crayons in my “fauvist-like” mixed media collages, using colorful strips of pattern, origami/papers from around the world, and contemporary magazine images to make imaginary landscapes. I use the waxy transparency of crayons to cover the “white” edge of cut papers, blending them into a smooth transition, making the composition look more like a painting rather than a collage.

Tissue PapeLandscape

Early on, I was influenced by the “Modern” compositional ideas of Cezanne, who flattened the picture plane, discovered warm colors advance and cool colors recede, and fostered the scientific concept of “binocular” vision - with the focal point at the position of the viewer and NOT at the horizon line, the reverse of what is taught in traditional Western “perspective”.  I am mesmerized by the Fauvist colors used by Matisse, his use of multiple patterns and his combination of both two-and-three-dimensional components in the same artwork. 

But, like so many other artists, my career path diverged after college and I got a “day job” while continuing to create artwork, taking Fine Art Classes in the evenings.  I watched American Rebel Artists in New York City transition into Pop Art, Abstract Expressionism and Modern Art. 

Winter Scene
Inspired by Robert Rauschenberg’s concepts of expanded boundaries, I experimented with incorporating a wide range of techniques and materials into my artwork, using wax, fibers, feathers, beads and found objects. Like Rauschenberg, I incorporated “found” images, including prints and images from magazine and books. Like both Rauchenberg and Andy Warhol, I rebel against the esthetics and precedents of a traditional “Western Classical” approach to Art.

Cluster Of Cactus

Fortunately for me, I had the opportunity to visit several cities in Japan, studying elements of Zen design as found in the Ukiyo-e woodblock prints from the 17th - 19th centuries, as well as Japanese techniques for papermaking, marbling, book binding and painting with stone.  The same way many of the Japanese Zen design concepts influenced Post Impressionists such as Van Gogh and Toulouse Lautrec, they influence my work and I continue to pass them on to my students over the past nineteen years.

October Landscape
I got the opportunity to quit my job and became a full time artist. I went back to school and got a Fine Arts degree in Design and started teaching at the college where I attained my degree and joined several art galleries to exhibit and sell my artwork.

 In the Woods No. 6

Although working in a representational format, I flatten my picture plane, often using a “worm’s eye-view” with the focal point at the viewer and incorporate intricate pattern.  I also use both two-and-three-dimensional elements in the same picture. I use bold, saturated colors and rely on my use of color to establish the concept of depth of field.

I paint with paper, using pieces of colored paper, handmade or printed from around the world. I compose intuitively, without any drawing or “real” image as a reference. I rely on some basic geometric diagonal shapes for composition and strip in vertical patterns for trees. Then I use inks, oil pastels, and crayons on top of the pieces of paper to draw realistic details and use the crayons to integrate all the divergent pieces into a comprehensive “rational” landscape.

Garden Path
My goal is to draw the viewer into the artwork by using pattern to flatten the picture plane, while at the same time, using color to provide a realistic illusion of perspective, or depth of field.  Thus, by presenting both two-and-three-dimensional elements in the same artwork, the viewer’s mind is captured by the intrigue and he or she realizes that it is both contrary to past Western precedents but is in keeping with the “reality” of our scientifically accurate binocular vision. 

Deep in the Woods
I love the “faux” aspect of making up my fantasy landscapes - it’s like making a puzzle of thousands of pieces without the picture on the top of the box. Each line I cut is part of the composition’s design. I use small pieces of paper and drawing to present realistic details. I truly enjoy watching viewers stand, figuring out how I incorporate both two-and-three-dimensions into the same landscape and still have it “look real.”

This is Week 37 of Artists Tell Their Stories. Thank you for reading and sharing Patricia's story today. To connect with Patricia and see more of her work, please visit the following links: