By Charles Segebrecht
We sometimes get a surprise. We think we know someone–a spouse, a close friend or good LQ neighbor–and suddenly ours eyes are opened to their talents, to their creativity and to their artistry. This is when you should take a moment to take in what you are seeing and perhaps start a conversation to understand not only the art in front of you, but also the story behind their process, thinking and masterpieces. I was lucky enough recently to do just that.
Museum studies show visitors are sometimes categorized as streakers, strollers or scholars. Most are streakers, spending a few seconds in front of any work which includes reading the wall label. To counter this speedy approach, an international movement called Slow Art Day is getting off the ground. We’ve heard of slow food, slow reading, mindfulness. . . and now slow art.
After taking a quick selfie in front of a painting, turn and attempt to absorb what you are viewing. A Harvard art historian calls it immersive attention; her students look at one painting for three hours. Quoting T.S. Eliot, when we view art calmly and slowly, art can transport us to “The still point of the turning world.”
Forget all the art history books with someone else’s interpretations–these are just opinions based on their life’s experiences; formulate your own opinions and assess your emotions; share these judgements and feelings with friends at museums, or wherever you find yourself. You may find yourself surprised as bonds deepen.
To get you started, here are snapshot profiles of a few of our talented Lake Quivira artists.
Letting It Flow
Mary Linda Boling can use her painting as another way to keep a diary. As she paints a Tuscany scene from a photo taken from a recent trip, her experienced smells, tastes and feelings come back to her. Using her art, she can again travel to familiar places without leaving home. Mary Linda humbly states anyone can be an artist. Ever tried water coloring? It is one of her present mediums, and she has even taken classes in at the KC Art Institute to hone her skills. Degas said, “Painting is easy when you don’t know how, but very difficult when you do.” Acrylics are another tool of hers, but unlike water colors, is a more “flexible” medium allowing for corrections. Pictures and places allow for her inspiration to flow; working from a blank slate is the toughest for her.
She doesn’t sell her impressive work; she gives it away to lucky recipients. Speed is her preferred approach to projects, but it isn’t reflected in her graceful works. Oils dry too slowly for her; water colors certainly dry quickly. She has done eye-popping graphic design for LQ club advertising flyers, charity organizations, parties and ads gratis.
She acutely knows she must create to be fulfilled and happy, whether with cooking, interior design, photography or her painting. Her painting passion and intention to improve encouraged her to organize and run the very successful rotating artists’ shows in the Clubhouse. A seat on the Board and new time constraints put the kibash on the program. She intends to start the shows when time again allows.
To refine her skills and remain objective, she meets twice a month with a painting group including Eva Foster and Susan Wiens. They share ideas, methods and tricks, nurturing each other’s talents.
Her grandchildren call her Grandma Moses. (The real Grandma M. began painting in earnest at the age of 78!). Susan Wiens began her talented art career in 2002–later in life, albeit nowhere near Moses’ age.
Susan will openly tell you, “It began from desperation.” She had been diagnosed in 2000 with Parkinson’s and was beginning to experience a difficulty with keeping an orderly focus on her daily objectives. A good friend introduced her to glass mosaics, which proved to be a life-changing event. By perfecting mosaics, she now has controlled focus throughout any day. An unexpected bonus: glass became the start of a very satisfying art career.
Kansas University Medical Center has been featured on KSHB-TV regarding their work with Parkinson patients and their abilities to focus; Susan’s routine supports the outcome of this KU study. Susan never misses an hour each morning in her studio, laser focused on either drawing, cutting, assembling or painting, while working with canvas, glass, copper or steel; she calls it “an absolute experiment!” It gives her such conspicuous pleasure to be able to do it; “Art is for me!” Susan has shared her outcome and taught her artistic skills to other Parkinson’s patients. Another bonus: she discovered she loves teaching – and confides she wants to try so many other things.
Her friends in the LQ art community call her the colorist. Color brings her absolute joy and it will to you, too, if you ever see her home interior! “I have to have color around me, and in all I create! Color speaks to me and allows me to say something using it–and I have lots to say.” Her mastery of colors and their relationships baffle other experienced local artists. Susan will suggest she is not an artist, but based on a well-known definition, she must be if she can tell you what shade of green lichen on the trees is. She is a natural with her mediums– with intensity! She shares how her enthusiasm for art is “out of here! The work makes me do what I normally never would have done!”
She will accept commissions, but never lets the commission aspect get in her creative way. If she doesn’t personally like the piece in the end, it gets broken, and she moves on with freedom. If the client doesn’t like it 110 percent, Susan keeps it. She and Gail Kinner occasionally team up on projects they donate to charity organizations, and use their same freedom of expressions in these works. “If the bidders don’t like an item of ours, they simply don’t bid!” Nothing so far has come back home.
Water colors are fresh and require quick decisions by the artist. Oils can allow for flexibility, allowing you to get to study your subject, allowing you to slow down brush strokes and then recreate its detail. Karen Harding chose oil as her preferred medium in the late 70s for these very reasons. She finds what she has to say and to expressing how she feels can be best done through her canvas. Her ability to create an intensity in a subject with, say, a single brush stroke in or around an eye contributes to her satisfaction, as well as creating what she calls “lost edges” or “negative spaces.” And example of a negative space could be a subtle incompletion on the eyeglass frames of a subject, suggesting a light reflection or helping to create a visual reality. (Now you know these exist, look for them in any gallery.) One aspect Karen uses to define an artist is one who notices the negative space in a subject.
Karen considers herself fortunate to have developed a skill to communicate in such a way. It didn’t come quickly, and she is still learning every day. She has studied under many teachers for whom she is very appreciative. She has found her steadfast medium and uses it to paint primarily for herself and family. Sixty-two of her paintings now wallpaper John’s and her living room. Presently, she has no plan to pursue any other medium to use for redecorating purposes. In addition to her personal gallery, her work is represented in collections in Arizona, California, Colorado, Texas, Ecuador and Mexico.
Three hours a day is average for her painting, and she considers it a privilege. Her art supplies travel with them on cruises or whatever life adventure John and she pursue. She prefers painting realistic scenes including portraits. Occasionally, she will enter a juried show because she believes such skilled judgement is needed to further develop one’s skill. Additional art classes and her practice will never cease, as she is committed “to what may be.”
Self Described Trash Addict
In a previous life, Martha Bainum had been a food stylist for twenty years with clients such as Wolferman’s, Jack Stack, Reveal Crock Pot, Williams Sonoma and Applebee’s. Preparing her for this career was an earlier, seven-year stint as a dietician; she learned “how food works” e.g. she can paint a raw turkey to look perfectly baked! She unknowingly learned the “art of food,” and became a food stylist, sometimes working with former Quiviran photographer Ernie Block. When her family moved to Lake Quivira, and she began looking for something new, her husband supported her idea of pursuing creative time. She knew such time fed her soul and began to “try all kinds of crafty stuff,” settling on “taking junk, studying it and letting it come.”
Marta always begins her art projects with an unusual blank canvas (a pot, stick, clothes rod, ketchup bottle or broken rake) and begins her remarkable creations with applications of other discarded items (thread, buttons, dryer lint, wire, beads and/or zippers–anything, especially items with color!). Color is critical to Marta; “I live color; it excites me!” Other than this, she doesn’t know where her new project is headed, except it will be another experiment challenging normalcy. Contributing to her projects with unusual discarded items are the generous likes of Leanna Walters, Jenny Ashby, Cindy Meeker and Connie Huerter.
The color in African art makes her feel alive–visually stimulating–and influences the color of some of her pieces. Faces don’t appear in her projects because she doesn’t want creations to look human. Don’t ask her to do a defined item; she’ll freeze; “creativity is stolen away–it won’t happen.” As a project evolves, discarded items (she occasionally refers to these as trash) become whole again. The “whole” portfolio of her work – by design – is ingeniously bold!
Disney River Cruise
Picasso said, “Every child is an artist; the problem is how to remain an artist once we grow up.” Bob Lee has this figured out. First, he practiced dentistry and learned how to work with his hands. He retires to play golf for ten years. He retired again and pursues his childhood art inclination “to make sure I don’t play golf again.” He hasn’t been to any juried shows or studied at the Art Institute, but he has had the scrutiny of his art by many grandchildren visiting his personal gallery on and around Treasure Island. Their squeals of delight in seeing a giraffe, a sloth, a snake or even a bear are as true as the tears an adult may experience when viewing a classic.
PVC pipe, a Dremel, a hand-held blow torch, a few nuts and bolts and wild-animal colored paints are his materials and tools of his art. Fifty critters–not all native to Lake Quivira–are handmade by Bob while spending his winters in Florida. He is like the other featured artists in this article: he cannot not do this! He has even been known to miss his Florida happy-hour because of his engrossment in a one-of-a-kind creation.
As he sketches his wildlife on the flattened PVC pipe (cut lengthwise and flattened with heat from the torch), he confesses he erases as much as he outlines. He utilizes no math in his manufacturing. The higher math is done by his accountant sister who receives math problems such as: “The height of the turkey in my picture is the length of a pencil and the width is about half a pencil; how many pencils is it if I want it to be three feet tall?” Sis calls back with the math answer, Bob proceeds with his Turkey layout “and I don’t have to talk to her again until Christmas.” Bob jokes, “When painting, I try not to drink from the paint rinse cup!”
When his creations are occasionally stolen, he is philosophical: “I like making them, so I make them again!” Some need occasional repair. Otherwise, if they aren’t Baroque, he doesn’t fix them!
Bob’s art scene and popularity have expanded. Bryan Albers recently hired him to make an additional fifty barnyard creatures (chickens, pigs, cows, etc.) for along the railroad tracks at the Agricultural Hall of Fame ride in Bonner Springs. He would also agree to commissions by doing anyone’s dog for $40–but must be able to preserve his artistic freedom!
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Reach out to these and the other talented artists we have in our neighborhood. They would eagerly open their doors to their galleries and share with you their talents. Be more than a museum streaker. Study their art, examine your feelings and have a conversation. Unlike at the Nelson Atkins, our artist neighbors will be present. We’re fortunate. Our community is strengthened as everyone learns of previously unknown artists, and the artists learn from us.