Sunday, October 19, 2008

Extracts Show Review in Maine Sunday Telegram

The day after my show opened at Addison Woolley Gallery, the owner, Susan, called me, saying excitedly that Philip Isaacson, the art critic from the Maine Sunday Telegram, had stopped by the show and was quite taken with my work. He asked for a picture to be included with a review he would write about the work. We waited a couple weeks and today the review is finally in the paper! Jim Kelly's work gets the lion's share of the review, talking about his abstractions of walls. Here is what he said about my "Extracts" series,
"I also make note of the digital photographs of Rebekah Younger. Titled generically "Extracts," they appear to do for paintings what Kelly does for walls, but in a more assertive manner. The color is bold, nearing violent, and the sense of movement is intense. These are strong, emotionally charged photographs created from the abundant forms Younger finds within paintings."
Well he almost got it right... It would have been a more powerful and accurate review if he had noted that they were all Extracts from the same painting and that painting was also my creation. But it is a mention, a beginning.
My goal for this show was to put my name on the map of the Maine art scene and this will certainly help me as I go forward. I hope it helps sell some of the work, as well, both for the gallery's sake and my own. In these tough economic times, as a newer gallery, Susan is struggling to keep her doors open. Please do take the time to see the show before it comes down on November 1. I am sure you are in for a treat.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Addison Woolley Gallery Opening and New Web Show site

For those of you who couldn't join us in Portland on Oct. 3 for the opening of my show at the Addison-Woolley Gallery here are a few pictures of the scene. The show is up until Nov. 1, so if you are in Portland, ME visit the gallery at 87 Market St. Check out the gallery website for show hours. All of these images were taken by my husband, Guy Marsden.

The gallery was brightly lit and ready for the artwalk crowds

The proud artist in front of her work. Dressed to make a statement and coordinated with the artwork, right down to the new streaks of red in the hair.

An early arrival checks out the images. The Extracts series certainly is a powerful statement when viewed all together.

An intrigued viewer questions me about my process. Each of these artworks, except for the one on the left of this image, are extracted from the same painting, by photographing cropped segments of my original mixed media painting with a macro lens. See the statement in the last post to learn more about these works. The piece behind my head is by Jim Kelly (see next picture)

Jim Kelly talks with a professor from the University of New England in front of one of his works that was part of the show. Jim starts with photographs of graffiti and other textures and then blows them up and paints on the surface. The other two artists in the show, Arunas Bukauskas and Paul Brahms both used photographic references to make drawings or paintings that were on display. Hence the title of the show was "Camera as Artist's Tool".

The crowd begins to fill in a bit as the night wears on.

The dialogue picks up as fellow Buddhist and artist, Peter Spano and I discuss Color energies and how they relate to this work. Clearly there is a lot of fire in these images which relate to both passion and compassion.

Talking with another guest about process.

All talked out and ready for dinner, the weary artist smiles for the camera.

The gallery hound, Rufus, looks ready to head home too.

You can now find my work in an online show of Maine Photographers. For a non-juried show the work is quite impressive and quite a range too. Amazingly few seashore or landscape shots and I don't recall any lighthouses, although there is at least one of lobster buoys. Don't get me started on the tyranny of these Maine icons on the art scene here!

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Camera as Artist's Tool: Artwork by Rebekah Younger, Jim Kelly, Paul Brahms and Arunas Bukauskas

Well it is happening! I am exhibiting a whole collection of my photographs at a gallery in Portland, ME along with 3 other artists. The show is entitled, "Camera as Artist's Tool" and opens on Friday, October 3 - November 1 at the Addison-Woolley Gallery at 87 Market St. The opening is from 5-8 pm on October 3 and there will be an artist talk on Saturday, Oct. 11 at 2pm. Come see the show if you can.

The show
features work that either blurs the line between painting and photography like Jim Kelly's and my own or uses photography as a reference, like Arunas Bukauskas and Paul Brahms.

I will be showing my "Extracts - Firestroke series". These pieces are extracted photographs from an original mixed media painting. What do I mean by extracted? I used my camera to explore the painting in close detail with a macro lens, much as I have done with flowers. They are about examining the textures, lines and colors independent of the larger context. What emerges is a series of distilled compositions that are strong and richly layered.

Here is the statement I wrote for the show.

Is this a painting? Or is it a photograph? Are these distinctions relevant in an age where most art experiences are mediated by digital technology? In this series each medium was part of a creative process of discovery. In painting there is the urge to make a mark, to leave a trace of myself through the expressive line. My ego, or sense of self, expresses in layers of complexity, building up associations as the hand moves across the page. I use the camera to frame the image, separated from the physical act of making, looking with fresh eyes. In the process of perception, the composition is deconstructed and distilled by the act of photographing it. Fragments were extracted, as the eyes moved across the image, capturing lines, a shape, a color.

These images digitally record the process of looking, a process that creates new worlds of wholeness out of the fragmented impressions of an original composition. In our daily lives, do we not extract our vision of the world out of the whole in our effort to make sense and order out of the chaos of stimuli, seeking beauty and wholeness in the fragments?

If you can't make the show and would like to see more of these images visit my website, You will find them under the digital mixed media category in artwork as "Extracts".
Comments always appreciated...

Friday, June 6, 2008

Canoe Ride Refined

This is a temporary solution for presenting the video, "Canoe Ride" with titles and credits. I am thoroughly frustrated by the technology glitches of different video file formats and compatibility with viewers, between Mac's and PC's. While Quicktime will allow me to convert a file from .mov to .avi and Windows Movie Maker will read .avi files (but not. mov files) I am hitting a wall in trying to save my final version back to .avi on my computer even though there is plenty of space, so here is what I have done temporarily saved online. I must remember that mercury is retrograde and communicating is tough right now, so with patience and perseverance I will get this into a final form for presentation eventually.
My apologies for the venting...
On a more positive note, 3 of my composite images will be on display in the Chocolate Church Art Center's Summer Juried Show, June 6-July 5 in Bath, Maine. If you are in the area, stop by to see them in person along with other work by area artists. Gallery hours are 12-4 pm Tues.-Sat.

Sunday, June 1, 2008

My entry in the "My Piece of Maine" contest

This has been a weekend spent at the computer, as I learned how to edit and upload my video entry in the "My Piece of Maine" contest on YouTube. As I have been working on video editing my various clips of light and water movements referenced in the previous posts, I thought I would kick it up a notch and enter this contest. The prizes are great! $20,000 for the 1st prize, $5,000 for the 2nd prize and 8 $1,000 prizes and there are still only 52 entries as of this writing which means the odds are pretty good. The contest deadline is tonight. The videos can be seen on YouTube. I think mine has some understated class, but who knows what the judges are looking for. Certainly this piece gives you a sense of my home and neighborhood and yet doesn't include all the cute baby pictures and home movie shtick. Enjoy, leave a comment and rate the videos if you are a YouTube fan. And above all wish me luck! This could make a hefty dent in my grad school debt or at least pay for that Mac I have been lusting after so I can make more videos.

Saturday, May 17, 2008

An Act of Generosity

I have been reading, The Book of Tea by Kakuzo Okakura, a classic text on both the Tea Ceremony and Japanese aesthetics written in 1906. I have always been drawn to Japanese culture since I was a small child. Something about the aesthetics of that culture has always resonated as familiar and true to me. This has grown over the years, showing up as imagery in my paintings.

It has influenced my clothing line, Younger Knits, in design, motifs and use of traditional Japanese dyeing techniques like Arashi Shibori.

My understanding of the broader Asian aesthetic has grown over the years with my study of Buddhism and Kado (the Way of Flowers) in the practice of Sogetsu Ikebana. I, however, hadn't understood the depth of their influence on my art practice until now.

For ten years my creative energy was directed into my clothing designs. When in 2006 I returned to painting and photography I was struck by a major shift in my focus. Humanity had always been my subject in my early art work whether it was the outer manifestation in realist urban settings or the inner emotional and psychological workings. My choice to work in art to wear was even about clothing the human form.

But in my return to 2D media I found I had no interest in the figure as my vehicle for expression at all. Instead I found myself drawn to abstract elements, when painting, and the natural world abstracted, in my photography. Color, form, light and line in their most essential forms became my imagery. You may notice in the work I have posted on this blog and my portfolio website, the scarcity of the human form.

Only this week did I find an explanation for this shift in reading The Book of Tea. The book addresses a lot of my concerns with the power of space and aesthetics to bring mindfulness, peace and harmony to the lives of others. I found here in the art of the tea room, which centered on nature, abstracted scenery and calligraphy, the answer to my own shift in imagery. Okakura explained it this way while discussing the use of asymmetry in the search for beauty, “ True beauty could be discovered only by one who mentally completed the incomplete…. The virility of life and art lay in its possibilities for growth. In the tearoom it is left for each guest in imagination to complete the total effect in relation to himself…. Uniformity of design was considered as fatal to the freshness of imagination. Thus, landscapes, birds, and flowers became the favourite subjects for depiction rather than the human figure, the latter being present in the person of the beholder himself. We are often too much in evidence as it is, and in spite of our vanity even self-regard is apt to become monotonous." Okakura,Kakuzo 1956/s89-90
In this way the viewer is invited to become part of the work of art rather than a mere reflection or an admirer of the artist’s ego expression. It now makes sense to me why many have commented on the generosity of my newer work.

In one incident, I had documented my experience of a group retreat by photographing the spaces and details of our environment. I shared a slideshow of my images with the group. In the show there were no people included in the images. The comment I received afterward was that people appreciated the images because they felt like they were in the pictures themselves. The pictures were so evocative of the space, both mental and physical of our shared experience. If the images had been of the other participants then the experience may have focused on the memories of those relationships or reactions to the people rather than re-experiencing the more internal memories of one’s personal experience of being there in that space and time. I realize that to leave my images un-peopled has a generous feeling because it gives the viewer permission to complete the scene as they see fit.

I consider this similar to the idea of "minding the gap" in meditation. Indeed Duchamp has been known to say that it is in this gap that art happens rather than in the object or the mind of the artist. Instead it is the space between the artist, the artwork and the viewer, the place of connection both internal and external that brings a work to life. The masterpiece is alive and riveting because we each bring something more to it, invited by the artist who shows a glimpse but leaves something still unsaid.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

The Act of Seeing

It has occurred to me that having presented this array of images for your enjoyment it might be nice to talk a bit about the why and how of my photographic process.
I picked up the camera again, after only cursory use for travel and art documentation, in 2006 when I was recovering from heart bypass surgery. As a lifelong artist, I was looking for a way to express myself in my weakened state and saw the camera as a perfect tool. While I was unable to do the more physical acts of the fiber art I had been dedicated to for years, the act of seeing was what I found most provocative and inspiring. The camera, especially a digital camera, made no demands of me physically. Even in the weeks and months of recuperation lying on the living room sofa, or when healthier venturing out into our yard, I could pull out this tool and make an image. Almost instantly I could witness my creation, or should I say my recollection of seeing. Here was a tool that provided me with instant replay and collected those moments to share with others.
After looking death squarely in the face, I felt pretty fragile and found myself drawn to recording the kindred spirits around me in the even more fleeting and ephemeral lives of flowers. I started with an orchid plant that was given to me in my recovery. I was seeking confirmation of the power of renewal and life after coming to terms with death, up close and personal. What developed was a body of images that were intimate portraits of flowers.
I had been practicing daily meditation for 7 years at this point and found myself approaching the use of the camera as a meditative tool. Here was a way to record the moments of awareness and insight coming from an open, "beginner's mind". Photography is for me a contemplative process; opening the lens to the world as I do my mind to record the places of wonder. Indeed the way of seeing was both an opening and a focusing in. Once contact has been made with a point of energy, something I later refer to as a "flash of perception" that becomes the subject of the composition cropped in camera. This phrase I learned through the contemplative photography workshop I took in 2007. The flash describes that first moment of seeing before all the ideas and concepts about what is seen take over. While we may think we passively receive all of our world through our eyes, in truth we are quite selective in our perceptions, registering only a small amount of the stimuli available to us in any given moment. When we do receive that stimuli we quickly leap to our mental concepts about that vision, labeling, categorizing and deciding if it is something we like, dislike or are neutral towards. We are constantly editing, cropping and revising our "reality" through the filtered lens of our mind. With each image taken I am invited to open the lens of my vision a little further, to see fresh, to challenge my habitual patterns of relating to the world.

Tuesday, May 6, 2008

First Canoe Ride of the Year

Spring is finally here! This video was taken on our first canoe ride of the year. Now with my trusty digital audio recorder I am adding more sounds to my videos. The soundtrack for this video is of peepers who rule the evening airwaves around our house in the spring. Night Ripple is the title of this video short. Enjoy!
The water levels have been particularly high ( just short of flood stage) with the spring rains, in part due to the rapid melt off with our warm sprig weather. While this is troubling to those folks in low lying areas, it has meant we could travel much further up our local creek with the canoe, floating over submerged fallen trees, beaver dams and other debris which normally would block our path. With a sense of adventure we paddled into new territory seeking new vistas to explore.

Thursday, May 1, 2008

Spring flower arrangements for Brunswick Shambhala Center

Today was spent arranging flowers at my local Shambhala Buddhist Center.
This was the first arrangement of the year using collected material from gardens rather than greenhouse flowers from the grocer. It is always a treat to have native plants to work with. I am still very much a beginner at Ikebana arranging. However, I do enjoy and get lost in the hours of practice. I worked with another sangha member to produce jointly 8 arrangements for the shrineroom and outer rooms. We started our work session with a half hour of sitting meditation which always helps to settle me so that I can see and respond more clearly to the natural material I am using for the arrangements.
We pruned several of our fruit trees yesterday and I saved budding limbs of apple, crabapple and plum to use today. Over the course of the weekend they should open up their buds and provide some new blooms for the meditators to appreciate as they practice. The tulips and iris will also open and add more color and bold form to the delicacy of these arrangements.
My flower practice creates fairly full compositions, but with practice I strive to simplify so that one day I will be able to express the totality of the universe in 3 or 4 expressive lines of plant material. For now I am learning more about myself and what it takes to work with the world skillfully as I do this practice.

Posted by Picasa

Sunday, April 13, 2008

Bodhisattva Light Video

It is not necessary that you leave the house. Remain at your table and listen. Do not even listen, only wait. Do not even wait, be wholly still and alone. The world will present itself to you for its unmasking, it can do no other, in ecstasy it will writhe at your feet. Franz Kafka from Aphorisms
This moment of light refraction one morning begged to be recorded. Then came the question of what sound to place with it. I just purchased a H2 Handy Zoom Digital Audio Recorder and I am loving it! The wind chimes evoke the atmosphere of the space outside that caused the movement of light in the video.

I have included a still from the video for a closer look. The figure in the foreground is a life size statue of a monk I made with porcelain and other media in 1990-91. His warm presence graces our front hallway. His countenance reminds me of the compassionate heart of Avalokiteshvara, the bodhisattva mahasattva, hence the title of this piece.
There is quite a long story with many moments of synchronicity involved in his creation. Here is an example for me of an artwork as guide for my spiritual journey. His creation was both a postcard from the trip and a road map for what lay ahead. I just love it when my artwork does that!
We had my talented niece, Gaia, staying with us this past week. At age 16, she is already an accomplished artist with a bright future ahead of her. You can see samples of her work on her blog, It was great to spend a week together filled with art making and deep conversations about art and life.

Wednesday, March 5, 2008

Snow Projections

During the winter residency at Goddard I wanted to play with my new digital projector. I had the brilliant idea (if I do say so myself) of using the snow as a screen. I gave a couple showings of my videos on that surface to great effect. I particularly like the waterfall or memories of spring in the harsh wintry weather. Enjoy! This video was shot by my fellow student/friend Mark Andrews. Thanks Mark.

Sunday, March 2, 2008

Rest Room Installation Video

t the last grad school residency I created a space for the students and faculty to contemplate and reflect. This is a video of both the room and the digital video installation.I have also included this video which presents the room in the daytime so you can see how inviting the space was for sitting and contemplation. Many of the students voiced their gratitude for this place of respite in the midst of the hectic and stressful residency schedule.