Thursday, October 13, 2011

Elegant Artistry

The golden days of Autumn have been transient and few here in the hills.
The water-logged forests are just starting to display the reds and fiery oranges,
hallmarks of this special season.
Many of the stressed trees yellowed early and gave up their leaves in weariness, soon after the torrential rains of Irene withdrew.
Now rain has come again, too soon for all still relishing the bit of Indian Summer that blessed us last week.
Days are getting shorter and this afternoon’s dim light sets the stage for the season of introspection to come.
I am indoors, happily lost in the natural beauty of smooth oval beads of metamorphic limestone.
Minerals and dendrites have imbued them with finely detailed landscapes, abstract patterns and subtle gradations of tone that rival Chinese ink paintings.
I have had the pleasure of looking at each one and arranging them into poetic strands evolving into necklaces.
Soon they will make others wonder at the patterns on their deliciously smooth surfaces…but for this moment, I hold these myriad small worlds in my hands and sigh.
Nature’s artistry sets a standard that mere mortals will rarely match…
But the inspiration is visceral, heady and sweet…

Saturday, August 6, 2011

Tribal Treasures on a Summer Afternoon

Cicadas drone, crickets chirp in the lush green hills.

The humidity is noticeable, but not unpleasant, as I sip a small cup of expresso and admire the cache of heavy silver bracelets on the homespun indigo cloth before me.
The light skims along edges and among patterns of incised and repoussed design.
Ancient spirals, floral discs, twisting scales and peacock feathers, reveal themselves in glints and shadow on the cool metal.

Though in New England now, each piece brings up memories of steamier days in Southeast Asia and the thrill of discovering something authentic in the mishmash of forgeries and tourist pieces that have dominated the Asian art markets for several decades.

As the world becomes smaller and traditional cultures tweet and surf the web,
it is gratifying to know that art historians and anthropologists are still researching and recording the traditional cultures of tribal peoples in these rapidly changing times.

In many Southeast Asian groups, jewelry forms reflect Neolithic and Bronze Age art, animist religion and represent the microscopic view of the universe. The lovely old patina from wear and use adds to the visual power of these handsome dance objects.

The Barbier-Muller Museum in Geneva holds a treasure trove of traditional jewelry from Indonesia,Malaysia and the Philippines. They traveled a breath-taking exhibit called Power and Gold back in 1985 and the catalog by that name is a must have for those interested in such things. In 2000, Anne Richter gave us The Jewelry of Southeast Asia , her wonderfully insightful study of the history and cultural impacts of ancient as well as dominant cultures of the region on jewelry design.

I’ve enjoyed re-reading these books as I researched these bracelets which are now up on my website. Go to to learn more, then choose Adornments/Asia /1. and click on the thumbnails.

Complete book information is given in the text, if you want to enter this fascinating world via these lovely objects.
It is truly a rich feast.

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

"Energetic Revelations" New Work by Deborah Garner

Two years of exploration have culminated in a body of work being currently shown at Augusta Savage Gallery, University of Massachusetts, Amherst.
This is the introduction to my process given at the opening May2,2011 at the request of viewers.
The work can be seen in a slide show at
“Energetic Revelations” refers to the spontaneous and intuitive approach that was taken in creating this body of work. It was my goal to disassociate from the end result, to forgo conscious intellectual judgment during the process and keep my artistic ego in the background as much as it is humanly possible. I wanted as direct a means of expression as I could put on paper and later on canvas.
This journey began two years ago when I had the good fortune to collaborate on an interactive art work that was presented at the Zendai Museum of Contemporary Art in Shanghai. After visiting the Shanghai Museum and deepening my appreciation of Chinese ink paintings, I purchased some horse hair calligraphy brushes and determined to explore traditional Chinese painting on my own.
The results were humbling and discouraging. The dynamic characters I tried to copy were clumsy and wooden from my untrained hand, but the brushes were divine. I loved their flexibility and responsiveness to the tiniest movement. It was like holding the reins on a thoroughbred racehorse. I could feel the potential of these instruments. To my delight, I found that if I held the brush at the handle’s end and let it respond to the most subtle gesture, a wonderfully graceful and expressive line was created. I had to disconnect from trying to control the results and let the ink loaded brush lead the way.
It became a visual dance as I tenuously released fear and gave myself over to the process. I blurred my vision by squinting so I couldn’t judge what was being put down and soon marvelous forms were revealed. It was instantaneous and required me to literally “go with the flow”.
The speed was exhilarating and the slightest hesitancy immediately created a train wreck…
I began to trust the process and work larger, eventually using a dowel with my brush taped on the end to get more physical distance and worked with the paper on the floor, as I stood over it.
I had feelings of lyrical verse flowing from the brush in the smaller works and the early large ones. I felt they were melodious, whispered poetic phrases. But soon I felt I was taking urgent dictation from a different “voice”.
Later I noticed that these strong expressions seemed to coincide with natural disasters and dramatic weather events…it was like Earth herself was urging me to pay attention to what is going on. Heat waves, volcanoes, hurricanes, microbursts, the Gulf oil disaster all were recorded here. As an interesting aside, I do not have television reception in the wooded hills where I live. I had limited exposure to visuals online prior to and during this work. This added to the sense of surprise when obvious correlations were discovered.
As a dealer in the traditional arts of tribal peoples for the past 30 years, I have a background in cultural anthropology. The mark making that became primitive alphabets and sacred calligraphy were ultimately symbols of power, the word made visible.They were transmitted to shaman/priests from the world of spirit or Divine realm in ritualized settings.
All cultures have examples of this. The earliest Chinese characters were etched onto oracle bones in 2,000 BC/CE. Other examples include Nordic runes, Haitian ve-ve, and Arabic calligraphy. In South East Asia it is still practiced today by animist -Buddhist monks of great power.
In 19th C. psychiatry this method of intuitive discourse was termed “automatic writing”. The Surrealists felt that automatism was a higher form of behavior than the constrictive reflexive one that psychiatrists deemed it to be. They believed that automatism directly expressed the creative force of the unconscious in art. It became part of their Manifesto and the cornerstone of Surrealism.
Andre Masson led the charge in the Surrealist circle with automatic drawing and poetry writing. Later the leading lights of the Abstract Expressionists: Pollack, Krasner, de Kooning, Motherwell and Kline all met regularly to experiment with spontaneous drawing, poetry and introduced various glyphs and calligraphic elements into their paintings. Other New York artists of the 1940-50s, Pousette-Dart, Twarkov , Tomlin and Gottlieb developed work around these themes as well. Interestingly, many of these artists were aware of and interested in ethnographic art termed “Primitive Art” at the time and read books on anthropology and Jungian psychology. I have enjoyed discovering affinities with these action/gesture painters.
Many artists outside of these circles created a similar visual language at a slower
Speed, most notably Miro, Klee, Mark Tobey, especially his White Writing series, Brice Marden and Cy Twombly.
There are so many I have yet to discover that found themselves on this path during their experimentation. I love the synchronicity of discovering other kindred spirit painters at just the right moment.
In my personal approach to direct painting in oil, I found the gestural flow translated differently in the viscous nature of the paint. Spontaneity was curtailed by the drying time between layers. What resulted was more of a short hand dictation in some cases and calligraphic arabesques in others. As in the works on paper, intellectual premeditation was avoided and the finished works were still “revelations” to me…
My art making has in turn been visionary and symbolist for the past decade.
This foray into abstraction has opened me to infinite possibilities of expression and I can tell that it has only just begun.

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Google Art Project: Check it out!

As yet another massive storm dumps two feet of snow onto of the already substantial ground cover, cabin fever begins to intrude upon the tranquility of these woods.
The cats have chosen to sleep off the dream of winter, but for us humans, an exciting new cyber adventure has been provided by the new Google Art Project.
This incredible website permits one to wander at will through actual galleries via street cam technology of over a dozen major museums worldwide. You can zoom in to see brushstrokes in paintings, watch commentaries by curators and related videos on You Tube and even create your own collection….I’ve already got my eclectic collection started with William Blake’s “Ghost of a Flea” from the Tate, London and a smattering of tribal offering from the Metropolitan Museum in New York.
What a fabulous way to spend a snow day or any free time and expand your knowledge of art history and world museums… As a museum lover and artist, I could get lost in here for days.
Check out their intro tutorial to see all the possibilities this site offers.
Thank you Google and all the museums that participated in launching this project!
What a wonderful resource!