AMONG A DIVERSE GROUP OF ART-MAKERS, CONCERNS ABOUT NATURAL RESOURCES, MEMORIES OF THE PAST, AND THOUGHTS ABOUT THE ROLE OF THE ARTIST
Here’s a first batch of “On my mind” comments and observations from a variety of creative thinkers.
In her mixed-media works on paper and assemblage sculptures, and especially in her richly atmospheric paintings, the artist Stephanie Brody-Lederman (Instagram: @stephbrodylederman) has evoked a world of the mind and spirit marked by strong, uncertain, alluring emotional-psychological forces. She writes:
“I remember when life was simple. I remember when I was ‘a little pup’ growing up in the Bronx, and my biggest decisions involved whether to buy a Milky Way or popcorn at the refreshment stand of the Loew’s Paradise Theater. Now I worry about COVID, crime in the street, and refugees trying to make new lives for themselves. I worry about the political craziness of our government and about the Russians bombing Ukraine. I’m just a tumbleweed of worry. I try to just put one foot in front of the other — and hope for the best.”
Harley Spiller (Instagram: @harleyspiller) is the director of Franklin Furnace Archive, the online arts organization that, since the late 1990s, has served as one of the leading research sources in the world for information about and documentation of avant-garde art of the past half-century. It is also an active grant-making institution, offering support to performance artists, conceptual artists, and other creators of new and experimental art projects, notably including those characterized by a sense of social engagement or that relate to issues that are percolating in contemporary culture and society. Spiller says:
“Water. Clean, potable, and essential. Water comprises 75 percent of our brain, yet on a daily basis, I catch myself letting too much run down the drain. Stewart Wilson’s art project ‘Personaland’ recently paired artists who didn’t know each other to create works together.Izadora Izuogu, an upbeat Nigerian visual artist, and I met and soon settled on water as our top-of-mind topic, resulting in“Igbo-York” (2023), her poignant painting which now sits atop my photograph of bottle caps from my collection. Connected across the oceans, Izadora and I are doing our best to waste less water. Please join us.” Izadora Izuogu and
The artist Daisy Craddock (Instagram: @daisycraddock) is based in a small town in the Hudson Valley, just north of New York City. She left Manhattan a few years ago after many years in the city, where she worked as an art conservator and kept a painting studio. In recent years, she has developed an extensive portfolio of pastel drawings on paper depicting both the skins and the interior flesh of many different kinds of fruits and vegetables. Craddock, who recently got married, shares this comment:
“It was a summer of plagues, what with incessant smoke from Canadian fires, torrential rains and flooding, record-breaking heat, and then those spongy moths. All this while watching the studio of my dreams being built, preparing my beloved farmhouse for sale, and moving in with my new husband, Steve. Who could’ve imagined a wedding of artists at this late date? How to meet these events, some tragic and some joyous? I ordered a large roll of paper and I’m thinking of making my own oil pastels with a focus on earth minerals. In the meantime, here’s a frottage made with earth from the site of our new studio.”
The artist Diane Rosen (Instagram: @dianerosenstudio) is also based in the Hudson Valley. Her work was featured in brutjournal’s “For the Love of Cardboard” special section in the magazine’s August 2023 issue. About what’s on her mind, she points to some of her recent creations and writes:
“Aggression: from micro to macro scale, we’re endlessly engaged in destructive behaviors toward each other and the planet supporting us. Using visual irony, I’m expressing my concerns about this in small, mixed-media pieces made with pencil, ink, collage, and pastel. ‘Airporne’ suggests potential, future streetwear in a poisoned environment. ‘Adapting’ envisions a return to the oceans, when humans can’t breathe the air anymore. ‘Latest Model’ focuses on harmful social constructs about beauty and the body that are foisted on women and girls. ‘Emergency Exit’ deals with an urgent need to reject all biased tropes and fixed ideas, despite uncertainty over what might come next.”
Amer Kobaslija (Instagram: @amer_kobaslija), his Japanese-born wife, and their young daughter live in Florida, where the Bosnian-born artist has soaked up the sun, the character of the land, and the all-around weirdness of a place that has long been regarded as some kind of American tropical paradise masquerading as a theme part (or vice versa).
Kobaslija and his family left New York just a few years ago, by which time he had produced a large group of paintings documenting the destruction of Japan’s Tohoku region by the earthquake and tsunami of March 2011, as well as its later recovery. The artist is prolific, and his compositions are strongly rooted in a bold sense of draftsmanship. Overall, his work may be seen as that of a contemporary history painter. Kobaslija shared this comment:
“For a painter, all roads lead to the studio. In that space, I get to internalize various external stimuli and encounters. Daily practice of painting. A lifelong commitment. A fierce engagement and a meditation on the way things appear. I’m always on the lookout.”
“A painter must develop a sense of wonderment, of incredulity. Once you start seeing something, you can’t unsee it. You remain under its spell for the rest of your days. You pick up your brushes and engage with it. What happens out there in the open is processed internally, inevitably seeping into the canvas or whatever kind of surface on which you happen to be working. Through painting, I contemplate my own situation as a father, husband, son – and life in a turbulent age in which society is becoming increasingly more polarized.”
“It’s all one big circus, at once endlessly funny and profoundly sad. ‘May you live in interesting times,’ as the saying goes. It’s a fertile soil that you get to harvest in the studio. Painting and being an artist — it’s about bearing witness. The aim is to create work that reflects both a personal and in many respects a shared human experience and condition.”
BONEWOMAN (REDA RACKLEY) The painter and writer Reda Rackley, who goes by the artist’s name “Bonewoman” (Instagram: @outsiderartbonewoman), is a self-described outsider artist who lives in Carmel Valley, near Monterey, in east-central California. Her paintings are notable for their images of crones, witches, and female-centered spiritual communities. (See Gray Campbell’s interview with this artist in brutjournal’s August 2022 issue.)
Bonewoman tells us: “What’s on my mind? Roe vs. Wade. Women’s right to choose. Being able to make our own decisions about our health, our bodies, and our sexual lives, which is a basic human right.”
The artist shared a poem, “Mothers of Liberty,” that she had written; here are some excerpts from that piece:
I am not free
You want to control my body
To control my mystery!
You write your laws in the halls of the dead
Scraping my womb with your hate & dread.
I am not free
Now I pray to the Mothers of Liberty,
The wild ones, the uncontrollable ones,
The dark mothers who screech in the night
Who will never give up the fight
For the rights of women to decide their own fate.
No, I am not free in the land of my country, ’tis of thee,
Sweet land of liberty
For all eternity
Let freedom ring
Let freedom ring
MISTER WIM (WIM VAN DEN BOGAERT)
Mister Wim (Instagram: @misterwim) is an artist who is based in London and whose distinctive, bold line characterizes the varied designs he creates for two-dimensional and three-dimensional works, and for original tattoos, too.
He’s planning to attend the Asagiri Jam Festival (October 21-22) in Japan, a music-and-culture blowout that takes place near the base of Mt. Fuji. For the big event, Mister Wim has created a big, glowing ball whose surface is decorated with his lacey cutout design. In a very brief dispatch, he tells us:
“I’ll be in Japan, making a mural and taking part in the Asagiri Jam Festival. What’s on my mind is: Am I doing Sisyphus’s work or am I a dung beetle?”
Veres, who also goes by the moniker “vermilion,” was born and brought up in Communist-controlled Romania. She immigrated to the United States in 1998. Having experienced many traumatic events over the course of her life’s journey, she long ago discovered solace — and the healing, liberating power of self-expression — in art, language, and the making of something fresh and compelling from observations of the world around her and, literally, of the debris and curiosities she finds in it.
She just returned to New York following her first trip back to Europe to see relatives in Romania following the long period of the recent pandemic. She shares this note with us from her travels:
“Over the years, my elderly mom dictated to my sister her recipes. My sister wrote them down in a copybook, then typed them in e-mails, together with news from home and my mother’s sentiments about missing us, our family, or the world at large. My sister had her e-mail account wiped out, so after my mom died two years ago, she requested my mother’s recipes. I only got around to forwarding her those old e-mails now, as I’m visiting her. They are mainly for unhealthy foods — fried or high in cholesterol or sugar. She insists there are more recipes.”
“Mom’s legacy irritates me.”