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WHAT IS ART?

I’m in a particular frame of mind at this exact moment that asks the question, “What is art?” Is it a painting, drawing, sculpture, woven cloth, insects mounted into a diorama, clay pots, hand-dyed scarves, zipper bags with whimsical sayings, hand-bound leather journals, basketry, carved gourds, collage, vintage purses embellished with jewels and lace……etcetera, etcetera, etcetera?

Of course they all include some element of “art”, but I am speaking about something deeper.; the way we live our lives, artfully loving, tenderly giving with a word handled in a sensitive manner, a hand that reaches at the exact moment when needed, or the sound of a friend choking up as they feel your pain. The curve of a mouth is a beautiful line that pulls the ruby-red heart closer when suffering feels ugly and dark. A knowing glance brings the contrast of light where darkness is pervasive. An arm enveloping you when feeling alone as it pulls you close shrinking the negative space between two, becoming one positive space. A playful hand that rumples the hair, or rubs your aching back sharing the physicality of texture as it notices the tense muscles relax or the soft, spikiness of wild hair. When grey days lie as cold, wet blankets are lifted by the first bloom of spring or a bouquet delivered for no reason is it shedding the spirit of color for healing? Shape comes alive under the gentle fingers of one lover touching the other. The elements of art are lived out daily as we move through the hours we’re given.

Is your “art” amateurish, clumsy, skilled, professional, intermediate, creative, boring, predictable, exciting, vibrant, memorable, and relevant to those who you come in contact with daily? Living artfully requires commitment and faithful diligence. Sometimes I want to throw down the brushes, close the paints, wash up and quit. However, the opportunity to create something of worth cannot escape me and hopefully, in the end, I will stand back and admire a true masterpiece of life. THAT is REAL ART.

TRUST

For eighteen months I have created, opened, managed, and owned my first and only art gallery in far East Texas. No real vacations, no employees other than an occasional shop sitter, and few work days off. I’ve seen more than a hundred artists come and go as part of the consignment sellers. We’ve made more money than I’d expected and certainly more total money than most artists in our part of the woods would have imagined. Like any new business we’ve made almost, but not quite enough to be self-sustaining. However, we’ve done alright enough that I’ve been able to make up the difference from personal savings in order to stay open. You might ask, why would you do that, and my answer is simple….I’ve always wanted a venue for the vast number of artists I know to have a place to exhibit….sort of a bucket list thing. No, I’ve no plans to kick the bucket, but I am at retirement age so from some people’s perspective it just seems nonsensical to do this. Not to me.

What I was, though, was burned out and I was keenly aware that it was showing in my daily performance in the gallery. Enter Lisa.

Lisa Casey Perry is my cousin and with her husband David recently moved to Marshall where she was born and our parents grew as children. For the most part we both spent the majority of life living in the Dallas/Ft. Worth Metroplex, but as Fate would have it, I moved here twenty years ago and they came about 5 months ago. Lisa listened to my moaning and longing to make a final decision about keeping the gallery open. I struggled with needing a break, fresh inspiration, time to work on my own art, and my commitment to the artists I represent in addition to wanting to make a final decision regarding the destiny of Gingko Leaf Gallery. Early one morning I awoke to an email from Lisa with a proposal. She explained how she had some ideas that I might consider and let me tell you, I read about two sentences and knew I was all in.

Trust. That’s the hardest thing I had to deal with. That proverbial letting go to allow someone to come in and take care of my “baby”. I mean, who could EVER nurture your child as good as the actual mother? Well, I gave her permission to do her “thing” and it’s been an amazing thing to watch. We are twenty-one days in and today I stood at the gallery door and cried. My gallery felt alive and new again to me. I felt good about everything, even things that I might not have ever considered I was happy with her decisions. Ideas and new approaches were just brimming out of her. The biggest irony is that Lisa has never worked retail before. However, she was raised with culture, art, music, literature, education, and all the personality of a rock star. She’s lifted GLG and me from the doldrums and I couldn’t be happier. Our website will now include a shopping cart, shipping, and upcoming events. We’ll be able to sell more online and reach a broader audience. She’s quite “crafty”, too, and will begin teaching a craft class once a month. Her job performance is beyond my wildest dreams and the big bonus is that people LIKE her. Of course she isn’t burned out like I was, but after March she’ll be coming in once or twice a week and we’re seeing that with the ideas implemented there is the distinct possibility we will remain open longer that anticipated. It took me letting go of the reins and allowing her to run with it. Now when she has an idea I say, do the research and get back to me. Wow, that was the most freeing experience I’ve ever known.

So, trust is huge….no, MONUMENTAL for me. I have found out that sometimes letting go enables you to receive and man, have I been the recipient of a true and gifted blessing. Lisa is the official Assistant Manager (because she’s got the nametag to prove it) and I’m grateful for her enthusiastic embracing of my little project of the “Best Art Gallery in the Upper East Side of Texas (awarded by County Line Magazine for 2015 & 2016) and has caught the vision I had several years ago. I’m glad she’s really home again.

6 Habits of Highly Effective Artists

Sometimes in the world of countless internet posts, websites, and blogs we stumble onto nuggets of truth that nudge us. As a somewhat newbie on Twitter I found an artist to follow who also blogs regularly and has shared some simple insight, stuff I already knew, but I needed reminding. Owning a gallery consumes a good deal of time, but continuing to create is essential to my existence. I’m going to share this link with you and hope it helps you as well. Enjoy!

@GaryBolyerArt

A LEGACY OF INFLUENCE

HOPE FOR THE FUTURE

by artist, Barbara Barlow Carpenter.

 

 

Last Friday would’ve been my mother’s 85th birthday. Five years ago she died after living with Alzheimer’s for at least ten years, the last 4 being the most difficult. As the executor of her will I made certain that my brother and I plus a few other step-siblings received their intended inheritance. The majority of mine was used to build an art studio and I have enjoyed it for nearly four years now. Then, last year I opened Gingko Leaf Gallery, an art gallery downtown Marshall, TX where I represent about 40 east Texas area artists including my mother’s work. She taught art and was a freelance artist all my life. Her paintings were sold and/or given to hundreds of individuals over the years and  though we all chose paintings by which to remember her, no one’s home could’ve held all she had created. After heartfelt deliberation my brother and I concluded it was time to allow her remaining work to travel its own journey so several were offered for sale in my gallery.

I was always amazed by my mother’s talent. She had a Divine spark that showed in her work as subjects and themes were always inspired. Knowing the back stories to much of her work was an added bonus. As admirers commented on their favorites it was nice to share a little about her growing up in Marshall and her lifetime of teaching art. I’ve had the thrill of seeing a few of her pieces touch a customer’s heart and then leave with them. I felt she’d be happy knowing her work was still bringing joy.

Last summer I used a small portion of my remaining inheritance to sponsor a “legacy award” at a local art competition. The winner was chosen without my influence and I was happy to hear that our local high school art teacher was the recipient because teaching art was a passion of my mother. A former student of hers for over twenty years also recently came to visit and brought me a piece of Mom’s artwork she’d bought and though it belonged to her she felt I’d like to have it. I ended up giving her a different one to take home because any teacher who’d influenced a student to carry on the legacy deserved to still have a piece of her teacher’s work. We were both thrilled.

My mother’s generosity, legacy, and influence still carry on five years after her death and if I am able, will continue into the future through her work that will gradually be passed on to future generations, float from one home or venue to another, and even wind up in some estate sale decades from now where no one knows the artist, but knows the work was created by one who truly had the spark of creativity and shared it with abandon. That is also a legacy I want to pass on…the giving…the sharing….the telling….the making of art that will bring a moment of respite, a place for eyes to rest and get lost in the color, line and story. I hear her voice behind me saying “Look at that gnarly tree, the way the light hits it on the right-hand side, the way it contrasts with the sky” and I wonder if her ideas are being shared with The Creator as they paint a morning or evening sky together, a scene that inspires the next artist standing before the red, purple and turquoise sky to lift the brush, camera lens, or pastel and once again carry the torch. I just wonder.

Claudia Lowery, daughter of Barbara Casey Barlow Carpenter

April 19, 2016

EASY COME, EASY GO

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Or….you win some, you lose some….

The gallery survived the bleak days of January and February based on the abundance of December sales. In spite of neighboring merchant’s warnings of a drop in sales after Christmas nothing prepares you for the cricket-chirping quiet of an empty gallery. I’ve said it before and mean it…doubts don’t creep in until the cash drawer is silent…and right now, it’s a monolith of muteness.

And then there was a glimmer of hope. Two days ago a new customer visited and after much looking settled on a soft-hued pastel landscape. She said she loved it, but also asked, “What if I get home and it just doesn’t work?” My answer was, “I want you to purchase based on the art ‘speaking’ to you and so if you really feel drawn to it then when it’s home you’ll find a way to make it work. However…..we do have a 5 day return policy, so save your receipt and return it fully intact and I’ll refund your money.” That seemed to satisfy her and the sale was completed.

Premonitions are funny things and something held me back from announcing the sale to the artist and on social media. I also left the hanger in place on the wall. When she left my parting words were, “You have until Saturday, but if you decide before that I’d sure love to know.” Two days later the art was returned with this statement. “I hung it on the wall and no one noticed it.” Oh my.  I expressed my regret and suggested checking in again as new work rotates in and out regularly, but my “evil” side wanted to share my opinion and it wasn’t very nice. I didn’t. Easy come…easy go.

Life is often full of disappointments and this is just a little one along the way. I want to be the bigger person and accept disappointments with grace, but when your gallery is dependent on sales to survive, every penny counts. Despondence is NOT an option. Work based on hope and diligence is the ONLY option.

So, give me a cliché to hang my hat on…win some, lose some…life hands you lemons, make lemonade…don’t count your chickens before they hatch…etc.

I’m writing my own cliché based on a lesson I heard recently. Expectancy versus expectation. My destiny has been prescribed by something outside my ultimate control. I will not set myself up for failed expectations, but live my life in joyful expectancy of what is yet to come.

EXPECTANCY vs EXPECTATION

YES

 

 

 

 

 

NOTHING WASTED

backwc1

There are only 8 more shopping days until Christmas and today the gallery has been eerily quiet. Fortunately it’s been pretty busy the past two weeks so I’m enjoying a moment of peace and quiet, something I’m desperately in need of. Sometimes what we truly need comes to us without asking. It’s wonderful and, I believe, divine.

I recently picked up two large sheets of exceptional watercolor paper at an estate sale for nearly nothing. The only thing is, someone had previously painted on one side. They were unfinished background washes with large, non-descript flower outlines, but the colors were pleasing. Believing nothing should be wasted, I took both of them, broke and tore the sheets into 5×7 ragged edged pieces. Now I had 16 small watercolors sheets with abstract backgrounds on which to create new art. I thought about who may have started and abandoned the original work and how it had multiplied by 8. Food for thought about the journey of life.

Just because it’s Christmas doesn’t guarantee happiness, peace or quiet. However, two sheets of paper are going to take me on a creative journey that will make me smile, reflect, center, and find focus again. It’s what I need and so nothing is wasted. Not the season, moments of melancholy, or the empty gallery can force me into submission. I will recognize that creativity can redeem my attitude so nothing is wasted. And the multiplication of joy will perpetuate the feeling to the next and next and next person because I’ve decided to share some of what I create with someone else. I can tell them this story, that it started it’s journey in a basket at an estate sale, lost, lonely, unfinished….but that wasn’t the end. It saved me and I saved it. Nothing is wasted. Nothing.

SPIRIT OF CHRISTMAS

December signals the start of the holiday season with the loud resounding clang of silver bells and carols. Each one of us have distinctly personal reasons for celebrating (or not) during the days ahead. In an art gallery it’s fun to assist clients in selecting gifts that will be cherished and loved for years to come. Memories are like that around the holidays when I’m inundated with Christmas carols, ice skaters on our courthouse square ( in Texas no less!), and city blocks trimmed in twinkling lights. My imagination is flooded with more emotion than any artist needs to deal with at one time.

So then one of my artists represented in Gingko Leaf Gallery brings in a hand painted card that overwhelmed me. Now let me say this; every day I have artists bring in work that is moving, exciting, relaxing, interesting, and unusual. Each piece touches something inside me, but since it would be counterproductive to buy everything I love I resist the urge and relegate myself to living in the moment until the work sells. Then it continues on it’s journey to a new home. But this one was different. It literally brought tears to my eyes.

I celebrate Christmas, the birth of Jesus Christ. No, it’s not the literal day of his birth, but a day selected to recall the great and beautiful message of God’s love for his creation, peace on earth and good will toward mankind. Without belaboring the point, I grew up arguing with my brother over the proper position of each character in the Nativity scene made out of plastic and cardboard, where Styrofoam reindeer would be hung on our real cut tree, and whether or not to leave Santa hot chocolate or coffee. I knew that the birth of Jesus was something full of wonder and mystery. It was important then. It is still important to me.

When I say this new artwork brought tears to my eyes, I’m dead serious. Artist Mary Norvell will attest to the fact that I couldn’t take my eyes off of his eyes, and I kept saying, “His eyes are so intense, I can’t look away, but I can’t keep looking at them, either!” For me, Mary captured something other worldly in her Santa’s eyes that can only be experienced. I think he just saw the Christ-child in the manger. Not unlike the figurine that emerged back in the 1980’s of Santa kneeling in front of Jesus in the manger, I believe her rendition shows a deeper aspect of Santa’s heart. Okay, maybe I just have an overactive imagination, but that’s what I see.

And that is why I now own the original. He was destined for me. That’s what art should do to us. Not decorate a wall because it is the correct color palette or fills an empty wall space or shelf. If it doesn’t speak to you, it isn’t for you, it’s destined for someone else.

Will I sell art to a client to decorate a wall? Well of course I will, but someday it will find its destiny, its intended home. There will be a home for it, like the “home” for a pregnant girl on a clear Bethlehem night that will be warm and welcoming, rather than an emotionless inn without space in its heart for the wandering couple needing a temporary stop for the night. My Santa has a lot on his mind, I know just by looking into his eyes.

What is on YOUR mind today as this season unfolds with its joyful and painful memories? Find the manger again and be filled with the love and hope for a better world knowing that even in the darkness of night, a new life is coming, a star leads the way, and even Santa joins the angels saying, “Glory to God in the highest and on earth, peace, goodwill toward men.”

Merry Christmas!

Claudia Lowery

 

 

THANKFUL

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Oh! Christmas Tree???

No writer is going to pass up a prime opportunity to list the things they are thankful for and neither will I. Tomorrow much of the world will take part in the internal reflection of being grateful. Have an attitude of gratitude is a great way to live, but is it always possible?

I don’t know, probably not. If we consider all the surrounding situations in the world it’s easy, at least for me, to feel moments of despair or confusion about inequality, unfairness, inhumane treatment of others, and literal evil. Put on that happy face Baby and s-m-i-l-e!

What if I don’t want to fake a smile? I’m usually a positive encourager who most people see as upbeat, but in reality, in the quiet alone moments I feel the negative pull. I MUST find redemption, purpose, and even humor in situations in order to combat the force pulling like gravity against me. Maybe that is the very purpose for which we express thankfulness; to push us to a higher level of perspective that tweaks the view to where we can’t help but feel better about the negatives. Don’t know, but it’s food for thought.

So, I’m “feeling” that melancholy whisper in my psyche and I’ll drown it with my written voice by sharing a short list of gratitude to squash that old man who wants me to succumb to tears, depression or sadness. Here goes…

I’m thankful for…..

  • My godly, artist mother who taught me to see the world through creative eyes. She encouraged every one of my artistic endeavors whether it was baking a cake, writing an angst-filled poem, playing the piano, acting in a school play, or painting a picture. She was goofy, funny, gifted and talented. She loved God, Jesus, my daddy, my brother and me.
  • My dad, a rock-steady predictable man who never missed work or church. I loved watching from the hall door as he danced with Mom in the living room. He never once complained when dying with lung cancer. He had integrity and a dry wit.

Okay….I need to stop right here and say, hold your horses, Claudia. You’re going to end up in tears missing those who’ve passed on. That sort of defeats the purpose of this blog. Let me start over…

I’m thankful for…

  • that weird 4 foot tall Christmas tree I created in the gallery that I spent a total of $5 on. It is a Styrofoam cone-shaped topiary ($2 at a yard sale) that I wrapped in a $3 pair of lime green sheer curtains with zig-zag patterns of sequins all over. I bought them at a thrift store. They make me smile.
  • my BOSE Bluetooth speaker that make 2500 square feet sound like a concert hall when paired with Pandora. Ah, the good life.
  • my lime green (I love that color) retro coffee table that is a gathering place for artists, musicians, and friends around a coffee pot. It sits in the back of the gallery awaiting the next visitor that comes just to talk.
  • that I’m surrounded by art that even though I could never afford it all I get to enjoy it for a period until it finds a new home.
  • having a day off tomorrow to enjoy some couch time
  • the sounds of life along the street as we approach the Wonderland of Lights festival and the official turning on of the lights coming in about an hour. Maybe some guests will come spend money!
  • that half a piece of buttermilk pie that I didn’t finish because who needs the extra calories? Besides….there will be more tomorrow.
  • the internet that keeps me connected to total strangers who might care about another stranger (me) for the 5 minutes used to read this blog. Hello out there….HAPPY THANKSGIVING!

And, I guess that’s enough for now. Of course, there’s so much more, but they’re treasures in my heart. I’m not wealthy, but I’m richer than most of the people in this world. Blessed beyond what I deserve, happy in the moment, and ready to continue traveling along the surprising journey God has planned for me, I’ll return to the gallery in a couple of days prepared to face a throng of art lovers chomping at the bit to buy unique and creative finds to fill their empty spaces regardless of the price. Okay….I can dream, can’t I? So I have said it….so let it be done.

Thank you for listening to my ravings. I’m feeling much better now.

MAGIC WORDS

congratulations

 

Every child (I hope) has been taught the “magic words” that will cause most adults to give their attention. Please and thank you come to mind first, then excuse me, I’m sorry, yes sir, no sir, yes ma’am, and no ma’am. Manners are oil on the rusty hinges of society and separate those who were “raised in a barn” from the rest. Of course, I realize this is a Western culture thing and may not be consistent in other cultures, but for the most part I think we can agree that being polite is quite nice.

Recently I learned something new, to me at least. I follow a blog written by Jason Horejs, owner of Xanadu Gallery in Scottsdale, Arizona. His idea has rocked my world and in an extraordinary way. As the sole person completing sales and receiving payment I’ve been on top of my game thanking customers and of course, I’m just approaching the borderline of gushing due to the fact that I AM appreciative, grateful, thankful and relieved on a myriad of levels. I’ll admit it. I am thinking to myself, “Yippee! There’s the electric bill. Woo hoo! That just paid next month’s rent” and so on. No, I don’t tell the client that info, but it does occur to me mid-transaction. Well, after reading Jason’s article “Don’t Overdo the Gratitude When You Make an Art Sale” I had an epiphany. Certainly manners are in order, but what he suggests is taking the focus off yourself and making it about the customer by saying “Congratulations”. It turns everything around instantly, much in the same way those magic words please and thank you do when used appropriately.

So, I tried it. “Congratulations on your selection. It will be a great addition to your collection.” “Congratulations on your choice. It makes a lovely gift.” Regardless of the reason they bought the art, I am now congratulating them and the reactions truly are magic. Their face lights up, they seem satisfied and justified. It’s amazing and it makes ME feel better giving them something back after they just gave me a sale. It’s just mind boggling to me that such a simple turn around can bring the experience to a whole new level.

Is it REALLY magic? Probably not, but it does cause me to pause and ponder human nature and our need for affirmation. Basic human instincts are fraught with doubt and second-guessing, but when someone says, “Hey, you did good there Friend,” then something beautiful happens inside. I still throw in the occasional thanks, but I’d much rather congratulate them on being a smart collector, wise investor, and generous patron of the arts. That way….we’re all winners.

To read Jason Horejs’ article follow this link.

http://reddotblog.com/dont-overdo-the-gratitude-when-you-make-an-art-sale-xanadu-gallerys-art-marketing-minute

 

BUCKET LISTS

Well, that’s morbid!

This week I was visiting with an artist friend who is facing some pretty major surgery in a few days. We talked about the fact that some of the medical issues have lingered for years and that at one point they had decided to make sure they accomplished a series of goals before age 40. Well, when they reached that age and were still alive, they realized that they’d survived and had done all those list items. Now, facing a new medical challenge, they were prepared to make a whole new list. They’d made it longer than predicted so now, let’s up the ante and keep on keepin’ on. Hearing that a garden was planted made me choke up, knowing the reality was that it would possibly bloom without them. Wow, what a thought. But in my mind I thought, what a positive attitude. Regardless, there was the hope for tomorrow. And yet….they had made certain that the gallery had all their paperwork in order just in case someone besides them had to come collect the work. Reality and hope mixed together.

My list of life accomplishments included many more than two things. I’ve reached multiple goals in life, but the two more recent goals are (1) go to Tuscany, Italy and (2) open an art gallery. Well, resources are limited, so I’ve joked that since I’ve pretty much sunk the majority of my funds into opening the gallery, if I decide in the future I can’t swing the gallery I could actually scratch two things off at once because I’ll be too broke to go to Italy. I try to pour some humor into the reality, but in truth, it’s true.

Hope for the future is a good way to live. We don’t have guarantees about anything. While writing this I’m aware of the terrorist acts in Paris. A few hours ago I was oblivious to it. Life is fragile and in the blink of an eye, it’s gone. And yet, I daily awaken with hope. We cannot live without hope. It’s the life blood of our continuing existence. Without hope we wither, fade and die. Sure, art galleries are closing daily. Not mine….well, I’ve only been open two months. However, I just have a feeling that there are purposes afoot that have nothing to do with me. As I write there is a small community theatre doing a performance in my back room. Later there will be holiday shoppers dreaming of the perfect gift for a loved one. Another time a group of young college men will use the back room for a place to mentor lower classmen. Workshops, demonstrations and classes are being scheduled for the lean months (Jan-Feb). The world needs art in life, on walls, in bedrooms, in dens, in offices; a place to rest the eyes and mind away from the ugliness, stress, and anxieties dumped on us without permission.

When life overwhelms me I do exactly that, I rest my eyes upon the moon painted by Dennis O’Bryant that I “knew” was mine the first time I saw it. Una Luna is displayed in my den where I spend countless hours. Then, in my bedroom I have a beautiful rainy day watercolor by Joe Mraz that is moody and gray. I love to feel myself present there, in the scene. Above my bed are two women, one reclining and one sitting in a park, painted by Scott Imhof. It makes me restful, feel at peace. There are so many more, I couldn’t name them all. Their purpose is to heal, to distract, to fill us with wonder and joy. It works for me better than any drug.

Look to the future without worrying about what might be. It is important to face the reality looming ahead, but do it with grace and purpose like my artist friend is doing. Begin by doing something that will outlast you….maybe a painting, a garden, a story, a piece of pottery, a little place of heaven here on earth that should you leave it, we’ll all know you were here.