FoosNews: Check out some articles written by our staff below!
Fauna Beyond the Imagination with Linda Mitchell
By Ashley Milliken, 19 August 2020
Linda Mitchell (b. 1960) is an Atlanta-based contemporary artist known for capturing the human imagination in every piece. Each work generates a world of memory, fantasy, and mystery for all viewers to experience. In order to create art that explores and embraces human imagination, while also acknowledging the remnants/buried secrets of human existence, Mitchell specifically focuses on mending together animal figures, human concepts, and painting/sculptural techniques.
Mitchell attended the University of Georgia where she received her BFA in 1982. During her time as an undergrad, Mitchell discovered a special interest in lithography, and she “credits printmaking for spurring her feeling for layering images and materials.” In 1990, Mitchell went on to receive an MFA in painting from the University of Georgia and an MFA in sculpture from Georgia State University in 1994. While in graduate school Mitchell developed an interest in collage techniques, which would later become vital to her own personal artistic visual language.
In Mitchell’s most recent show on display at the Foosaner Art Museum, “Animal Nature: Recent Works by Linda Mitchell” (August 8 – October 24, 2020), viewers can expect to see thirty-two unique paintings, sculptures, mixed media pieces, and more.
We have invited Mitchell to share more.
Q: There appears to be a common set of animals chosen for your art pieces, including elephants, rhinos, and dogs. Even though you show many other species, why are these three animals depicted most often? I know dogs hold a special place in your heart given your mother bred cocker spaniels so you grew up with dogs but what about elephants and rhinoceroses?
A: Yes, my dogs were the first animals to emerge when I was finding my voice in my mature work. I remember when I first painted my dog, Pucci about 20 years ago, and thinking, “can I do this? Isn’t this William Wegman’s territory?” Then I said, “move over, William!” And I’ve been painting dogs ever since. I love my dogs and enjoy rendering their images and using their specific emotional qualities to tell different stories. Elephants were my favorite animals from childhood. I loved watching them at the zoo, and wore out my little Dumbo plush toy. Their majestic size and fluid movements have always mesmerized me- I love their lumbering walk and long swinging trunks. In researching them, I have found their intelligence and sophisticated social structure to be awe -inspiring. All of the pachyderms are so fascinating to me: the elephants with their tusks and trunks, the rhinos with their powerful horns, and the hippos with their massive bodies- they look like creatures from another time to me, which is part of my fascination with them. I feel we are lucky to still share this planet with them, and hope we can preserve their existence.
Q: Do you have specific concepts in mind that you have tried to reiterate throughout your career (are you trying to start a conversation about the environment)? Or is your work based on various ideas as you continue to create?
A: I do have specific concepts in each piece, and much of my work reflects what I am going through personally, and it also delves into my political, social and environmental concerns. I hope that the depiction of the remarkable animals of nature will inspire preservation of our environment. But much of the story that I am telling is about the human experience, and I use animals to tell these tales. Animals are sincere in their emotional lives, and I find a freshness in using them as stand-ins for humans in my art.
Q: Can you explain the color choices behind your works on display at the Foosaner Art Museum? Most of them for example are composed of muted, earthy tones that promote a sense of tranquility, which easily guides viewers through the pieces. Is this on purpose? Are your color choices attempting to invoke an organic aura for your subjects even though they are illustrated in non-natural settings?
A: Yes, that it is true that I enjoy replicating the soothing color palettes of nature. I tend to layer and rework the color and applied elements to make a rich finish suggesting the weathered feeling of the passage of time. Even though I am not creating traditional nature scenes, I seem to always strive for that sense of an organic environment for my creatures.
Q: I noticed not only do you have paintings, drawings, and sculptural pieces on display at the Foosaner, but also quilt/tapestry pieces. What inspired you to dive into this textile?
A: I have been sewing things since I was a child. A few years ago, I had a stretcher and no canvas, so I pieced together a bunch of remnants of fabric and stretched it on the frame. This experiment sort of followed in the footsteps of my collage work, in which I pieced together paper pieces and then worked to bring it together as a unified piece. These pieces incorporate many scraps of fabrics from my life, and therefore are imbued with a personal history. For some reason, this series seems to really evoke childhood to me, so I often focus on specific memories of my early life to create the narrative.
Q: Regarding your sculptural work, can you walk us through your piece “The Butterfly Effect?” More specifically, can you explain the significance of the hanging material you have chosen to attach to the strings, such as the owl-head-human figure or the dog name tags? How do these individual pieces apply to the butterfly-cow-like-figure present in the center of the installation, beside the notion that everything is all connected?
A: This piece is auto-biographical of my life and the interconnectedness of my experiences. I will tell you that this piece was inspired by crime boards that I often see in movies or on TV shows. I always love when they get out the photos and string and start trying to make connections between all of their materials! I thought why not make a ‘crime-board’ of my own life? I started with the large figure, which was inspired by my dog of 16+ years who had recently died. I started recreating him with the knit fabrics and gave him wings like an angel. I wanted him to be the stand in for me in the center of the piece. The surrounding elements include pieces from my history such as the dog tags from my late canine friends, a broken figurine who I find much more entertaining with an owl head than a human one (btw I never really liked playing with dolls as a kid- I was always playing with my toy animals instead!) Other elements include bits of letters and journals, parts of a music box from my crib as a baby and a silver teething ring from my son’s infancy. Little secrets of my life are strewn throughout this piece, perhaps only knowable for the feelings they suggest.
Q: After watching your film “Terra” (April 13, 2020), in the Foosaner galleries I became convinced the subject of your work is Mother Earth and her resilience against the effects of humans. Rather than a focus on the individually painted animals. Would you agree with this interpretation? Are Mother Earth and human destruction your main subjects?
A: In this film Mother Earth is definitely the big picture focus, but the tiny wondrous moments of life are what I revel in and capture. Although I do worry about man’s devastating effects on the environment, I believe the Earth is resilient, and I choose here to celebrate her magical gifts. It is correct that often I am exploring the breadth of nature, but sometimes it is a particular animal or situation that I wish to portray.
Q: Have you considered creating a work focused on aquatic life? Is there a specific reason why you focus on terrestrial life?
A: I think I am much more drawn to land animals. But I have occasionally painted water creatures, and my favorites are manatees, beluga whales, seals and narwhals.
Q: Tell us about your soft sculptures and how your piece “Serio in Verse” acts as a visual poem. Is there one specific story or subject viewers are supposed to follow (it does not appear so)? How would you recommend viewers read this poem: left to right or from up to down, etc.? Also, why in this installation did you decide to include a mythological figure (dragon – top right)?
A: The elephant in this piece was my first hand sewn soft sculpture. After I made him, I began to create paintings with him as the star. I sewed more small figures and painted them in different scenarios. I realized that the stuffed animals and square paintings worked together as a checkerboard game where one can try to match up the figures. There is no specific order, but the layout invites the viewer to let their eye jump around the board from painting to figure and back again. They don’t all match up, by the way! I felt like they were little visual poems, which speak to each other, and created the title with that in mind. As for the dragon, I have loved dragons for almost as long as I have loved elephants, and as a child the reality of the creature had little importance! I often depict imaginary creatures alongside the real ones.
Q: Do you have a specific process that you tend to follow while creating new pieces? Is “Reparations” (installation piece displayed in the show) for example a glimpse at your process?
A: Each piece has a different origin process; some are planned out in detail, like the large “Quartet” pieces. Others are an intuitive process of applying paint and seeing where it goes, as in the “Beastly Floral” pieces. As a mature artist, I have become much more inclined to create in a very spontaneous way most of the time. The piece “Reparations” has a specific reason for being, namely my dog, Otto. I collect animal figures on my travels, such as this fluffy yak, the duck carved from a brush, and the dog woven out of grass. I enjoy drawing them and using them in paintings. Well, my puppy, Otto found each of these and gave them a good chew. Rather than throw them away, I thought I would make reparations for their trauma! I wanted to make them even better in their final form. I had already done drawings of them before their damage. I then took stark photos of them in their injured state and proceeded to repair and refurbish with embellishment each of the figures. Combining all of these phases of their existence, I created the installation to show a path of history from origin to trauma to healing- a reflection of our journey through life.
Q: We know you make new work fast when you’re feeling inspired so I have to ask, are you working on anything new and exciting that you would like to share?
A: Yes! I have two new series, which are inspired by life in the pandemic. The first is my quarantine journal pages. I start them using fabric scraps heat-pressed onto art papers, which I then use as inspiration for a drawing. Then I add meandering text, which travels around the drawing- detailing events, thoughts, emotions of the day. The topics include, We need help down here, Some days, no matter how hard you try, the shark gets you, Time is no longer a thing, and The worries come out at night.
I also have started a series of whiteout paintings, where much of the painting has been covered in white. These reflect how the pandemic and quarantine have changed our existence- seemingly erasing many facets of our lives for the time being. The paintings in this series convey a sense of disconnect and isolation with a wistful feeling for all that has been lost.
To learn more about Linda Mitchell and her work, visit: http://www.lindamitchellartist.com/
The “Parkland Moth” and Our Violent Actions
By Ashley Milliken, 9 July 2020
Margaret Schnebly Hodge is an American painter that primarily focuses on creating large scale figurative and landscape abstracts. However, if you have stopped by the Foosaner Art Museum to view their current FLAG Exhibition, then you probably noticed that Hodge’s work is anything but an abstract painting. Instead, Hodge chose to display her piece titled, “Parkland Moth,” which is a 66” x 44” mixed media sculpture.
The concept behind “Parkland Moth” came to Hodge after learning about the tragic shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida. The mass shooting occurred on February 14, 2018, leaving 17 dead and 17 others injured. Many of the students involved recorded their experiences of the shooting on their phones, which were then shared on the internet. According to Hodge, the videos documenting “the sounds of gunfire and students screaming,” continued to echo in the back of her mind as she struggled to find a way to start a discussion about gun violence through art. It was not until late one night when a “large white moth” landed on her back porch that Hodge was able to experience a sense of calmness, “Its stillness cloaked me in calmness…[afterwards] I researched the symbolism behind white moths and discovered that they generally reflect faith, intuition, vulnerability, concealment, and determination. In some cultures, white moths also represent death in its perfect transition to whatever is next.”
Hodge’s “Parkland Moth” sculpture consists of two main mediums: the raw canvas and the bullet casings. The canvas hangs on the wall in the shape of a moth with visible bullet holes scattered throughout the material. The rawness of the canvas is a significant aspect to the work because it “symbolizes the promise of youth,” unlike the reality of the Parkland shooting that striped away the youth of those killed, hurt, or traumatized by the event. The final fold, into a moth shape, represents the vulnerability of people and public places in regards to gun violence while also invoking a sense of calmness (with a familiar/everyday insect form) for viewer’s studying a heavy topic. Additionally, the prefold of the canvas was done in the shape of an American flag, which created permanent creases that mirror the stripes on the flag. The emulated American stripe-folds not only give the piece the volume necessary to visually depict both the bullet entry and exit points, but it also encourages viewers to engage in a discussion surrounding the 2nd amendment. Overall, the prefold process of the canvas was extremely significant in Hodge’s desire to further connect the Parkland shooting to a larger social issue in America: gun violence.
Gun violence is the clear message and/or point of dialogue for Hodge’s “Parkland Moth.” As previously noted, not only are there bullet holes present throughout the folded canvas, but there is also a scattered pile of empty shells on the floor below the hanging piece. These empty bullet shells establish a heightened awareness in regards to the work’s subject. Not only are the shells erratically scattered across the floor as if a shooting had just occurred, but they also occupy a gallery space- a public space- a place where bullets and weapons are never expected to be present. Just like a school.
Overall, “Parkland Moth” is a conceptually heavy art piece that calls attention to an extremely debated topic here in America. Successfully the work discusses gun violence in a subtle yet distinct manner. Never does the work tell a viewer how to feel about the topic nor does it persuade one to pick a specific side. It simply commemorates a tragic event by challenging its audience to start the discussion.
“Pure Soul” by Minakshi De: A Societal and Self-Identifying Discussion
By Ashley Milliken, 25 June 2020
Artist Minakshi De with her installation piece “Looking Back,” 2019
Minakshi De, is an Indian-American artist that currently lives and works throughout South Florida. De earned her Bachelors of Fine Arts degree from the University of Chittagong and her post graduate diploma from the Fashion and Arts Institute in Dallas, Texas. Her work has been showcased internationally, including several areas in India such as, Kolkata, Mumbai, and Chittagong, as well as in other areas around the globe including Italy, China, Spain, and the US.
De’s passion is present in all of her works, specifically because she believes the original power of her art lies between and within the span of inwardness and externalization. Meaning each piece De creates, conceptualizes and serializes her many life experiences that affect both herself as an individual and the rest of the world around her. In her artist statement De explained, “Art is my love and inclination. My passion for love is what keeps me going. I create art because it makes me happy and it is my outlet for expression. For me, every painting is a new experience. Each day seems to include, not only the creation of something new but also the discovery of intriguing things.
We have invited De to share more about her work.
Q: After doing research, it is obvious your work aims to comment on various societal concepts and how people relate to those pre-existing standards. Would you mind going into more detail about that inspiration and how it relates to your piece “Pure Soul?”
A: Although violence, wars and strife have been a part of our world for ages, it feels that our collective morality has taken an especially big hit in recent years. This breakdown of our individual and societal values is what inspired me the most in creating this artwork. As I searched to represent a ‘Pure Soul’ to contrast what I am witnessing in our world, I also realized how our constant battle for power is closely related to the same idea.
Q: How do your experiences and community involvements influence your work, specifically your FLAG Exhibition piece “Pure Soul?”
A: My past experiences, surroundings and community involvements definitely influence my thinking of the subject for a painting. There are always a lot of daily stresses and pressures that we are under. Now during a global pandemic and recent events in the US, our minds are under more pressure than ever before. In times like these, I think it’s important to remember the power of positive thinking, and it’s ability to help your soul overcome the negative vibes around you, thus giving way to “Pure Soul”.
Q: Can you explain your use of chairs and why that is such a significant aspect to this painting?
A: The chairs represent different people, different life roles, and different societal positions of power.
Minakshi De featured FLAG Exhibition piece, “Pure Soul,” at the Foosaner Art Museum, 2020
Q: How do the wooden strips gathered on the floor relate to the rest of the work? Would you say they represent the mass population that does not have the power to sit in a chair?
A: When we don’t have a specific role to play or don’t serve a specific purpose, we are neglected by society. Just like chairs, we are discarded until we return to our ‘original’ form, like a pile of discarded wood.
Q: It appears you are very well-known for figurative art but there are no figures present in “Pure Soul” or in some of your others, such as “Pink World” or “Serving.” Why
A: I have always enjoyed painting figures, and it remains as one of my favorite subjects. However, it calls for a specific mindset. At this time, I am enjoying exploring freehand drawings.
Q: Can you explain each word written inside the five circles and how they transmit your work’s overall message?
A: The circles against the backdrop of the chairs, represent the characteristic traits that can prevent us from getting sucked into society’s power struggles. As we get preoccupied in our pursuit of positions of power, we always feel that we are busy. In those situations, we may need to remember that we have to find our inner calm, and take it ‘easy’ to rise above the daily grind. Similarly, developing a ‘pure soul’ and tapping into our ‘inner power’ through meditation and positive thinking, can also help us build character. Next on our journey, we have to develop our power to ‘forgive’. Our power to forgive, instead of seeking revenge, has the power to alter our ‘destiny’. Lastly, to achieve the above, we have to make sure we ‘respect time’ and protect it fiercely.
Q: Lastly, can you go into further detail about “Pure Soul’s” orientation? When most viewers spoke to us about “Pure Soul” they mentioned reading it from the top down. However, after hearing your explanation of the work it appears it should be read from the bottom up would, you agree?
A:Yes I agree, it should be read from the bottom up.
Q: Can you describe a career defining moment for us? What are you most proud of as a contemporary artist?
A: I wouldn’t say there is a single defining moment. In my career, I have been fortunate enough to have received a lot of accolades. I still get excited when my works garner the interest and appreciation of the audience. I love making my viewers think. This is amplified even further, when I am recognized by my peers in different settings.
Q: Are you working on anything new or participating in any other shows that you would like to share?
A: I had plans to participate in Art Basel Switzerland but this has since been canceled due to the pandemic. I am looking forward to starting 2021 with a fresh new perspective, in hopefully a pandemic free world.
To learn more about Minakshi De and her work, visit: http://www.minakshide.in/
Renee Foosaner Education Center Hosts Virtual Art Show
by Adam Lowenstein, 9 June 2020
Renee Foosaner Education Center Hosts Virtual Student Art Fair
Works from Brevard K-12 Students
Viewable Online Through August
MELBOURNE, FLA. — More than 200 art works from Brevard County students are available for online viewing through August as Florida Tech’s Renee Foosaner Education Center hosts a virtual art fair.
“Many local student art shows and exhibitions have been cancelled due to the coronavirus pandemic,” said Elizabeth Peterson, curator of education at the center. “Students have worked hard all year to create and showcase their art, and we wanted to give them that opportunity.”
The show features paintings, drawings, sculpture and more from students in elementary, middle and high schools.
The Education Center worked with art teachers across Brevard Public Schools to encourage students to submit their art, Peterson said.
On June 15, 1st, 2nd and 3rd place winners and honorable mention recipients from elementary, middle and high school entries will be announced in a 5 p.m. ceremony broadcast on YouTube Live. All participants will be sent a link to the ceremony. Link HERE.
The winners will be selected by a panel of judges: John Emery, stained glass artist and arts education advocate; Carla Funk, executive director and chief curator of university museums; Chad Hitchcock, arts educator and artist; and Ashley Milliken, administrator at the Foosaner Art Museum.
All winners receive a certificate, and the 1st, 2nd, and 3rd place winners in each category will also receive a gift card to Ralph’s Art Supply Store in the Eau Gallie Arts District.
The National Park Painter: An Interview With Artist Patricia Cummins
by Ashley Milliken, 28 April 2020
Patricia Cummins is an American artist known for her ability to capture the exquisite beauty of National Parks throughout the globe, with an emphasis on the United States and Ireland. Her work has been featured in numerous exhibitions throughout the United States, as well as internationally, including at The American Embassy in Africa. Over the years, Cummins has been selected to serve painting residences in thirteen United States National Park Artist-in-Residence programs and other national private institutions such as the Hermitage on Mannasota Key. Cummins’ philosophy: “Hard work earns you reward.”
Currently on display at the Foosaner Art Museum in their FLAG Exhibition (March 28th – June 25th 2020), is Cummins’ first work to ever include a self-portrait alongside one of her landscape recreations. The work is titled, “Pastel Painting at Zabriske Point, Death Valley National Park” (2019).
We invited Patricia to share more about her process and inspirations.
Q: In terms of subject, what draws you to National Parks?
A: “I have been connected with parks since I was a young child, living just one block away from Forest Park, in New York City. My earliest and fondest family memories are of family gatherings at Valley Stream State Park, Long Island. It is at any park where I feel at home, connected to our planet and its wondrous gifts.
Seventeen years ago, I took a year sabbatical from my elementary school art teacher role, and rediscovered my passion for oil and pastel painting. I rented a studio space at the artist center, ArtSouth in Homestead, Florida, serendipitously located between Biscayne and Everglades National Parks. It was at Biscayne National Park where I began my journey as a National Park resident artist. Since 2003 I have been invited to serve fifteen National Park residencies and have produced a body of work that has been shared locally, nationally and internationally. My works are part of National Park art collections and paintings of South Florida National Parks have become part of the Florida State Art Collection, as well as the U. S. Art in the Embassies Program.
The National Park system has been a gracious host and muse for my talent, which has allowed me to reconnect with my wonderfully free early childhood memories. The parks have also exposed me to our country’s varied park visitor population and breathtaking landscapes. Painting, lecturing and conducting interpretive workshops across our country has enlightened me about the diversity of our country’s landscape, as well as its people. I am thankfully a better person and artist as a result of my National Park experiences. This pandemic has made me reflect upon how fortunate I have been, even more than before, when things were ‘normal.’”
Q: Besides National Parks, what else would you consider to be some of your influences?
A: “I paint mostly outdoors, so any interesting landscape can inspire a painting, especially if water is found in the environment.”
Q: In your artist statement you mentioned being, “invited as a resident artist to explore and paint a fifteen national parks.” Can you explain what a “resident artist” at a national park is?
A: “Every program is different, but residencies are usually two to four weeks. If selected, all types of artists have the honor to reside in a lakeside cabin, hogan, or historic building, depending on the park. There is a jury process, and if selected you’re invited to stay and create art in some of the most beautiful places on earth. Artists are invited to participate in park programs by sharing their art with the public through slide lectures or workshops. Individual parks have their own application process and residency requests. An artist usually donates a work of art within the year following the residency.”
Q: What is your process when painting? What are your preferred tools and mediums of choice?
A: “I work with oil paint as well as chalk pastel. Most often I work on site and take reference photos for later in the studio if I feel the painting isn’t completed, or if the weather or light changes too drastically.”
Q: Motion seems to be an important element to your paintings. When I look at your work in the FLAG Exhibition I get a sense of motion from the stone wall that your figure sits on to the ripples in the mountains that lead the viewer’s eye around the complete composition. Would you say capturing the landscape’s motion is a significant component to your work?
A: “I’m glad you got that feeling! My goal as an artist is to arrest nature’s motion, involving viewers as deeply as I can. As I make my artwork, I leave behind traces of feelings associated with my experience of each scene; sharing my vision of beauty and grace expressed through color and form.
The experiences of life that I find to be of greatest value are those that rest in the basic and seemingly simplistic. Garden fragrances, nature’s color and form, all outweigh for me the more contrived and materialistic of our life today. I paint the landscapes, the feelings and the experiences that they create for me; the perceptions and sensations that collect as a result of a day at the shore, or under the shade of a live oak, or during weeks spent serving a residency at a National Park. If these sensations communicate with the viewer through my work, their connection and purpose are complete.”
Q: You also mentioned in your artist statement that, ““Pastel Painting at Zabriske Point, Death Valley National Park,” is your first time including a self-portrait in your recreation of a landscape. What made you decide to include yourself as a figure in the work?
“I was painting a small pastel at Zabriskie Point. I wish that I had my oil paints with me, but I had a choice to paint hours in one place, or to see more of a National Park that I had never seen before. I was with a friend chasing the light at Zabriskie Point and had only enough time to finish a small pastel. It was such a special time in an amazing location, when I returned I was inspired to work from a few photos to create this painting that reminds me of a special trip. I was visiting a close relative that I had lost contact with for over forty years. I was staying in his home and visited Death Valley and Joshua Tree National Park during my stay. Perhaps placing myself in the composition symbolizes finding myself as I reconnected with my long lost family member.”
Q: Do you often include figures in your work?
A: “I have never included a figure in any of my National Park paintings, until this painting. Birds, mammals, insects, and flowers are depicted but never humans.”
Q: What made you choose this piece specifically for the FLAG Exhibit at the Foosaner Art Museum?
A: “It was my most current and largest completed painting.”
Q: Can you describe one of your favorite career defining moments for us?
A: “In 2010 the National Park Foundation interviewed me. and published an article about my work. It can be found here! I received a lot of visitors to my website as a result of this article. This photo appeared in the article.”
Q: Do you have anything planned coming up or anything you are working on that you’d like to share?
A: “Currently on my studio easels are works from my residency at Crater Laker. Completing these paintings and then selecting one to gift to them is my current task. I am also still waiting to hear from a few National Parks that have pending applications. I am hoping to be invited to Joshua Tree National Park in April of 2021. In October a Residency at Desert Mountain Retreat, New Mexico was awarded with a life-long college friend and pastel artist, Pearl Lau.”