ARTIST: Liza Cowan
The Kodak Girl and The Horrockses Girl meet for a pleasant Sunday afternoon in the garden. Some snapshots, a little bit of reading on the bench in the shade, then on to tea. A lovely afternoon.
While I'm working on a new project, please enjoy this freebie for July. This makes a nice screensaver and it's handy to have a calendar right there. Large file size.
For personal use only. Have fun.
image: detail from turn of the century postcard.
Way back in 1989/90 I studied Art Therapy with Dr. Erika Steinberg at The New School For Social Research in New York City. Dr. Steinberg had us all keep extensive journals of drawing exercises, dream and meditaion notes, and the process of drawing. It was an amazing class, with some extraordinary students, including a gifted and now- famous psychic/intuitive practitioner who subsequently became a best selling author, but during that year was just beginning her career, and, for those two semesters, was a good buddy of mine. Her insights amplified our work in many ways. The class met twice a week for two semesters, and it was the environment in which I rediscovered how much I liked drawing and the process of making art.
I chose not to become an art therapist, but the techniques of dream work and art therapy clung. I was reminded of this last night as I was listening to a radio broadcast that, almost in passing, mentioned feline guardian beings and goddesses. Of course, cats were goddesses in ancient Egypt and around the world, but I don't think I was thinking about them as I began this small series. Not consciously at any rate. The images came from dreams and meditation.
In our art journals, Dr. Stienberg had us keep notes, short ones, on three things: Environment, Process and Product. That is, what we were feeling and the physical space we were in while we were drawing, how we made the drawing, and a description of the work itself.
Product: Cat/woman #1. February 19th, 1990
She is facing the world, staring right into its eyes. I love drawing mouths as circles. Like she's talking and kind of surprised, too. The boulders are from a dream I had two weeks ago, just after we got our dream-box assignment. In the dream I saw huge dark boulders and received instructions that my job was to decipher the rocks. Like, that's one of my lifetime jobs. The water is fluid and reflective. Her feet are not quite in it, or maybe her toes are just touching that unconscious substance.
Product, Cat/woman #2 Feb. 19th,1990
She is still a bit stormy, but a lot more peaceful. I love this drawing. She is a solid presence. Heat or emotions rising from her, intense but rhythmical.
( I don't know what the "stormy" is in reference to.)
Lion/woman. April 1, 1990. Woodstock
Environment: Hanging out at home in Woodstock
Process: I was looking through some magazines and came across this photo of a lioness and her cub, or a cub and her mother. I was moved by how they looked both peaceful and ferocious at the same time. I made a photo copy of the picture and drew over it with cray pas. I gave the mother lion my hair. I know that it is the male lions who have the mane, not the females, but in this case she, like me, has the tresses.
Product: Sometimes I describe myself as a mother lion when I am protecting people or things I care about. I can be ferocious in my guardianship, alert and calm. I love how the cub stands enfolded in her mothers arms and head.
The following drawing is from a week before the first cat drawings. I believe that the animals in this dream either were, or became, the cat figures in the subsequent images.
Product: This is a dream I had last night - from notes I took when I awoke from the dream at 5:30 am:
"I am at a Woodstock gathering, I have my video camera and am ready to tape, but nothing appeals to me.
Suddenly a small man is doing a "show" with strange looking animals, maybe marsupials, who are delivering ecology messages. They keep changing shapes and exit by disappearing into the ground. I get the whole thing on tape. I have no idea how this strange little man feels about my recording him. He comes over and smiles and hugs me warmly. Very lovely. He's glad I recorded it. I am going to give him my business card but suddenly everyone leaves the gathering in a big crowd and I wake up."
This drawing does not convey the eeriness of the dream. It was almost frightening, the animals were so strange and so was the man. But he was so nice that it ended up not being scarey at all.
I don't have a vivid image of the animals, so I just drew anything, figuring it was still accurate. The big eyes and stripes feel right.
Before I fell asleep I was reaing a Jungian magazine and I think it influenced ths dream.
The creatures are intense, especially their eyes, as they were in the dream. Their message was profound, but I forget it."
Mother Nature and the Flower Fairies have been busy in my garden making the flowers grow. My job is to take pictures of the results.
My new photography show, Saki, Pug For Fun opens in two days but I'm still shooting for it. Crazy, right? Today I took four pictures I'm very satisfied with. One will go in the show, maybe two.
Recently I started painting old chairs. This was my first. It's been a lot of fun and I'm so pleased with the results. I paint on any surface, really. Glass, walls, wood, canvas. And in the past I've painted some furniture, but discovering Annie Sloan Chalk Paint really made a difference. That suff goes on so easily and covers so beautifully. And no smell. And water cleanup.
Today I decided to photograph the chairs, on a beat up old table in front of my living room wall. I painted the wall 11 years ago when I moved into my house. You can see I like spots. I'm shooting with my iPhone 4, using the Camera+ app.
Here's Saki on the spotted chair. Saki is a very good poser. For a dog who doesn't relax even when she's asleep, it's fascinating to me that she will calm down and pose as soon as she sees a camera.
And here is Stella, the doxy. Stella's not quite as happy in front of the camera but the floor was a long way down and she was not about to attempt a jump. So she sat. Here she was listening to the sound of a car outside. It's best when something captures their attention.
Most of these images will soon be available as greeting cards on my online store.
The Amazons are still travelling. Digital collages by Liza Cowan. Here's a sample of where they've been. For the complete series check them out on Flickr
The Amazons are on walkabout, roaming the earth and skies, at work and at play.
You can follow the Amazons on Flickr
As far as I am concerned, The 10th Doctor can be an honorary Amazon.
My daughter and I enjoyed ourselves thoroughly at the Pug Fest at Alice Austen House Museum last weekend. Not only are we pug fans (and owners) but we are fans of Alice's life work as a pioneering 19th Century photographer. See more about Alice on this blog here and the Alice Austen House Museum website here.
This view across the Narrows would have been very different in Alice's day. But it is still gorgeous.
At the Alice Austen House Museum, Pug Day. What a beautiful day to be at Clear Comfort, Alice's Staten Island, NY, house on the water. Here, my daughter and I recreate Alice's self portrait with her pug, Punch. I bet Alice would have loved to be able to wear jeans and boots, and keep her hair short. Imagine lugging hundreds of pounds of camera equipment around wearing a corset and floor length dress. Kudos to Alice for managing so beautifully.
Alice Austen and Punch, self portrait. Willa and Saki by Liza Cowan
Last week I posted this image of a billboard in progress in Greenwich Village, NYC.
Photo ©Liza Cowan
Today my friend Penny sent me this picture of the finished billboard. It's for Barneys New York.
And here's the inspiration for the billboard:
"Helmut Lang's cast-resin replica of five front-row seats from his final fashion collection are installed in a concrete room in the window of Barneys, replicating the artist's own basement, where the piece has been stored. Flat-panel plaques on the floor display the fashion items the artist selected as highlights of 2009"
Missionaries of Charity Enter Chase Bank. Photo © Liza Cowan
When I started following the sisters it was because I loved the flow of their saris and the way they walked so closely together. When they entered the bank I had to laugh. I'm sure that the Missionaries of Charity have bank business, but for a brief moment I had a vision of them robbing the joint. You know - to give to the poor.
More images from around NYC. Wooden shoe molds I saw at Fishes Eddy- a store And a view through a tailor's shop window to a portrait of of the king of Thailand and spools of thread.
Walking around New York City is never dull. I grew up in the city but now I am just another visitor with a camera.
This is my first post via iPad do bear with me as I learn. Always a journey, right?
Just have to brag a bit today. Thanks so much to Typepad for making SeeSaw a featured blog.
I am so pleased that my daughter Willa loves to take photographs. And she's good.
Liza Cowan et al, Paint By Number, at Pine Street Art Works on Art Express, PBS
I've just found this video by Paul Larsen, host of Mountain Lake PBS' popular show Art Express. The show segment is about Paint By Number, Anonymous Works from Mid 20th Century America, one of the most successful, and one of my favorite, of all the exhibits I curated during my five year tenure as Director and owner of the Burlington,Vermont art gallery, Pine Street Art Works.
The video features Harry Bliss, Mark Waskow, Christie Mitchell and Liza Cowan.
Here's what I wrote in 2007 about the exhibit on the Pine Street Art Works Website:
Paint by number. The craze of the 1950's - paint by number swept the nation in the era of Eisenhower, Levittown, post war prosperity, and a post war concept of leisure time - which probably had more to do with women being squeezed out of the workforce and back into the home than with any real decrease in the need for labor. It doesn't seem surprising that paint by number was marketed to women, although plenty of men did enjoy making the paintings.
Is Paint By Number art now? Was it art then? Do time, distance and a changing art market alter our perceptions and judgements?
At Pine Street Art Works we love them, or we wouldn't be showing them. We are fascinated by their subversive allure - the tension created between the pleasure of viewing and the original - and ongoing - horrified responses by the gate keepers of high culture.
Although now PBN has been the subject of a show at the Smithsonian, and of many academic and popular essays, and regularly show up in design magazines and blogs, there is still the vacillating response - are we allowed the pleasure we get from looking at (or making) these paintings?
Most of the paint by number sets of the fifties and early sixties depicted nostolgic scenes: historic and pastoral landscapes, christian religious images, adorable or noble animals, sentimental glimpes of far distant cultures as well as copies from the canon of romanticized European figurative art. Critics at the time were disgusted with the mechanized mass produced nostalgia.
But now, with our vantage point from the 21st century, these paintings have aquired the patina of age and distance. Have they aquired the "aura" that Walter Benjamin wrote about? Or are we nostalgic for the more innocent nostalgia of the 50's? Are we caught up in second order - or even third order -nostalgia?
The August Paint By Number show doesn't answer these questions but provides some gorgeous evidence for future theories.
The website I refer to in the video, where I saw the post about the room-sized Paint By Number that inspired me to curate the show, was Apartmenttherapy.com and the painting was by Curtis Robinson. You can see it HERE. I was very pleased that Curtis actually came to Burlington to see the show.
For those readers who have been enjoying my ephemera and my art over the years - I'm now putting them on the Keepsake Boxes I've been developing for the past couple of years.
I have the boxes made for me in Vermont, of Vermont pine, so they are lovely and local. Small footprint for me, please. Vermont Wooden Box, the company that manufactures the boxes, is a tiny outfit on a dirt road about an hour's drive from my studio. Feels just right to me.
Small Equals Keepsake Box. Sew To The Moon. Cowan Ephemera Collections
I know there are a lot of needle pack lovers out there, and these make great sewing kits. See more about needlepack HERE on this blog.
Small Equals Keepsake Box, Wells Richardson Lactated Food, Cowan Ephemera Collections
You can read more about Wells Richardson & Co. HERE on this blog.
Small Equals Keepsake Box, Trumpet Vine, photo Liza Cowan
These boxes and more are available at the Small Equals Online Store HERE
When I was designing posters for the Burlington Vermont No Lockheed Campaign, I realized I had a real taste for agit prop (see them HERE). So when Occupy came to town, I set my hand to designing a series of posters. You can see them on my Flickr sets HERE.
This one is my favorite. It is available through Occuprint
Occupy Vermont. ©Liza Cowan/CowanDesign
I know that local Occupy movements are important, but I decided to focus on an overarching theme: Occupy Patriarchy. The drawing is one I made in the early 1970's copying an image from a Greek Vase.
Occupy Patriarchy poster by ©Liza Cowan/CowanDesign 2011
If you are interested in the ideas behind Occupy Patriarchy you can find a great resource HERE
Below is one of my favorite Occupy Burlington posters, using what my regular readers know is a constant source of pleasure, vintage postcards. This one from 1906.
Early 20th Century postcard, City Hall Park, Burlington Vermont. Site of the Occupy Burlington actions and General Assemblies. Postcard from Cowan Ephemera Archive. Adaptation:CowanDesign.
The Frozen Butcher
photo Liza Cowan
Using contemporary technologies, this small, family-run, Vermont business brings their farm- raised, organic beef to local farmers markets. The refrigeration in their mobile shop, aka the truck, is powered by Solar Energy. Yes, the panels on the top of the truck are solar. So they can run all day and not burn any fuel. Cool, eh? And the meat is delicious too.
Snug Valley Farm
East Hardwick, VT