Saturday, November 30, 2013



As we move through our world the myriad of images we see on the way to work, or the way to get groceries or run all our mundane but necessary errands, or to get the kids from school, or one of those miserable rainy slick days when we get stuck behind a slow moving school bus can be really astonishing.  It is part of our everyday world, and just in the repetition it becomes ordinary and not exceptional in our minds.   I think as  artists we are trained to have heightened observation skills and be highly sensitive individuals.  Most people think think art must be pretty, refined, in  focus, and elevated beyond our everyday world.  But is in the everyday artists often find their muse.  If you look at these photo's below with me I will take you through my thinking as an artist.  

Photo's by Elizabeth Gordon   Asheville North Carolina  Newfound Rd 
 It is a typical fall day, a front is moving through and it is rainy, slick, overcast and raw, damp, cold.  I am on my way to do several errands and need to be out on a day I would rather be home reading by the fire.  As I am driving along something captures my attention and I reach for my camera.  I am not even sure what catches my attention at this point, but my senses are overwhelmed with stimuli.  Though just a typical rainy, fall day, the light reflects more on the road, the swish sound of tires hitting puddles at a high speed, the thump, the thump of the window shield wipers.  The greens are darker, and all the whites, reds and yellows brighter.  The air feels heavy, but not the same heavy of a Florida thundershower, it has a different quality with the smell of dampened fall leaves.  The rain on the car window distorts and mutes images, visually my world is different. 

Photo's by Elizabeth Gordon   Out of focus road and farm fences
I love to take out of focus pictures.  I always think of Monet at the end of his painting life, with cataracts and barely able to see, painted larger and enjoyed his ability to see differently.  
Monet Garden's
I have near sightedness that is very severe.  If I take off my glasses I see much like the photo above.  I actually love that, that I can see in focus and out of focus.  I think there is a strength in not focusing…a straining to make sense of what one is seeing.  The shapes are simpler not complicated by detail, and the blurring softens the image and colors.  I have often thought of doing a whole series of work out of focus and call it "Seeing Clearly Now".  

Looking through the window shield wipers at the farm at the bottom of my mountain road.
He is not the neatest farmer in the world and I get to observe his farm daily.  Look at how the yellow
trailer jumps out at you.

Photo's by Elzabeth Gordon

  School buses fascinate me for a variety of reasons.  As an art teacher of 37 years, they were a part of my daily life.  I love the colors, the bright yellows, the red and contract of black.  Did you know the yellow and black are decided by government and enforced by law…there is a specific color, called school bus yellow, that made specially for the nations school buses..that was decided in the early to mid 1900's.  
*School buses become icons for us, for our common experiences of attending school; traveling from youth to adulthood, from bullies and teasing, to the shear conceptual concept of transportation from one sense of place to another. 
  And for me as a teacher and thousands of school children in the summers, it was a sight we didn't want to see, because it inhibited our freedom.  Or the opposite every turn is bringing you closer to home,  a hot pot of soup waiting and Grandmother's hugs waiting at the door.  Her purple umbrella  she holds so lovingly in the damp rain, the smell of her old fashioned soap envelops you in warmth and love as she hugs gathers you in her arms when you come home from the city school whose culture is so different from your rural mountain upbringing.  

*Imagine a Tryptic of three school buses, from larger to smaller, closer to further away accompanied by three images of driving through the rain with distorted images…imagine I provide audio of the swish of tires on wet road, and the clapping of the window wipers clearing the rain away.  What if I added a muted radio, echoing and the sound of small children in the car…can I create an installation of an American experience?

School buses in our experience are part of our ordinary mundane world.  They are not sexy in the Madison Avenue sense of the world , they are not exciting, or beautiful in a everyday sense.  But for an artists they can be all of those things and more! 

*Imagine if you are a film maker the story you could weave around the photo's, they could become stills in your movie.  You can add characters, plot, and imagination…it can be a horror film, a drama, a thriller, or sad reality program.  
Imagine if you are a writer the plot you could enter twine with these images.  A lonely shy child returning home to an abusive father and the road home looks foreboding and horrifying, each turn takes you closer to your worst fears.

* Imagine if you are a musician, and you hear the clap, clap, clap of the window wipers, and you take the beat and write a score from it.  Or you add the sense of moving in sound or score, the feel of transformation.  And then you add mood to the music. What would it sound like, would it be happy, sad, moving, dramatic, quite, foot tapping..what would you create?

*Imagine you are a painter and you want to capture the motion and the light…you want the blur…you want it to feel impressionistic-just a sense of what you are seeking and feeling-then what would you paint.  If you were Van Gogh would you tie yourself to a tree as the wind moved the tree in the brisk fall winds, would you paint day after day repeating the same painting in different light and different times of day and seasons?  If you were Picasso would you focus on the movement by making all sides being seen at the same time to make it as real as possible, that is becomes abstract?  

* Imagine you are a dancer or choreographer, how would you interpret the movement of a school bus in wind and rain, how would you move you body or a group of dances to recreate the mood of this school bus moving through time…what would Martha Graham Dancers do?  

Imagine You are a nature sculptor or environmental sculptor, like Andy Goldsworthy,
Andy Goldsworthy
how would you use this road to recreate the gravel and leaves, and brown grasses and twigs and logs to become a work of art that amazes but that is not permanent.  What would you do?

photo's by Elizabeth Gordon Hayes Cove
I wanted to take you through a bit of how an artists might take something that is mundane to most of us and turn it into a world of art, how they see the world differently.  I hope I have helped you do that and perhaps come up with some ideas of your own.
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