Wednesday, February 9, 2011

My Pantheon of Artists

I was asked to list five people who are my, "Pantheon of Artists, "I admire and state the reasons why. I can think of many dead and gone, but I want to focus on the living and include more contemporary artists that I relate to and consider to be not only great artists with integrity but examples of mentors and teachers.

I am presently in a very vibrant learning environment as part of the Fine Art program at Mount Allison University and I cannot help but be influenced by the artists around me on a day to day basis. Some are teachers and some are fellow students and many are most inspirational to me. Here is my list.
Julie Cameron
Anne Lemott

Firstly want to talk about artists, who are also teachers. I believe artists have so much to teach us regardless if this is intentional or not. I see a connection between both of these professions. I have no idea who originally said this , but I don't believe it to be necessarily true. " Those who can't do, teach." This is said in reference to those artists who do not keep up with their own art practice, teach for the implied reason that they are not very productive or "good" artists. In all the years I have gone to art school, almost seven years now, I have never come across such people within the educational environment. Perhaps not all artists are the best teachers but the fact is, they are more than likely exceptional artists, and have dedicated and committed themselves to a creative lifestyle. I have mentioned in previous writing that I have admiration for the type of teacher that is heuristic, which means to teach in a manner that leads to self discovery. This is the best definition I found from Wikipedia.

Heuristic (pronounced /hjʉˈrɪstɨk/) or heuristics (from the Greek "Εὑρίσκω" for "find" or "discover") refers to experience-based techniques for problem solving, learning, and discovery. Heuristic methods are used to speed up the process of finding a good enough solution, where an exhaustive search is impractical. Examples of this method include using a "rule of thumb", an educated guess, an intuitive judgment, or common sense. In more precise terms, heuristics are strategies using readily accessible, though loosely applicable, information to control problem solving in human beings and machines.[1] Read more:

Having been a student at NSCAD in the Art Education program, I became acutely aware of what makes a dynamic and dedicated art teacher. One thing of particular importance I believe, is that a teacher have good rapport with their students. Having a sense of humour, and an ability to communicate effectively with others. Essential to teaching is an inherent passion for what I believe, needs to be a vocation. There are several other characteristic strengths and skills that I could mention however if a teacher of art does not have the foundation of these qualities I would suggest they stick to being an artist or some other career choice.

I will touch on each of the artists I have listed and speak about what it is a appreciate about each one and why I admire them as artists and as people, because I do not think I want separate the two.

Eric Fischl is the first artist I have been very influenced by over the past few years. I admire his sense of integrity and courage to invest in his subject matter which is figurative and representational. Coming out of the decade in the 70's where painting was dead and figurative painting was non-existent especially in art institutions, it took courage not to collapse under the weight and pressure of the then modernist and abstract art world. He considers himself first and foremost a painter and not an intellectual but I very much appreciate the way he thinks about art, with his head, heart, psyche, and life itself and what it is to be human.

Eric has a strong sense of the historical traditions of art and perceives these as part of his identity. As well, he has been fearless in looking at the demons from his past and worked these out, which are reflected very much in his earlier paintings. I also appreciate the fact that it is important for him to engage and communicate with his audience through his subject matter.
Julie Cameron I was first introduced to through another artist who was also an art therapist. Julie Cameron is a writer and wrote the book, The Artist's Way. This was a life changing book for me, many years ago and continues to be an influence to this day because of the principles she shares and the daily exercises she encourages the artist to internalize in their art practice and lifestyle. Jungian philosophy is at the basis of her writing and core principles which greatly resonate for me personally as a person in recovery for 17 years.
Anne Lemott, also a writer who wrote, Traveling Mercies. was the book I first read by her. She is an amazing writer, full of humour with simple and very expressive language that informs, entertains and enables great introspection of the human condition.

Andy Goldsworthy is an incredible sculptor and is an environmentalist of sorts, doing remarkable outdoor site specific sculpture. His work has a timeless quality that is usually made on the spot, from the natural materials he finds available within that natural environment. Many of his sculptures will stand the test of time and will be there for future generations to discover, which I find very appealing. Other pieces have an immediate in the present moment nature to them, disappearing over a short period of time under the influence of weather, and the elements.

Tom Forrestall I had the privilege of meeting last Summer, when there was a retrospect of his work in the Owens Gallery, at Mount Allison University, in Sackville, New Brunswick. I was spellbound by his paintings, particularly by his egg tempera pieces. I found myself wishing there were teachers at Mount Allison that were skilled in this ancient tradition, because I am now involved with this medium and process in my painting. There is something special to me about having a connection with artists like Tom Forrestall that not only were teachers in the Fine Art Department at Mount Allison Universty, by were also students there. Tradition and history are very important to me as an artist, however I do not want to be fettered by the constrictions that can be often imposed by the constraints and conservatism of tradition. It is essential to me as an artist to be open to change and to be flexible.

That's my list of five. I would love to hear from others and who they have on there list as their Pantheon of Artists.


Chad Wooters said...

Artist Pantheon...tough. My mind goes to history first. Raeburn foremost. His portraits are sublime. Chardin for the simple humility of his subject matter. Frazetta for his imagination. Nerdrum for his technique. Albrect Drurer, my first inspiration as a printmaker.

Unknown said...

I too tend to gravitate to the artists of the past Chad. I'm not familiar with Frazetta is he dead?

Any way I've been trying to focus more on contemporary artists, but I still have such high regard for the the historical traditions and movements of the past. Writers have become more important to me as well. Thanks for your comments Chad!