Pincus-Witten, the art critic, curator, historian, author and individual who in 1971 coined the term, “Postminimalism” has died. It reminded me of a brush with greatness that never happened for me. Let me explain.
During my college years in the 1970’s in the Queens College art department program in New York, I was expressing myself with the same underlying emotional & intellectual content in a variety of mediums. It was a time of the emergence of feminism for me and the search for self. An awakening of the world I lived in, was raised in and thought I understood.
I entered this program as an older student at the age of 27, married with two young children. Needless to say, I didn’t quite fit in with the rest of the much younger student body. Most of my creative work, rather than using the studios on campus, was done at home in my own studio/dining room after I put my sons to bed in the evening. This actually freed me to create more independently than I might otherwise have done.
I followed my own muse. I created sculptures and assemblages using acrylic boxes, clear fishing line, minimalism inspired grids, feminine but painful masses of pink fiberglass insulation. I used distorting mirrors, bindings, weavings of ropes/cords/threads in numerical sequencing. I painted windows where the panes of glass protected or imprisoned using the gridded mullions in defined mathematical ratios. I used graphite, pastel, cut paper & photography to explore my own body landscape and journey of discovery.
All my work at that time explored the balance of male/female, pain/protection, enclosure/exclusion, geometry/biomorphism, math/chaos. One side of me embraced the rigidity, consistency and comfort I found in minimalism but the other part of me was rebelling against those very same norms.
At my senior thesis show, all my work was on display, my sculpture, my drawings, paintings, assemblage, photography and my written papers. Years of independent thought, exploration and interpretation.
Louis Finkelstein was my advisor, a professor I had never met before nor taken a class with but a very prominent and influential person in the NYC art community of which I longed to be a part. He spent a great deal of time viewing my work, reading my papers and asking me questions of motivations & process.
He was impressed by my work. He told me that he said he was going to introduce me to Pincus-Witten and propose me for an independent studio fellowship offered by the Whitney Museum of Art. I was itching all over with the prickles of joy.
And then the ax fell. I mentioned to Prof. Finkelstein that I was in the process of a divorce and just straightening out the details because I had two small children.
Without one further question put to me, without one opportunity for me to elaborate, Finkelstein stood up from his stool (and here is where my memory is a little bit muddy) said either, “A divorced woman can’t be an artist” or “A divorced mother can’t be an artist”. And he walked out of my life taking with him my dreams of ever meeting Robert Pincus-Witten.
Although my stretched store-bought cotton canvas is already prepared with gesso, I add 3 more layers with a light sanding in between each. This makes the canvas less absorbent in my opinion. Everyone has their own recipe and this is mine. I apply the gesso with a roller if the canvas is big or a large brush if it is smaller.
Once the gesso is dry, which is within the hour of the last coating, I use vine charcoal to outline my composition. Because the charcoal is rather dusty, I blow the excess off using either my breath or an aerosol can of dust remover depending on the size of the canvas.
Next, I then use a thin wash of burnt umber paint and a thinner medium to cover the rough charcoal drawing and begin the shading process. This also fixes the drawing to the canvas & prevents the charcoal from blending further. That layer will dry, depending on the medium you choose, in an hour or a day. I then begin another coat of underpainting using either a warm or cool brown or gray base color. This can either be considered an underpainting or if more detailed and finished it would be called a grisaille. Over an underpainting, I would paint using opaque pigments and over a grisaille, I would be using transparent pigments for glazing.
Once this is dry in 1-4 days depending on the mediums used, I then begin painting with color. This is the very classical beginning to an oil painting that I was taught by my professors during my college years in another place and another time. I’ve always been glad that I was able to receive a formal Art education and it has been the basis of all my work over the years.
Choosing bulb replacements for perfect lighting in my studio.
Since I have fluorescent fixtures already installed in my painting studio and didn’t want to replace them it narrowed down the search for the type of bulbs i would be looking for. Learning about LED or halogen lighting options, which I might consider if I was designing an entirely new studio, was off my research list. The installed fixtures are 4’ and had a mixture of cool and warm T8 bulbs bought at the local big box store.
As soon as I began researching online for the best bulbs for studio lighting I knew the options were very broad and would need more studying. I would need to know what the important specifications would be in selecting the right ambient lighting for working on my paintings and also for proofing digital prints?
In my online searching I stumbled upon a wonderful article by Will Kemp, an Artist & educator from England. He gave some historic references & then went on to explain the technical aspects of lighting.
I learned about the ratings of Kelvin, CRI and Lumens:
K or Kelvin. The color temperature index of cool light at 5500K and a bit warmer light at 4100K seemed to be my goal. I didn’t want to go too cool while creating the Art since most of my work is hung in either residential or corporate lighting environments. Residential incandescent bulbs are in the 2,500K to 3000K range
CRI or color rendering index. I sounded professional when I went to my specialty lighting store and pronounced it correctly, Cree rather than C.R.I. CRI is a measurement of how the lighting reveals colors across the full spectrum when measured against natural daylight. The highest measure is 100 and a good CRI for a painting studio is 85 and up.
Lumens are the measurement of how much light is coming from a bulb. The more lumens the the brighter the light. This differs from wattage which is a measurement of how much energy is used to create the light.
Over the years, as bulbs have burned out in my painting studio fixtures I went to the big box store & bought a warm and a cool fluorescent for each fixture fully well knowing that a more appropriate solution should be available. Recognizing that over the years my lighting had become inconsistent, I decided to bite the bullet & finally do it right.
I was spurred on to optimize my own painting studio by the announcement that the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, which I visit regularly to study their paintings, is completely renovating their gallery lighting over the next few years. You can follow the Met’s lighting project here.
I studied the elements of lighting & then went the specialty lighting store that most of the contractors in my area frequent. Initially the gentleman at the counter said that all I needed was an ordinary fluorescent bulb which I could buy at any box store. Once I began to speak about the technical aspects of the bulbs I was considering, he became interested & spoke with me at length about the options for my studio. We discussed the temperature of the current lighting and the problems I would have if I went to a higher K or color temperature.
So what did I choose?
I chose a bulb with a Kelvin of 4100K rather than 5500K which is often called a daylight bulb. As mentioned earlier, I was considering the rooms in which my paintings are usually displayed after they are purchased. I should also mention that I have a large 10’ north facing window in my painting studio which offers a good deal of natural light.
I also selected a higher than usual CRI number of 85 to give me a more robust range of colors which displays the full complexity of my subtle pigments. Lower CRI’s don’t always show the full spectrum of yellows.
For the lumens my choice was to select 3250 which was brighter than many of the bulbs they were replacing although the wattage remained the same at 32W.
One consideration that I was nervous about was the thickness of the actual bulb. The existing T8 bulbs were thicker than the ones I took home from the lighting store. My consultant assured me that they would be fine in my fixtures and he was right. Less glass didn’t mean less light.
The price for each bulb was a modest $2.40. Well worth the investement!
The lighting is perfect! Great color balance, brightness, range. It was worth the time I took to do the research. As an Artist, I research my subjects, paints, pigments, mediums, brushes, canvas, etc., etc., etc… So now I can add studio lighting to the list of professional choices I’ve made towards producing excellent Art.
Ever wonder what size Art will work in your ideal location? Will the colors of the Art complement your display area?
What treatment do I want for my Art?
- Canvas that is gallery wrapped or framed?
- Fine Art Paper with matting and framing?
- Art on metal or acrylic for a new and contemporary look?
You can test all of these options in my online Art Shop.
Say you found a piece of Art that you’d like to buy but don’t know what size or whether it will work colorwise in your location.
My Art Shop is filled with features which will help you to imagine exactly how your new Art will look in your own space. The ultimate in customizing!
The Wall Preview Button on the page of the Art you selected allows you to:
- See what your painting will look like on the wall in a variety of room settings.
- View the size and match your own wall color.
- Select the medium of your choice: Canvas, Fine Art Paper, Acrylic or Metal.
- Next, you select the size of your Art.
- Based on the medium you’ve chosen you will be able to choose options such as framing or matting.
- Now you can either add your Art to the Shopping Cart or save it to your Favorites right there in the Shop.
Other nifty features:
- Examine the texture and details of a painting using the ZOOM tool.
- Email your favorite painting to a friend for their opinion.
- Your purchase is a safe and secure checkout using PayPal or your credit card.
Who has time to waste trying to figure out new menus?
I like diagrams. Don’t you? Here is a diagram that will show you the many different treatment options available to you for each Art Work in my Shop
Choose from the hundreds of sizes and treatments of my Flower and Garden Art.
This is the ultimate in customization for you to use when designing for your home or office.
Now you can visit my Art Shop and try these features on any of the hundreds of sizes and treatment variations available to you for your home or office! Have fun!
Circles in squares always give me comfort for some reason or another. This particular yellow tulip gave me comfort during the tail end of a winter when I sorely needed color flooding into my eyes.
So what do I find as I’m strolling past the senior buffet at Costco but this glass jar filled with joyously bulging and ready to bloom tulips. They just tossed themselves into my cart and begged to be taken home. And home they came.
As the bursting buds thrust themselves open I knew they needed to continue their job of bringing color and joy to my winter and to my spring, my summer and fall. The thrill of painting flowers is that you get to immortalize them before they disappear into their own winter of lifeless existence.
So many paintings came to mind as I watched the tulips unfurl. But which would be my composition. Closed or open? Silhouette or frontal? One or many? Natural sunshine or artificial light? Solid or textured background? Large or small?
So I played with the tulips. Wallowing in their beauty. They seeped into my soul and brought the winter to an end for me.
Being an Artist allows me to create my own reality, my own season, my own vision of how I view the normal. It brings comfort to my soul.
Being an Artist allows me to create my own reality, my own season, my own vision of how I view the normal. It brings comfort to my soul.
Join us Sunday, July 9, 2017 for another exciting event in the picturesque Village of Northport, NY. This multi-disciplinary annual event will be held in the Village Park surrounded by the lush tableau of water, boats, trees, playgrounds and the old time Village feel of another, calmer and genteel era.
There will be music, dance, poetry and of course, near and dear to my heart, Fine Artists and Artisans.
I will be showing my Flower and Garden Paintings with a few additional surprises!
Mary Ahern Artist booth in The Northport Art in the Park annual eventCome to see these exciting events and enjoy a visual feast of The Arts.
Location: Northport Village Park
When: Sunday, July 9, 2017
Time: 10:00AM – 5:00PM
For additional information visit: The Northport Arts Coalition website.
My muse, I would say, is my garden. Other gardens as well, but my garden in particular. I move in it, feel it, and hear the breezes whisper through it. I watch the lighting during the day as it slides over and around the textured surfaces.
Lighting so different on days with sun and with clouds. Lighting in the spring with the bright yellow greens of optimistic new growth and lighting by the fall with ambers & tans of a lived life. Morning light offers tender ambiance while afternoon colors not only light the scene from a different direction, the colors are deeper and warmer.
My garden brings consciousness and meaning to me. It keeps me grounded. The ephemeral beauty of an unfertilized blossom studied up close with magnifiers and macro lenses is a representation of a miracle. The world of possibility. The beginning of a story I represent in my Art. I walk through my garden gathering ideas. Stories I want to tell. Suggested ideas I want to convey.
In my garden I spend time designing the landscape or I spend time closely and intimately with a singular specimen at a particular stage of growth. In my studio I may paint a vignette or a full landscape view of a part of the garden I’ve designed, or I may choose to paint a small portion of one flower that has moved me. The minute miracle. This is my work. Outdoors and indoors. These are the stories I tell. This is my Art.
This Fine Art is available in the original Mixed Media Painting and also as a Limited Edition Enhanced Canvas Print. Please visit my Safe and Secure Store to check pricing, availability and pricing. You won’t be disappointed!
Buy either of these Designer Prints and
I will donate 20% of the Sale to the Susan G. Komen Foundation.
Kansas Peonies or Bleeding Heart – Designer Prints
Why I am making this offer.
First of all, I have too many girlfriends who have been afflicted by this disease. Neither age, nor healthy lifestyle choices seem to have deterred this onslaught.
I am angry and disgusted!
Why these two flowers?
As I traveled to various states doing Fine Arts Festivals over the years, I realized that an unusual number of women were buying these pretty pink flower prints for themselves, their sisters, mothers or girlfriends. During conversations, I began to be aware of how many of my Pink Botanical Prints were being given as gifts to women struggling with Breast Cancer.
I decided to do something about it.
I will donate 20% of the profits from the Sale of either of these two Floral Prints to the Komen foundation to go towards research to help find a cure for this dreaded disease.
When I returned to the Mystic Outdoor Art Festival a year after my previous visit, a customer stopped by my booth to tell me that she had bought a large framed Kansas Peony piece from me the previous year and that she had hung it opposite her bed so it would be the first thing she saw each morning during her challenging year.
I was so moved by this. I was proud to support her in her struggle.
Order either of these prints in whatever size you choose from me directly and I promise to make the appropriate donation to the Susan G. Komen for the Cure foundation.
Wikipedia Information About The Susan G. Komen Foundation.
The Susan G. Komen Foundation gives so much help and supportive information to women at their most vulnerable time!
Susan G. Komen for the Cure, is an organization supporting breast cancer research. Since its inception in 1982, Komen has raised over $1 billion for research, education and health services, making it the largest breast cancer charity in the US. Komen has more than 75,000 volunteers nationwide — 122 affiliates in the United States (47 of 50 states) and 3 in other countries.
Susan Goodman Komen was a woman from Peoria, Illinois who was diagnosed with breast cancer at the age of 33 and died three years later, in 1980.Komen’s younger sister, Nancy Goodman Brinker, feeling that Susan’s outcome might have been better if patients knew more about cancer and its treatment, and remembering a promise to her sister that she would find a way to speed up breast cancer research, founded The Susan G. Komen Breast Cancer Foundation in Komen’s memory in 1982.In 2007, the 25th anniversary of the organization, it changed its name to Susan G. Komen for the Cure, created a new logo, and adopted the explicit mission “to end breast cancer forever”.
I was asked to do an informational interview by Misty Swan who is working on her college Art degree. Here are her questions and my responses. This interview was done via email.
- Please state your name, the name of your business, city and state you live in, and your profession.
Name: Mary Ahern
Business names: Mary Ahern Artist, Reimagined Memories, Fine Art for the Garden and ondesign.com, a website design business.
Place: Northport NY.
Profession: Professional Artist
- How long have you been pursuing photography and painting?
I began painting & photography in the mid-1970’s.
- What excites you the most about photography and painting?
Creating something out of thin air that no one else had ever seen in the same way that I had.
- How much training and education have you received in your field?
- I graduated with a BA in Fine Arts from Queens College in NY in 1980. During the 70’s, Feminist Art work was on the rise as was Photo-Realism along with many other avant-garde styles. Most of my professors had studios in SOHO, which at the time was the center of the NY art scene. We were encouraged to frequent the galleries, set up interviews with artists and critics and generally be involved in some way with the art scene.
- After college, and not wanting to starve, I built a career selling computer graphics platforms to the TV broadcast & production industries. In order to sell this technology I had to learn all the graphics & electronic paint systems . Training was provided on the job but I brought my Art background with me.
- Because of my love of gardens and flowers in 2000 I earned an AAS degree in Ornamental Horticulture exactly twenty years after my BA in Fine Art.
- To brush up on my drawing skills I returned to school for a 2 year diploma/certification in Botanical Illustration from the New York Botanical Garden graduating in 2004
- A week never goes by that I don’t take an online webinar in either painting, software or marketing. I have taken so many webinars & seminars over many, many years that it’s too hard to count. I believe in life-long learning.
- In 2015 I took a 1 year mentorship program in portrait painting from an artist like myself who is based in Louisiana. He pushed me out of my comfort zone to paint people. There is always more to learn, to grow, to expand.
- How did you choose your field of photography and painting?
I don’t really understand the question. Do you really choose a field of painting style or does it choose you? My work has evolved as I evolved.
- How has the field of photography and painting changed since you started?
This question is really answerable in a dissertation, but here is a snippet.
I believe that technology has changed the field of photography the most. With the introduction of digital cameras the access to photography has reached a greater cohort of people. Mobile phone cameras have grown the accumulation of images exponentially but not necessarily artistically. The bar has been lowered to what the general public assumes is Art.
The field of painting has been less affected by the introduction of electronic paint systems since they, up until now at least, are still not in general use. Also, all the same rules of painting apply to digital as to traditional. It is just another medium in which to work.
- What are the most important skills to have in order to be successful in this field?
I am a great communicator, a salesperson, a marketing person. If I didn’t have these skills my Art would accumulate in my closets.
- What do you dislike about this field?
I dislike that many potential clients undervalue our work since they have the insane belief that we paint for fun and relaxation. Those are the ones that don’t understand the difference between a Professional Artist and a person who paints as a hobby.
- What is your most interesting photo shoot or painting?
I am always drawn to my garden for inspiration. The closer I paint the flowers the better. The colors are rich, the forms are voluptuous, the textures challenging.
- What are the things that keep you passionate and motivated in your field?
I constantly reach to learn more. A week never goes by that I don’t learn something new or refresh my knowledge base. I read Art books, I take webinars, I read Art blogs, I go to Art Shows & museums. I am always in a learning mode.
- Do you have any words of wisdom for someone entering this field of work?
One thing I was never taught in Art school was how to make a living from my Art. I used my own mental creativity to zig and zag myself into a career in the visual arts.
It is very rare for painters and photographers to make a really decent living from just the narrow vision of what they view as their Art. I had to step outside of my comfort zone in order to support my family but because I did it creatively, I was able to maintain a career with a tangential relationship to the Arts & also maintain a working studio.
As Artists we are creative people. Living creatively doesn’t mean that one has to be a starving Artist. In fact by thinking creatively and widely, you can have a profitable & emotionally fulfilled career. Enjoy!