Many years ago, I was invited to an art exhibition at a private club by a friend. I thought it was an interesting venue for an art show but did not think much of it until I walked through the doors of this majestic building. Situated in the Loop area of Chicago, the Union League Club is a few blocks west of Michigan Avenue at Jackson Boulevard and Federal, across the street from the Federal Building. It is in an important neighborhood. A neighborhood where history is being made on a daily basis.
In reading about the history of the Club, I learned that it traces its roots back to the time of the Civil War in 1962 when a group of 11 men came together in Pekin, Illinois (along the Illinois River) to form the first council of the Union League of America. They soon began to focus on providing medical supplies, nurses and advocating for the abolition of slavery. These were people who cared deeply about their community, their country and the freedoms provided by our constitution.
The history of the Union League Club is so vast and profound that I am in awe of the accomplishments of the membership over the last 140 years. Their original principle to support the arts and beautification of the city was an integral part of the mission of this venerable institution. The ULCC not only supports cultural institutions, but has become one in its own right. Since 1886, the Club has collected nearly 800 works of art, from Claude Monet to Grant Wood, Ivan Albright, John James Audubon, Hollis Sigler, Roger Brown, Richard Hunt, Barbara Crane, Ed Paschke and Theaster Gates to name a few. The Club was named by the Chicago Tribune "The Other Art Institute." For many years I could only have hoped to be included in this stellar roster of artists the Union League Club has exhibited.
As early as 1893, Chicago gained recognition as a world-class city when it hosted the World's Columbian Exposition. Daniel Burnham, an early member of the Club, invited 10 members of the ULCC into the 13 member Columbian Exposition board. The Club members were instrumental in having Chicago named as the site of the exposition by the United States Congress. Since that time, ULCC Members have played a role in establishing many of the city's cultural organizations, including Orchestra Hall and the Field Museum. They also founded The Boys and Girls Club of Chicago.
I love what this club stands for. These are people who care. They care about their community, their country and the world. It's not just a good old boys club. There are many of those. Throughout the years, the membership has "upheld the sacred obligations of citizenship, promoted honesty and efficiency in government, supported cultural institutions and the beautification of the city and supported our nation’s military and their families. Through the efforts of its dynamic membership, the Club has been a catalyst for action in nonpartisan political, economic and social arenas – focusing its leadership and resources on important social issues."
Speaking of important social issues, the Union League Club has honored me by showcasing my paintings that bring attention to the millions of pounds of plastic weighing down our oceans, killing our marine life and releasing toxins into the air we breathe. Water is an essential part of our existence. It IS the essence of life. Our earth is made up of 70% water and our bodies are made up of 70% water. I wonder if that really is a coincidence.
We are the caretakers of our planet. It is not enough to think on local, national or global terms anymore. I believe we must think in universal terms. Because if our planet goes to hell, so will we. I love our earth, our oceans, our forests and our beautiful cities. I want to do whatever I can to make my little space a better place to live. And if each one of us lives a conscious life, caring for our actions and being an example to our children, our friends and neighbors, maybe they, too, will do the same.
"The Union League Club of Chicago believes in the freedom to choose a lifestyle and in paving a path for a better city and a better nation. This freedom exists through the support of three foundations, maintaining a public affairs department that pushes for change in local, state and federal government, and collecting and showcasing some of the finest Midwest and American art in the country."
I have waited for many years for this opportunity. Please join me in celebration for the opening reception of my solo exhibition I FLOW LIKE WATER at the Union League Club of Chicago on Thursday, October 5th, 5:30 to 7:00 pm in the Third Floor Gallery located at 65 West Jackson Boulevard, Chicago. The exhibition will run through the end of October.
Take a look at this special on WTTW Chicago Tonight about the stellar art collection of the Union League Club of Chicago.
Thirty years ago, I traveled to Taiwan to meet the most famous artist of the country, A Sun Woo. He was a formidable artist, having lived with indigenous tribes six months of each year in Africa to living with the cannibals in Papua New Guinea. He invited me to a country club to meet with him. Once there, I witnessed the figure of my friend sitting on top of a 20 foot scaffold, working on a monumental painting in black and white. His work was reminiscent of DeKooning, very abstract expressionistic and powerful. That vision of A-Sun creating that gigantic painting like in The Agony and the Ecstasy was that magic instant for me when I knew I wanted to create awe-inspiring magic on canvas.
I was given the opportunity this past summer by GERDING EDLEN DEVELOPMENT, a Portland-based real estate investment firm whose motto is: PEOPLE, PLANET, PROSPERITY. Social Impact is an important part of their commitment to "OWNING, OPERATING AND DEVELOPING VIBRANT PROPERTIES THAT POSITIVELY ENHANCE OUR COMMUNITIES, NEIGHBORHOODS AND THE PLANET." This was a perfect pairing to my work with recycled plastics in trying to bring awareness to the state of our environment,
I had worked with them before, when they built THE JONES, another LEED Certified Gold building designated by the United States Green Building Council. They had asked me to submit some works by a number of the artists we represent at Hilton Asmus Contemporary. A short while later, I receive a note asking me to forward images from my MULTIVERSE series. I sent them and received a note back saying, "Arica, it's you we want! Can you paint an 8 x 18 foot oil on canvas for the lobby of our new development going up in the West Loop?"
They chose two of my Multiverse paintings as examples and commissioned me to paint the BIG ONE. The assignment was to paint a color field study in oranges and yellows. My summer of 2017 was spent first having an 8 x 18 foot canvas made. That was an engineering marvel. It had to be assembled and disassembled 3 times. Once the canvas was stretched, the layering process began with the designated colors: cadmium orange, cadmium orange pure, red orange, yellow orange and every existing orange paint imaginable. And then the yellows: lemon yellow, cadmium yellow, cadmium yellow pure, cadmium yellow medium pure, Radiant yellow, Naples yellow, pure and hues and so on. There were endless combinations of orange and yellow that It was an interesting journey. I learned more about the two colors in that short time than I had in all the years of painting.
When I received the commission, the building had not been built yet. Although I had the architectural drawings, I had no idea how it was going to really look until a few days before the installation. Would the light on the painting be similar to the light in my studio. Would the colors translate differently in its new home? Will they like it? As simple as the colors appear, I painted endless layers of oranges and yellows weaving in and out of one another. I loved the color scheme because it reminded me of the orange and lemon orchards of my childhood on the Mediterranean.
Orange combines the energy of red and the happiness of yellow. It is associated with joy, sunshine, and the tropics. Orange represents enthusiasm, fascination, happiness, creativity, determination, attraction, success, encouragement, and stimulation.
To the human eye, orange is a very hot color, so it gives the sensation of heat. Nevertheless, orange is not as aggressive as red. Orange increases oxygen supply to the brain, produces an invigorating effect, and stimulates mental activity. As a citrus color, orange is associated with healthy food and stimulates appetite. Orange is the color of fall and harvest. It is symbolic of strength and endurance.
Much in common with orange, yellow is another citrus color and the color of sunshine. It is associated with joy, happiness, intellect, and energy. It produces a warming effect, arouses cheerfulness, stimulates mental activity, and generates muscle energy. Yellow is usually found to be uplifting, increasing confidence and optimism. It is the color of life energy and associated with awakening and inspiration.
It is not often an artist is afforded the opportunity to make such a bold statement. I painted monumental paintings before that are hanging in public spaces. My 10 foot painting UNIVERSE, Life Unlimited, hangs in the lobby of the outpatient center of Mount Sinai Hospital. Thousands of people walk by it on a daily basis. It is very gratifying feeling. But this one was different. It was not only in the interior of the space, it was visible from the street. People can see it when they walk or drive by the building during the day and even more so after dark. How wonderful is that?
With gratitude to my team: Dan Corwith, Michael Whelan and Patrick Lyne. They did a stellar job in reassembling the canvas onsite! It took nearly 4 hours to for the install process! Patience, faith and expertise! So many facets involved in painting this. The bones of this painting, the frame and hand milled French cleats on the back are a work of art in themselves!
I was hoping to take a break and maybe go somewhere with sand between my toes and taste the oranges of the orchards and the yellow of the sun on my face, but no go. I am in my studio preparing for my upcoming show at the Union League Club of Chicago on October 5th. I have waited for many years for the honor to exhibit my works at this venerable club with one of the finest collections of art in the country. But the irony is, they asked me for smaller paintings! Seriously! What would be considered small after becoming so intimate with an 8 x 18 foot canvas? I had forgotten that 18 feet is not your everyday size!
So now is the test. Come by the Union League Club on October 5th and you can see the transformation from 18 feet to 18 inches! But seriously, there will be a few paintings that are normal size. :-)
Nationally-renowned multi-media artist helps grow Greenheart community. Meet the newest Greenheart International spokesperson, Arica Hilton....
We are so excited to introduce the newest spokesperson for Greenheart International, nationally-renowned multi-media artist, Arica Hilton.
“The objective of my art and what I see is the objective of Greenheart is aligned perfectly. It’s sort of like aligned in the stars. I feel fortunate to have a voice in the artistic community, and will be using this voice to showcase the contributions of peace-building, tolerance, and love that Greenheart has made to our local and global communities,” says Arica.
Arica believes that artists do the hard work of raising awareness about issues that may go under the radar. She presents these issues in such a way that allows light to be shown rather than darkness. She says this mission of hers and the mission of Greenheart is interconnected.
“I was born on the mediterranean coast of Turkey and we came to America when I was 6 years old. My mother married an American in the air force and that’s how we came here.”
Arica’s desire to build monuments to the human spirit led her on a journey through architecture and design, poetry and ultimately art. One of her current environmentally conscious projects utilizes recycled water bottles. “I began infusing the plastic into my oils and it turned into something really spectacular,” said Arica. In a true cycle of life, the water bottles became the water in her paintings.
Travel is Arica’s great inspiration and education. “I wouldn’t be the person I am if I hadn’t traveled as much as I have and learned about other cultures. And learned about what it is that they believe and honoring that,” she says. “When I learn to understand where your mind is coming from and what your thoughts are, I can learn more about you and the rest of the world and we can learn to come together and work together. I think that’s the key.”
This pursuit of education is what led Arica to Greenheart. “At Greenheart, you’re transforming minds and those minds are going to transform the world. When I learned about all of the work that Greenheart does and all of the different branches, it all led towards one thing and that’s making this world a better place by education,” she says. “The children enjoy learning and giving back and if you teach them that from the beginning, you teach them empathy and compassion. If you couple that with serious education, you’re going to have some beautiful global leaders who are going to take the world into the next century.”
Arica will help grow the Greenheart family by holding a special gallery event on March 16, 2017 from 5:30-8:00pm at the Hilton-Asmus Gallery in Chicago. The event will unveil some of her newest pieces, featuring recycled plastic, and will share more about the roles she and Greenheart are playing in shaping a more peaceful and sustainable world.
“People want to know that there are organizations doing the hard work. Greenheart does the work from the bottom up. You’re developing these children and I think people want to know that. They want to support organizations like that.”
My mother grew up in Turkey in the 1950’s. What I loved most about her was her flowing hair that reached down to her waist when she was a young girl. She reminded me of a goddess from the old Hollywood movies.
I remember watching her apply her makeup in the mirror, praying that one day, I would be beautiful, like her. There is a photo of my mother that looks like a Botticelli Venus. It is how I want to remember her forever and ever.
When I think about my mother’s hair, I think about what it means to be woman. Lately, I have wanted to embrace my femininity. But what does that really mean? Often, as women, we veil our own true selves to appear a certain way to others. I find that we are all actors in some way in every situation.
We can’t be “too feminine” lest we not be taken seriously. We can’t be “too masculine” because that would make us threatening to both male and female. Women, in general, are programmed to please others, to nurture, to love, to give way. They are strong and resilient in the face of adversity, complex, intuitive and empathetic.
There was a time when the female image was revered and worshipped. Ancient cultures came from a matriarchal society, where the creative, holistic feminine right brain ruled, in contrast to the linear and analytical masculine left brain. Eventually, the matriarchal society of the goddess evolved to patriarchy.
In The Alphabet versus the Goddess, author Leonard Schlain contrasts the feminine right-brain teachings of Buddha and Jesus to the masculine thought process that evolved when the human brain began the act of writing. He asserts that one of the visible ways women lost their power was by having to cover their hair, or in some cases, cut their hair off once they were married because the hair was considered a thing of beauty.
Is a woman’s hair her power? Think about the story of Samson and Delilah. Samson’s power was in his hair. And when it was cut off, he lost his strength. But hair is symbolic of a deeper issue. The issue is our free will. A women’s right to choose how she wants to live her life, how she wants to appear to others, but most of all, how she perceives her identity stems from our free will.
On March 8, we celebrate International Women’s Day, a global day of recognition for the economic, political and social achievements of women; we celebrate our strength, courage and resilience. Women are critical for the advancement of peace and democracy in a world where inequalities continue to exist across every aspect of our lives.
How I ask, is this possible in the 21st century? Haven’t human beings evolved to a higher realm of consciousness? How do we change this?
These questions fueled my fire of wanting to be part of a socially just and kind world. But what could I, one person, do, in the face of the hardships that so many women endure throughout the world?
Over the years, I have met numerous heroic women who are not afraid to do the work to create a world of parity for all.
One organization that welcomed me many years was the International Women Associates (IWA), a not for profit established in 1978 in the living room of a dashing woman with a Katherine Hepburn accent. Doe Thornburg. Doe Thornburg founded IWA to connect women who were either born or lived outside of the United States, or who traveled extensively as Americans and had diverse international backgrounds and cultures.
When I asked Doe what made her establish this group of women, her response was, “I wanted to start it on a spiritual basis, believing that everyone is a sacred person. You must understand that everyone is equally worthy of their highest self.”
Today, IWA has nearly 500 members from 60 countries. They share their experiences and global understanding through programs that encourage cross-cultural exchanges and most of all, friendship. They share the mission of establishing universal human rights, especially for women and girls. Doe Thornburg remains a compelling visionary for women, forever an elegant and gifted speaker at 94.
IWA was the beginning of my initiation to what it means to be a global woman. Born in another country and raised in the United States since I was 6 years of age, I recall wanting to belong like my natural born friends. I was embarrassed to be a foreigner with olive skin (something I now cherish as a friendly elixir for the years on my face!) and my mother speaking to me in our language in front of my friends. On the school bus, obnoxious little boys would take my seat and call me Mexican, as though it was an expletive. I wanted to respond, “I am not Mexican. I am Turkish.” But that would have been even worse, since they had no concept of geography and would have called me a turkey! Children can be so cruel. Oh, how I embraced my Mexican friends, who never had an unkind word for me. I was an American citizen who still felt like an outsider living far from the beautiful Mediterranean coast that no longer held a spot for me either. I had no roots.
As I grew older, I met my first real international friends at university and immediately felt at home. My ugly duckling demeanor vanished along with my insecurity and baby fat, and I blossomed into a secure young woman; determined to surround myself with a myriad of cultures.
What began with my education in college congealed into a sense of family with the women from IWA. They confirmed my American-ness in a way that embraced patriotism and my Turkish roots. The IWA cultural programs opened channels of discourse about global injustices endured by women and girls. These injustices persist but thankfully many men and women are working together are making inroads.
Women are powerful but cannot do this alone. We need to educate men at an early age to support women if we are to ensure that children are raised to respect and honor one another’s sanctity. Otherwise, there will always be a wall between the two genders.
When we celebrate the collective potential of women, as the following examples do, women are powerful game-changers. There are many women and men who are doing the work, carving a manifesto of equality for all.
Nobel peace prize winner, Muhammad Yunus, reaffirms this in his in his book, Creating a World Without Poverty. Yunus promotes micro-financing as a powerful way to bridge the poverty gap for women who struggle to achieve economic and social parity. Giving loan money to people who had nothing, especially to women, translated into a repayment rate of over 98%. This value proposition is echoed in the Half the Sky Movement, where “Women comprise 70 percent of the world’s poorest people and own only 1 percent of the titled land.” Statistically, 80% of income earned by women goes back to the family, but only 30% of money earned by men is reinvested.
Laura Rose, CEO and cofounder of Greenheart International, emerged into my life serendipitously one spring evening as I was setting up an outdoor sign in front of my gallery. We became fast friends as she explained to me the work she and her husband, Emmanuel Kuntzleman, do with Greenheart, a not for profit supporting a variety of initiatives that connect people and planet to create global change.
Laura and Emmanuel are dedicated to raising environmental awareness, promoting cultural understanding and advocating for world peace. Since 1985, they have partnered with some 250 organizations in 97 countries, providing educational opportunities and scholarships that teach young people to become world leaders.
I think of the love chakra when I hear the words “green heart.” This is exactly what Laura told me when I asked about her inspiration and goals in life.
“The creation of Greenheart was an act of love, of our love for humanity and all of its enormous potential. When we focus that potential to empower young people to not only enrich their own lives, but the lives of others, amazing acts of generosity and kindness occur. We accomplish this by helping to expose our communities, families and participants to the values of social justice and environmental sustainability, creating opportunities for self-reflection in which powerful shifts in perspective occur.”
We have gone far in the last one hundred years, yet there is still much work to do. International Women’s Day celebrates and honors the essence of that which is woman. We celebrate the grandeur of our mothers and grandmothers, and our daughters and granddaughters. We honor those women who do not have the opportunities of education or freedom to choose their lives and live it in peace and serenity.
Although International Women’s Day celebrates women, the day also recognizes empathy, compassion, and overwhelming love. By advocating for justice, opportunity and freedom, we celebrate all humankind.
Michael Ondaatje, in his novel The English Patient, wrote, “We die containing a richness of lovers and tribes, tastes we have swallowed, bodies we have plunged into and swum up as if rivers of wisdom, characters we have climbed into as if trees, fears we have hidden in as if caves….We are communal histories, communal books. We are not owned or monogamous in our taste or experience.”
Can art really change the way we see the world? I’m counting on it. Lately, I find myself turning off the news and searching for richer, meaningful content. I’m not suggesting art is an elixir for solving humanity’s problems, but I do know wildly popular platforms like Instagram and Pinterest satisfy a hunger for art and are correlated to our collective desire to be happy.
WomanScape is founded on this underlying belief that art builds conversation and informs the mind. So what better time than February to share its transformative powers. In Italy, February ushers in a month-long Carnival of dancing and parades, and New Orleans kicks up its heels for Mardi Gras. China’s New Year celebrations peak in February before floating out to sea in a moonlit serenade of white lanterns, while Hollywood’s Screen Actors Guild honors the best in film.
But what if we bypass the hoopla of golden Oscars and huge festivals, and consider the gender lens in art creation? In its first month-long series, WomanScape honors “Woman as Creator” (think Mother Earth here), and spotlights four uber-talented artists whose dynamic work is turning heads.
We start with a big bang as our first featured artist takes us deep into the universe, its constellation of stars, and the rich, poetry-filled, pages of history. The art of Turkish poet and painter Arica Hilton is as grand in scale as her mythical journey. Arica invites us into her illuminating quest for larger truths about our existence and understanding of self in what can only be called a fantastical tour de force!
Picture standing outside the Chicago Field Museum of Natural History and looking into the starry night sky. The majestic scale of the museum is accentuated by the magical array of gigantic bright images – text, ancient symbols, numerology, and animal images – that stream across its classical Greek columns and pediments. A clear, strong voice rings out. Arica Hilton is perched and Venus-like on a speaking podium, reciting Canto 1 of Dante Alighieri’s “Divine Comedy” poem.
This performance piece is surreal. It imaginatively blends poems from 14th century Italy with a modern light show by acclaimed artist, Marco Nereo Rotelli. The stylized images and reincarnated words mesmerize audiences gathered out front and listening to the curated series. Poems and songs, all from the Cantos of INFERNO, are read in Greek, French, Turkish, Portuguese, Arabic, Hebrew, Italian and Spanish like a harmonized Tower of Babel.
The “DIVINA NATURA” performance is just one of many spectacular shows Arica has curated as past president of the Poetry Center of Chicago in 2013. Her innovative talent for melding past and present is echoed in the weaving strokes of her paint brush and her creative gift for poetry. Both present a luminescent tapestry of storied history as effortless as cool waters trickling down a verdant hill. In them, we escape to another world.
Her paintings illustrate the subtleties of her gift as we slide through soft, easy movements focused on elemental forces like water, earth, wind, and sky images. But don’t be deceived by their quiet ability to disarm and penetrate. Much like a beautiful Venus-fly-trap, they force us to look for meaning in these same life forces.
This theme, a communion between nature and self, is central to all of Arica’s work and underscored in her “One Day Like Rain” masterpiece. It ambitiously captures the tranquility and balance of our human existence, and its effect reminds me of Monet’s “Water Lilies” series where I am invited into its light and freedom.
Not all of Arica’s work has the same easy effect, as seen in her “Infinity Has Bounds Only to Infinity”. The journey is more intrepid and mysterious, subtly softened by the emerging underbelly of light. The didactic textural sweeps and unbridled energy are introspective and transcend the physicality of her work. I literally catch myself trying to see beyond the light, as I reach for the stars and hope the energy will leap into my heart.
This palpable exuberance is akin to the defibrillator jolt of caffeine I get from my morning coffee – a cup I could swim in and a feeling I wish I could maintain throughout the day! But the difference is my coffee moves me to function and Arica’s art welcomes me into the larger universe. I am connected to something bigger than myself and weigh my purpose-filled place within it.
No wonder actress Nora Dunn used Arica’s “Universe, Life Unlimited” painting in her performance piece at Chicago’s Wit Theater in 2013. This famed actress and Saturday Night Live comedian insisted Arica’s painting was a character in her play because it provoked universal questions about who we are, where we come from and how we exist in harmony in the natural world.
This existential process flows from Arica’s Turkish roots, a country where East meets West as Turkey straddles the Bosphorus Strait (a boundary line between Europe and Asia). The luminescent effect in Arica’s painting mirrors this duality, given her love of the European Romanticists and her exploration of Eastern philosophies centered on mindfulness and meaning.
Coveted by collectors around the world who applaud her expressive language and music, Arica’s art is tranquil, calm and light. As a gallery owner in Chicago, she promotes a host of other artists who cultivate curiosity and self-expression as she continues on her explorative journey. (You can see more at: www.hiltonasmus.com)
As we look to the future and art for inspiration, Arica’s ambitious “American Icon” painting hits a final high note. It’s a retrospective of American history using carefully selected images from Albert Bierstadt’s “Oregon Trail”.
While Bierstadt’s original piece depicts America’s frontier beginnings, Arica reimagines it in our modern world by infusing it with our legacy of great moments, movements, and monuments. Timeline events like Facebook and the omnipresence of Google in the painting demonstrate our new age frontier spirit – a modern extension of the American Dream.
Thanks to Arica, this continued pursuit of freedoms and safeties is a reminder of the steadfast strength of the human spirit, especially during turbulent times. Art will always be an individual experience but our pursuit of happiness is universally significant, collective and true.
Rose McInerney is a passionate storyteller, published writer, and international traveler. She explores the impact of women across landscapes and throughout time, spotlighting interesting comparisons while celebrating lives well-lived. Her background in teaching and strategic management consulting, reveals the beauty, connectivity and humor in our modern age. As the founder and CEO of WomanScape, Rose combines her love of all things deliciously-designed to connect women to a shared community of learning and a richer, more fulfilled self.
Nearly two years in the making, AMERICAN ICON is a monumental painting in homage to the country that is the United States of America. With today's crazy world of politics, with so many questioning the greatness of this country, I thought the time was ripe to unveil a vision of what America means, not only to me, but to so many of you who have seen the rise of many of the iconic symbols that are identifiable strictly as American.
America is not only a leader on the geopolitical arena, but in its culture, technology, inventiveness and its inner and outer struggle to be a model of democracy. There is no "perfect" nation in this world. But America, comes close. VERY CLOSE! This is a nation that gave the world the Bill of Rights, and a constitution "of the people and for the people." It is a nation that was built on the dreams and aspirations of people from all over the world. Dr. Martin Luther King's famous words, "I have a dream..." was not only speaking to the African Americans in this country, he was speaking to every human being in existence, that dream we all have, of freedom and justice for all. If you ask me what is the greatest country in this world? I can tell you in five words. THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA.
It's easy for me to say this, because I was not born here. I was born in another country that has its own demons to conquer. (And that's another story!) A beautiful country that is surrounded by the sapphire waters of the Mediterranean, the Aegean and the Black Seas.
But for now, I want to talk about the history of this country as it pertains to the innovators, the support it gives to people who have ideas, great or small, and the ability of an individual to rise above their station and transcend to any height they dare to dream. Only in America is this possible. Yes, we may all be exhausted from the nastiness of this presidential election. We may be searching our souls to find a reason for all of the division that is happening in this great land of liberty. But to be honest with you, I think this is what makes this country so great. It still is the land of liberty, the fact that we can all agree to disagree and still be friends. Yes, really, we can be friends! I came from a family that taught me to respect everyone's opinions, everyone's religion, everyone's color and everyone cultural habits. And so, here I am, trying to show everything I can think of about this country that gave it the title "Greatest Country In The World." In pictures....
Mouse to Marilyn Monroe, Frank Sinatra and John Wayne; The Wright Brothers to Pan Am (the first airline I ever flew on); Twitter, Apple, Microsoft, Google; Babe Ruth to Hank Aaron; the Native Americans who were here before us; Frank Lloyd Wright's "Fallingwater" to the Skyscrapers of today; Explorer I to the First Man on the Moon; Immigrants to the Conestoga Wagons that defined the pioneer spirit; Mark Twain to the Model T to the Mustang, the Pink Cadillac, the 1953 Corvette and Elvis.....These are all AMERICAN ICONS.
After many months, I am excited to announce the completion of my short film from the I FLOW LIKE WATER series. The film recounts my philosophy of bringing nature onto canvas.
The first phase was shot in my studio, where I demonstrate my painting process on a canvas of plexiglass. My videographer did a great job of filming me painting. Nothing was rehearsed. It was all quite extemporaneous! I pulled out a piece of plexi for the shoot and just began painting. Lots of fun!
The second phase was filmed at the Alfred Caldwell Lily Pool in Lincoln Park the first week in May. For those of you not familiar with this secret little treasure, I have to thank my videographer for the introduction. It is across the street from the Lincoln Park Conservatory on the west side of Cannon Drive, just south of Fullerton. We had a great first shoot at the pond. And then, to my amazement, the following week, my videographer fell off the face of the earth!
I had seen the raw footage of the shoot at the pond, but was unable to download it. I needed to get the film to the gallery that represents me in Brussels for a presentation to their Chinese partners for my upcoming show in Suzhou. But my videographer was nowhere to be found. I knew he was planning to go out of town, ironically, to China! But did not send me the footage I needed for the completion of my film.
After weeks of no response, I decided to call Brian Sly from Emblem Media, another videographer with whom I had worked in the past. Brian had filmed and edited the Hugh Arnold video when we held the "AGUA NACIDA" exhibition in 2014. AND not only did he do a great job, he was very dependable and responsible. So we recreated the shoot once again. But this time, instead of wearing winter clothes and boots as I did in the first shoot (it was very cold that first week in May!) I was able to wear a summer dress and go barefoot in the 95 degree heat of June. Much more apropos for what I was trying to convey. And more fun!
As it turned out, the filming went much better the second time. I will be eternally grateful to my first guy for disappearing on me! I am so much happier with this second incarnation of the film. It was a wonderful exercise in remembering to FLOW LIKE WATER. Below is a quote from my Brussels exhibition catalog that sums up this philosophy:
There is a Sino-Japanese term called “unsui” which means cloud/water. It is derived from a Chinese poem “to drift like clouds, to flow like water.” Clouds attach to nothing, and so drift freely across the sky. Flowing water follows its course naturally, without resistance or hesitation. It travels down hills, flows around the rocks and slips into places where other things cannot go. It does not insist on any particular form, it takes the shape of its captor, whether a glass or an ocean. It replenishes and is integral in the growth process.
In the end, I had both the studio painting footage and the nature aspect for my film. I wanted to convey the importance of communing with nature to find inspiration, patience, clarity and most of all, peace. I certainly needed it and the experience with the first videographer was a perfect example of of learning to flow like water.
To bring all of this together, I owe a debt of gratitude to my lovely intern from SAIC, Grace Ren, for helping me with editing the footage. She did a spectacular job with piecing together the various scenes. It was a complicated job as we had so much footage from both the painting and the nature shoots. If Grace decides to go into the film industry, I think she will be a great success!
From contemplation, to writing, to drawing and painting, in the end, this film is about bringing nature into my art. I created a light box for the plexiglass painting with LED lights. The photo (right) does not do justice to the luminescence of the finished work. This is the beginning of the next evolution of my work, using plastic and acrylic sheets as canvas. I have used recycled plastic water bottles as media for many of my paintings in the past couple of years and now I have another form of plastic with which to convey my message. In addition to the paintings, I am working on PART TWO of the I FLOW LIKE WATER series - PLASTIC. That video should be ready within the next few weeks.
A little background on the pond: Across the street from the Lincoln Park Conservatory, the Alfred Caldwell Lily Pool was designed in the late 1930s by landscape architect Alfred Caldwell. It was a divine venue to become inspired. In Caldwell's signature prairie style (developed through his mentorships with Jens Jensen and Frank Lloyd Wright,) he redesigned an old Victorian pond into a one and a half acre nature sanctuary reminding us of the importance of allowing nature into our lives.
Two years ago in July, I began a painting as the backdrop for a play. It was an abstract version of an 18th century painting in the Louvre by Antoine Watteau called The Embarcation to the Island of Cythera. And why, you wonder, would I be doing a version of a Rococo painting from 1717?
Early in 2014, Jyl Bonaguro (the wonderful sculptor and playwright we represent at Hilton | Asmus Contemporary) invited me to a reading of a play she had written about a brilliant mathematician and physicist of the 18th century, who also happened to be a woman and the lover one of the most brilliant writers of the Enlightenment, Voltaire.
The play, "URANIA, The Life of Emilie Du Châtelet" was based on a biography written by Judith P. Zinsser: Émilie Du Châtelet: Daring Genius of the Enlightenment. Jyl's play was so intriguing, I offered to have a production performed at my gallery. And then, without a thought, I offered to do a painting for the backdrop! I had not really thought about what I would do, but realized it needed to be a soft, romantic, pastoral landscape.
As an artist and poet, this play about Émilie du Chatelet resonated profoundly with me because my works delve into the interconnectedness of human beings with the universe. Attempting to address the various dimensions of time & space, much like a physicist delving into theories about the inception of life, I felt a kinship to Emilie. She reminded me of Leonardo Da Vinci, not the artist, but the scientist. Emilie was driven to accomplish and discover things that heretofore had not been known by human beings.
She translated Newton's "Principia Mathematica" into French and wrote an essay on FIRE in the 18th century. Newton described how elliptical orbits work and how bodies in motion exert force upon on another. Émilie studied the nature of light and heat, especially fire which happens to be the subject matter of many of my works. When I learned about her, I was taken by her resolve to not allow herself to be lost to the culture and customs of her time. She was a pioneer, not only in the field of mathematics and physics, but a role model for women…during the 18th century and for today. In one of the last scenes in the play, she asks her friend and tutor to make sure her book is published in the event she dies in childbirth, which she did at age 43. A passionate woman, she wanted to live on through her books, her theories and her love of life.
Two years and many revisions later, the painting is finally complete. This time, I included many of Emilie's mathematical formulas on the landscape. I used Watteau's painting as a guide to the 18th century, but omitted all but two of the beautiful people gracing the island of Cythera, a romantic homage to the Greek island which is the birthplace of the goddess Venus. Watteau's painting is an homage to love, physical and carnal love, as he incorporates cupids and the pairs of lovers walking along the shore.. My painting is also about love, but it is about Emilie's love for her mathematical formula's and her research on trying to figure out how the world really works.
Voltaire loved not only her beauty, but her genius. He told everyone that he had at last found his equal. So I placed Emilie and Voltaire strolling along the canvas on the shores of the Island of Cythera, along with her beloved formulas enveloping the landscape, as it did in her life.
As Jyl became enthralled by Emilie, she passed that passion on to me, A love and respect for a woman who was ahead of her time. A woman, whose research and dedication to science, was the precursor to Einstein's Theory of Relativity. A woman who dared to be herself during a time when women were not even allowed to be educated. Today, Emilie Du Chatelet finally has the respect of her peers in scientific laboratories throughout the world. And I am just so fortunate to have encountered her through a friend who fell in love and was driven to write about her. And she transferred that love to me!
As many of you know, I recently had a wonderful solo exhibition in Brussels, Belgium. My next international exhibition will be in the magical city of Suzhou, China (also known as the Venice of the East.) With its waterways, canals and gardens, Suzhou is the perfect venue for the "I FLOW LIKE WATER" series, inspired by my ongoing fascination and respect for water and the environment.
My exhibition in Brussels closes this weekend. If you happen to be in or near Brussels, I hope you will stop by to see my works at Qu Art , one of the most gorgeous galleries located at 41 Avenue Legrand in Ixelles.
In the meantime, I invite you this Friday evening (January 8) to my studio in Chicago at Hilton Asmus Contemporary for a visit to see the current body of water works for Suzhou, along with AMERICAN ICON, a monumental 6 x 12 ft painting of how the world views AMERICA.
Thanks to all who have supported Hilton | Asmus Contemporary, Hilton |Asmus Foto and especially for those of you who have encouraged me and stood beside me, holding my hand through the days and nights of preparing for openings while still trying to retain a small part of my own creative identity. I am grateful. To my collectors and friends, I could not have done it without you. Thank you, thank you, thank you!