Hiding/showing

Had an interesting encounter this morning.

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While outside with my coffee photographing new work for the show at Solo bar. Rolled out of bed 10 minutes ago. Cigarette in my pocket to smoke before going back up inside.

An older gentleman walks past, then backtracks to have some words. Short, kind, eyes locked on mine. Offers some advice. Takes a few minutes trying to remind me of a certain painting, which I eventually deciphered as “the Scream” by Munsch. “The Shout? It’s famous. It’s like this” – he holds a pantomime speakerphone up to his… ear, opening his mouth wide and staring at me, waiting to get the connection. It looks nothing like the painting. There are two kinds of art. He says. Art like that, and then art like mine. “That dark, tortured art. Then yours. Yours is the art of flowers” he says. I accept the compliment. Then he goes on:

“I live in the world of light. Do you?”

I nod, I guess, agreeing that my work is of a different flavor than, well, the “Scream.”

“I try” I say.

“You. You try. I live.” He replies, slowly. Meaningfully. Repetitively. “That’s the difference. I live fully in the light. May I?” He kneels down with me – until now I’ve been squatting on the sidewalk, shuffling through the large watercolor sheets, and he bends down to spread out my artwork. Not very carefully, I notice – but I relax and let him look.

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“Japanese,” he says, nodding. “This is nice, the hands, the drawing…” but his finger goes up to the shock of black hair hiding an otherwise naked and splayed out figure – “Why are you hiding? What are you hiding from?” He spreads out the other pieces I have – five in all. “In all these pictures you’re looking away. Why aren’t you facing the light?”

I cringe. “I hide the face for many reasons” I say. I wasn’t expecting an art critique so shortly after dragging myself out of bed. I start spitting out a short list, automatic, robotic:

“A lot of my work is like this. I’m interested in nakedness, and tattoos, and revealing and covering what we choose. By leaving out the face I add some anonymity – and the less you show, the more likely you are going to connect to the figure. It could be someone you know. I think we decide really quickly what we love and what we don’t by getting caught up in the details. Without a face the piece is more approachable, and there’s an invitation to help be a part of this story. I think it is entirely up to us to show what we want – I think it’s really interesting that you feel personally cheated … Blah, blah blah… art school jargon is still spilling out of my mouth when I’m interrupted.

“Slow down.” I now realized he had old ears – “Slow down, give me a chance to get a taste of your ideas.” I got excited there for a moment, listening to myself talk and actually, just talking to myself – and forgot he was even listening. Or maybe, surprised that he was trying. This guy is big into eye contact and pointing and speaking slowly, so that his wisdom can fully penetrate my young, eager ears.

“I was a waiter for 30 years.” He says, meaningfully.

“A what?” I heard writer, or reader, or, I dunno.

“A waiter.” He enunciates. I agree, that’s a great profession. A very important and rewarding job. One that I actually really loved. I was one for seven. So?

“So I know people. And you’re hiding something. What are you hiding from? I live in the light.” Here he opens his arms wide in a gentle shrug, gesturing towards all of the glory of the surrounding shrubbery. “I’m a spiritual man. I live for family, for God, for light. Why are you hiding from that? Why don’t you show yourself? Why not open yourself up?”

I’m being patient, but I’m kind of ruffled, despite myself. I feel like he thinks I owe him something.

“This is you.” He points at the art, then at me. “This. Is. Where. You. Are.” Slow, full of intention, and I nod slowly, impatient. My feet are right here. Can’t you see that I’m right here? I blurt:

“You know, I could make something that is pretty, idealistic, just like a fairytale” – I also gesture to the square hedges – and here I reveal my jaded, dead soul – “but I’m not interested in that.” I pause. Trying to match his slow pace. “I’m interested in tension. In imperfections, in reality.” I’m imagining his idea of art being full of rainbows and Caucasian children dancing in an open field of flowers. With birds. Yeah. And butterflies. And sunbeams. That’s not fair to him. And that could be an awesome painting. Wow. What is wrong with me?

I’m irritated. I’m about to lose my cool. I’m ready for that cigarette and for going back up to the studio to get some work done. Why would he say these things to me unless he thought I were an anti-family, anti-light, cowardly heathen? Why am I suddenly so defensive? It’s okay, I can win this with logical, Buddhist non-dualistic theory! Instead, this comes out of my mouth:

“By saying that, I feel like you’re implying that I don’t, and that I’m not. I don’t need to hear this from you.” Now I’m feeling I should have politely excused myself a while back. I start to gather my things, but it’s clear he’s not ready to leave. He doesn’t seem to care that he’s making me uncomfortable.

“I’m not an artist” he starts. “It’s clear that you have skill. But the hiding – it makes me curious.” Okay. Fine. “Curiosity is good.” I say. “Curiosity.”

He reaches out his hand, and I go in for a handshake, because I’m a lady, but he’s going for the fist bump. Then he attempts a cool handshake with me. I give up.

He repeats his name, points out his apartment building, and then, like I need it, says “I love ya!” – nudging me on the shoulder. He finally leaves. I’m still cooling down. I gather my things, shakily set stuff by the outside door, and am confused. Once I’m sure he’s gone, I light my cigarette and after a few breaths whisper, “thank you.”

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“Thank you,” because in those moments following I realized I was really upset. Something about this encounter poked me in an uncomfortable way and stirred up a lot of anger.

I get offended because I feel patronized.

I have a fierce ownership over the meanings in my art, and am still surprised and dismayed when I feel they’ve been interpreted so differently than I intended.

And then, sickeningly, I’m grateful. Though not how he intended, I see this man as a teacher. Which I hate! I waited and listened to him politely for a deal longer than what I’ve recorded, and what for? To keep him comfortable. What the fuck.

I consider myself a diehard feminist. And through my drawings of women I’m able to step back as a bystander and observe how viewers interact with, granted, a representation of a woman. People will say things about art that they wouldn’t face to face with a person, and sometimes their concerns, frankly – concern me. I hear, “vulnerable” “fragile” “hiding” and get all defensive, perhaps because I feel like those descriptors are seen in a negative light. Who’s to say what’s to be shown, and to be covered?

I don’t always have time to explain that I was raised religiously, that I have bodily shame and guilt that comes from a conservative upbringing, but also have an amazing Mama who always encourages looking inside for the truth, in trusting your gut, and in seeing beauty in yourself. I draw self portraits, and used to disguise them better, but am starting to realize, who cares? I feel like these are the most revealing parts of myself. So I get defensive when criticism is unexpected and not what I’d like. It’s entirely of my volition that I put these out into the world. It’s an offering to the insanely massive dumping ground of art and self-expression that we’re all dropping bits into. My simplest answer to the question of “why?” is: I just want to make something pretty. I know it sounds trite. But I’m leaving space for you to make that up for yourself.

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Nausicaa, and Windsor & Newton inks

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“Nausicaä” – 8×10″ ink and watercolor on aquabord watercolor cradled wood panel.

I’m so proud of my most recent little painting! I’m trying something a bit different here. The last time I visited the art supply store, I picked up a set of Winsor & Newton inks, and after lightly penciling in the drawing I used the nut brown ink to trace over the linework.

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 I used liquid resist (the light blue blobs) to protect the areas I wanted to keep white.

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Here is after the first few coats of paint, not quite dark or rich enough. I used both the inks, and my watercolor paints.

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And here is the finished piece!

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This painting is for this group art show, set to coincide with the Penny Arcade Expo this weekend. All of the work is inspired by nostalgic animation from the 80’s and 90’s. Opening Friday night! Hope to see you there. :)

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Here is the Facebook event page.

Oh my goodness. Massive updates coming.

It’s been over a month since I’ve posted something new! Ack!! Part of this is because I’m working on a new website and trying to get this blog to transfer over (www.stasiaburringtonart.com), but I keep getting frustrated then become happily distracted by work and play and… phff, who has the time to sync websites? I’ll do it later. Here’s what’s new!

1. I got to be a hand model! Definitely going on my resume. The super talented Kim Merritt of Gritty Jewelry created a line of rings from those tiny ceramic animals that used to come in Red Rose Tea boxes. Did your grandma have them? Mine did. I remember the camel, specifically, though Kim doesn’t have one of those. Made with fine sterling silver, she does have: an owl, wolf, raccoon, duck, lioness, hen, and cock. Yup. I got to model the cock ring.

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The shoot was set up outside Twilight gallery, and was 1950’s tea party themed. Though I did my best, and felt pretty grown up and ladylike while curling my hair and applying makeup, I was clearly upstaged by these two gorgeous women.

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The rings in tiny teacups and saucers! Party was complete with doilies, cookies, fruit and the tiniest of lemon wedges!

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Look! Tea parties are so fun (though these cups are so unrealistic. I need one at least 10x larger)!

2. I got to design a really amazing tattoo for a really amazing woman, with a quite personal meaning. Roni at 522 Tattoo here in Seattle did the actual tattooing.

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3. I’m still printing panties! They now come in pink, red and black. I am about to order underwear for all of the men out there – stay tuned!!

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4. I have been picking stuff off the ground. More specifically, assorted minerals off of the side of a mountain about an hour’s drive from home. (!!) Many of the bigger ones are hanging out on windowsills, while some of the smaller ones are being made into little pendants or earrings, hanging out in assorted pockets, or under furniture if they’ve happened to be found by either of the cats.

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5. On one hiking expedition, we kept finding perfect, isolated wings. Which of course I picked up and took home just to arrange in a square and photograph. Hopefully something more constructive, later, when I can find out how to put them into jewelry or art or … something. They’re so pretty and fragile on their own, they’re currently sitting in a wooden box, waiting to become part of something else.

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6. It’s blackberry season! I’ve been picking them for a couple of weeks, eating them and making jam. So, there’s a good reason this photo doesn’t include more of the kitchen… I mean, um, my kitchen’s spotless! I’m a proficient homemaker! Trust me! jam

7. I’m working on a number of custom commissioned paintings, which have to stay secret for now. It’s driving me crazy that I can’t share them with you – yet.

8. New shirts are up in the shop! Hand stamped kitty and skull V-neck tank tops in mint, grey and midnight blue. I’ve had them for a couple of weeks, but today Nick finally had enough time to help me take photos.

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Mint green… and with the black kitties, this one rather reminds me of my favorite ice cream.

We take pictures right outside of our apartment building, the whole while listening to Momo meow at us from the livingroom window. She has separation anxiety. So we made it quick.

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These shirts have prints on both the front and the back.

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9. I am so lucky to be able to be spending this outrageously hot and beautiful summer with so many of my favorite people. This is mostly why this update’s been so hefty, and long in coming. It feels like every moment I’m not working, I’m able to be out adventuring, or stay in and get some super-needed relaxing in. For all my people who are here and making me so happy, I am impossibly grateful. And for those of you who aren’t here right now, and who I miss all the time, the same goes for you, just as much.

STELLAR: Evidence of an alternative space program

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Oh my god. How is 2014 already halfway over? More importantly (to me, anyway!) – how is my solo art show at Twilight gallery opening in only eight days?! I am soooo excited – there will be paintings of planets, starscapes, unnamed cosmonauts and floaty space girls. You are officially invited! If you are a facebooker, here is the invite page.

This weekend I’ll be into the gallery to paint the walls black, and any day now my bags of glow-in-the-dark stars will be showing up in my mail. To be used on the gallery walls, of course, but which after the show I’m sure will all go straight up in the apartment walls.

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Why am I devoting a whole set of drawings and paintings to this franky, naive and arguably overdone subject?

What I’m after – childish wonder, stark beauty, vast loneliness + absurd simplicity. Exploration, finding comfort in the unknown + active curiosity.

I’m not a scientist, or an astronaut, this collection is just a portrait of what I thought being a space explorer was like, when I was 10.

I have this desire to touch emptiness, embrace the nonsensical, and lose a sense of proportion. Gadgets, physics, magic… all that good stuff!

I aim to create a portrait of an innocent motivation to seek comfort and wonder in the unknown.

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If you are in the vicinity, please come by for opening night! There may be space-themed cocktails. And there may be spacemen/women. YOU should definitely come dressed in your finest intergalactical gear. :)

Seattle Erotic Art Festival this weekend!

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The Seattle Erotic Art Festival is almost here! This year it’s being held at the Seattle Center Exhibition Hall, and the days and hours are as follows:

Friday, May 30th – 5pm – 2am

Saturday, May 31st – 12pm – 2am

Sunday, June 1st – 10am – 4pm

Get your tickets here

I’m so excited to say that I’ve had two pieces accepted into the juried art show: “Blush 3″ and my favorite from the series, “Blush 5.” They’re both for sale, but honestly, I’ll be rather sad to see them go.blush 3 1

detail from “Blush 3″

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Detail from “Blush 5″

Ooh! Did you notice? I also got to help with the design of the official poster! This year’s theme is “Reveal” so I chose to go with the themes of unfurling, and seeing. Here are some of the initial sketches.  reveal sketch 2 reveal sketch 3 reveal sketch 7 reveal sketch 9

Yay! I hope to see you there!!