December 9, 2020

The Palette is available to all interested with an e-Subscription

In this issue:

Where no one can hear him Scream—Norway buries digital copies of Munch and other treasures in Arctic shelter
Embracing My Inner Bob Ross
O’Keeffe among artists during 1918 pandemic
Katie Griffin loves making that homey art
Beyond words: Art therapy as a universal language



Where no one can hear him Scream—Norway buries digital copies of Munch and other treasures in Arctic shelter
The Norwegian National Museum is "futureproofing" its entire collection from natural disasters, hackers and war

While it waits to open its doors, the new Norwegian National Museum has put its collection on ice. It has placed a digital copy of its entire collection of some 400,000 objects in the Arctic World Archive (AWA), which is cocooned in a coal mine burrowed into a mountain of permafrost on the Arctic archipelago of Svalbard.

The AWA was established in 2017 by the Norwegian technology company Piql AS as a “safe repository for world memory”. The site, near the Svalbard Seed Vault, aims to secure digital artefacts and information of world importance from the dangers of natural disasters, technological changes, hacking and wars.

Photographs of the museum’s collection, covering fine art (including Munch’s The Scream) and works of architecture and design, have been transferred to “piqlFilm”: analogue film that can retain digital data and keep it safe offline. The AWA calls the medium “futureproof”. In theory “the only thing you need to read the film is light,” says Rolf Yngve Uggen, the museum’s director of collections management.

The museum has made three deposits of digitised works of art for an undisclosed fee, which now sit alongside consignments from Unicef, Sweden’s Moderna Museet and the Vatican Library. The AWA claims it can keep their data alive for “over 1,000 years”.

The subterranean safekeeping of artefacts and records is nothing new, however. During the Second World War, the National Gallery in London consigned its treasures to Manod Quarry in Wales. But Svalbard is particularly remote and secure. “It’s like being on another planet,” Uggen says. “It’s like the final frontier.” The Art Newspaper


Embracing My Inner Bob Ross
While covering an exhibit of the famous PBS artist, I replaced my notebook with an easel and experienced even more of the joy of reporting.

For a reporter on an assignment, there’s a time to be a bystander, observing from a distance to better keep an objective perspective on events.

And then there’s a time to paint.

I was all set to write a story on the opening of the “Bob Ross Experience,” a permanent exhibit and painting workshop series in Indiana, on a recent weekend, without ever picking up a brush. But the course of events had other plans.

I had been looking forward to the assignment ever since I pitched it to my editor in September — I would attend the opening of the exhibit, a celebration of the late artist and his beloved PBS show, “The Joy of Painting,” which inspired amateurs to create their own masterpieces. And there, in the city of Muncie, where Ross filmed nearly all of the show’s 403 episodes, I would take it all in while staying six feet from his dozens of fans — some sporting Afros and wearing “happy little clouds” masks — and their collection of easels, canvases and brushes.

The morning began amicably: I watched a dozen masked painters try to recreate “Gray Mountain,” a vibrant landscape from a 1992 episode of the show, in a three-hour workshop led by an instructor. I watched the peaks take shape from individual strokes, until the dozen canvases — at least from my vantage point at the back of the room — could pass for Ross originals.

Maybe anyone really can do this, I thought. I smiled, secure in the knowledge I’d never have to try myself.

But then, an hour later, at a five-minute mini-workshop in which an instructor taught fans to create their own “happy little trees,” the moment of truth came. The instructor, Ted Simpson, knew I was covering the event and walked up to me with a white 4 by 4 canvas square in hand. I knew what he wanted before he opened his mouth.

“You know what they say about the best reporters …” he began.

I braced myself. I considered: Was I really scared of a happy little tree?

I dropped my coat in the corner. And I picked up a brush.

I should clarify: It was not the act of painting itself that I objected to — I took drawing classes in high school by choice, and even won a couple of awards. But after spending the previous week bingeing episodes of “The Joy of Painting,” in which Ross repeatedly assured viewers that “it’s just that easy,” I wondered what it would say about me if it wasn’t.

At first, my fears were realized: I couldn’t even hold the brush properly. I was stabbing at the pools of paint and lifting the brush straight up as though staking a vampire, when I needed to drag it through the globs as if petting a dog.

“Let the brush do the work for you,” Mr. Simpson told me. (I had flashbacks to cooking with my mom growing up, trying to pierce the casing of the raw Italian sausage that I was slicing with one cut rather than working the knife back and forth. “Let the knife do the work,” she told me then.)

Then came the time to put the paint on the canvas. “Little tiny taps, almost like a zigzag,” Mr. Simpson said. But I was still wielding the brush like a pen, jabbing it into the canvas as if it were the chest of someone who had offended me on the playground.

“All right, there we go,” he said, dragging his own brush dipped in dark green paint across the bottom of my canvas. “You’ve got it.” (Despite the fact that very clearly, I had not gotten it, or his brush would not be on my canvas.)

A few minutes later — after carving my initials into the bottom left corner with a knife in letters that looked as if they came from a 4-year-old — I was staring at my own happy little tree, which looked respectable, until you saw the model. Side by side, it suddenly looked like something Charlie Brown would bring home for Christmas.

But back in my Indianapolis apartment later that week, I looked across the room at my tree and realized: That didn’t matter.

“To me, that’s what’s so fantastic about painting: Each and every person will paint differently,” Ross once said. “That’s what makes it special.”

It may seem like a small thing, but putting down my notebook and picking up a brush helped me better understand the event and Ross’s fans. After all, the exhibit was called an “experience.”

In reporting, no two stories are exactly alike, and approaching them that way can deprive readers of a richer reading experience. Kind of like what Bob himself preached about art.

“If we all painted the same way, hmm, what a boring time it would be.” The New York Times

O’Keeffe among artists during 1918 pandemic

Georgia O’Keeffe has long been among America’s favorite female American artists. She painted spare, modern, yet realistic images that neither imposed into your space nor insulted your integrity. Her work makes you look, think, admire and maybe get a bit closer in order to evaluate the brush-work. Her subjects, flowers, rocks, bones, houses and landscapes, make for easy and calming views into an artist’s world. But how and why did the stark, dramatic Art Deco views of New York change to softer, more naturalistic views of New Mexico? What was her inspiration?

O’Keeffe was born in Sun Prairie, Wisconsin, in 1887. She lived a long life, dying in 1986 in Santa Fe, New Mexico. During the Spanish flu pandemic of 1918, she contracted it while in New York. She married Alfred Stieglitz, a well-known photographer and owner of ”291,” an art gallery in New York. She lived in the Upper Midwest, traveled extensively and later in life moved to New Mexico and worked there as an artist for the rest of her life.

The pandemic changed her outlook on life. She no longer wanted to be among the millions of people living in large cities. Once she found her home among the cactus and sand dunes of New Mexico, she’d start her day with a meager packed lunch and her art supplies, and she’d drive out to an outcropping in the middle of the desert and paint until the light was gone. She knew with few people nearby, she had less of a chance at contracting the flu again. Social distancing became automatic with her and others who chose to live in art compounds like that in Taos.

O’Keeffe lived out her life in Ghost Ranch, located in Abiquiu, NM, near Toas, She was among the many artists, architects and interior designers that changed how they saw life following the 1918 pandemic. Hygiene became a component of visual interpretations from home design to furnishings, cooking equipment and visual arts.

Monica Obniski, curator of decorative arts and design at Atlanta’s High Museum of Art, said “The rise of modern architecture and design in the 1920s was inextricably linked to the prevailing discourse on health and social hygiene.”

Streamlined cookware, such as the copper-bottom Revere-ware sauce and frying pans were redesigned and easily sterilized as dishes took on less “fluff” and more practicality. Coffee makers and simple glasses were now being made of Pyrex clear glassware rather than opaque materials. Transparency was preferred. What could be seen through was viewed as “clean.”

It will be interesting to see what changes take place in home and commercial building design after 2020. Artists will depict mask-wearing in many works and architects will likely adapt homes so the “open-concept” so popular today allows for some isolation areas within gathering spaces.

Catalysts for change are not always obvious. If you don’t know the history of a place, of art or political changes, the “why” something is the way it is may never be known. But as we get through the 2020 pandemic, our lives have changed. Adults will likely have an underlying fear of flu, of viruses, of masks and changes in our bodies. We will for most adults’ lives associate masks and the colors red and blue with elections, presidents, “fake news,” politics and a man named Anthony Fauci. Those memories will fade but not likely to disappear. Personal journals will become family treasures and life will go on.

With Christmas just a few weeks away, we need to make life and our tomorrows positive. Perhaps starting that journal for 2021 will be a goal for next year. Keeping your own personal history alive will both help family members later on and help make daily life more interesting. Georgia O’Keeffe’s life was “journaled” in her artwork. Maybe painting pictures isn’t your thing, but writing certainly can be, and it can be valuable during a year that needs to be remembered but not relived. The Jamestown Sun

Katie Griffin loves making that homey art

Katie Griffin lives in Atlanta, Georgia, where they work as a graphic designer at a branding agency. The artist practices illustration outside of the day job as their creative outlet, and we think they've already carved out a distinctive style, somehow both homey and effervescent in feel.

"Illustration is something I'm trying to build," Katie tells us. "I would say illustrations and animations are more of my passion projects, while professionally, I do graphic design for my job. I've devoted a lot of time to have some of my works printed professionally, and have set up my website to sell my first round of prints since sharing my illustration work publicly. I’m very excited to see where it goes!"

So are we, and these prints would go down well in any room with their focus on furniture and living spaces. Indeed, these things set off Katie's creative muse through the inner harmony they create; after all, home is where the heart is.

"I make many of my pieces have that homey/comfort feeling, kind of like a place where nothing is wrong, and you find yourself at peace. I want to create an environment that feels familiar, and the viewer can see themselves in and want to be in."

"The work is inspired by many spaces around me, many pieces of furniture or things in the rooms I draw. Actual things I have around my apartment or the house I grew up in. Any interesting interior is inspiring to me. I also get inspired by different plants and different elements in nature and household items."

"As far as artistic influences, I have always loved mid-century modern architecture and anything Bauhaus. I also love Keith Haring’s colourful work with bold shapes, as well." Creative Boom


Beyond words: Art therapy as a universal language

While some people think of therapy as talking about their problems, others are using paintbrushes, clay and all kinds of other art materials to understand, explore and express their feelings through art therapy.

The Canadian Art Therapy Association states art therapy “combines the creative process and psychotherapy, facilitating self-exploration and understanding.”

Art facilitates a non-verbal means for people to express themselves. For those who find verbal conversations difficult due to their age or past experiences such as trauma, mental health issues or physical conditions, art therapy provides another outlet.

When people find it difficult to articulate their problems, art therapy offers a universal language for them to understand and express what’s going on.

More than a hobby
Art therapy is unlike the art many people enjoy doing for fun or as a hobby in many ways.

Art therapy sessions can be done individually or in groups. Darlene Kuehn, a registered psychotherapist in Ottawa, said she sees group therapy sessions as more self-reflective, which has a different focus from traditional therapy.

“For self-reflection, people don’t come in with a problem,” Kuehn said. “They might just want to explore and learn more about themselves and others.”

Traditional therapy, on the other hand, typically has an intention to solve issues, such as anxiety, trauma, or depression.

Sandra Grew, an Ottawa-based registered psychotherapist, art therapist and certified counsellor, said participating in art therapy with others has therapeutic benefits.

“A group session gives people an opportunity to share,” Grew said. “It normalizes what you are going through.”

Grew said when people do art as a hobby, they always have an end product in mind which they feel should look a specific way. However, with art therapy, Grew said you may not even know where you are going when you start.

“Sometimes people are surprised by what they have created,” she said.

The process of creating often leads people to realize what emotions or experiences they are holding and gives them a new perspective to view themselves with, Kelsey Lauren Schmitt said. Schmitt provides art therapy and other artistic services to businesses and non-profit organizations.

“No matter the intent, art is therapeutic,” she said.

Schmitt compared the deep focus and guidance art therapy offers to reading a poem. While you can understand a poem just by reading it, a deeper understanding of the poem comes with understanding the poet’s choices and expression by looking closely at word choice. Similarly, in art therapy, creating and analyzing artwork carefully provides insight into one’s emotions.

If there is a line between art therapy and doing art as a hobby, Kuehn said it is when a trained professional is involved.

She said trained therapists should make people feel safe and comfortable enough to express themselves and share their thoughts and feelings—especially in order for people with no experience doing art to feel they are not being judged.

“That’s why we always need to hold the space carefully,” Kuehn said.

The important role of art therapists
The Canadian Art Therapy Association defines art therapists as “trained professionals with expertise in counselling psychology and fine arts.”

In Canada and the United States, art therapists must have at least a master’s degree or a master’s-level diploma in art therapy before practising. This graduate-level education includes supervised clinical practicum hours, which is 1,000 hours for Canadian art therapists.

When it comes to the role of the therapist, Schmitt said it is important to keep in mind that they are there to guide rather than instruct.

“Simply listening and providing a person the space and freedom to express goes a long way,” Schmitt said.

As many different art materials are provided in art therapy, people can choose what they like to work with.

“All art materials are all given for a reason,” Kuehn said.

Schmitt said she tries to provide as many kinds of materials as possible since “each material provides a different experience, process and degree of control.”

Grew said the best materials to work with really depends on what the clients are going through.

For example, if the client is holding in anger that needs to be expressed, clay can provide a healing experience for the client, since they can let their emotions out by punching and throwing the clay.

If the client is in a chaotic environment where they find themselves having no control in their life, it is better to have them use a medium which is easy to control, such as acrylic paint, markers or crayons.

A wide variety of beneficiaries
Art therapy is a great alternative for people who would like to explore themselves but don’t want to go through traditional therapy, Grew said.

“It is safer or easier for people to talk about the images they created than talk about themselves,” she said.

Kuehn said although everybody can benefit from art therapy, it is especially helpful for troubled youth.

“Art is another language for them to express themselves,” Kuehn said. “It is more fun and engaging since they are usually not interested in sitting down and talking.”

Schmitt also said art therapy can be especially helpful for children.

“If a child starts to create using their hands, they feel comforted and begin to verbally express what’s going on in their life,” Schmitt said.

Schmitt shared an example of a girl she works closely with, who lives with a difficult situation at home, to explain how art therapy can help children open up about their feelings.

As she worked on her art, she shared things that were emotionally disturbing her. As time progressed, she became more comfortable and began to produce works that spoke strongly to how she felt inside.

Schmitt said one of the girl’s most profound pieces was a clay mermaid sitting on a rock in the middle of the ocean, surrounded by sharks. She also repeatedly drew a pink house in nearly all of her artworks, and it was discovered that she was drawing her grandma’s house that her family was forced to leave due to gang violence occurring in the neighbourhood.
“Art therapy helps children express and have a different perspective,” Grew said.

Grew added that from her experience working with children and teens, she found the process of creating offers them an opportunity to understand and cope with their fear.

“Sometimes, holding images in their minds will make them seem very scary,” she said. “Putting those images down on paper helps the children realize they are not as scary as they thought.”

In order to help children with anxiety, Grew lets them draw their anxiety down as monsters and then talk about what they should do to cope with it.

“The act of bringing an emotion into the physical world is a profound and healing experience, and it often gives a sense of release to the individual,” Schmitt said. “Making something intangible, tangible, often makes it easier to dissect, work through, and ultimately heal.”

The American Art Therapy Association Research Committee suggests art therapy is also effective for people with substance use, developmental challenges, and aging and geriatric issues.

“I have so much faith in art,” Schmitt said. “I know that everyone is on their own levels and paths of growth that no matter what the experience they have with the art task I provide, it is helping them further heal.”

Camille Houde, co-president of Visual Arts Carleton (VAC), said she also strongly believes in the therapeutic power of art.

“Most of the time, art puts me in a state of flow,” Houde said. “When I’m doing art, I forget about everything else that’s going on and just enjoy what I’m doing—having that meditative zone-out is really relaxing.”

Virtual challenges and triumphs
COVID-19 launched Ottawa-based artists and art therapists into uncharted territory since in-person interactions are scarce.

VAC hosts weekly virtual meetings for artistic events and provides prompts to inspire students to create artistic projects at home in light of remote learning restrictions. Houde said artmaking is a great way to help people stay connected during the pandemic.

According to Houde, a core group of members has shown up to VAC events every week this semester and often stayed longer in the virtual meetings to continue their artistic discussions.

“Art is a very healthy and important part of their lives for a lot of people I know from VAC,” Houde said.

For the past five months, Grew said she has been working remotely to provide one-one-one virtual therapy sessions for her clients. She explained that she has taken workshops to learn how to conduct art therapy virtually, and that she has had to be more creative with her methods.

One of the challenges she has encountered delivering virtual art therapy is providing a distraction-free space for younger clients, where they feel comfortable talking without the concern of being overheard by other people in their home.

“Even though we try to set it up ahead of time, it is not always possible for them to have a space like that,” Grew said.

Prior to the pandemic, clients had access to the art material at art therapists’ studios. Now, they need to get their own supplies. Grew said she has found it challenging for her clients to find what they need for their sessions.

“There’s very few supplies out there,” she said. “If they go to a store to buy paint and there’s not any, they just can’t use paint for their sessions.”

Even though some of her clients have stopped taking sessions because they prefer to do art therapy in person, Grew said many are adapting well to the virtual method.

Grew is starting a virtual counselling website to provide people across Ontario with easy access to art therapy and other forms of counselling.

“Times like this have really opened the eyes of a lot of people, including myself,” Grew said. “Counselling can be done virtually and I think it’s here to stay.” The Charlatan

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