The Challenge

Over the past 40 years of my life, I have purchased and collected more than 500 pieces of art. This collection includes drawings, paintings, sculptures, fiber art pieces, posters, photographs, tribal animal fetishes, lithographs, chromolithographs, serigraphs and more. It embraces a diversity of styles: Impressionism and Postimpressionism, Expressionism, Realism, Minimalism, Symbolism, Abstract Art, Op, Pop and Psychedelic Art as well as Folk, Tribal and Outsider Art. My taste in art is, quite obviously, varied.

About a month ago, my curator friend Mary, who’s very familiar with my collection, made the following observation. “Patrick, you have such a large collection of artwork. Have you ever thought of displaying part of your collection publicly beyond your online shop Dogbotz Boneyard?”

Wow! I thought to myself. “There’s so much, Mary, I wouldn’t know where to begin.”

“Ok, I can appreciate that,” Mary responded. “So, let’s limit the parameters. If I said to you, select three pieces of art from, say, five different artists, what would you select? And why?”

Yup, that certainly simplifies things, I mumbled to myself. Fifteen pieces out of more than 500! “Let me think about it, Mary. I’m not an art historian or critic, so I’m not sure my selections would have much meaning to folks other than me.”

“You don’t need to be a historian or critic. But, other people — collectors and not — are always intrigued as to what others see in the art they acquire, whether they hold the same opinion or perspective,” Mary said.

So, I agreed to Mary’s challenge and after several weeks, I had made my decisions. Please note that I value and cherish all the artists and their works that I’ve collect throughout the years, but the five artists I’ve chosen hold a very special place in my heart because their works speak to the essence of my own mortal journey. Also, please know that the artists below are listed alphabetically by last name to avoid any artificial ranking system.

Philip Gladstone

Intensely intimate is the first phrase that comes to mind when I contemplate the artwork of Maine artist Philip Gladstone. Whether it’s a man and his dog sitting or leaning on the edge of bathtub (Brady’s Bath), or a naked young man seated on the floor with a teddy bear beside him, both connected by a ball of yarn (Love Me), or a bare-chested young man leaning on a rooftop air-conditioning unit while another gentleman works in an adjacent rooftop office (Dusk), I feel as if I’ve entered, in a voyeuristic way, a very private moment in the lives of each of these individuals. My mind is intrigued by each scene, wanting to know more about each subject, whereas my spirit at a very intuitive level understands wholeheartedly the story being told.

Philip Gladstone’s paintings have been compared to Caravaggio, Pablo Picasso and Diego Rivera, to name a few stylistic influences. I perceive those qualities in many of his works, but in the end, for me, it’s all about the underlying stories, many of which have erotic tension and undertones. And I find that quite compelling, especially in a world titillated by the pornographic yet oblivious to the sensual.

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Brady’s Bath

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Dusk

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Love Me

Kathleen Kills Thunder

Of all the artists whose works I’ve collected, I have purchased the most pieces from Kathleen Kills Thunder. Coming from a Native American heritage, I immediately relate to the themes, subjects, and symbolism of her paintings. Though I also have many of her beadwork and jewelry pieces, I find Kathleen Kills Thunder’s paintings to be ideal icons for reflection and meditation. I admire her works because of the manner in which she blends a bright color palette, which, in part, reflects her Spanish heritage, and her imaginative use of Native American subjects, from the creatures of Earth Mother (Queenie and Babies) to tribal craftswomen, from war ponies (The Warrior Horses’ Last Battle) to medicine men (Peyote Man). Her compositions are brilliant with color, fluid with geometric shapes and natural forms, and profoundly reflective of the human experience and its inherent truths. Her paintings speak with the ancient language of the spirit world made modern by the abstract techniques of waking dreams.

Of the fifteen art pieces that I have chosen to honor my friend Mary’s request (and for this blog), three paintings are particularly dear to my spirit. The Warrior Horses’ Last Battle is the first of them. Here’s why.

I have worked in various capacities for twenty-plus years now in the nonprofit charitable world. I have been a dental clinic office manager of an AIDS/HIV center in Milwaukee, where I saw folks battling the harsh realities of a life-threatening illness while struggling to move away from being treated as pariahs into a place of acceptance and love. I have been a director of fundraising and marketing for a senior center in northern Illinois, where I have seen our elders struggle to maintain independence, dignity, and self-respect while faced with the illnesses that come with old age and the depression that emerges as they see their circles of spouses and friends dwindle before their very eyes. I have also worked at a hospice in Illinois, where I often witnessed the final journeys of people, from 6-month-old infants to young mothers afflicted with cancer to the elderly, who struggled with and finally embraced the process of letting go.

At a very subliminal level, the two horses of The Warrior Horses’ Last Battle struggling to remain alive reminds me of the sometimes difficult challenges we face throughout our own journeys, and that the ramifications of truth haunt me, in a healthy way, to the very marrow of my bones. That may not have been her intent in creating this piece of artwork, but I am still thankful that Kathleen Kills Thunder had the inclination to paint it anyway.

Peyote Man

Peyote Man

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Queenie and Babies

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The Warrior Horses’ Last Battle

David Silva

Nine months ago, the name David Silva would have meant nothing to me. Had it not been for Jason, another of my art collector friends, the name would still remain a mystery to me to this very day. Knowing that I enjoy Pop art, Jason recommended that I peruse the charcoal and colored pencil works of contemporary Brazilian Pop artist David Silva at a well-known online website, and so I did. I was delighted by what I saw and thus acquired several David Silva drawings.

I greatly appreciate the artwork of David Silva because of the diverse subjects he portrays through his Pop art images and the emotional content emanating therefrom. Sometimes he presents the viewer with a subtle mystery; other times, with playful and erotic vibrations; and yet in other works, with the haunting reality of loss and grief. Be it Batman and Superman in amorous embrace (Unspoken Love Affair between Superman and Batman — I wonder what the folks at D.C. Comics would have to say), a sailor getting ready to depart on his next cruise (In the Navy — very Village People, for sure), or a young child’s hand reaching for the dog tags of a deceased soldier-father (For Whom the Bells Tolls), the artist reveals his joy, his compassion, and his humanity.

For those unfamiliar with Pop art, it is an art style that uses aspects of the larger or mass culture, such as advertising, comic books, TV cartoon characters and other mundane cultural images or objects to emphasize the more banal or “kitschy” qualities of the culture it inherently mocks. Irony is the most popular expression used by Pop artists. Among David Silva’s work, the Pop art element of irony makes sense for such drawings as In the Navy or Unspoken Love Affair between Superman and Batman. But what about his other drawing, For Whom the Bells Tolls?

With great sadness, I must admit that, in this war-beleaguered age in which we live, a scene focusing on the demise of a soldier has become all too familiar, all too casual, and to which we have become all too desensitized. Ironic, perhaps; Pop, disquietingly so. But, I believe that, in For Whom the Bells Tolls, David Silva depicts a shockingly profound sense of grief that we must admit, embrace and then manifest its inherent lesson so we can attain a world peace that transcends political and religious diatribes, the unrelenting need for greed, and the blinding desire for revenge. For Whom the Bells Tolls is the second piece of the fifteen I’ve selected that touches my soul in a most insightful way.

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For Whom the Bell Tolls

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In the Navy

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Unspoken Love Affair between Superman and Batman

Judy Thorley

Several years ago, I decided to turn my collector’s eye north to my neighbors in Canada. I found some truly gifted artists throughout that country creating some spectacular pieces of art. One of my personal favorites is Judy Thorley, a signature member of the Toronto Watercolour Society. Although Judy Thorley originally began painting in transparent watercolor, she presently explores mixed media with acrylics, collage and photo transfer. She enjoys working on distressed surfaces with multiple layers, and she is inspired by many things, both natural and manmade, from decaying old walls covered with peeling posters to the latest fashion magazines.

To me, Judy Thorley’s works have an Art Nouveau quality, wherein she establishes a unique balance of the natural with the manmade or manufactured (Pandora), the architectural with the figurative (Chained), and the established with the innovative (Chivalry). Her use of multiple layers of colorful elements, distressed surfaces, and uneven textures evokes scenes that portray mythical subjects or images that harken back to another era (which is true of the three pieces selected).

Judy Thorley is one of the few artists whose works that I collect for which I do not prefer one of her pieces over another. All have great merit, and I enjoy taking the time to just “inhale,” if you will, the essence of each one.

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Chained

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Chivalry

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Pandora

Roger Wedegis

I just can’t help myself! I am a longtime, avid dog-lover, especially of Labrador Retrievers, who I’ve always humorously called “the drinking buddies” of dogs. So, when I discovered the artwork of Roger Wedegis, himself a self-acclaimed lover of Labs, I was immediately taken with his canine compositions. I am deeply touched by Roger Wedegis’s paintings because of his capacity to capture the playful nature (In the Hibiscus), the loyal companionship (I’m Ready), and even the ineffable spiritual dimension of community (Spirits in the Night) that these four-legged creatures share with us, their human cousins. Whether portrayed in a natural or urban setting, the artist’s subjects gently remind me of why dogs have for millennia been our best friends and most devoted guardians.

Spirits in the Night is the third painting of the fifteen pieces I selected that I find especially endearing. Are the three Labrador Retrievers looking at Grandmother Moon real dogs or are they the spirits intimated in the title of the painting? In the end, does it really matter? For me, no, as the genuine heart-felt message I discover is to take the time to remember and honor those canine companions who show or have shown me the awe of unconditional love and to reflect that vibration back, like the light of the Moon, to all life.

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I’m Ready

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In the Hibiscus

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Spirits in the Night

So, there you have it: my response to my friend Mary’s art challenge! But, again remember that I genuinely admire all the artwork I’ve collected over the years, which I hope to share in future blogs.

All the best,

Patrick Price,
Proprietor,
Dogbotz Boneyard, LLC
www.dogbotz.com

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Print Methodologies: Modes for Artistic Masterpieces or Mechanistic Atrocities?

In a recent e-mail, one of our regular customers was curious about the different methods of printmaking that has led to some really beautiful artwork available through Dogbotz Boneyard. “When I think of prints, I am usually thinking about photography: black-and-white prints, color prints, sepia tones, etc.,” Justin writes to us. “And yet, I know there are woodblock prints, stone prints and more. Could you detail some of these for me, using samples of art you sell at the Dogbotz Boneyard Gallery of Art?” Well, Justin, let’s begin with some basic concepts: etching, engraving and screening techniques.

Intaglio

Intaglio is the family of printing and techniques in which the image is incised into a surface, and the incised line or sunken area holds the ink. It is the direct opposite of a relief print. Normally, copper or zine plates are used as a surface or matrix, and the incisions are created by etching, engraving, drypoint, aquatint or mezzotint. Collagraphs may also be printed as intaglio plates.

In the form of intaglio printing called etching, the plate is covered in a resin ground or an acid-resistant wax material. Using an etching needle, or a similar tool, the image is engraved into the ground, revealing the plate underneath. The plate is then dipped into acid. The acid bites into the surface of the plate where it was exposed. Biting is a printmaking term to describe the acid’s etching, or incising, of the image. After the plate is sufficiently bitten, the plate is removed from the acid bath, and the ground is removed to prepare for the next step in printing.

To print an intaglio plate, ink is applied to the surface by wiping and/or dabbing the plate to push the ink into the bitten grooves. The plate is then rubbed with tarlatan cloth to remove most of the excess ink. The final smooth wipe is often done with newspaper or old public phone book pages, leaving ink only in the incisions. A damp piece of paper is placed on top of the plate, so that when going through the press the damp paper will be able to be squeezed into the plate’s ink-filled grooves. The paper and plate are then covered by a thick blanket to ensure even pressure when going through the rolling press. The rolling press applies very high pressure through the blanket to push the paper into the grooves on the plate. The blanket is then lifted, revealing the paper and printed image.

Intaglio engraving, as a method of making prints, was invented in Germany by the 1430s, well after the woodcut print. Engraving had been used by goldsmiths to decorate metalwork, including armor, musical instruments and religious objects since ancient times, and the niello technique, which involved rubbing an alloy into the lines to give a contrasting color, also goes back to late antiquity. It has been suggested by art historians that goldsmiths began to print impressions of their work to record the design, and that printmaking developed from that.

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“Bird in a Nest” by G. Clark Sealy
(Intaglio Etching, 2009)

 

Martin Schongauer was one of the earliest known artists to exploit the copper-engraving technique, and Albrecht Dürer is one of the most famous intaglio artists. Italian and Netherlandish engraving began slightly after the Germans, but were well developed by 1500. Drypoint and etching were also German inventions of the 15th century, probably by the Housebook Master and Daniel Hopfer, respectively. The golden age of engraving by artists was 1450–1550, after which the technique lost ground to etching as a medium for artists, although engravings continued to be produced in huge numbers until after the invention of photography. Today intaglio engraving is largely used for currency, banknotes, passports and occasionally for high-value postage stamps. The appearance of engraving is sometimes mimicked for items such as wedding invitations by producing an embossment around lettering printed by another process (such as lithography or offset) to suggest the edges of an engraving plate.

Lithography

Lithography (from Greek lithos, “stone” and graphein, “to write”) is a method for printing using a stone (lithographic limestone) or a metal plate with a completely smooth surface. Invented in 1796 by German author and actor Alois Senefelder as a cheap method of publishing theatrical works, lithography can be used to print text onto paper or other suitable material.

Lithography originally used an image drawn (etched) into a coating of wax or an oily substance applied to a plate of lithographic stone as the medium to transfer ink to a blank paper sheet, and so produce a printed page. In modern lithography, the image is made of a polymer coating applied to a flexible aluminum plate. To print an image lithographically, the flat surface of the stone plate is roughened slightly — etched — and divided into hydrophilic regions that accept a film of water, and thereby repel the greasy ink; and hydrophobic regions that repel water and accept ink because the surface tension is greater on the greasy image area, which remains dry. The image can be printed directly from the plate (the orientation of the image is reversed), or it can be offset, by transferring the image onto a flexible sheet (rubber) for printing and publication.

During the first years of the 19th century, lithography had only a limited effect on printmaking, mainly because technical difficulties remained to be overcome. Germany was the main center of production in this period. Godefroy Engelmann, who moved his press from Mulhouse to Paris in 1816, largely succeeded in resolving the technical problems, and during the 1820s lithography was adopted by artists such as Delacroix and Géricault. London also became a center, and some of Géricault’s prints were in fact produced there. The Spanish painter Goya in Bordeaux produced his last series of prints by lithography — The Bulls of Bordeaux of 1828. By the mid-century the initial enthusiasm had somewhat diminished in both countries, although the use of lithography was increasingly favored for commercial applications, which included the prints of Daumier, published in newspapers. Rodolphe Bresdin and Jean-François Millet also continued to practice the medium in France, and Adolf Menzel in Germany. In 1862 the publisher Cadart tried to initiate a portfolio of lithographs by various artists which was not successful but included several prints by Manet. The revival began during the 1870s, especially in France with artists such as Odilon Redon, Henri Fantin-Latour and Degas producing much of their work in this manner. The need for strictly limited editions to maintain the price had now been realized, and the medium became more accepted.

In the 1890s, color lithography became popular with French artists, Toulouse-Lautrec most notably of all, and by 1900 the medium in both color and monotone was an accepted part of printmaking, although France and the United States have used it more than other countries.

"Our USA: A Gay Geography - Illinois" by Ruth Taylor White (Lithograph, 1935)

“Our USA: A Gay Geography – Illinois” by Ruth Taylor White (Lithograph, 1935)

During the 20th century, a group of artists, including Braque, Calder, Chagall, Dufy, Léger, Matisse, Miró, and Picasso, rediscovered the largely undeveloped art form of lithography thanks to the Mourlot Studios, also known as Atelier Mourlot, a Parisian print shop founded in 1852 by the Mourlot family. The Atelier Mourlot originally specialized in the printing of wallpaper; but it was transformed when the founder’s grandson, Fernand Mourlot, invited a number of 20th-century artists to explore the complexities of fine art printing. Mourlot encouraged the painters to work directly on lithographic stones in order to create original artworks that could then be executed under the direction of master printers in small editions. The combination of modern artist and master printer resulted in lithographs which were used as posters to promote the artist’ work.

Chromolithography

Chromolithography is a method for making multi-color prints. This type of color printing stemmed from the process of lithography, and it includes all types of lithography that are printed in color. When chromolithography is used to reproduce photographs, the term photochrom is frequently used. Lithographers sought to find a way to print on flat surfaces with the use of chemicals instead of relief or intaglio printing.

Chromolithography became the most successful of several methods of color printing developed by the 19th century; other methods were developed by printers such as Jacob Christoph Le Blon, George Baxter and Edmund Evans, and mostly relied on using several woodblocks with the colors. Hand-coloring also remained important; elements of the official British Ordnance Survey maps were colored by hand by boys until 1875. The initial technique involved the use of multiple lithographic stones, one for each color, and was still extremely expensive when done for the best quality results. Depending on the number of colors present, a chromolithograph could take months to produce, by very skilled workers. However much cheaper prints could be produced by simplifying both the number of colors used, and the refinement of the detail in the image. Cheaper images, like advertisements, relied heavily on an initial black print (not always a lithograph), on which colors were then overprinted. To make an expensive reproduction print as what was once referred to as a chromo, a lithographer, with a finished painting in front of him, gradually created and corrected the many stones using proofs to look as much as possible like the painting in front of him, sometimes using dozens of layers.

Alois Senefelder, the inventor of lithography, introduced the subject of colored lithography in his 1818 Vollstaendiges Lehrbuch der Steindruckerey (translated as A Complete Course of Lithography), where he told of his plans to print using color and explained the colors he wished to be able to print someday. Although Senefelder recorded plans for chromolithography, printers in other countries, such as France and England, were also trying to find a new way to print in color. Godefroy Engelmann of Mulhouse in France was awarded a patent on chromolithography in July 1837,  but there are disputes over whether chromolithography was already in use before this date, as some sources say, pointing to areas of printing such as the production of playing cards.

The first American chromolithograph — a portrait of Reverend F. W. P. Greenwood — was created by William Sharp in 1840.  Many of the chromolithographs were created and purchased in urban areas. The paintings were initially used as decoration in American parlors as well as for decoration within middle-class homes. They were prominent after the Civil War because of their low production costs and ability to be mass-produced, and because the methods allowed pictures to look more like hand-painted oil paintings. Production costs were only low if the chromolithographs were cheaply produced, but top-quality chromos were costly to produce because of the necessary months of work and the thousands of dollars worth of equipment that had to be used. Although chromos could be mass-produced, it took about three months to draw colors onto the stones and another five months to print a thousand copies. Chromolithographs became so popular in American culture that the era has been labeled as “chromo civilization”.  Over time, during the Victorian era, chromolithographs populated children’s and fine arts publications, as well as advertising art, in trade cards, labels, and posters. They were also once used for advertisements, popular prints, and medical or scientific books.

"The Trees and Schrubs from the Forest: Hop Hornbeam" by Gustav Hempel and Karl Wilhelm (Chromolithograph, 1889)

“The Trees and Schrubs from the Forest: Hop Hornbeam” by Gustav Hempel and Karl Wilhelm (Chromolithograph, 1889)

Even though chromolithographs served many uses within society at the time, many were opposed to the idea of them because of their lack of authenticity. The new forms of art were sometimes tagged as “bad art” because of their deceptive qualities. Some also felt that it could not serve as a form of art at all since it was too mechanical, and that the true spirit of a painter could never be captured in a printed version of a work. Over time, chromos were made so cheaply that they could no longer be confused with original paintings. Since production costs were low, the fabrication of chromolithographs became more a business than the creation of art.

Screen printing

Screen printing is a printing technique that uses a woven mesh to support an ink-blocking stencil. The attached stencil forms open areas of mesh that transfer ink or other printable materials that can be pressed through the mesh as a sharp-edged image onto a substrate. A fill blade or squeegee is moved across the screen stencil, forcing or pumping ink into the mesh openings for transfer by capillary action during the squeegee stroke. Basically, it is the process of using a stencil to apply ink onto another material.

Screen printing is also a stencil method of print making in which a design is imposed on a screen of polyester or other fine mesh, with blank areas coated with an impermeable substance. Ink is forced into the mesh openings by the fill blade and onto the printing surface during the squeegee stroke. It is also known as silkscreening, serigraphy, and serigraph printing. A number of screens can be used to produce a multicolored image.

Screen printing is a form of stenciling that first appeared in a recognizable form in China during the Song Dynasty (960–1279 ad). It was then adapted by other Asian countries like Japan, and was furthered by creating newer methods.

Screen printing was largely introduced to Western Europe from Asia sometime in the late 18th century, but did not gain large acceptance or use in Europe until silk mesh was more available for trade from the east and a profitable outlet for the medium discovered.

Early in the 1910s, several printers experimenting with photo-reactive chemicals used the well-known actinic light activated cross linking or hardening traits of potassium, sodium or ammonium chromate and dichromate chemicals with glues and gelatin compounds. Roy Beck, Charles Peter and Edward Owens studied and experimented with chromic acid salt sensitized emulsions for photo-reactive stencils. This trio of developers would prove to revolutionize the commercial screen printing industry by introducing photo-imaged stencils to the industry, though the acceptance of this method would take many years. Commercial screen printing now uses sensitizers far safer and less toxic than dichromates. Currently, there are large selections of pre-sensitized and “user mixed” sensitized emulsion chemicals for creating photo-reactive stencils.

"Anasazi Parrots" by Joe H. Herrera (Serigraph, 1980)

“Anasazi Parrots” by Joe H. Herrera (Serigraph, 1980)

Credit is generally given to the artist Andy Warhol for popularizing screen printing identified as serigraphy in the United States. Warhol is particularly identified with his 1962 depiction of actress Marilyn Monroe screen printed in garish colors.

The wonderful examples of lithographs, chromolithographs, and serigraphs displayed throughout this blog are available for sale at the the Dogbotz Boneyard Gallery of Art.

All the best,

Patrick Price,
Proprietor,
Dogbotz Boneyard, LLC
www.dogbotz.com

Painting: The Least Traditional Native American Art Form

When we first considered presenting Native American artifacts as a special collection offered through Dogbotz Boneyard, we weren’t quite sure whether it was wise to include artwork, especially painting. Though Native American painting remains a popular art form about which people have e-mailed us, painting, as it’s understood within the context of European art history, is not a traditional art form for most Native American cultures.

Yes, native painting traditions exist in many tribes, but unlike their European counterparts, paintings were almost always used as decoration for apparel (for example, paintings on leather war shirts) or other functional items (tipi covers come readily to mind). Or, similar to their European cousins at Lascaux and other prehistoric sites, many North American indigenous paintings weren’t portable, such as petrogylphs on a nearby cliff face or other large rock formation. Before European contact, Native American painting was endowed with a variety of ritual and social purposes by diverse cultural groups throughout the continent. That said, perhaps the greatest example is Navajo sandpainting, which was originally created for religious ceremonies or for spiritual healing purposes. Today, some contemporary Navajo artists have designed secular versions of sandpaintings that can be acquired as cultural art.

Many contemporary Native American artists have adapted Western European painting styles to portray the people of their own tribes as well as their tribal experiences and worldviews. Such artists strive to maintain the traditions and culture of their people and reflect the dynamic and sometimes painful changes that they and their respective cultures have endured. Though the techniques of these paintings are not traditionally Native American, the styles, designs, and subject matter reflect the artists’ tribal heritage, and many of them are stunningly beautiful and incisive. Consider Peyote Man or Fire Woman by Sioux artist Kathleeen Kills Thunder, Wisdom of Our Fathers by Navajo painter Fred Cleveland, and Anasazi Parrots by Cochiti artist Joe H. Herrera (see images below).

In addition, contemporary Native American artists cover the gamut of expression in all media, from the acrylics of Fred Cleveland to the digital artwork of French-Ojibwa artist Michael Pierre Price. And, that’s just in the field of painting, for similar diversity exists in the sculptural artwork of Six Nations sculptor Clifton Henry and Navajo ceramicist Tom Vail, Jr.

The challenges currently facing many contemporary Native American painters are the conflicts between the styles of purism and modernism and between paintings created by genuine Native Americans and those works produced by artists inspired by Native American culture. Thus, such questions as, “How much tribal cultural imagery must be maintained within a painting (or any media, for that matter) to be considered by collectors as genuinely Native American.” Or, “Can a painting of any subject matter in any style, regardless of its point of inspiration, be deemed Native American as long as the artist himself/herself is an officially, tribally registered individual?” To date, the debate on these topics continues to be discussed.

The following paintings (and I’ve added a few sculptural pieces) are available for sale through The Tribal Perspective exhibit at the Dogbotz Boneyard Gallery of Art:

All the best,

Patrick Price
Proprietor
Dogbotz Boneyard, LLC
www.dogbotz.com

Outsider Art: Raw, Naïve, and Psychic — or Mad, Fantastic, and Psychotic?

When we announced in our recent Dogbotz Boneyard newsletter that our August art exhibit would feature folk and outsider artists, many of you indicated that you weren’t sure what the term outsider artist meant or what sort of art to expect for sale at the Dogbotz Boneyard Gallery of Art.  Readers indicated that they knew what folk art entailed (and many others thought they did), but not too many were sure about outsider art. Well, here’s what we know — and we’ll try to contain it in the proverbial nutshell.

Historically, the term outsider art was first coined in 1972 by art critic Roger Cardinal, who was trying to define in English the concept of art brut (“raw art” in French), a label that had been created by French artist Jean Dubuffet to describe artwork created outside the periphery of official culture. In particular, Dubuffet was interested in art created by those outside the “established” art scene such as children, beggars or the homeless, or mentally ill patients.

The actual awareness of the forms or creative expressions beyond the accepted or traditional cultural norms, which were defined by the realm of academia or “fine art,” began with the research studies conducted by psychotherapists in the early 20th century. The most significant work of that era was Artistry of the Mentally Ill, a documented study by Dr. Hans Prinzhorn, who collected thousands of works created by his psychiatric patients. This study became an influential document among the Surrealists and other artists.

One artist particularly affected by the artwork Prinzhorn presented to his peers as well as to the general public was Jean Dubuffet. With the assistance of regional artists and writers, Dubuffet formed in 1948 La Compagnie de l’Art Brut and then sought and collected works of extreme individuality and inventiveness by artists who were not only untrained but also often had little concept of an art gallery or even any other forms of art other than their own.

Dubuffet’s concept of what constituted L’Art Brut, or Raw Art, were those works that existed in their “raw” state, unaffected by cultural and artistic influences that defined fine art of the day. Dubuffet gathered a vast collection of thousands of works, those which bore no relation to developments in contemporary art yet were innovative and powerful expressions of a wide range of individuals from a variety of backgrounds. Typically, those labeled as outsider artists had little or no contact with the mainstream art world or art institutions. In many cases, their work was discovered only after their deaths. Often, outsider art illustrated extreme mental states, unconventional ideas, or elaborate fantasy worlds.

Dubuffet’s great collection eventually found a permanent home in the city of Lausanne, France, and La Collection de l’Art Brut is now one of the most powerful and overwhelming outsider art museums to be found anywhere in the world. Today, an increased awareness of all the diverse works of outsider artists has led to a network of small organizations in both Europe and the United States devoted to the preservation of such works and the support of their creators. Similar collections to the one in Lausanne have been established in many countries, and exhibitions of different aspects of the phenomena are a regular occurrence.

DEFINITIONS

Ever since awareness of the phenomenon began, controversy has surrounded the exact definition of outsider art and its allied fields. Therefore, we provide you with some definitions that, as an art enthusiast or collector, may help you understand the differences.

Art Brut: “Raw art” (English translation) is artwork that is metaphorically “uncooked,” which is to say that it is artwork unadulterated by the culture from which it originates. Raw  implies creation in its most direct and uninhibited form. Not only are the works unique and original, but their creators are seen to exist outside established culture and society. Art Brut is visual creation at its purest, a spontaneous psychic flow from brain to paper.

Neuve Invention: Dubuffet soon realized that many artists were producing works of comparable impact and inventiveness as those designated as Art Brut; however, their greater contact with normal society and the awareness they had of their art precluded their inclusion within the strict Art Brut category. These folks are often humble workers who create art in their spare time, or eccentric and untrained artists trying to make a living from their work — some of whom have dealings with commercial galleries.

Outsider Art: Today, this term not only encompasses the concepts of Art Brut and Neuve Invention but also refers to the works of almost any untrained artist. It is simply not enough to be untrained, clumsy or naive. Outsider art is virtually synonymous with Art Brut in both spirit and meaning, to that rarity of art produced by those who do not know its name.

Folk Art: This simple and direct term has become much used — and over-used — especially in North America. Originally pertaining to the indigenous crafts and decorative skills of peasant communities in Europe, the term was later applied to the simply made practical objects of colonial days — a combination of charm and practical craftsmanship. In contemporary terms, folk art can now cover anything from chain-saw animals to hub-cap buildings. The crossover with outsider art is undeniable; however, most folk art emanates from a set of cultural traditions  and societal norms, which are often vastly different from the psychic flow of Art Brut.

To test your skills of identification, we’ve added some examples of outsider art intermingled with folk art that will be available through the Dogbotz Boneyard Gallery of Art in the coming weeks as part of our “Folk & Outsider Art” exhibit. Can you properly identify which pieces are outsider art as opposed to folk art? If you can, send us an e-mail at info@dogbotz.com indicating the art category of each piece and win a prize!

Enjoy the new exhibit as it unfolds in the weeks ahead,

All the best,

Patrick Price,
Proprietor,
Dogbotz Boneyard, LLC
www.dogbotz.com

The Art of Collecting Art

Throughout the years, friends have made such comments as “Wow, Patrick, you’ve collected some really wonderful artwork!” or “Where do you find all these fabulous paintings?” or “You really have an eye for art.” Oddly, I’m not personally convinced that I consciously know the fabulous or the wonderful when I come upon it, and being myopic, I remain uncertain that I have the proverbial eye for art. Nonetheless, family, friends, neighbors, and folks with whom I correspond are curious about my personal taste in art and how that impacts what artwork the Dogbotz Boneyard Gallery of Art offers for sale and which artists it promotes.

So, when people ask me how do I “know” which piece of art to buy or which artist to collect (and I do collect artists, often buying several of their pieces at a time), I simply tell them this: “I honor my gut.” What I mean by this is that I listen to and trust my intuition as I look at a painting, drawing, sculpture, or whatever form, and consider the story or the sentiment being shared. For me, it’s usually 50% epiphany (“OMG, this is the piece I’ve been waiting to see!”) and 50% intimate bonding with the artist (“I never expected to be touched in this way.”). If neither the awakening nor the connection is there, then I do not buy the artwork. This is not a judgment for or against any one piece of art or any one artist, as another viewer and potential art collector may experience the epiphany and the bonding in a piece where I haven’t — that’s the wondrousness of human diversity. I’m just conveying that these two elements are the essential criteria that impel me to collect a specific piece of artwork or a set of images created by a specific artist. Also, I don’t strive to buy what’s pretty or worse yet what’s trendy or the worst of all scenarios I need something to fill this space in my living room.

What I do know is that I collect what I like: the unexpected, the subtle, the vibrant, the serene, the traditional, the outlandish, the real and the spiritual. My collector’s palette enjoys the many flavors of art, being just as diverse as the colors on an artist’s palette. I have acquired art that encompasses the gamut of medium, style and theme.

From my perspective, it’s not a choice of Impressionism versus Modernism, the Abstract versus the Real, or Outsider Art versus Traditional Art (as if there ever were such a thing). Nor do I care whether the artist is well established in the art field or is an emerging artist. Nor do I collect art primarily based on its potential investment value, as who’s in and who’s out shifts with the winds of time, though I do genuinely hope that by collecting a certain artist’s work, her/his artwork increases in value so she/he can continue to create art unimpeded by financial concerns.

No, in my view, it’s about the marvel of feeling a connection with someone’s vision or interpretation of life that haunts me, in a profoundly healing way, to the very marrow of my bones.

That’s what I like, that’s what I collect . . . and that’s what influences the selection of art and artists promoted through the Dogbotz Boneyard Gallery of Art. So, wanting to share with you some of the treasures I’ve collected over the years, here are examples of artwork currently up for sale as well as some samples of what’s yet to come.

All the very best,

Patrick Price
Proprietor & Art Collector
Dogbotz Boneyard, LLC
www.dogbotz.com

Dogbotz Boneyard Grand Opening

Dogbotz Boneyard welcomes you to our initial blog . . . and to our Grand Opening!

We have just opened our online resale shop at www.dogbotz.com, where we offer a great variety of collectible, primitive, vintage, antique, hand-crafted, natural, repurposed and fair trade products as well as vintage and contemporary art.  Our store departments include Artwork, Furniture, Home Goods, Metalwork, Playthings, Wearables, and Etc. We currently have about 130 items for sale; however, our inventory continues to grow so we’ll be updating our product pages in the weeks ahead.

Also, know that a portion of our profits is donated monthly to a charitable organization whose mission focuses on the care and rehabilitation of animals and the earth. Please join us in supporting the life cycle of Earth Mother and her creatures

So, come and join the fun at www.dogbotz.com! Look around our store called “the boneyard,” and see what you’d like to add to your own personal collections. Also, if you sign up for our newsletter at our website, you’ll be notified about some of our great sales.

All the best,

Dogbotz Boneyard, LLC