Light & Shadow

The mix of light and darkness faintly reflect another world by the creation of shadows. Shadows create a suggestion of space, creating a reality where none existed in total darkness.

I’m grateful to have been invited to give an artist talk recently to a lovely and receptive audience from Catalyst Art Lab. Before Covid, I had been giving talks like this a few times a year in some form-short versions at gallery openings and longer versions with slides to college students, collectors and others artist groups. Before I present one of these talks, there are a number of hours spent updating the words and images of past work to put into context what I’m currently doing in the studio. Some of this updating entails reaching far back into the past to read my graduate thesis paper written 2002-2003. Please enjoy the following excerpt on Light and Shadow from said paper…It’s always fun to delve into the past to see that the more things change, the more they stay the same.

Light and Shadow

Light has many forms and associated meanings which range from its inherently luminous physical properties to its intangible metaphorical and conceptual inclinations. Light “can be natural or artificial, direct or reflected, interior or exterior…transcendent and mystical.”[1] Dawn, sun breaking through clouds and moonlight all bring a sense of relief to us in some way as they symbolize a new beginning, another chance to live and love. “Light throws doors and windows open, makes wall transparent, spans unlikely distances, links matter and spirit.”[2] Light lives in us, around us, compelling us toward life and serving as a reminder of hope, peace and harmony.

“God is called Light, not so much for His spirit, or essence, as for His very energy.”[3] Light embodies many things, but most importantly, light is known to all humans in some way as the direct opposite of darkness and evil. Darkness does not exist as a physical phenomenon as light exists, but is only revealed by the contrast of the absence of light. Elements in our physical space are not noticed unless the light and the atmosphere creating that light exist to eradicate the darkness. In the physical world, contrasts and differences of values of space serve to express light and with that light comes a reflection of righteousness and Divinity. This can be true in the spiritual sense as the presence of light illuminates that which was dark within us. Aspects of our spiritual selves that were previously unnoticed are revealed by the light, thus provoking an awakening, an arousal of the spirit. This inner illumination emanates as a glow, a sourceless radiance that originates from the soul and implores outward reflection. Coming in contact with this luminousness spreads warmth and solace, filling the world with a sense of harmony. In this sense, light signifies all that is good in the universe as it peacefully pervades the physical darkness in our lives and expresses the spiritual “cosmic forces…the divine element in nature, invisible but present.”[4]

The mix of light and darkness faintly reflect another world by the creation of shadows. Shadows create a suggestion of space, creating a reality where none existed in total darkness. “Shadows hold no physicality, yet they are so critical to our seeing, we cannot see form without them.”[5] The play of light and shadow on surfaces creates shifting pockets of space which unite and harmonize forms, allowing us to visually make sense and create a semblance of order to our lives. “There are those who leave the fire and move toward the deeper reaches of the forest where they believe a source of light to exist which is more intense. A light that breathes, not at all a fixed symbol, a light that alludes yet beckons-the unity of which lies hidden in the chaos.”[6] The shadows that light casts can work to conceal and even to deceive, but the importance of the shadow lies in what it can reveal.

“The ways of darkness always come to an end before long, but the mystery of light we find to reach on and on forever.”[7] Light radiates warmth and comfort to all life on a daily basis. The reality of light is that it exists as a constant physical, living presence in our lives-as our shield from death-for without it there is no life. Its existence compels us to revel in its beauty, simplicity and life-sustaining power.


[1] Jarmusch, Stalking the Light, p. 1.
[2] Graef, Heinz, Light in Pictures, (Western Germany, Herder & Company, 1954), p. 14. Hereafter cited as Graef, Light in Pictures.
[3] Reutersward, Patrick, “What Color is Divine Light?” from Light in Art, (New York, New York, Macmillon Company, 1971), p. 123.
[4] Graef, Light in Pictures, p. 14.
[5] Irwin, Robert in Robert Irwin: The Beauty of Questions, (video production/director, Leonard Feinstein, 1997)
[6] Terrae, Imago, Paul Jenkins: Broken Prisms, (Paris, France, Galilee Editions, 1989), p. 189.
[7] Graef, Light in Pictures, p. 18.

Image: Early Spring Fresh, encaustic monoprint on rice paper, 9.5×11

Should Professional Artists Take Workshops?

I spend a good deal of my time sharing with and teaching others and although I learn a lot from my students, sometimes I want to be in the student seat, having fun and making a mess with new ideas, new products and new voices.

Lately, I’ve heard criticism that professional artists shouldn’t speak about taking workshops or classes because they then are relegated to student and are thought of as not as serious about their work. Well, using the wise words of my fourth grade teacher, Mrs. Colletello-that’s hogwash! I take workshops because I AM serious about my work, about growing and expanding on my ideas in the studio and realizing that this sometimes doesn’t happen in a vacuum. I spend a good deal of my time sharing with and teaching others and although I learn a lot from my students, sometimes I want to be in the student seat, having fun and making a mess with new ideas, new products and new voices. To be clear, I don’t make a habit of taking classes, mainly because I think that too many workshops messes with studio mojo, but about every third year I choose an instructor whose work I respect and take a workshop with them. I have about five on my wishlist of futures and last month I took advantage of being Covid-bound and was finally able to take a virtual workshop I’ve had my eye on with the extremely inspiring Stuart Shils

I took was a drawing class called Reframing the Ordinary, basically about deriving compositions and content from your surroundings as well as retraining your eyes to see. I don’t come from a painting background and never really took painting classes in school, so the class exercises were challenging but super fun. We worked in a timed format on drawings and collages using only black and white and the same scene-I used a corner of my studio as inspiration. Each drawing prompt was different and encouraged focusing on different things each time-ie. the darkest area, the lightest area, where does your eye go first, second, etc. The collages were made using black and white paper and are what I enjoyed the most, especially black on black. Representing value with only one color was also an interesting challenge and encouraged noticing side by side value changes, dark to lights first and then mid-tones. This exercise encouraged imaginative ways to represent lights and darks by shape and texture, especially when only using one color paper. I included two of these collages below as well as a few juicy quotes from the workshop.

In conclusion, the answer to should professional artists take classes is a resounding, yes! And yes, do share with others what classes you take. We all have to help each other out during these times.

All quotes are Stuart Shils unless other wise noted.

• Seeing is forgetting the name of the thing seen. Paul Valery
• Every moment of the day offers opportunity if we are paying attention.
• If you think too hard or plan too much, you make it impossible to embrace the situation with authenticity.
• Landscape is anything that is in front of you.
• Making it simpler does not mean eliminating complexity.
• I don’t think too much about the difficulties, because then I would get stunned or stuck. Pay attention to the feeling instead, the changing, the ripening, the growing.

5 Reasons Why I Installed My Solo Gallery Show During Covid19 Quarantine

Why did I go ahead with installing a show in the middle of a pandemic? A show that may never have eyes on it other than mine and the gallery owner’s? I list 5 very good reasons why I did it…

Hey, so did you all know I have an actual solo show installed in an actual gallery right in the middle of a national quarantine? The opening, originally scheduled for April 11 was rescheduled as a closing for May 16 and has now been extended to a June 6 closing. (Show details at the end of the article). I was lucky to gain the extension because the artist whose show was scheduled after mine decided to decline because of the virus. Why did I go ahead with installing a show that may never have eyes on it other than mine and the gallery owner’s?

Because….

  1. I’m an artist and it’s what I do. Period. I am an artist. I have art. I have been offered walls in a gallery to hang that art and I’m going to hang it. One of my favorite quotes from the book, Steal Like An Artist, Watch a great musician play a show, watch a great leader give a speech. You’ll see what I mean. You need to find a way to bring your body into your work….you know that phrase ‘going through the motions?’ That’s what’s so great about creative work: if we just start going through the motions, if we strum a guitar or shuffle sticky notes around a conference table, or start kneading clay, the motion kick starts our brain into thinking.
    It’s important for me as an artist to do what I do, to go through the motions no matter the fears I, or anyone else, may have regarding the future.
  2. Hope How many of you have walked down once bustling city streets and peeked into shop windows wishing that you would see a light on or a person working, something that would give you hope? Well, I have peered into shop windows on a few instances and I have found that hope. People walking by the gallery may not be collectors and it may not be an opening, but it just might add hope to the heart of someone glancing in the window of the gallery who sees my art instead of empty white walls.
  3. Art is Meant to be Experienced in Person Kudos and many thanks to those who have organized online exhibitions to brighten art lovers lives during isolation, I have thankfully been a part of a few of these shows. But just like quarantine, online exhibitions are not sustainable in order for art to thrive. Scale, color, sound, smell, texture, touch, not to mention the emotional experience one can rouse from the presence of a piece of art and/or the cohesiveness of entire exhibition. These things are just absent when viewing art online.
  4. Normalcy I needed a bit of it in my life. Taking masked precautions when necessary, I continued to hike, drive, go to the food store and keep appointments when I could throughout the quarantine. So when the gallery owner contacted me and asked if I wanted to go on with the show, my answer was an adamant, Of Course! As we slowly creep out of this isolation and take proper precautions, I will continue to schedule in person shows, workshops, trips and everything else that brings me just a bit closer to normal life and I encourage you, my artist friends (those of you who can do this safely) to do the same.
  5. Art is An Essential Worker Not to undermine the so many brave frontline souls, you are wonderful and thank YOU for doing what you do. So many conversations have been had during this quarantine regarding who is an essential worker, what is an essential product, business, etc. As an artist, I’m guessing art and artists fall somewhere near the bottom of that very long list of essentials. My post, 5 Reasons Why the World Needs Art & Artists argues why art should at least be near the top.

If you’re in the Philadelphia area, please come see my show! All precautions will be taken to keep everyone safe and distant while viewing the art including mandatory mask wearing (I will have a few of my own handmade, hand-dyed, sterilized masks on hand as door prizes for the first 5 attendees!) Limit to 4 people inside the gallery at a time, wrapped refreshments and frequent wiping down of surfaces. Come see!
For those of you who can’t make it, highlights of the show are pictured below.

Lorraine Glessner Solo Show: A Box of Devils
Closing Reception, June 20, 2-5 pm
Boston Street Gallery, Philadelphia, PA
Gallery Web Site

Living In Gratitude

Since I started writing daily gratitudes, my mindset has greatly improved. I’m able to see the half full glass, smile and be more relaxed even when I feel like exploding. Take it from a skeptic, Living In Gratitude really does work!

As we enter into a new year and a new decade (!) I’ve been thinking a lot about gratitude. It’s such a cliche, really, so new age-y to discuss gratitude. And I must admit, it’s for these reasons that only until a few years ago, I never really considered it a part of my life. Sure, I’m grateful and always have been, I’m certainly not an ingrate.. but I never really considered what Living In Gratitude meant and how practicing this simple concept could change my life.

I was introduced to gratitude as a practice when I took Alyson Stanfield’s Art Biz Bootcamp course (now called Art Biz Accelerator-a segment of her Art Career Success System.) Taking this course and later, becoming a part of her Inner Circle were two of the best things I ever did for my art business. So much of Art Biz Bootcamp was helpful toward building my art business and many of the lessons learned have remained in my daily, weekly and monthly business tasks, including my gratitudes list. I had often heard that writing a daily list of gratitudes was helpful, but I always thought it had to be this profound list of great and wonderful thoughts. What Alyson impressed upon me the most was that the list of gratitudes can really be quite simple. To illustrate how simple, I shared 20 (plus 1) of my most repeated 2019 gratitudes below. I do them everyday before I go to bed and I always write them-writing them is important as it reinforces the idea. Also important is to write them as complete sentences beginning with ‘I am grateful for..’ or ‘I am thankful for..’ Alyson suggests five gratitudes a day, but I usually write just three. You can do them in the morning or evening as it’s best to do them as a start or finish for the day-these are the best times for reflection. For me, writing my gratitudes at the end of the day provides me opportunities to take note of a positive things taking place throughout the day so that I can recall those moments and write them down. Noticing these moments helps me get through with a more positive outlook, even on the worst days when nothing seems to be going right. Overall, since doing this, my mindset has greatly improved. I’m able to see the half full glass, smile and be more relaxed even when I feel like exploding. Take it from a skeptic, Living In Gratitude really does work!

  1. I am grateful for the sun shining on my face.
  2. I am grateful for the time to hike and the beauty I discovered today.
  3. I am grateful I feel inspired and painting is going well this week.
  4. I am grateful my car still runs and takes me to far away places where I can escape.
  5. I am grateful for the pain of the last few months and the opportunities it has opened for healing old wounds.
  6. I am grateful for pizza and chocolate chip cookies.
  7. I am grateful the flowers are blooming outside my window.
  8. I am grateful for my caring friends who listen.
  9. I am grateful people forgive.
  10. I am grateful I am a strong person.
  11. I am grateful I didn’t get a ticket even though I was way speeding.
  12. I am grateful I have a comfortable bed to come home to.
  13. I am grateful I saw the moon and stars tonight.
  14. I am grateful for random heart shaped things on the trail on my hikes.
  15. I am grateful my work is sought after and appreciated.
  16. I am grateful I got to sleep late today.
  17. I am grateful to be in the studio all day today.
  18. I am grateful for the cool thunderstorm today.
  19. I am grateful for my freedom and to live in this country.
  20. I am grateful for new art to look at and for artist painting trades.
  21. I am grateful I get to do what I love everyday.

5 Reasons Why the World Needs Art and Artists

Winston Churchill once asked a most important question, “What is society worth without poets and artists?” The answer is nothing and here are 5 reasons why…

Winston Churchill once asked a most important question, “What is society worth without poets and artists?” Over the last few years, I have had many conversations with artist friends and mentees who have the concern that it feels ‘selfish’ or ‘self-serving’ to make art in a world with so many horrible things going on in it. I’m sorry to say that according to history, the world always has and always will have horrible things going on in it…but it has always had art as well. To fall into despair and want to fight the wrongs is natural for all empathetic humans. But please don’t stop making your art or beat yourself up for wanting to work in your studio rather than go to a protest. The world is a fallen place and we need art now more than ever.
During the last year or so, I’ve asked workshop students what art does for the them, for the world and the following were the most popular answers. There are many such lists that answer this same question and I would suggest that when you feel the need to create protest signs in lieu of your art, read these lists! It will benefit you and lots of others as well.

  1. Asks Questions  In my recent blog post article 3 Essential Art Evaluation Questions, I cite this and the next list item as one of the essential parts of a good work of art. In fact, I think the best art offers no answers but allows for further questions and good art asks both big and little questions. When considering questions in this respect, it’s not the literal asking, but the thought that counts.
  2. Expands Ideas Art provides an endless arena for experimental thoughts and ideas to enter our consciousness, both as a viewer and a maker. Just like asking questions without giving answers, it’s best not to spoon feed all thoughts and ideas right there in the work. Rather, allowing room for expansion of thought, discussion and even debate makes for the most interesting works.
  3. Health Benefits Don’t you feel good after working in your studio? Even if the work wasn’t going particularly well that day, you still feel like you’ve unloaded a burden. Well, there is actually a physical and physiological reason why you feel so good and it’s all in this interesting Business Insider article Why You Should Be Making Art Even If You’re Bad At It. If you stop making work because you feel bad about the state of the world, well, you’re only going to feel worse. So get into that studio, start feeling better and make the world a better place in the process!
  4. Create Beauty As serious artists, we aren’t supposed to mention ‘the B word’ these days. In fact, I’ve heard from a few curators if the word exists in your artist statement it knocks you down a few pegs. I’m a huge proponent of beauty in my own work as well as in the art I purchase. Ginny Ruffner is a well known artist who I have followed since grad school and whose life’s work has been focused on the idea and ideal of beauty. Also exploring the subject of beauty is the Ted Radio Hour Podcast, What Is Beauty? Each speaker makes the case for various kinds of beauty and that we may actually need beauty in our lives to survive. Denis Dutton is one of the speakers, whose work focused on beauty and why it’s actually essential to life. He states that the experience of beauty encourages us to make survival decisions by arousing and sustaining our interest…Beauty spurs us on simply by existing. Dutton also mentions a landscape structure that people all over the world universally consider beautiful. Artists Vitaly Komar and Alexander Melamid took this idea a step further by commissioning polling companies all over the world to conduct scientific research in order to derive what the public wanted to see in a work of art. The use of the poll was meant to mimic the democratic vote of the United States and to the make the point that if the general public could choose a president, why are they not a sufficient judge of art? The research data resulted in a series of paintings the two artists created of the ‘most wanted’ and ‘unwanted’ works of art, one of the most wanted is pictured at the top of this article. Also cited in the Ted Podcast is the inspiring story of Nathanial Ayers, the subject of the book and film, The Soloist, whose story serves as an excellent supporting example for why art and beauty is needed in the world.
  5. Spread Hope & Healing In my opinion, one of the most important components to a work of art and one I strive to include in my own. Sometimes we just need a place to escape to and don’t know how to get there. Art presents a vehicle in which to transcend to another time/place in order to reflect on the present. Hope is what is gained from these experiences and from hope comes healing.

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