This is a portion of an article originally featured in SHOUTOUT HTX. Read more here.
I always wanted to be an artist, but I’d heard about the “starving in a freezing garret” thing. While I wasn’t sure what a garret was, I understood the other bits, so I thought I’d better get another career first. Around 1979, when I had a job and was settled in, I started taking classes at the Glassell School here in Houston. Eventually I found my way to the print shop and began a wonderful journey.
One of my recurring themes over the years has been hobo symbols. When I was quite young, we lived in Idaho. My father was a minister and we lived near the railroad tracks. People came to our door often asking for food. One day my father came home to find a man sitting in the living room eating a sandwich. My mother was a very kind woman but might not have always thought things through. It was a gentler time though and we’d moved to Idaho from an island off the coast of Maine where there had been no such knocks on the door.
I remember my father saying, “You need to be careful. They’ll mark the house.” I didn’t know what he was talking about, but many years later I found a book that had hobo symbols in it. They were marks that would be left for the next people coming through, telling them where it was safe, who would give you some work or some food, and so on. They were nice graphic symbols, and I happily incorporated them into my artwork.
Though I am primarily a printmaker, weaving is another of my art forms. While I do make things like kitchen towels and scarves, I also weave tapestry. It’s a slow process but one I enjoy. I hope to be able to do both types of art for many more years.
Looking back at herself and her practice, Denise tells us how she began her artistic journey in a completely different environment in this interview:
-Question: What was your art path?
I’ve always had a passion for art since I was as young as 6 years old. I played around with oil paints, won a few awards in school, but had no technical training. I was accepted into the High School of Art and Design in New York City, but only lasted three months. I entered the corporate world, and never looked back… until recently. With that said, I believe that my creativity carried me through my career, in many forms.
-Question: Why the move from New York City to Houston?
I worked on Wall Street in New York until 1999, when I came to Houston to work in the energy industry. It wasn’t until 2018 that I started doing my artwork, and entered the Houston art scene.
-Question: What is the background of the "smoke and soot technique” ?
I came across something on Instagram and just started playing around, first with candles, then with kerosene. The ethereal feeling makes it special to me. You can’t control the smoke……and it just feels right.
Denise’s dramatic style captures the imagination, whether it be with bursts of bright colors or stark black and white. See more of her work here.
Joe Haden, metal sculptor, refines and redefines with a delicate touch.
by Annette Palmer, photography by Chris Spicks
(this article was originally featured in The Woodlands City Lifestyle Magazine)
When you meet Joe Haden, you meet a man whose work and artistry are his life, working with the toughest of materials and dangerous tools, fire, metal and sheer grit. He is a tall gent with a beard, clad in his signature uniform of denim overalls and accompanied by his constant companion, Mrs. Jones. If you have ever visited The Houston Art Car Museum or enjoyed The Orange Show annual Art Car Parade, then you will undoubtedly have viewed some of Haden’s fantastical creations. A pioneer of The Art Car Parade, now in its 36th year, he continues to invent creative, humorous designs with incredible artistry. He’s won “Best in Show” 5 times! This is quite a departure from Haden’s initial engineering career; originally employed in the aerospace industry, he designed components for the stealth bomber and then later worked for Bell Helicopter. Embracing his love of design, he began constructing homes. “I saw the homes as individual sculptures” he states, “it awoke my design aesthetic, I would personally design and build the homes”. He would add character by introducing a subtle artistic detail to every project. The struggle between engineering and art is somewhat contradictory, the rigid rules and precision of engineering versus the playfulness, creativity and experimentation of the artistic journey. Eventually focusing full time on his art practice, Haden expresses “It’s always play, if it’s not play, it’s work”
Tools of choice include a plasma cutter, oxygen acetylene torch, and blacksmithing equipment including an anvil, propane, and coal forge. With these heavy-duty means, he can create filigree designs on the most unforgiving, hard materials. Pretty florals and fragile feathers emerge, as intricate shapes are cut and formed from discarded farm equipment, oil cans, shovels, rakes and other metal utilitarian basics. Once again, we see a contradiction in his work, the softness and femininity of the patterns and designs of the lightweight subjects, borne from the hardest, heaviest and strongest elements, The “Paradox of Containment” vessels, include obsolete milk churns and oil cans, with lace like patterns cut into the body of the containers, creating holes in something designed to hold and preserve liquids, transforming these abandoned functional items into fine art pieces with a narrative. The shadows created when light shines through the multiple elegant cutouts are as beautiful as the physical item, with a play on shadows cast, and positive and negative spaces, another paradox.
Haden is inspired by the avant-garde dada art movement of the 1920’s, which explored absurdity and artistic freedom as a reaction to a global situation. As well as an acknowledgment of the upcycling movement and the fulfillment of creating something new from something old. Haden elaborates “The practice of using found objects poses its own set of problems, working around existing design features adds a whole new challenge, and it’s important to work the problem into the beauty of the piece, which ultimately adds to the end result.”
This heavy machinery and force with an almost industrial feel may lead us to think that Haden is a man as tough as steel, but we would be mistaken. Constant companion, Mrs. Jones, his 9lb rescued chihuahua rarely leaves his side and Haden tends to her every need with love and tenderness. He is a master of the Japanese art of reiki, a positive technique that focuses on energy vibrations. His mother, who was an expert in the reiki field, taught him this meditative process that rests the brain and calms our thoughts. He enjoys meditation and other aspects of self-care, believing that ultimately, respect for yourself and others is what makes the world go round. “It’s all about the balance of life, like the balance between engineering and art”, he says. Those that enjoy astrology would also find it interesting to find that Haden is a Libra, the horoscope sign represented by the scales, it’s about finding the equilibrium and seeing the lighter side of the heavier things, just like his art. Haden works from his family ranch in Crockett, Texas, the same ranch that has been in his family since the early 1800’s is a place of peace and inspiration, a tranquil sanctuary. His mother was born here and when she became unwell 15 years ago, Haden went home. The ranch years were a time of immersion, isolation and routine, when he cared for his mother, worked on the ranch, and made art. Literally returning to his roots, he could sense the earth beneath him and experience a connection to the spiritual energy of his ancestors and history, the connection with nature, the constellations, and the universe.
The Houston Art Car Museum, 140 Heights Blvd, Houston, will present “Joe Haden”, a solo exhibition, new sculptures will showcase alongside his inaugural photography collection. The opening reception for this event is between 6 – 9pm, on Saturday, June 17th, the show runs until the end of September.
Archway Gallery debuts Annette Palmer's pandemic painting collection "North Sea Gulf Coast"
by Nickole Bobley, photography by Chris Spicks
(this article was originally featured in The Woodlands City Lifestyle Magazine)
How do we even begin to process our own displacement during the global pandemic? One way is to examine art produced by artists during that pivotal time. Created during the crucible of the coronavirus, celebrated artist Annette Palmer will give an artist’s talk at the opening reception of her new exhibition North Sea Gulf Coast at 6:30pm on Saturday, June 3rd at Houston’s Archway Gallery.
Like many during the height of Covid-19, Palmer, who is Scottish-born but now resides in The Woodlands area, suddenly found herself separated by a lockdown and an ocean from friends and family (some ailing and elderly). In this new collection of painted works, Palmer explores themes of yearning, distance, and connectivity. While Covid stress-tested reality in ways we had never experienced before, this artist contemplates her feeling of finally being at home in 2 places nearly 5000 miles apart—the common water between her two coastal ports serving as both a connection point and a physical divider.
In her semi-abstract land and seascapes, we glimpse her predilection for the beach towns of Gardenstown in Scotland and Galveston in the United States and ardency for the tempestuous sea that fills the enormous space between them.
“I paint vast open spaces, and am drawn to the energy of the sea,” Palmer explains. “It is the vinculum between land masses separated by thousands of miles. The ebb and flow of the tide is a rhythm which resets the beat of the heart, the body clock. Its vastness puts everything in perspective. We are small in the universe, yet connected and integral to something much bigger.” In many of her North Sea Gulf Coast paintings, Palmer incorporates twine and feathers from the respective coastal locations. In others, she adds gilding elements which emit a quiet but profound cheer. With the sea at her center, look for the ethereal otherworldly surprises she gifts us in her water thematic pieces and notice the point of view of these paintings as if one is in the water looking for the horizon line. When viewing the romantic celestial Dog Star, with its rich earth tones and metal flourishes, I was struck by my own global virus memory of everyone stuck in their own silos while finally having the time to go outside, gaze upward and marvel at the stars which are universal. “Distance isn’t just physical,” says Palmer. “It’s life and death, it can be lost in time, it can be spiritual.”
Growing up in a creative environment in Falkirk, most of Palmer’s teenage years were spent in the high school art department where she designed and constructed clothing, produced fashion shows and immersed herself in the Edinburgh and Glasgow music scenes. Palmer received her Bachelor of Arts with Honors from Edinburgh College of Art/Heriot Watt University. Upon graduation, she worked as a fashion designer and eventually started her own label in Singapore. Since 2006, Palmer has focused on drawing and painting. In addition to a lengthy international exhibiting history which includes solo shows at Houston’s Jung Center and The Woodlands’ Glade Gallery, she has also showcased her work in Dallas and in Santa Fe art expositions. Her curation work includes art galleries and exhibition spaces including H&H&8 and The St. Luke’s Hospital. Later, she served as the juror for the Sawyer Yards “Dreamscapes” exhibition and most recently for The Conroe Art League’s International Exhibition. North Sea Gulf Coast by Annette Palmer at Archway Gallery is not to be missed! It runs through July 5th.
An Interview with Archway Artist Joan Laughlin
Where are you from and how does that influence your work?
I was born in the Midwest but have mostly lived in Houston since I was 2 years old. Though Houston is a very new, urban environment filled with lots of concrete and tall, modern buildings, I am attracted to the wild beauty of the natural world that still grows in and around the city, in the cracks and in-between spaces. Although it was not intentional, this interest could probably be seen metaphorically. My mother grew up in the country in a tiny farming community, but due to the circumstances of her time, she ended up, not in the country as a farmer’s wife, but in the modern city of Houston married to an oil executive. Despite the influence of modern life, we can’t be completely domesticated or modernized. There is something feral or wild that still exists.
Describe your work.
I am an oil painter. I taught myself how to paint after I moved back to Houston from Los Angeles in 2002 after attending an MFA program in New Genres where the concentration was mostly on Conceptual Art and Critical Theory. Today, I mostly paint small-ish paintings of flowers, plants and trees, sometimes roots. They range in size from 8x10 inches to 18 x 24 inches. I use photos taken from my walks as source material.
How do you work?
I mostly work from photos that I take. Sometimes, I will try to work from life. But that can be difficult. I have a full-time job in a field completely unrelated to art, so I have to paint around my work schedule and working from photos is more convenient.
How has your work changed over time?
For about 10 years (from 2010-2020), I mostly painted monochromatic landscapes in a color similar to Van Dyke brown. Many people commented that these paintings looked like black and white photos. I showed and sold many of those works, but I got tired of making them, they took forever to do, as they were very detailed. I was still teaching Drawing at this time and every semester when we got to the lessons on Color Theory, I would realize how much I really loved color. I’m drawn to artists who are great colorists. The David Hockney show at the MFAH comes to mind. And, I love the work of local artists Michael Golden and Cary Reeder mostly because they are such great colorists. When I was making that monochromatic work, I was thinking a lot about death and dying. My Dad had Alzheimer’s then and I spent much of my time caring for him. Those days, I would go to the art store and look through the beautiful colors made by Williamsburg Oils and sometimes would just buy a tube of a gorgeous color like Egyptian Violet, knowing I wasn’t going to use it, but it was so beautiful I had to have it. These tubes of gorgeous colors were like precious gemstones to me then. I knew that one day I’d work with color again. And, now I am!
Where do you find inspiration?
I find inspiration on my walks through the Heights where I have lived for 18 plus years. I love looking at the gardens. I also find inspiration in the the wild brush and flowers that I see on the side of the road while driving.
What motivates you to create?
I believe in Beauty, with a capital “B.” During the most difficult times in my life, I have turned to art and nature for solace, hope and direction. I believe that Beauty can save the world. And, that we can find it in our simple everyday environments that we often overlook during our busy, stressful lives.
What are you most proud of to date?
Artwise, my one-person show at Galveston Arts Center in 2017 curated by the wonderful Dennis Nance.
Do you have a network of other artists, and how do they support you?
Well, I’m a member of Archway Gallery which fosters a spirit of support for all of its members. Every month during the monthly gallery rehang, I feel inspired to keep making newer and better work after seeing the new work that the other gallery members have made. Aside from that, my parents always supported and encouraged my art education and activities. I’m the only one in the family to be involved in the arts. It seems that this interest was important for my parents, too. My mom always tells me how much she learns about Art History by visiting the museums with with me. I have visited countless museums with my parents. It’s one of my favorite things to do. They created their own personal docent by funding my art education! For the past 3 years, I have worked in a field completely unrelated to art, and, in a weird way, this has made my practice more important to me. The little extra time and energy that I have is devoted to my art practice. I really need it, don’t know what I’d do without it.
An Art Collection as a Personal Legacy
I buy art that knocks me over or touches my heart. It can be ceramic, steel, paint, or collage. I find personal meaning in works by others that send me on an internal journey of understanding and connection. My children and grandchildren will have first dibs on a wonderful collection if they survive me, and I hope I have raised them to collect with the same fire and passion.
I wonder who will end up with the dead sheep.
by donna e perkins
(this article was originally featured in 365 Things To Do In Houston)
Why Surround Yourself with Local Art?
Let me tell you why I love living with my collection of original art. Before I get up in the morning, I enjoy seeing the morning sun, as it rises, play across three artworks on my bedroom wall. One is a cast of a torso covered in strips of musical notes, one is an oil painting of a woman bound by a string of Christmas lights, and one is an explosive abstract with lots of energy and texture. In another area of my living space, the large electrical box located near my front door is covered by a joyful young nude with a tattoo proclaiming, “Happiness is Free.” This image always lifts my mood. All these works have their own emotive energy. All carry memories. I live in a work/live studio which has fewer walls than a house, but my celling is extremely high. So, in the area I’ve designated as my sitting room, I’ve hung works salon-style, fitting paintings, drawings, prints, and photos together like puzzle pieces far higher than I can reach. My furniture supports the sculptures in my collection.
It’s a Pleasure to Live with Original Art
Every painting, drawing, print, photograph, and sculpture that embellishes my environment brings me pleasure. Each one has emotional content. Each one has a story; a story about when and where I first saw the piece, and what attracted me to it. I enjoy remembering what I know about the artist, and the artist’s story. I’m fascinated with how everything is made. I have all sorts of questions about how the artist created the piece, so it’s a bonus to meet the artist and learn more about the specific artwork.
The Pursuit of Specific Works, or the Work by a Particular Artist, May Suit You Some people invest in art for a future financial profit. For this to be successful, it takes more money than I have. It takes a lot of knowledge about the art market. It often takes working with an art consultant who keeps up with what is currently available or coming up for auction. If you can play that game, good for you. To me it sounds like as much fun as actually reading all those reports my mutual funds send.
How Do You Want to Invest Your Time, Your Energy & Your Money? What makes sense for you? Did the pandemic change how you feel about your home? Were the walls closing in on you? A seascape might remind you of being at the beach. A landscape may enlarge the feel of a room, acting like an added window. Perhaps, you would prefer some totally abstract artwork that adds color and motion and energy to your space. What emotive experience do you desire? What objects do you want to see as you let your mind and eyes wander? You may find, as I have, that by adding original art to your environment, you enrich your life.