There Be Dragons Here

In the winter, around the solstice, we would rejoice in my mother’s front garden, as the dragons would emerge from their spiky nests. For that is what we called the giant, arching flower spikes of the agave atenuata plants that populate the frontage of the property. They became famous. Really! Buses of tourists actually stop for pictures when the dragons are in bloom.

Base image for Agave Solstice
Base image for Agave Solstice

Something I find most fascinating about the agave is that the flowers don’t produce seeds per se. Each blossom in the giant cluster turns into a baby plant, a pup.  And sometimes, a few of the pups still attached to the base of the cluster, in a premature exuberance of growth hormones, will sprout their own blossoms, creating a brood of mini-dragon.

©Susan Shalbe
©Susan Shalbe

Upon blooming, the agave plant has fulfilled it’s mission and produced hundreds of pups that may or may not take root. It’s a numbers game. The plant will whither and die, only to rise again in the form of new growth that will continue the cycle some ten to fifteen years hence. Unfortunately, the small blooming minis suffer the same fate as the mother plant.

The base image for Agave Solstice is from a less explosive stage in the life of the plant.

Agave Solstice
Agave Solstice

It’s done when I say it’s done.

Over the past several months, I have been sharing animations of my work that take you through the process of constructing a piece as I build it up layer by layer. Today I am sharing a different aspect of the creative process. When is a piece done? It is easy to overwork in the quest for that moment when the artwork is finished. Working on the computer, I have the luxury (or is it a curse?) of being able to endlessly edit. I also have the ability to save stages of a piece. The animation I am presenting here goes through many stages in the creation of “Perito Moreno Glacier,” searching for that moment when it is done.

Perito Moreno Glacier_animation from Karen Hochman Brown on Vimeo.

The Perito Moreno Glacier in southern Patagonia was one of the highlights of our trip to Argentina. My husband and I take the standard package deal for most of our travels. No jeeps or helicopters, we do the pedestrian version of the tour. At Perito Moreno, that means a multi-storied catwalk that comes very close to the face of the glacier. Your base of operations is a vast tourist center/cafeteria atop an overlook to the giant glacier. And you walk down a metal path that keeps the hoards from trampling the earth and still get up close to the face.

perito-moreno-triptych
Bits and pieces from the artwork. Some used, some not.

The view is from a high vantage point. The jagged structure of the glacier surface is startling in its severity. I knew I must take many pictures of the amazing blues and patterns to use in a kaleidoscope. As I began to work on the piece, I was continually stymied. My work has been mainly of organic material. The form of giant ice structures and watery blues seem unfamiliar, and monochromatic is problematic. And so I fiddle with many different iterations in search of the point when the piece is done. I believe that creating “Perito Moreno Glacier” took more time than any other work of mine. The animation shows “only” 14 of the 31 versions I recorded. I printed out drafts at an alarming rate. I gave it a rest for two weeks—twice. But in the end, it was beautiful; it was dramatic; it was done. 

Share the Love

#LoveWins

I have always loved making things. As a child, I sold watercolor greeting cards and beaded jewelry in my father’s place of business. I made my own clothes. I painted and crochet and embroidered and set bezels and on and on and on. While reviewing an old diary, I see that at one point, I had wanted to be a world famous fashion designer. I did have a small stint at making playful fabric hats (Bell Hats Over The Pacific) and other children’s dress-up items, but I moved on to working completely on my computer. 

LoveWins Animation from Karen Hochman Brown on Vimeo.

And in the digital realm, there is no actual product. Yes, I can and do print on paper and aluminum substrates that can be used to dress up walls. But my earlier passion was to make garments and personal adornments. For this, I have had to wait for the technology to print designs on fabric. And it is quite an interesting world now that artwork can be translated into fashion on demand! The first manufacturer I used gave me a good looking garment, but the fabric was thin and I was worried about having a Lululemon moment. Fortunately, I have found a company that produces a fine product that I am proud to present.

Leggings and beanie design from "LoveWins."
Leggings and beanie designs based on the artwork “LoveWins.”

I decided to use my artwork “LoveWins” for my first foray into digital printing on fabric. The piece was made in support of marriage equality and I think using it for fashion is an expressive way to share the love. The leggings and beanies I started with are a fun and cool way to take my artwork off the walls and share the love with the world. You can find them and other designs I’ve been working on over on my Art of Where site here!

 

Are You Feeling The Energy?

The Great Big Aloe Eye in the Sky is one of my more energetic pieces. The bright orange of the aloe bloom vibrates against the brisk blue sky. 

The Great Big Aloe Eye In The Sky Animation from Karen Hochman Brown on Vimeo.

I took the photograph used to create this work at the Los Angeles County Arboretum. It had rained only hours before I arrived. I usually focus in on the flower for my pieces, but the combination of the orange spikes and clear blue sky were irresistible.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
Base Image for “The Great Big Aloe Eye in the Sky”

The Great Big Aloe Eye in the Sky is featured as the cover of my 2017 calendar. I only have a limited number and they will sell out quickly. 

cover-front-and-back-2500
Click here to purchase the 2017 Wall Calendar

Adorn Your World With My 2017 Calendar

This is the sixth year of my self-published calendar/portfolio. Before I started specializing in my current form of art, I was a graphic designer. I guess I still am. The calendar gives me a chance to revisit my prior occupation. Putting the calendar together also gives me an opportunity to look back on the art I have created this year and relive what was going on with my life for each piece. The creations are very personal for me. Each photograph is a reminder of my travels or my mother’s garden or whatever was going on the day I took the picture. Each finished work is a memento that relays clues for what was going on in my life.

 

I included the four kaleidoscope pictures I created early in the year as Artist-In-Residence at the Los Angeles Arboretum. I wandered the grounds early in the morning to take photographs I would work with throughout the day, ending in the afternoon, and these pieces were done. This was an exciting challenge, creating a piece of art in a single day, in front of an audience. You can find these artworks in the calendar in February, April, November and December.

calendar-pages-triptych
Pieces I created for the Sanchez Art Center’s 50|50 Show in Pacifica, CA

 

The other big project I had this year is represented in the months of January, June and July. These artworks were part of an installation at Sanchez Art Center in Pacifica, California. In this project, I created 50 small artworks in 50 days over the summer. I decided to use this as an opportunity to incorporate a technique I have been toying with for years, even before the kaleidoscopes. The basic form continues with the use of a single photograph that I have distorted and reflected. But for these small works, I made the backgrounds with a technique I developed that brushstrokes to paint the image based on texture, shape and luminescence of a photograph.

Pre-sale starts TODAY!

Bulk pricing available.

Cart 50
Order your calendar now!

The Repose of Autumn

My husband and I are members of a Community Theater company and we have been rehearsing feverishly to put on our first drama, Twelve Angry Jurors. We opened this weekend and close the next. I play the role of the Foreman. It is my job to keep the jury room in order, to take and tally votes and, so it would seem, tell a lot of people to calm down and sit down, including my husband. The opening went well. Whew! When we got home from the performances we sat down to watch the Second Presidential Debate. I am hit with how relevant the highly charged characters in this 1950s play reflect what I see on my TV today.

LateAutumnLeaves_animation from Karen Hochman Brown on Vimeo.

More than being a courtroom drama, this play shows us the dynamics of a small group of individuals and how they come to be of a like mind. In this drama, and hopefully in real life, those who speak their mind in the name of truth do influence the way others act. Poisonous diatribe is stopped while sane and rational discourse has a chance to triumph.

late-autumn-leaves_triptych
Base image (center) and two “foundling” images for “Late Autumn Leaves.”

I chose Late Autumn Leaves to share this week because I just need to calm down after opening night jitters and the social politics of 2016. This work reminds me the days are getting longer and time is slowing down as we head into Fall. Green leaves are turning color. The sky is bright blue and can be seen peeking through arched cathedral windows near the center of the piece.

late-autumn-leaves_merch

 

Finding Focus in the Calm Places

It was January of 2011 and I was struggling with where I wanted to take my art and my art career. I had been making Judaic artwork using some powerful graphic synthesizer programs. The goal was to print images to silk to make prayer shawls. The technology was new and expensive, and over the course of a year and a half, I found the whole process too frustrating to continue.

 

So now I find myself lost and unfocused. I am at the end of that journey. I’m out of a job, a job that I invented. I feel betrayed by the very thing that feeds my soul and gives me great comfort. For many months, I tinkered with various software programs looking for something new to do. I revisited prior projects to see if new insight would advance them to the front.

 

Base image (center) and two "foundlings" for "Erythrina On Fire."
Base image (center) and two “foundlings” for “Erythrina On Fire.”

One day, I made the inspirational leap to use photographs with the math-based software that landed me in a place where I was able to regain my focus. So much so, that I have been concentrating on this series for almost six years, creating more than one hundred, forty pieces.

In the artwork Erythrina On Fire, I have constructed a large swath of smooth cream color against the very busy orange structure of the reflected flower. You can see in the animation of the piece how I altered the colors to give the viewer a place to rest comfortably in a calm place amid the surrounding chaos.

 

erythrina-on-fire_merch

Cochlear Calla Lily Spin

It has long been a goal of mine to make my artworks move. I get a chance to go deeper into the trance-inducing nature of my kaleidoscopes. I also have the opportunity to show the audience how my work is constructed.

Cochlear Calla Lily is constructed in very few parts. I was taken by the simplicity in form of the subject blossom and wanted to reflect that feeling in the work. There is a simple background layer and a central hub. There is a large wreath-like motif and four corner doodads.

Base image (center) and two “foundlings” for Cochlear Calla Lily

The most complex part of the piece is that main motif—a twelve-layered repetition of a single image. When I give my artwork movement, I can show how these distorted and reflected calla blossom dances into place around the wheel.

cochlear-calla-lily_merch

Connect with Karen Hochman Brown

* indicates required




Collaboration

“The heart of this celestial game board has the power to set the wheel in wildly flamboyant motion. Implosive and explosive in one movement, the resultant green waves cool the player’s fevered brow. The sentinels call out, “Place your bets!” There is no winning, there is no losing, there is only the Game.”

Orchids-In-Play
Orchids In Play

My best friend, Robin Panzarella, wrote these words about Orchids In Play. It was one of twelve poems she penned that were inspired by  the first twelve pieces of my continuing series of photograph-based kaleidoscopic artworks. I published these poems alongside my artwork as a  calendar. I had expected we would be a team for longer, but it wasn’t to be. These twelve poems, unpublished a the time of her passing, continue to fuel my exploration into this form.

The artwork always came first and was completed before Robin wrote the poetry. In this particular piece, however, Robin’s poem inspired me to update my work and embellish the background with an array of dots, like a giant game board.

Orchids In Play base image
Orchids In Play base image

Check out this image on my online store!