Tuesday, February 23, 2016

Sight Unseen

I am so excited to share that I will be curating an issue of PoetsArtists which will then become an exhibition at Abend Gallery in Denver, CO in the Spring of 2017.  I was given the task of writing a Call for Submission.  Here is what I came up with.

Sight Unseen - by Alia El-Bermani

Artists have long created works based on the observations of what they see.  For this issue of Poets & Artists I am interested in sharing representational works that look beneath the realities of the surface and reveal a greater, hidden significance.  These artists will be peering at the mercurial boundary between the known and the unknown.  It is in this space between, that the vibration of life, of existence cannot be seen but can be felt.  How do you represent what you cannot see?  How do you paint, draw or sculpt thought or emotion, the human spirit or the supernatural? 

Einstein once wrote, “The most beautiful experience we can have is in the mysterious.  It is the fundamental emotion which stands at the cradle of true art and science”.  It is our ceaseless questioning that propels our creative endeavors and compels our viewers to pause and to feel union in the unknown.  This is where our visual language will transform to poetry.
So much of our daily lives have become superficial, from the thousands of virtual connections we call friends, to the hordes of advertising that bombard our senses.  As artists, it’s our calling to seek, and to instill deeper connections, to revel in a more meaningful existence.  Thru compassion for each other and the mysteries that tie us, we have the power to inspire.  We can have a profound impact on our society if we choose to look beneath and remind viewers of the wealth found within those depths.

I am asking a lot.  I am asking for you to seek a mix of what we see and know with what we cannot explain.  I am asking for you to tap your own soul and experience, to be vulnerable and imperfect.  Let your layered marks bear witness to the emotions that wash thru you during creation.  In this, you will take your viewer in and out of awareness of their own rise and fall of emotions, of breath.  Together there, we can feel a greater connectedness to each other and to the universe with which we are a part.  

The words ‘representational works’ can be read as broadly as you like.  Submitted works must be paintings, drawing or sculpture but in how tight or loose your interpretation of what is seen is up to you. 
Submission Call: Sight Unseen
Publication: PoetsArtists
Curator: Alia El-Bermani

Gallery: Abend Gallery
Deadline: September 1, 2016
Formats: Exhibition, Print-on-Demand, Online, Digital, and PDF

Exhibition Dates: Spring 2017 (March)

For more info and to submit your works: http://www.poetsandartists.com/exhibitions#/sight-unseen/ 

For more about Abend Gallery: www.abendgallery.com

Thursday, February 18, 2016

2016 Regional Artist Project Grant - Recipient

I am very pleased to announce that I have recently been awarded a grant from the United Arts Council of Raleigh and Wake County to purchase new studio equipment, specifically a new Nikon D610 digital camera.  These Regional Artist Project Grants (RAPG) are awarded annually to qualifying applicants to provide financial support for projects that will advance the applicant's career in demonstrable ways.

Nikon D610 camera with my recent painting Eulogy in the background

This camera and the attached Nikkor 50mm lens is a huge improvement over my old Nikon D80.  With this camera and the Britek lighting set up that was awarded to me from a previous 2012 RPAG, I will now be able to take professional photographs of my finished works with out the expense of paying a professional photographer.  Any photo reference I may need will also vastly be improved.  The last added benefit is that this D610 is capable of taking high quality video.  I foresee using this feature to create both promotional and "how-to" videos.  

I want to thank the United Arts Council of Raleigh and Wake County, especially Brandi Neuwirth, for this wonderful opportunity.  I very much appreciate the support this local institution provides for our area artists.  

The Regional Artist Project Grant is funded and administered by the United Arts Council of Raleigh and Wake County.  This project is supported by the N.C. Arts Council, a division of the Department of Cultural Resources.  The program is operated in partnership with the Franklin County Arts Council, Johnston County Arts Council, Vance County Arts Council and Warren County Arts Council.

Nikon D610 camera (back) with my recent painting Eulogy in the background


Tuesday, February 16, 2016


When we are touched by death it's not just the one death that we experience.  We are reminded of every death.  Lately, with the sudden passing of our beloved two and half year old Great Dane pup I've been thinking of every loss.  It's not a practice in morbidity, instead I find it a helpful reminder of how every life can have an indelible impact on us if we choose to honor and respect those memories.

Today, I am thinking of my first loss.  Well, perhaps there was a hamster or three that preceded this loss yet, today I remember Calvin.  I was just a girl of eleven.  The same vulnerable and volatile age as my daughter now.  He was my neighbor, a best friend and perhaps even my first crush.  I don't reliably remember the sequence of his illness.  I think that is a gift of youth.  He was just a fun kid.

Slowly (and painfully) he withered from the inside out.  My mother would not allow me to go to his service.  The entire school was bused to the beach, except for me.  Even my brother got to go.  Was this her form of protection?   I know she wanted to shelter me from the pain and grief, yet how could she?  I remember thinking "why won't she let me go"?  Was this some form of hidden, disguised, unintentional sexism at work?  My brother, though two years older was surely not as mature as I and yet he could go?  Was a girl just too weak to confront the finality of death?  And so his death was never final for me.  It lingered painfully, awkwardly casting a shadow (forever perhaps) over the gangly young adult I was becoming.  I know my mother's intentions were good, but I felt extreme guilt and embarrassment to not have been there to say good bye on the sands of that frigid ocean.  Guilt and embarrassment that I was not there to console his sister, even younger than me, who I adored. 

As a parent now, I can't imagine what his solo father was going through.  I can't imagine all that comes to fill the loss of a child.  Just yesterday his father left a comment on facebook that took me right back to that time.  He was commenting on a post about an upcoming lecture and he was stating his desire to be able to be present in the back of the room.  "i remember sitting in the back corner of a room once when a young girl came and held my hand when I needed just that... look at her now".  Through the fog of time I can't remember this exact moment as well as he, but I picture him in his stalwart mother's living-room, with her high chroma, plush carpet (was it blue or green? Funny that I can't clearly remember that detail).  I picture him limp, and curled over, stuffing gone.  Is it arrogant to be proud of what must have been my natural reaction - to go hold his hand, to just be with him?  To try to will some of the grief to pass through our hands, to bear some of that weight for him.  Calvin's life and death has surely had an indelible impact on who I am today.  I don't think I would be as empathetic to others if I had not witnessed his families suffering during his illness and through the years that followed.

I feel like it would be nice of me to end this on a positive note.  To wrap things up neat and tidy.  To say something meaningful about death but really I can't find the words.  I am literally at a loss. So much loss...

It makes me happy to think of Calvin.  It makes me remember what eleven was.  And no matter how far life can take us from our past and the people of our past, it is good to remember and honor them as they were.

This painting was done a morning shortly after my dear dog Zombie passed.  It was a quiet morning and as the snow hushed these woods, it was as if nature was taking a moment of silence for my pup.  His death has opened me up raw.  I would apologize for that rawness and intensity, except that I'm not sorry.  I am grateful for being shaken into remembering and cherishing and truly feeling the impact of all those I have loved.

Eulogy, oil on acm panel, 20" x 16", 2016