Documenting Protest: Granny Peace Brigade Art

Regina Silvers, Visual Artist and Art Organizer

I draw, paint, and have been exhibiting my work since the ‘70s. Right now I’m engrossed in the most exciting art project of my career: The Granny Peace Brigade series.

In 2005 a friend of mine was arrested, along with a small group of older women– all members of various Peace groups like Code Pink and the Gray Panthers— for demonstrating at the Army Recruitment station in Times Square. They were cuffed, jailed, and eventually tried and acquitted.  Out of this experience they formed The Granny Peace Brigade. I’ve been a supporter and ardent admirer since then.

I drew them during their trial and later began to photograph them while I marched and demonstrated with them. After a while, I began using these photos as source material for new work.

Much of my previous work of the past 20-odd years had focused on nature-based motifs. Working from sketches made while hiking upstate NY, I created large close-ups of the rocks, weeds, waterfalls, and woodlands, drawing attention to their “ordinary” beauty and vitality.  At the same time – initially because I am devoted to drawing the figure – I created the ”Placard” series: paintings and drawings derived from images of protesters I found in newspapers. This however was a different matter.

As an older woman, and an activist since the days I marched with the Women Strike for Peace against the Vietnam War, this project is more personal and vital.  It gives me an opportunity to merge my aesthetic, political and social concerns, through personally meaningful, timely, subject matter. It’s been challenging and exhilarating.

It’s been said that “…the eye witnesses, the hand records.” As an artist I am following a long roster of artists who “bear witness” (think Goya, Kathe Kollwitz, Picasso, Ben Shahn, Leon Golub). While I’m not intent on painting a political polemic, I do want to pay homage to these feisty peace activists, and transmit their message that “Democracy is not a Spectator Sport”.

As I participate in documenting this piece of our history, I  show, close-up, what it’s like to be in the midst of the energetic Grannies, visually expressing the view that older women are concerned, and can have an active voice in our society.

To make a piece of art that conveys the energy, immediacy, and spirit of the narrative, I work quickly, making many large pieces for each motif, varying the composition, the approach, and the materials. The works range from 20 x 30” to 36 x 72”, in pastel, charcoal, acrylic, and/or oil paint. Some become finished “products”, others remain studies. I feel privileged to be able to hone my approach to making art while visually expressing something of such importance to me, and hopefully supporting the efforts of these heroic women.

I will be exhibiting this work in a one-person exhibition at Saint Peter’s Church (Citicorp) NYC in May, 2013.


Regina Silvers has been involved with fine art for her whole adult life- as a visual artist and an art organizer. Originally trained as a NYC art teacher, her varied career includes jewelry designer, gallery director, curator, art consultant, museum publicity/advertising manager, and always, practicing artist.

She was a founder and President of TOAST, the TriBeCa Open Artist Studio Tour (2000 to 2010), and co-founder and Director of the Gallery at Hastings on Hudson (1976-84).

Silvers has maintained a studio in TriBeCa for more than 20 years and, until recently, a studio in Woodstock, NY. Her work appears in corporate and private collections throughout the United States, and she has participated in more than 40 exhibitions nationally.

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Artists in Support of the Armed Forces

Karen Loew, Chair of Coast Guard Art Program, Visual Artist specializing in soft realism

Karen Loew and the artists who participate in the Coast Guard Art Program (COGAP) and the art programs of other branches of the country’s armed forces immortalize in paintings the bravery of men and women serving in the U.S. military.

The artists are, according to Loew, “visual historians, morale boosters and fan club”. Artists work as volunteers, and they donate time and talent to create works of art depicting the varied missions of the military. “The paintings depict experiences of danger, the suspense of the unknown, the anxious moments of search and rescue, the relief of a successful mission, and the emotions of a return home,” says Loew. Each work of art is a gift from the artist to the Collection.

“Emails I have received thank us for capturing their memories and experiences, and for portraying the Coast Guard in a very positive and remarkable way. I chair the COGAP Committee at the Salmagundi Club, which is an artistic and cultural center that’s been here for over 140 years and is also the proud sponsor of COGAP. When I joined COGAP in 1999, I did not have expectations of what would become of the art I would donate to the Collection. Rather, I was just thrilled to be accepted and have my art included. Since then, I have observed that the art of the Collection does have an amazing public life, educating the public about the missions and history of our Coast Guard through displays at museums, libraries and patriotic events. Art is also displayed in government offices and at Coast Guard locations around the country.

All the branches of the United States armed services have art programs:

The United States Coast Guard Art Program was co-founded in 1981 by combat artist George Gray and John Ward of Coast Guard Community Relations. COGAP welcomes requests for public displays of artwork and inquiries from artists to join the program.

Management of the United States Air Force Art Program and Collection is the responsibility of the Secretary of the Air Force, Office of the Administrative Assistant. The Air Force Art Program Office handles day-to-day administration of the program. The office is charged with responsibility for the Art Program.

The United States Marine Corps Art Collection, held in trust at the National Museum of the Marine Corps, document over 230 years of Marine Corps history. The mission of the Museum is to collect and preserve in perpetuity, artifacts that reflect and chronicle the history of the Corps. The more than 60,000 uniforms, weapons, vehicles, medals, flags, aircraft, works of art and other artifacts in the Museum’s collections trace the history of the Marine Corps from 1775 to the present.

The United States Navy Art Collection has over 15,000 paintings, prints, drawings, and sculpture. It contains depictions of naval ships, personnel, and action from all eras of U.S. naval history, but due to the operation of the Combat Art Program, the eras of World War II, the Korean War, the Vietnam War, and Desert Shield/Storm are particularly well represented. The Branch manages the art collection, produces exhibits, loans artwork to museums and institutions, and provides research assistance on the art collection.

The United States Army Art Program or United States Army Combat Art Program is a program created by the United States Army to create artwork for museums and other programs sponsored by the US Army. The collection associated with the program is held by the United States Army Center of Military History, as part of their Museums collection.

Karen Loew is Chair of the Coast Guard Art Program Committee of New York’s Salmagundi Club, and she serves on the club’s board of directors. In 2002, the Coast Guard sent her to Guantanamo Bay, Cuba (GTMO) to document activities of Coast Guard Port Security Unit 305. She is frequently a speaker at COGAP events, most notably for the opening reception of the COGAP exhibition in Vlissingen, Holland in 2009. In 2011, she was given the Coast Guard Distinguished Public Service Award, the highest recognition given to those who have made outstanding contributions in advancing the Coast Guard’s missions.

Loew’s art has been featured in the book American Women Artists in Wartime, 1776 – 2010 as well as The New York Times, and Professional Artist. Her paintings are held in private and public collections.

Championing Chinese Shadow Puppetry – Annie Rollins

Annie Rollins, Puppeteer and recent Fulbright Fellow in Chinese Shadow Puppetry

How did you get involved with Chinese Shadow Puppetry?

Chinese shadow puppetry is the sum of all my independent interests and, of course, so much more.  As a part-Asian puppet lover with a penchant for the historical, Chinese shadow puppetry has sustained my interest in all of those things and continues to inform my personal and professional life.

How does shadow puppetry differ from other performance arts in its approach?

It is similar to other folk art performance forms in that its main purpose is to transmit oral history to a largely illiterate class and to educate and community build through entertainment and a collective experience. It differs from other traditions insofar as its incredible artistry has really pushed boundaries both with the figures themselves and performance techniques.

What about this art form is important to the heritage of China and to yourself?

Chinese shadow puppetry is an amalgamation of Chinese culture in both content and aesthetics as seen from the masses. While most elite and upper class art forms are well documented and preserved, Chinese shadow puppetry is lesser known and understood but more informative as to the majority’s ideology and beliefs at any given time. In a broader context, this is Chinese shadow puppetry’s most important heritage.

I consider it a high art form in its own right, with regional differences in nearly every province that reflect a rich inheritance of idiosyncratic tradition and craft.  My particular focus is practice-led research in traditional shadow puppet making methods in the three main regional styles and that has remained largely uncovered in research both in China and internationally.  Because the methods and aesthetic significance was largely overlooked until recently, many of the remaining masters have passed already with no apprentices in place and many others threaten the same scenario.

How does this influence your artwork?

My research and creative work have a symbiotic relationship – both inform the other and not necessarily in any particular order. Through research I find questions that can only be explored through creation and vice versa. Currently, my work is almost wholly focused on both Chinese shadow puppetry and how that learning is processed through me as an artist with a very different background than the traditional learner. With permission from my masters, I’m creating my own pathway to modernizing the form that fits within my understanding of how best to honor the tradition.

How is shadow puppetry being preserved in China?

Other than commercial endeavors, little has been done to preserve the form in China. With the official induction into UNESCO’s Intangible Cultural Heritage project in 2011, there is much more attention and support currently being focused on traditional Chinese shadow puppetry, but the long-term results remain to be seen. Little, if any, funding is being given to two designated members of a nominated troupe (equal to a peasants’ monthly wages) and no funding or support for students or apprentices. And, while this greatly eases the stress for shadow puppet artists in the aging stages of their lives, it does little to answer the more imperative questions about lack of students to carry the tradition through to the next generation.

Some people have criticized China for their lack of effort to preserve this and many other dying traditions as their country races towards a progressive modern future, but I find that they are doing what all countries have done at one point or another – prioritizing.  Folk art forms are in this position worldwide.

Are there any schools or programs that specialize in Chinese Shadow Puppetry?

Sadly, there are no formal institutions that teach Chinese shadow puppetry, save a workshop here or there.  The masters who are still working are very open to students – even foreign ones – who show an interest. Because it is a folk art form it is unlikely that Chinese shadow play education would become formalized anytime soon.The hope is that the form will garner more support to continue teaching as they always have – through hands and hearts.

If anyone has interest and will be traveling to China shortly, feel free to contact me for connections. Additional puppetry information is at: http://annierollins.wordpress.com/links.

Annie Rollins is a puppeteer and recent Fulbright Fellow in Chinese Shadow Puppetry. She has a MFA in theater design from the University of Minnesota and has been studying traditional Chinese Shadow Puppetry in different regions of China for the past year. Annie considers herself an artist first, creating experimental puppet shows, design and teaching workshops when she isn’t studying puppetry in China. Recently, she was invited to speak at the Chinese Shadow Puppetry Symposium at the Ballard Institute & Museum of Puppetry at the University of Connecticut.

Gilding Tips: Artist Karen Fitzgerald

My work is idiosyncratic – it’s round and it incorporates gilding extensively in its surface, process and idea.  In a wider view, my work is traditional in that I put paint on a substrate.

Gilding has wide applications in our world. It’s been found as far back as the early Egyptian civilization. We know the Chinese were gilding 5,000 years ago. While gilding in our modern world is usually decorative in application, traditionally it was used to signify something beyond the physical. It indicated the sacred, spiritual realm.

Learning gilding has been an experience of constant surprise. The basic idea is that a metal, beaten thinner than a human hair, is applied to a surface. The variety of glues (referred to as ‘size’) is astounding. Older German gilders used a mixture of beer and honey. A contemporary gilder uses the juice of garlic. Size falls into 2 categories: water-based and oil-based. Leaf is delicate to handle – I rarely use loose gold leaf. It is available in two forms: loose and transfer. The transfer leaf is adhered to thin tissue – handling it is less risky than loose leaf. When using loose leaf (I always use loose leaf in silver, copper and aluminum) you can tear it up, achieving an interesting non-gridded surface. By carefully sealing gilding you can gild in layers – for instance, adding linear elements on top of a gilded background.  Sealants are as various as size! One of the things I’ve learned is that gilding requires a constant attention to touch, and a constant willingness to change a habit of process. I recently gilded a copper ground.  I sealed it with shellac first, allowing the shellac to cure for 24 hours, then added a layer of Lascaux UV.  Overnight the Lascaux turned a deep brown!  Whatever reacted, the fact that it did signals me to that attentive mode, being careful not to assume materials will sit happily together.

I use gilding in a non-decorative manner. My intention is to signal to the viewer that they are not looking at a replication of the physical world. Gold is embedded in the core of our civilization, its dynamic energy often signals something beyond the purely physical. The precious metals I gild with indicate a quality of energy that expands beyond our physical world, a quality that is metaphysical and transformative.

Light suffuses our world – its energy shapes the mood of each day. I use color as pure light, physical energy, creating complex shades and tones that reconnect energies present in the everyday world with my own as well as viewers’ experiences. My work gives you a way to have a visual experience of your own energy. Similar to looking in a mirror, when you look into one of my paintings, you respond to the color, nuance and energy that is embedded in the piece. You have an experience of your energetic self, manifested in the physical properties of the paint. We know from scientists that energy can travel in waves.  Here-in lies the power of the wave: as you experience this energy, it has the capacity to shift your own energy to a higher level. I have always loved the action of wave energy in water. As the energy passes through the water, it lifts the water. As the energy of my painting reaches you, it lifts your energy.

In the New York area, a terrific resource is Sepp Leaf, international distributor of gold and metal leaf, gilding supplies, Liberon and decorative finishing products

Karen Fitzgerald’s work has been widely exhibited in the United States, including at the Queens Museum of Art, the Madison Art Museum, the Milwaukee Art Museum and Milwaukee Institute of Art & Design, the University of Arizona – Tucson, and at the United Nations in New York.  Her work is also in the Spencer Collection of the New York Public Library, Brooklyn Union Gas collection, the Rienhart Collection of Germany, the Museum of New Art in Detroit and many other public and private collections.

Workshop: Ms. Fitzgerald will be offering a day-long gilding workshop at her studio in Long Island City, NY on January 21, 2012. She’ll cover types of gilding, how to gild large areas, gilding in layers, working with copper, aluminum, silver and gold and related topics.  For information, contact Kbfitzgerald@gmail.com.

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Pursuing sculpture in clay, metal and glass: Immi Storrs

Immi Storrs, Sculptor and Glass Artist

What advice do you have for beginning sculptors?

I learned many years ago about working in clay was that water-based clay is a much more tactile, but loses some of its spontaneity because it needs to be kept wet. Plasticine has an odor that I don’t like, and people will find it doesn’t take thumbprints like water-based clay, but it does not need to be kept wet. And those clays need to be put in a more permanent medium, unless they are hollow without an armature, and can be fired. The other material that is interesting is plaster. It can be slathered over an armature and then chiseled or rasped away. The plaster when done takes very interesting patinas. I use water-based colors for that.

What was the biggest challenge in marketing yourself as a sculptor at the start?

The biggest challenge in marketing myself early on was finding a gallery. As my work is cast in bronze, which is very expensive, and that made my work expensive. Not many galleries are willing to take on new artists whose work is expensive because the market is not there. Galleries, at least here in New York, have enormous costs and they need to be able to sell their artists.

How have you differentiated yourself?

My work is different because I do mostly animals. You can tell what they are, whether it’s a horse or cow or bird, but the horse may have four heads and four tails. And my animals are all generic, though you can tell whether my bird is a water bird or a raptor, You don’t know what kind of water bird or raptor.

My new work is on glass. Having had multiple hand and wrist injuries, I needed to change my technique as clay was much too difficult. I use a paint on multiple panes to create a 3-D effect that some people find disturbing, so I guess my technique works. I think of my new work as both painting and sculpture.

How do you work with glass?

The technique I’ve developed, which is to work with a series (usually six or seven) stacked glass panels that I’ve painted on and sometimes etched, allows me to create dimensionality and to look as though the subject is encased in the glass – in fact, some people have asked how I got the wasp or bird in there. What I’ve actually done is to design, for example with the eagle, so that the front wing is on the first pane and the other wing is on the last pane with body parts in between to make the piece look three-dimensional. It’s challenging because when I make a change on one pane, I have to look at how it impacts all the others, so I’m forever moving the panes around to line them up in a particular way. I use special glass paint, and I also did finally find out that I can get a type of seamed glass, which means that the edges are sanded down and smooth, so now I’m not cutting myself on the ragged edges.

Immi Storrs is an award-winning sculptor, whose work is in museums and corporate collections, including The National Museum for Women in the Arts, The National Academy Museum, and The Herbert Johnson Museum at Cornell. She recently completed eleven sculptures for Japan Airlines, and she’s a member of  The Century Association and The Sculptors Guild.

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Painting Asian Watercolor: Protecting Your Work

 Judith Kingsley, Contemporary Asian Watercolor and Oil Paint Artist

1. What drew you to doing Asian Art on rice paper?

I enjoy doing Asian Watercolor on rice paper ever since I studied with Frederick Wong, a Japanese teacher at the Arts Students League in New York City and author of Oriental Watercolor Techniques: for Contemporary Painting, who combined the principles of Asian painting with the principles of Western art. The process I learned was the crushed paper technique, a method that inspires one to expand their thought process and be freer with the technique of painting. The method allows the artist to explore all creative possibilities while painting as it develops. Instead of capturing every detail, as in traditional Western water color, I strive to capture the essence. One doesn’t have to employ the use of proper perspective, nor follow certain rules as in Western water color, therefore Asian Art allows a greater form of self-expression, driven by one’s own confidence and experience. I consider myself a colorist, an inborn gift, so therefore, the use of color and its combinations, plays an important role, not only in my works on rice paper, but my oil paintings on canvas as well. My oil paintings are also influenced by the techniques employed in Asian art.

2. Do you put a lot of time into marketing, and where do you concentrate your efforts?

I realize the importance of marketing, and therefore have recently expanded my website www.Judithkingsleyart.com. However, I need to plan to spend more time on marketing, which involves a great deal of promotion. It is difficult to find the balance between painting and marketing, as both are important. My manner of producing an original painting takes an excessive amount of time, as there is no pre planning, and my work progresses as I go along. In other words, my painting involves a considerable amount of exploration and experimentation, which sometimes can be frustrating, yet very gratifying when I feel that it is finally complete.

As of eight years ago, I have been producing high-end greeting cards of my paintings, which are often embellished with various components, depending on the order. Because of the price bracket, they are sold wholesale to quality stores throughout the country, as well as to Museum Shops. At present my cards are in the shops at the New Mexico Museum of Art, as they have been for many years, as well as the Minneapolis Institute of Art.

3. Which institutions have played an ongoing role in your work as an artist?

There are many institutions that have played an important role in my work. I was inspired to paint when I was 15 years old, at which time I traveled for an hour to study at weekend classes at Parsons School of Design. I then studied at Syracuse University, Crouse College of Fine Art, and from then on, because I lived in New York City, I was fortunate to study with well-known and respected individual teachers and at prestigious Art Schools.

The New Mexico Museum of Art Foundation, as well as the prestigious new Albuquerque Cancer Center have requested of my lawyer that I bequest the remainder of my paintings to them. I consider this an honor.

4. At what point should an artist consider getting involved with Artist’s Equity?

When I lived in New York, I was a member of the board of Artist’s Equity, an organization that includes thousands of artists. Artists Equity has been an important force in protecting artists’ rights for over forty years. It serves as a resource network and a support group regarding all legalities involved in the business of Art. I first became a member when I had exhibited almost thirty paintings in a gallery in Palm Beach, Florida. Two weeks after a very splendid one person opening, the gallery went bankrupt, and according to Florida Law, they were allowed to keep my paintings. I had to buy my paintings back at a percentage, but there were many artists represented by that gallery who could not afford a lawyer, and lost their work to the gallery. There was a law in Florida, as well as in eight other states that if the artist did not sign this Uniform Commercial Code form (which was not shown to us) that the gallery had the right to keep the paintings.

There are many unscrupulous gallery owners, as well as owners of other various businesses, and an artist has to read a contract very carefully before signing. I then contacted Artists Equity and because of the injustice of this law in Florida, as well as other states, numerous members went to Washington to protest this law, resulting in banishing this law in Florida as well as the other states involved. Therefore, I recommend that all artists become a member of this important organization, which exists in most states, in order to have their rights protected. I had written a letter which I named ”Artists Beware” which was circulated and published in almost every art magazine and newspaper in the United States as well as Europe. In it I stated that we have to be hard-nosed business people. That is not easy for most artists who themselves are trusting and trustworthy.

Judith Kingsley has been represented in galleries throughout the U.S. and Europe, as well as the Hofburg Palace in Vienna, Austria. She’s listed in “Who’s Who in the World”, “Who’s Who in America”, “Who’s Who of American Women”, and “Who’s Who in the South and Southwest”.

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