The following post is contributed by Boisali Biswas, featured artist for the 2022 January Speaker Series.
I am Boisali Biswas, residing at West Bloomfield, MI. I am a mixed Media Fiber Artist, originally from India. Having come from a country with a rich history of art and culture, my work is deeply rooted in Indian heritage.
In January I was invited to talk to the members of Huron River Art Collective. I took the opportunity to talk about my entire journey as a Fiber Artist for almost 30 years, primarily after we moved to the US. By now I have spent more years of my life in this adopted country than my birth country, India.
As I age, I realize how impossible it is to move away from my roots. I was very fortunate that my parents chose a very unique university to send me for my BFA degree. If it was not for the Viswa Bharati (The communion of the world with India) University, situated in the rural settings of Santiniketan (The Abode of Peace), I would not be the person I am today.
That five-year experience at Santiniketan came to mean a particular way of life and left an indelible impact on me. It was not merely an art education. Nature and the arts were all entangled in our everyday lives. We were encouraged to grow as complete human beings in a community of students, teachers, workers, and occasional visitors from all over the world. It followed a complete secular philosophy, and we celebrated the seasons, and other occasions in very unique ways. You can read about Tagore’s philosophy HERE.
My soul partly dwells in India and adapting to my life here, my art has become a cauldron of multicultural assemblages. Subconsciously mundane images from my childhood or daily life there show up in my art seamlessly when I incorporate traditional techniques and motifs. I love to weave and also play with fabrics and manipulate them in various ways. As a result of that over the years, I have tried to combine both in my work.
Another of my passionate interest is in upcycling discarded materials. I collect materials which don’t recycle and are harmful to the earth and try to use them in my work. For many years now I have been weaving with the plastic fruit netting which bags our onions, lemons, etc. Not only do they add an interesting texture and color, they are used in some way. Same way if I find any interesting styrofoam forms, I save them to use in my work in some way or the other.
My journey continues as I explore my medium of textiles. I contemplate on how cultures, countries are bound together by the warp and weft of civilization, how we are wrapped in cloth ever since our inception!!
Boisali Biswas will be in several invitational and juried shows through the entire Spring thru Summer. Information will be available on her website. You can also follow her on Facebook and Instagram @boisalibiswas.
I was surrounded by sequins, furiously stitching away to meet my class deadline in the 5th grade. Mrs. Codner assigned us a project to create a paper or fabric carp. Mom showed me how I could use sequins to make beautiful, sparkly fish scales. It excited me so much I jumped right in.
There was, however, a problem. There was NO way I could finish the assignment by the deadline. The technique was too time consuming. I’d never been late for a homework assignment, let alone for a project. I was terrified.
Today I can call myself a recovering perfectionist. As a child, perfectionism was already in full bloom. I attended school that day, despite my best attempts to convince Mom otherwise, eyes filled to the brim with tears. And when I told my teacher it would be late because the technique I was using was so time consuming, all I could see (and still acutely remember) was her disappointment.
I went home that day determined to bring my finished carp to school the next day. I knew it was something special.
And when Mrs. Codner saw my project, her eyes popped out of her head. I felt redeemed. It affirmed that the work I put in was worth it. And she hung my carp at the front of the class.
Today I embroider and find other ways to embellish my art.
Childhood is a powerful part of our lives. For better and for worse. Connecting to the child we once were, either through material or giving ourselves permission to play, can be a wonderful way to access and channel the creative voice we seek.
Tip Two: Stop Forcing Success
Picasso is often quoted as saying, “Every child is an artist. The problem is how to remain an artist once he grows up.”
We start to develop ideas in our head about what we should be doing with our art, what are the correct ways to make, share, sell, display art…
And internalized rules dealing with definitions of success can easily drive our artistic decisions.
And yet, for me, it was returning to a place where there was nothing to give and no more rules to care about that helped me receive the very accolade or recognition I’d sought.
I was teaching high school art when I got these headaches that wouldn’t quit. The CT scans and MRIs had some bad news, too: it was a mass on my pituitary gland. They didn’t know what it was, or if it was cancerous. We’d know more after they went in.
I was in my mid to early twenties and here I was signing a waiver that told me I could go blind, be on lifelong hormone replacement therapy, or die.
In the days that led up to my surgery all I wanted to do was paint. So paint I did (and perhaps for the first time without a plan or a goal). I painted because I wanted to and knew it could be the last time I painted.
It was the first time in my life, since early childhood, that I had painted purely because I could.
Thankfully the surgery was a success and my health returned quickly. Shortly thereafter I found a group call for young artists facing health issues and disability. The work I had painted before the surgery was a good fit for the exhibition so I entered the work.
Those two pieces purchased my first laptop and went on a two year tour of the US which included stops at the Smithsonian and the Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts.
Before that I’d been accepted to, backed out of, then completely rejected from probably half a dozen masters programs.
As soon as I let go, as soon as I stopped trying so hard, I won.
Tip Three: Reflect Regularly
Finding a way to let go and return to creative flow honors the voice already within us. And yet, there are also systems and behaviors we can use to build our skill and develop our unique artist voice.
“I’m bad at math.”
“Artists are disorganized.”
There are A LOT of definitions and cultural assumptions about what it means to be a creative person. We are labeled with chronic mental health problems, as unreliable or inconsistent professionally, bad with money, and I’m sure we could add to this list.
How could these notions NOT impact us?
We internalize beliefs like these and take them on as personal definitions of artistic value and success without even knowing it. Which is why it’s so important to take time periodically to check in with ourselves to ask:
How do I define “artist?”
What does being a successful creative mean to me?
And, how do I get there?
Being strategic with how we use our time, and ensuring it’s aligned with our values and personal definitions will help us get there (wherever there is) faster.
Taking the time to address our limiting beliefs (H/T to Gay Hendricks The Big Leap) can ensure the artistic choices we make come from a place of curiosity and play. And when we make from a place of true flow, honoring the path before us rather than forcing it, we can confidently develop and refine our unique artist voice.
Carrie Brummer is an artist and professional educator who taught for years around the world before creating Artist Strong, an online artists’ community and school. Her personal artist practice is about elevating women, highlighting and addressing gender norms, and perfectionism. Her work has been exhibited across the United States, in Canada, United Arab Emirates, and Oman. You can learn how she supports self-taught artists at www.ArtistStrong.com and view her original art at www.CarrieBrummer.com.
The following post is contributed by our 2021 September Speaker, Paloma Núñez-Regueiro.A link to the edited replay video can be found HEREor view at the bottom of this page.
A few nights ago, I had the honor of being the guest speaker at the Huron River Art Collective Speaker Series. I was delighted to share my prints and the process of making them with people from different places via Zoom. Many times we complain about everything that we lost because of the pandemic, because of COVID 19 but the truth is that besides all our terrible, and painful losses we also learned to regroup again, as humans do. Our virtual existence is one that makes us present all around the world at once. It lets us reach far and hold hands with friends from the present and past and share, as in this case: our thoughts, art processes, desires and hopes…
My name is Paloma Núñez-Regueiro, I am a Mexican printmaker based in Ann Arbor, MI. I am also a resident artist at Ypsi Alloy Studios.
The body of work I talked about that night is called “Essays on Invisibility”. Essays on Invisibility is a collection of linoleum prints and monoprints that express my interest in making the invisible visible. The subjects I explore are immigration, social justice, the experience of assimilation, and the experiences of being invisible in a cis-gender and mostly white society.
The protagonist of my series is the Guarumo leaf. The Guarumo is a tree that exists in the south of Mexico and the Caribbean and has great medicinal powers. The leaves fall to the ground and they dry up making these beautiful shapes that make them different from one another. I found these leaves on a trip to Tulum, Mexico; I became fascinated with them. I took many pictures of them and brought them back home. I started drawing them as honestly as possible and found that they contain in their structures mountains and valleys, rivers, noses, vertebrae, carcasses and many more things. The little holes that the crawler made in them while eating, are like little constellations or chemical formulas. I came to believe that these leaves contain the universe in them.
After drawing and carving around 10 of these leaves, I realized that if I created an environment or a context around them they will help me create this series that talks about the invisible: the immigrants, the poor, the LGBTQ, the black community or anyone that does not fit the established standard of normality in their own settings.
Legal or illegal, able or not able to make a comfortable living, minority groups are somehow invisible, a lesser human. Because we are different, many times people don’t know how to approach us and that gives rise to micro aggressions, physical aggression and violent crimes. These experiences leave us thinking of our value to society and are a constant reminder of how undervalued we are.
I like the idea of using an overlooked element of the environment that contains such beauty and healing powers, that is fragile and yet strong as the minorities I am talking about: the invisible. When we don’t take the time to look, these leaves become an invisible element of the environment and their beauty becomes unseen.
In “Essays on Invisibility”, I am trying to interpret the effort of minority groups to remain, to take on opportunities offered by their surroundings, to become visible and therefore included in society. It’s my goal to acknowledge the feelings of those who feel invisible, to uncover our pain through my prints, and offer it to the spectator in a way so that he/she/they can open their hearts to the possibilities which can range from listening to their ideas, to working together and raising each other into better positions that will allow for political, economic, and emotional stability in our communities.
I want to cordially invite you to see these prints in person . All these prints will be available for view on January 8th, 2022 at Hatch Art Gallery in Hamtramck, MI. There will be a reception from 6-9 pm on that day, and then the gallery will be open Thursday through Friday from 6-9 and Saturdays from 12-6pm.
Thank you to the Huron River Art Collective for giving me the opportunity to share my work with you, and for the labor spreading the love for the arts, for bringings artists and art lovers together, and for creating this sense of community beyond the physical world.