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.
On Friday, December 3, 2021, the Huron River Art Collective had the long awaited Fall 2021 Juried Art Show Reception at Malletts Creek Library in Ann Arbor. There were over 150 entries for this show. The Juror, Durwood Coffey, had the difficult task of choosing just 40 pieces of art to hang for this show. He requested that we up it to 42, saying it was very difficult to choose as there were many outstanding and diverse pieces.
The Juried Exhibition Committee and a number of volunteers met in late October to hang this show at the library. While hanging, a staff member of the library was overheard saying, “it is so nice to have art on the walls again!’ Isn’t that the truth!?! Patrons of the library were treated to a lovely display of art as they entered, explored and exited the library. All works were for sale.
Artists, friends and relatives who attended the reception viewed the lovely art, and socialized with fellow creatives. Juror, Durwood Coffey gave out awards to Tricia Hampo, Bryan Wilson, Quadre Curry, Anne Rogers, Marilyn Thomas, Gwen McKay and Mary Riley. Durwood also shared some words of wisdom regarding creating art. While reflecting on the submitted work and how he made the difficult decision, he said one thing always stands out and that is composition. If the composition is no good then it doesn’t matter how well rendered a piece is. Good composition always trumps everything else. He also told the group that there are two kinds of artists, those who are a “circle” and those who are a “straight line”. A “circle” artist is one who does one thing, then another, then another, then does what this person wants, and what that person wants and so on and so on (sometimes this is necessary to make a living (; ). The “straight” line artist creates similar things, but always moving forward along that same line. The circular artist does not progress as fast as the straight line artist. To sum it up, he says the straight line artist most likely creates what they love. Bottom line, do what you love!
We hope to see you and your art at the next exhibit!
The Huron River Art Collective would like to thank artist Trisha Hampo for speaking at the reception and writing this blog post. Congratulations again on your first place award.
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.