Life Like Art

I incorporate everyday life within my art practice. My @ the carwash series includes a dozen photographs, selected from out of over 100, taken at a car wash in rural Vermont between December 2010 and March 2011. Before beginning this project I had a quiet moment in the automated carwash, where I noticed how captivating the constantly changing water patterns were upon my windshield. In the dead of winter, this was also a reminder of how fluid life is and how permanency is just an illusion.

Laura Di Piazza, He’s Different, 2011, digital photograph

At the conclusion of this photographic project, I read Allan Kaprow’s The Eighties, Essays on the Blurring of Art And Life, which I found to be fascinating. Right off the bat Kaprow asks “What if I were to think art was just paying attention?” (Kaprow 201).  Kaprow defines and distinguishes between, art-like art and life-like art as follows: “art-like art” he describes as popular and even mainstream. There is a neat mental box (aka schema) into which people can comfortably put this art and there are proper “external” places in which to house them. These are cultural institutions  (museums, galleries, concert halls, etc…), which subscribe to the art-like arts separateness. That is: “Mind is separate from body, individual is separate from people, civilization is separate from nature, each art is separate from the other” (Kaprow 202). It is exclusive and lives in a caged bubble. Kaprow goes further to say that these institutions also “share the same separating point of view about art and life; that art could vanquish life’s problems as long as it was far enough away from life so as not to be confused by it and sucked back to its mire” (Kaprow 202).  In sharp contrast to art-like art’s exclusiveness and separateness, life-like art is about connecting art to life and acknowledging that the two can be very much a part of each other.  Kaprow describes the traditional artist as a specialist and the lifelike artist a generalist who has an enormous selection of resources or types of canvases to do her/his artwork. Kaprow’s description of where we can find art and who can find it, reaches far past the limitations of the traditional and commercial art world. The resources of one’s art is inexhaustible in life-like art because it is not bound to the materials of a given art store/supplier and it’s relevance is not dependent on the approval of art critics.

I’ve had other unplanned photographic opportunities to capture art in my everyday life. Below are some additional examples.

Laura Di Piazza, Look Ma the Sky on Our Table, 2011, digital photograph

One cold winter morning I had the rare occasion of having lunch at a local Vermont café with just one of my children (usually we travel in packs), my then four-year old daughter Lucy. Lucy presented me with an opportunity to really look with my mind and eyes open. She said “mommy, look the sky on our table” and I replied ‘huh?’. Again she repeated herself. I paused, I recall being confused. How can one have the sky on a table? Then I looked at what her small little finger was pointing to and then I understood. This was a lovely moment, a Seussical moment (coincidentally just 2 doors down from where Theodor Seuss Geisel, AKA Dr. Seuss, lived for several years), where art appears in a nonsensical and unexpected manner.

Laura Di Piazza, Shin, 2011, digital photograph

I took a walk on a bitter cold winter’s morning. The clear blue skies and bright sunshine gave this tree’s shadow crisp clear lines. I photographed it as I did several other trees that morning. Later after downloading the images on my computer, I noticed that this particular tree possessed the Hebrew letter shin, which is considered a holy letter in Judaism that stands for Shaddai, a name for God.

Dream Galleries

“Dreams are illustrations…from the book your soul is writing about you”

– Marsha Norman

I have been to some amazing galleries: smalls ones in quaint New England towns and large scale exhibitions in big cities, however my favorite galleries are the ones I visit in my sleep. I never know beforehand what will be on display. I do know upon waking who the artist and curator are.

Laura Di Piazza, Moving Sandwich, 2011, pencil on paper, 20” x 24”

I first saw “Moving Sandwich” in a dream gallery I visited while sleeping. I was walking slowly through this space and stopped before this drawing and thought “I really like this, it makes sense”. When I awoke I wrote down a description of the drawing. A couple of months later, I created this drawing which is very similar to the original one I saw in my dream. By including dream imagery in my art practice, I enjoy incorporating parts of life that are very much present however difficult to remember and acknowledge. I also feel that this practice of including my dream world into my waking (we certainly include our waking life into our dream world), helps me acknowledge where I go, where we all go, for part of our day. As abstract and foreign as dreams may be, they are an activity we all experience. This thread of our greater connection, through dream experiences, I believe deserves our attention.

Laura Di Piazza, Bunny Says, 2011, spray paint, paper and ink on plastic,

23.5” x 27”

In contrast, my work “Bunny Says” was not seen in a dream, that I am aware of: However, because I feel it has many dream-like qualities to it, it belongs in the collection of my dream-inspired works. For example, the canvas itself is actually a garbage bag, which has symbolic value: I wonder, are our dreams part of a mental or mnemonic recycling system, as some sleep scientists have suggested? Do we need to clear out or sort out old information to make room for new information? These questions are the backdrop of the work. The center of this piece is newspaper print that has been spray-painted on. I sometimes find recalling dreams is similar to this spray-painted newsprint, where the information is all there however I cannot access it – or in this case, read it.

Laura Di Piazza, Past Mt. Rim, 2010, ink, tissue paper and newspaper on coverstock board, 18” x 24”

The artwork pictured left, “Past Mt. Rim”, encompasses all of my artistic practices; calligraphy, poetry, dream exploration and visual art making.

I found that my dream recall improved while taking a class at AVA gallery called Art and the Unconscious. What resulted was a collection of fragments of a dream that inspired “Past Mt. Rim”.  The title alone represents the enormous mountainous surface, one side of which, we live upon during one part of our day, the other side of which we stand upon during the night. It is impossible to be on both sides at the same time. However I have found with lucid dreaming that I can reside at the summit, which joins the two briefly. In the deep states of art-making, where awareness of time is absent, I also find that I enter a similar state that welcomes me to stand in this kind of dual space.

My dream treasures gathered during this class also included the following artwork “Scanning Inner Child” (below) which I saw in a dream and brought to (daytime) life later that spring. I find that the overall dream impression is usually determined by the predominate feeling(s) the dream encompass rather than (only) by the actions that were played out therein. The dream that inspired “Scanning Inner Child” contained strong emotions to hunt and gather my abandoned wounds, the unhealed cuts and bruises of my psyche. To go back to my internal forest, however deep the dark felt or primal the noises sounded, to retrieve, acknowledge, mend and sow, as I would flower seeds, my discarded pain.

Laura Di Piazza, Scanning Inner Child, 2010, paper and ink on doll, approx. 5 lbs – 7 oz.

Street Level

Review by Laura Di Piazza

Galen Cheney detours us away from any expected pleasantries and motors us straight to the gritty and raw levels of the streets, be they our internal, external, peaceful and/or chaotic spaces. Cheney’s current exhibit Street Level at BCA in Burlington, Vermont, includes the multi-layered, graffiti style abstract pathways of Street Fair, which can be reminiscent of NYC street art in the 1970’s and 80’s.

Galen Cheney, Street Fair, 2011, mixed media on birch panels

Born in Los Angeles but showing her New England roots through the use of birch panels, Cheney separates and positions these panels in Cross Town and Lariat (lasso type rope) that reveal the disconnections and flow of a city’s accessibility for or from it’s inhabitants. One city and countless ways to move around it or get stuck within it. Cheney inscribes ancient letterforms in urban settings and includes 19th and early 20th century calligraphic lettering, which in some places pop out or hide out among the high-energy spaces of the paintings.

The brilliant colors and labyrinth-style paths, the eyes try to follow, express the vibrancy of a highly alert state. If one is sleeping will they fall off the Dr. Seuss-like striped highways?

In the Calligraffiti paintings there’s interconnectivity among the tubular shapes that do not appear to be constrictive. In them Cheney develops her own curvaceous alphabet.

Galen Cheney, Calligraffiti 1, 2 & 3, 2012, oil on birch panels

Galen Cheney, Periscope, 2012, oil on birch panel

The artist describes her work as having it’s “own energy and direction almost apart from [herself]”. When viewing the external scenes, and possibly internal ever-negotiating psyche in pieces such as Periscope, Street Level journeys us out of any lazy-boy cushioned bubble we may live in when we walk through it.

Galen Cheney is a Vermont-based artist. Street Level is on exhibit at BCA until June 23rd. Cheney is currently co-curating Natural Constructed Spaces at The Painting Center in New York City.

Cold Harvest

Some recent work…

Laura Di Piazza, Fence, 2011, mixed media 12″ x 24″
Laura Di Piazza, Bunny Says, 2011, mixed media, 27″ x 23.5″
Laura Di Piazza, untitled, 2011, ink and acrylic paint on paper, 14″ x 17″

Laura Di Piazza, Goodbye, 2011, sumi ink on paper, 14″ x 17″
laura Di Piazza, In A Moment, 2011, mixed media, 16″ x 20″
Laura Di Piazza, My Beloved Pain, 2011, acrylic paint, sumi ink, gouache and paper on canvas, 20″ x 24″

To New Beginnings

There are many admirers of new beginnings. Somehow another chance to get it right or make it better drives us in new directions or deeper into our current path(s). Seasons give us great inspiration of renewal: to sow, plow, reap and rest – the harvest of our lives.

Laura Di Piazza, It Begins With, 2011, ink on paper, 14″ x 17″

Lettering in Art

Laura Di Piazza, Shin, 2011, digital photography (raw image)

On exhibit until September 10th, The Poetry of Shadows exhibit, PhotoPlace Gallery online annex.


Laura Di Piazza, What’s it t’ ya, 2010, mixed media on paper, 8″ x 15″


Laura Di Piazza, Trance Dance, 2011, oil and mixed media on panel, 2′ x 2′