My grandfather was born in Alexandria Bay, NY, which is located in the Thousand Islands area of the St. Lawrence River. He built a summer cottage on Tar Island on the Canadian side of the river in the early 1900s, and his descendants and our children and grandchildren have been spending summers on Tar Island since we were very young.
During travels and visits to museums, I developed an interest in watercolors, and decided to see if I could paint when I retired around 2000. My interest and talent were developed by a retired artist who provided endless encouragement.
In 2020, our summer visits were interrupted by Covid and we were not able to make our annual trip north to the Thousand Islands. A group of “River Rats” began posting photos of the area on Facebook to placate would be River Rats who were not able to go to the River. I was inspired by some of the photos of the Lighthouses in the Thousand Islands area, and began researching them and using them as objects to watercolor. I learned the history of each lighthouse and ended up painting a collection of ten from the area. It was an educational and inspiring experience that helped placate my preoccupation and isolation brought on with Covid. My “retirement project” helped me pass many hours throughout the summer and winter of 2020.
Most of the time, I deliberately try not to decide what a piece will be about before I start. Deciding first, for me historically, has interfered with the process and I lose spontaneity and ultimately creativity. Making art is a space where I can be totally centered, focused, and lose awareness of internal and external concerns. This is very healing for me. At some point I may recognize a theme and build on it. Other times it is not until later that a title and the possible meaning reveals itself. One piece submitted here is the exception - Rage - which I made in response to the arrests of so many of Trump’s cronies and others in his sphere who I saw as self serving. I am including a shot of the under-layer as may of the faces are covered up by other images. While building this piece didn’t solve anything, the work did relieve some of the internal pressure for me. Cracked exemplifies my more usual process. I was drawn to the center image (girl) and the cracked glass from an IPAD. Long after the piece was completed, I came to see it as an expression of the cracks that had developed in my own life because of my husbands Traumatic Brain Injury and resulting disability. I have come to see the the third submission, Tied Up, as my efforts to pull myself back together without doing the actual work needed to heal.
I turn to Nature and find images that offer me hope, awe and at times, joy when emotions of sadness and grief may seem overwhelming. As in Nature, healing happens in stages and transitions – some are fleeting and others take longer. These transitions become a necessary part of healing and can’t be rushed. The caterpillar goes through a metamorphosis over time and emerges as an adult monarch butterfly that symbolizes strength, endurance and spirituality. A rainbow while illusive often occurs after a storm and symbolizes and offers me hope and perhaps success and fortune at the end of a dark period. A sunflower while often imperfect, lasts for many weeks and brings joy to me and this flower symbolizes adoration, loyalty and longevity.
Nature is nurturing, feeds the soul and brings smiles and the power to heal.
These paintings are part of a long journey, being a self taught artist, in understanding the different aspects of portraiture.
After the killing of George Floyd I began making cuttings in black & white not really knowing where it was going. What materialized was a vulnerable and violent image that I called George Floyd. Social justice issues were unrelenting but protests made me feel hopeful and strong. I continued to make more work with my cuttings and they became strong, noisy images that rise up and protest.
"Art has the power to heal, inspire, provoke, challenge and offer hope"
Renee Phillips, Healing Power of Art
I create handwoven tapestries because they make me happy. The process of creating a fabric from a discontinuous weft is very meditative and spiritual. It is a long process but also a joyous one, bringing happiness through the healing power of creative flow over an extended period of time. There is nothing obstructing the touch of fiber by the weaver’s hands; just like a song when nothing separates a singer from her voice. Often, tapestry artists are said that they have found their voice in their weavings.
I weave tapestries in silence, committing myself fully to the process: a continuous conversation with the weaving. Fiber following a weaver’s hand is an embodiment of a very intimate conversation between the weaver and the weaving. This quality of tapestry art enriches my life, leading me on a path to wisdom while creating a fabric of my thoughts. As a result, a tactile object is born - an actual tapestry standing with its narrative as a witness to human thought, telling the story of its time.
Sylvia Vander Sluis combines the industrial and domestic to create visceral forms. Made of low-value, contingent materials, the work uses the body to process fundamental, human experiences.
Vander Sluis graduated with an MFA from Western Michigan University and BFA cum laude from Syracuse University. She is a Core Member of Fountain Street Gallery in Boston, as well as an Associate Member of Boston Sculptors Gallery, and works from her studio in Lancaster, MA.
Website URL: www.sylviavandersluis.com
Social Media Links
Private Commissions? Contact artist
Core Member, Fountain Street gallery: fsfaboston.com
Work for Sale, 1stDibs: https://www.1stdibs.com/search/?q=sylvia%20vander%20sluis
I am a photographer and this past year has been a year of taking walks. With Covid threatening all of us and with the daily onslaught of disturbing news, I took lots of walks in search of peace, solace, and respite. When I walked in old familiar places I was excited to discover new things, and when I found new places to walk, I had new adventures. Walking turned a year of staying inside into a year of going outside, a year of fear and boredom into a year of gratitude and discovery both inside and out.
When people walk into my studio they often sigh with relief. It is a sigh of appreciation for the calm beauty and serenity they see in my work. Working in the film business, I learned to constrict images to rectangles, paying attention to every detail, and organizing all of them together cohesively within a limited time frame. These were useful tools when I first picked up a brush - until I figured out how opposite they were to my idea of painting. When I paint, I have to think beyond the frame, using the image to suggest, not define. In painting, you work toward deleting detail, leaving the viewer to fill in and imagine. It is a slow art form, and one that develops with stroke-by-stroke intention. The beauty of a painting is as much the texture and rhythm as it is the beauty of the scene itself - qualities I appreciate in other painters. I have painted at my best when I have defined the light, deleted the unnecessary, and created both variety and continuity.
In these times It’s important to me that we accept and appreciate our differences, and stand together
Roaming trails keeps me sane. It doesn’t have to be a long hike deep in the mountains. Sometimes an easy stroll on the trails near my house works just as well. This trail on Lone Tree Hill in Belmont has served me well for over 20 years. However, while walking the same trail hundreds of times doesn’t make the overall experience any less important, attention to details can diminish.
This is where my photography comes in. Even if I don’t end up taking any photos, just carrying the camera makes me more alert as I search for new compositions and events around me. Which leaves less headspace for the worries of work, pandemic, and life in general. Better still, when I see something new, such as this snow squall caking the tall pines all on one side. That leaves no room whatsoever for the worries of the day. I lose myself in finding just the right composition, depth of field, sense of space and motion. Trying to capture the awe of that one little slice of nature. Cold fingers no longer matter, I have a purpose. And having a purpose heals more wounds than even nature herself.
Recently, in this time of Covid isolation, I have been working on a series of tiny, intimate collages. Combining found images from vintage magazines with mysterious fingerprints and lists from old ledgers, I develop gouache paintings of layered color and texture. Uniting beauty and nature with pain, memory and loss, these works satisfy the need to resolve, heal and sustain.
From my website and about my artwork in general :
About four years ago, out of an experience of disillusionment and loss, I began practicing art.
While each viewer brings with them their own meanings, common themes in my work include
the expressive power of hands, trauma, recovery, and queerness. I hope the world finds what I
do with my art: validation of human emotions and healing.
This piece allowed me to experience how suffering and sadness can be beautiful. Because the
hands are the figure’s own, I believe this image is about soothing oneself, which we all need to
learn how to do, and which art does for me.
I was searching for a visual metaphor to help me understand the pain the world was beginning
to feel due to the onset of the pandemic. In the image, the hands are “masking” the face, which
reflected all the masks people were beginning to wear. Terror, for me, has always been defined
as the unspeakable, and in this image, the main figure is silencing or stifling themself. When I
finished the painting, I felt more connected to the world and the suffering around me, at a time
when we were just being encouraged to socially isolate.
Self Portrait as a Butterfly
I made this piece about three years ago when I was still processing a very major loss. This
piece is very much about my relationship with art. I didn’t begin painting until I was really at rock
bottom, and the pain needed a place to go. I’ve always admired butterflies because they have
the ability to completely transform themselves. I chose complementary colors because I wanted
there to be a sense of wholeness in my life again.
Looking through a camera slows down my world and lets me discover details. As a visual sherpa, I guide the viewer to things often looked at but not seen. Reality is not something we can fully grasp, but a process we engage in. Small things, ordinary things, temporary things are worthy of our attention. I take a photograph only once, but with each viewing it is recreated.
My digital photo collages for Facing You were inspired by a Frank Turner song: One Foot Before the Other - "We Remain!"
Only when we tarry do we touch the holy. - Rilke
Website - www.adinephoto.com
Instagram - @adinestorer
Facebook - /AdineStorerPhotography
ELAINE HAWKES speaks on Art and Healing.
Cellist SARAH FREIBERG ELLISON performs
Special presentation by artist JOHN WILLIAMS
LIVE on Ch 96 (Comcast) Ch 30 (Verizon)