Lael Burns

LBurnsSecretPlace

“Secret Place”

Lael Burns’ artwork is delicate dance.  The murky, fleshy shapes and celestial glitter bodies tell a story of opposites that interact.  It is a painful struggle.  Within the intricacy of this exchange, of these gruesome and pleasing elements, there is beauty.

“Making art has always been a way for me to process life and is just something that ‘clicked’ with me from early on,” says Burns, who lives and works in the Fort Worth, Texas area.  The shapes in Burns’ artwork developed in her childhood.  “I used to have this huge magnolia tree in my yard growing up, and the buds that fall off the tree fascinated me.  In middle school, I started drawing them and thinking about other biological and organic forms as a representation of my inner self, so it’s a means of communication and expression I adopted that I still use.”  Burns placed a high value on her creativity from a young age, due to support from her family and teachers.  Art became a necessity in her young life.  “When I was in middle school I feel like I really turned to art as means of survival during some dark family circumstances and just never stopped making.”

LBurnsTheBlessing

“The Blessing”

Viewing much of what Burns creates is an experience of repugnance and awe.  Confronted with an element that is ugly and strange, it is hard to look away from its relation to what is beautiful.  Organic forms in her current work are like wombs and gnarled roots, an outpouring of her psyche and spirit that comes from a deeply spiritual place.  The lure of darkness and the pursuit of connection to God are ever-present themes.  This duality of existence is shown as the visual layers of human nature and the spirit.  On the canvas, the distorted being (human nature) still possesses the spark of true life (spirit) that will remain after death and presently reaches for connection with the heavenly realm.

LBurnsProcessofBelivingBeauty

“The Process of Believing Beauty”

What has had a powerful effect on her canvases is the renewal of Burns’ soul at the age of twenty-seven when she pursued Christian faith.  Like the tension between what is ugly and beautiful, the past and the present are relevant aspects of what the artist communicates with forms.  “I think much of my work prior to this major change was dealing with similar ideas and themes.  I was just on the other side of it. I was heavily steeped in church and Christianity growing up, but I was angry and running from Christ, whereas now my work is a picture of a person finally yielded to and remade by Christ.”  There is a heavy sense of matter in the bulbous forms that rise from the page.  Bright airy clouds and shrouds of smoke balance the weight.  The colors, and glitter accents, harken to the light in the soul.  “The most exciting, driving aspect of my work to me now is continuing to experience healing and deliverance from God and watching how that plays out visually. It’s a process that will continue until I die.”

Burns’ life is also a balance, one that she approaches with a spiritual flow.  She is a wife, mother of two small children, and manages to dive deeply into the creative process while they nap or play outside.  While motherhood often pulls artists away from their practice, Burns found balance in an at-home residency and support network for mothers.  “I did a 6 month long residency with An Artist Residency in Motherhood which really helped reframe the way I was thinking about my work after I had our second child and I stopped working.”  Burns was formerly a high school art teacher.  “It was a big adjustment to go from working full time and being away from my children so much, to being home all the time with then a newborn and a toddler. It was a big adjustment emotionally and for my studio practice, but such a good one.”  Some sessions meant creating with the kids, while others were fruitful moments like the ones that she finds in her day now.  ARIM helped her set the tone for being a creative person and a mother.  “[It] helped me get in contact with other artist mothers and reinvent a studio practice that works with my situation once my daughter got a little older.”

LBurnsRevival's Seed8

“Revival’s Seed 8”

Burns now homeschools both children while maintaining her studio practice.  She does not keep a rigid creative schedule, but lets her studio time fall into a unique pattern each day. She often works on several pieces, assembly-line style, somehow knowing what each different piece needs at the same time.  It is unconventional, but helps her maintain a certain level of productivity.  The process is successful, considering that new pieces are frequently popping up on her Instagram account.

Burns’ current sculptural exhibit at Fort Worth’s Art 7 Gallery is wrapping up soon.  The artist will continue to find inspiration in the spiritual aspects of her life and seek balance one day at a time.  “You’re only going to be able to get so much done if you are with your children, and I’ve just made peace with that.  I’m learning and enjoying this season of less structure and just ‘going with the flow’ and staying in the place of joy and freedom.  I know it’s so cliché, but my children will only be little this one time and I want to enjoy it.”

Learn more about Lael here:

Laelburns.com

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Victor Atkins

Saving Grace Victor Atkins

Saving Grace

When he was growing up in New York, Victor Atkins didn’t imagine that he would become an artist.  During the 1960s, there was a rise in drug related deaths in the Rockaway Beach, Queens community, a scene he didn’t want to become part of.  “People were either overdosing or jumping off of buildings,” says Atkins, “and I didn’t want to do either of those things.”  He pursed art school at the suggestion of a friend who was, “somebody who was doing something positive and creative away from all the death.”  Art became a bright spot in that darkness, but only for a time.

While he hadn’t pictured himself becoming a painter, Atkins found success into his second year at School of the Arts. “It started very early,” he says of the gallery shows and recognition, “and I wish it didn’t.”  Atkins chose to leave art school and focus on getting his work shown in more galleries.  In later years, he would find that he had to work harder to make up for what he lacked in technical training.  Still, his success rose.

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In 1969 Atkins would be awarded the Illustrator Award from the Society of Illustrators for designing the cover of Miles Davis’ “Miles in the Sky” LP. In the 70s,  Atkins showed at galleries throughout New York City. He would paint until he faced some inner turmoil. With no spiritual anchor in his life, he says, “the thing that I saw in my spirit – I couldn’t come near it.  It was too painful, too frustrating.”  There was some distance between his vision and the canvas. “I could see something that I wanted to paint, and I couldn’t make it happen.” Atkins cites Jackson Pollock as an example of an artist “who saw something in himself that he couldn’t get out on canvas,” an experience that led Pollack to his death.

Atkins felt that there was no place where he could take his pain. He soon found himself drifting away from art. Painting began to feel like designing wallpaper. Prospective buyers seemed to go from purchasing his pieces as they were, to requesting reproductions with changes that would suit their taste. What was once freedom in painting turned into something else.

PS100 Victor Atkins

PS100

A group show at at Louis Meisel Gallery in 1978 would be Atkins last for more than twenty years. After a brief stint as a screen writer, he got married, opened a high-end bicycle shop, and lived a life based around the sport. Around 2000, he and his wife Diana would search for a fresh perspective by relocating to West Chester, Pennsylvania. They lived on wooded property, then moved around various counties while still running the bicycle business. Through a spiritual awakening, Atkins would find a bridge between himself and the inner struggle that distanced him from painting. As a Christian, Atkins was struck one night with a deep understanding that painting was what he needed to do. In this epiphany he felt that he needed to paint portraits, which he had never done. He resisted the strength of this message for months by hanging onto the reasons in front of him: their house was too small. There was no space for him to create his large works. He did not paint portraits. What would he do with the paintings? Overall, he really did not want to do it. Atkins would eventually share this experience with people who attended his church, and one of them would offer their well-lit spare room as a studio space.

In 2008 Atkins painted the series “Portraits of the Saints,” capturing images of people who were significant in he and Diana’s journey of faith. Diana insisted that portraits of people they knew would not sell. After the show at Providence Church in West Chester, Atkins chose to keep the portrait of her while all the others found new homes.

The Catch Victor Atkins

The Catch

Interest started to grow in Atkins’ work, and the couple relocated to Philadelphia. The loft spaces in the city were large enough for Atkins to paint. He found his way back to his creative voice through collage, photography, and painting in a way that was both fun and challenging. He showed at Cairn University, White Stone Gallery among other group and solo exhibitions throughout the city. Their current home in Kensington is Atkins’ primary inspiration. The series “Angels Over Kensington” premiered at Legends Gallery in Fall of 2015. The images are of somewhat primitive patterns in bold colors, celestial shapes, suggestions of human figures, and various objects. Atkins wanted to represent the desire that he feels for spiritual awakening to enter a community where he sees desperation and destructive escapism.

“You can’t help but become affected by your environment. It becomes part of your DNA, it becomes what you think about, it becomes part of your body language,” says Atkins of the perceptive quality of a creative person’s existence. Atkins’ current series represents existing in the light of belief amongst darkness.

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Come Sing Hallelujah

Atkins invites spectators into a sense of playfulness and joy in his large works. Each piece is around 70×90 inches and, in person, draws you into the colors and shapes. Symbols create sweeping gestures of emotion. In “Come, Sing Hallelujah, figures have their arms raised, crossing over each other to create a sense of connection. Behind them, a circular shape the color of a golden morning sunrise seems to impart its hue on the spectrum of colors throughout the image.

Being There Victor Atkins

Being There

“Being There” layers blues and purples with bright yellow and orange. A blue spiral in the center is surrounded by two figures arching toward each other. They are framed by the curving shapes of a ladder and a door. Woven into the chaotic red, yellow, and green lines, the spiral and shades of blue throughout are a calm settling over and inside the frenzy.

It seems that Atkins has returned to the darkness that he witnessed at Rockaway Beach, and art is again a light. This time it isn’t an escape born from his own abilities, but a conscious decision to let the inspiration of spiritual wholeness fill his canvases. He sees the spiritual communion of painting as, “committing beauty back to the source of beauty.”

He is currently experimenting with the idea of creating an interactive installation using sound and sculpture also inspired by Kensington. While Atkins isn’t sure about what shape these ideas will take, he is ambitious and, most of all, inspired. He says that the spiritual engagement in his approach to art allows “things that I think I’m not capable of doing happen.”

victor-atkins.com