Category Archives: Art

Honorable mention!

Getting feedback from an exhibit is crucial for an artist–and don’t you believe those who claim that they don’t care what the viewing public thinks of their work: they do. My painting style has changed considerably since 2013, when I produced “landmarks with a twist” or 2015, the heyday of my popular series of minimalist animals.

Recently, my art has become very abstract, with mostly dark overtones, and I didn’t quite know how viewers would respond to it.  Last month I got an answer.  I am very pleased to be the recipient of an Honorable Mention for a painting titled Masquerade, which was part of the Contemporary Art Group’s juried show on exhibit at the Watchung Arts Center. The judge described it as “loaded with color, with great balance and tons of energy.”

Masquerade (2017)
Monique Hendricks
16″ x 20″, mixed media

 

I have two other paintings hanging at the Bernardsville Library during the month of June. One is funny, the other sad. I hope you have the opportunity to view the exhibit. Have a wonderful, art filled summer!

La Cage aux folles (2016)
Monique Hendricks
16″ x 20″, mixed media

 

Alzheimer’s: Portrait of an illness (2017)
16″ x 20″, mixed media

 

 

 

On passions

Stormy Night
© 2016 by Monique Hendricks


Those of you who have read my posts must have gathered by now that art is my passion. But I have another passion: writing. What prompted this love affair with Shakespeare’s idiom? None of his plays, I assure you.

In 1976 I went to live in Iceland with husband #1. It didn’t take me long to find out that as a “Third national”–neither Icelandic, nor American–I stood very little chance of getting a job at the American base in Keflavik, where we rented an apartment off base. I briefly considered taking a class in Old Norse at the University of Reykjavik, but the only course offered to foreigners who didn’t speak Icelandic started at 5 pm. Night school was not what I had in mind. This is a country where, in the dead of winter, darkness descends upon the population in the early afternoon and lingers until the next morning, circa 11 am.  On a good day you might get three hours of daylight.  You do not fight darkness in Iceland: you befriend it and your reward (if you remain on the island long enough) is that in the summer you will enjoy an abundance of light and much frolicking under the midnight sun.  Anyway, I didn’t register for the course because I didn’t want to get stranded on the lone Reykjavik-Keflavik road in the dark, having to change a flat caused by the puncture-happy spikes that line the tires of every Icelandic vehicle in the winter. Instead, I started to borrow books from the American Library on base. Driving back from the library I never failed to stop at a bakery that sold a long, flat danish pastry decorated with either pink or yellow icing. A dilettante with a knack for grammar and a penchant for pastry, I sought refuge in both sweet treats and salty English novels.

The story is far from ending here. However, I’m afraid I cannot digress further on the topic of Iceland for fear that my posts on art will suffer from neglect and become even more infrequent.  I will address the infrequency issue in my next post. In the meantime, I leave you with a painting that could presumably depict the Icelandic landscape, but has in fact nothing to do with Iceland at all.

Hearty thanks to my followers

I call you ‘followers’ but that doesn’t mean that I lead. I could have chosen ‘fans’ but find it a tad pretentious. You are my viewing public, arbiters of authenticity rather than trends, and above all, dedicated to the multiple reincarnations of my art.

For that, I thank you.

For your generous patronage, I am grateful. And (dare I say it?) somewhat surprised. After all, I am entirely self-taught. I plod along, determined to continue on this path which seems to be so right for me. Of course, I am plagued by the occasional self-doubt, as when I worried that you, my viewers, would not like my latest abstract paintings.

The opening of the exhibit at the Lundt-Glover Gallery in Chatham on December 11 was a measurable success (just like the operation a year ago). Having fully embraced my illness and its relationship to my art, I look forward to a year of experimentation, directional shifts, serendipity.  I live for the small pleasures of a life formerly lived at maximum speed and efficiency, leaving me unable to appreciate its modest rewards. The beauty of life, as I see it, lies in the endless possibilities it offers to reinvent ourselves. In other words, anything is possible. The French, who tend to be wordy, have a saying that succinctly captures that sentiment:  Impossible n’est pas français!  

Growing up with that rhetoric, what choice did I have but to accept that premise?

 

 

Preparing for my next exhibit

Last year around this time I was prepping for brain surgery. My medical clearance requirements included lab work, an EKG, spine MRI, as well as a three-hour long neuropsychological test.

This year, I am preparing for my solo exhibit. What that entails, besides creating the artwork itself, is the physical act of framing and wiring the paintings, sorting them, tagging them, pricing them, hanging them, updating material for publicity, sending out promotional postcards, putting up flyers and posters, submitting information about the exhibit to the local press, hiring musicians for the opening, and devising a menu for the reception.

Two very different undertakings. One fraught with risks, the other pretty much risk-free (unless we face inclement weather and nobody shows up).

Why, then, do l feel nervous? I love doing art shows. Participated in a dozen or so exhibits in the past two years. But here I am, contemplating the possibility that I will forget something, run out of time, or worse, run out of steam–i.e., find myself having mobility issues.

Well, if I do, so be it. That is the other part of me, the part that I have learned to accept, to embrace even. But truly, between the meds and the electrical stimulation, I should be fine, and moving at my usual fast pace.

The exhibit runs from December 11, 2016 until March 10, 2017.

Before and After the Operation: The Evolving Art of Monique Hendricks

Lundt-Glover Gallery

Chatham Township Municipal Building

58 Meyersville Road, Chatham

Opening Reception: Sunday, December 11, 2016 from 2 – 4 pm

 

 

 

 

 

Liberated Strings: The Guitar in Art Exhibit

Earlier this summer I created a 3-D piece for an exhibit called Liberated Strings: The Guitar in Art at the Barron Arts Center in Woodbridge. The exhibit runs from July 22 to August 21.

My contribution, UNSTRUNG, consists of a burlap-covered frame with a recessed space holding a ukulele, its strings hanging loose from the instrument.  The concept behind UNSTRUNG stems from my fondness for binary oppositions. The contrast between the elegant, colorful silk draped over the ordinary, colorless burlap is one such opposition. Another is my own take on Rene Magritte’s famous line: Ceci n’est pas une pipe. Magritte wrote those words to explain that his painting of a pipe  was only a representation of it. I changed the Belgian surrealist’s phrase to define the object in question (the guitar) by what it is not. The juxtaposition of guitar and ukulele represents yet another opposition: the noble guitar vs. the less sophisticated uke. (Even the word “uke”–“flea” in Hawaiian–is revealing in its association with that pest.)

UNSTRUNG (2016), burlap, silk, wood, paper. 24″ x 24″

Hendricks_Monique_UNSTRUNG_mixedmedia_24x24%22

Post-op: What brain surgery did for me

Six months ago I underwent Deep Brain Stimulation, a five-hour intervention that required me to be awake for most of the procedure. Recovery was fairly quick, although to me it seemed to take forever. I had several crying spells in the early days, mainly due to my inability to perform the simplest tasks, like lifting my leg to take a step forward. The hero in this recovery story is my devoted husband, who tended to my every need, and thought nothing of picking me up and carrying me when I wasn’t mobile. Validation of the operation’s success occurred in the fourth fine-tuning session, when my programmer announced that since my settings were optimal, she saw no reason to continue tweaking me.  The usual time frame for post-DBS fine-tuning is six months. Lucky me that it only took four visits!

Initially, I hid the scars (forty staples’ worth) on my chest where the neurostimulators were implanted, but now I see them as part of me, the new me, the bionic me. So… how do you feel? people ask. Fantastic! I’m pretty much mobile from 7:30 in the morning, when the first dose of meds kicks in, until 11:30 at night or even later. I take less medication and my voltage is set at 2.7. Compared to my pre-op life, marred by an increase in freezing incidents due to the pills’ waning effectiveness, that is a significant improvement.

The operation changed me. Memories of that day remain vivid in my mind. I remember everything that was said in the operating room as I lay there, quite comfortably, while doctors drilled holes in my skull. I remember being excited, not fearful of the operation itself. Since I didn’t feel any pain and there was no blood, why should I worry? After the anesthesia wore off and I recovered my wits, I engaged hospital staff members in animated conversation whenever the opportunity arose. If I detected an accent, I inquired about its origin, which always brought a smile to the person’s face. Later on, after I was settled in my room, I told the night nurse I could kill for some ice cream. Lo and behold, she wandered off, warning me not to get my hopes up, and returned after a while with a small container of chocolate ice cream. I never liked hospitals, but find me one that delivers ice cream late at night and I’ll be on the next train.

Not only did the operation give me back my mobility; it eliminated my dyskinesia, a side effect from the medication which, for years, caused my head to sway almost constantly.  And that, in turn, changed the way people looked at me. Over and over again I am now told that I look great, that no one could tell from my gait that I have PD.  I’m starting to wonder how bad I looked before I had the surgery. But what does it matter? That was then, this is now.

DBS forced me to take sides. It enabled me to embrace my illness in a way that was not possible before. For a long time, I preferred to stand apart, holding on to whatever normalcy I still enjoyed in my life. I had no desire to join a group of Parkinson’s sufferers to discuss–I imagined–our respective symptoms and commiserate on our misfortune. By choosing art as my traveling companion, my muse, my salvation, I had a built-in support system, day and night. Post-op, I have joined a fitness class for people who have PD and I relish the company of our small eclectic group. We don’t talk about our symptoms. Under the guidance of two creative and compassionate instructors, we exercise non-stop for an hour twice a week. We laugh, we have a good time, there is no stopping us from grabbing life with both hands (some with tremors) and enjoying the ride.

The operation also changed my art. Pre-op, I was painting animals in a minimalist style. For the first few weeks after the surgery I didn’t paint at all. When I took up my brush again, I felt like I was repeating myself and didn’t pursue it. Unsure of where my art would take me, I followed my instinct and went back to doing abstracts. But here again, I wasn’t convinced. I tried other forms of expression: drawing, mosaics, mixed media.

I had lost my mojo. Or so I thought.  One day, after I finished a painting that both surprised and delighted me, I knew which path to take.

Here is some of my latest work. I call it semi-abstract for the following reason: At first glance it seems totally abstract, but if you linger you can detect a form, a figurative reference of some sort–and it need not be what I see, i.e., what I based my title on, or what the next person sees. It is enough that you see something in the painting that speaks to you, whatever that may be. To me, the fun of interpreting abstract art–which, by the way, should not be intimidating, but rather illuminating–lies in the endless possibilities for meaning that it evokes.

Happy deconstructing!

 

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I got my mojo back

Finally! Was my brain rebelling against the upheaval it was subjected to when I had the operation five months ago? Perhaps. But now all is well. Being out of the art loop for a while, I wondered if and when I would get my mojo back.

I believe it came back with this piece.

Baboon, deep in thought (2016)

Baboon, deep in thought (2016)

My latest style, semi-abstract. All acrylic on canvas.

Enjoy the sample. There is more to come. Oh, yes.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Inspiration strikes

Last weekend I went to the Genuine Art auction at the Madison Montessori School, the crowning event of the immensely popular fundraiser for the MMS scholarship fund.  I was fortunate to be one of ten artists to have completed projects with the students on the subject of “Home Sweet Home” and the featured country of Mongolia. The room brimmed with artistic flair, whim and innovation. What better locale to inspire an artist who, at the moment, is flummoxed and adrift in a sea of possibilities? I was inspired by two pieces. One, titled Home To Me, was a table with colorful relief sculptures made of tiles by the participating children in answer to the question: When you think of home, what do you think of first? (artist: Mel Tomaszewski with Tyler C. Merson). The other, a painting entitled High Altitude Wind by Sandy DeCristofaro, I found particularly intriguing. It was a somewhat abstract representation of Mongolia.  Luckily, the artist was there to explain it. A messy project, Sandy conceded, but the children were happy to get their hands dirty in order to experiment with color (a vibrant shade of blue) and form (hexagons suggesting connectedness).

That is the beauty of art. After solitary toiling, mingling and connecting.  Navel-gazing leading to looking outward. Ideas springing forth, plans materializing, life rebounding. Finding your center, your core, your genuine self. Having seen those two works of art inspires me to try my hand at mosaics and experiment with mixed media.

Thank you, Madison Montessori, for being a source of inspiration in my quest for a new direction.

 

An extraordinary outcome

This week, during my fourth programming session, I heard the angels sing.  You are done, they chanted.  What do you mean, done?  You are done with the programming.  Already?  Doesn’t it usually take six months to get tweaked to perfection?  Yes, it might. However, you have responded so well to the treatment that there is no reason to continue tweaking you.  I looked at my programmer. Why mess with something that works, she asked. Better is the enemy of good.

I am amazed. Shocked. Excited. Grateful.  For the past five months–ever since I decided to go ahead with the operation–my focus has been, predictably, my illness. When things got tough, I gathered strength from believing the operation would have a positive impact on my quality of life. And now what seemed almost unreachable and improbable at times has happened:  I am fully tweaked.

My programmer, an exceptional nurse practitioner who has been programming patients for fourteen years, wants to see me in six months.  Then yearly until the batteries need changing. I was sad that our sessions were ending and told her so. She said I could always call her if I had questions or concerns. The relationship was not ending, merely the adjustments.

Dear brain, you have been such a good sport throughout this journey. Quite an upheaval for you, considering how much you hate disruptions in your routine. Now that things have calmed down, you should be able to resume your steady, balanced pace. We will continue to work together: you, me, and the neurostimulators. I would say:  It’s the beginning of a beautiful friendship (with a nod to Humphrey Bogart in Casablanca.)

My brain (2016)

My brain, imagined (2016)

 

The truth about abstract art

I recently came across this quote by Wassily Kandinsky, the Russian abstract expressionist painter (1866-1944):

Of all the arts, abstract painting is the most difficult. It demands that you know how to draw well, that you have a heightened sensitivity for composition and for colors, and that you be a true poet. This last is essential.

That made me think. Composition and colors, I do rather well. Am I a poet? Maybe. What about drawing? Never considered it. If I can make an analogy with music, drawing reminds me of Bach’s partitas, toccatas, preludes and fugues: precise, linear, cerebral. As a piano student I refused to play him (I was lucky to have a teacher who indulged my eclectic taste). You cannot make a mistake and get away with it when you play Bach. But with Gershwin, Prokofiev, Ravel, missed chords are opportunities for pianists to replace, maybe even “improve” on the original notation and to do so with a flourish.

I have decided to take Wassily’s statement about drawing seriously. Over the next few weeks I will learn how to draw well. I am gathering materials relevant to my course of study, including the book by Betty Edwards, Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain, #2 pencils, two viewfinders, several erasers, paper, a sharpener, a mirror. I am starting from scratch, even though years ago I did some of the exercises in the book (fascinating stuff, especially the upside-down horse).

Meanwhile, here is a sampling of my latest paintings.

Designer dress (2016)

Designer dress (2016)

Cascade (2016)

Cascade (2016)

The Opposite of Slow (2016)

The Opposite of Slow (2016).