For painter Beanie Kaman, nature is everything.
When asked about art, she provides an account that is at once deeply personal and interwoven with the larger map of the natural world. She works as an individual in the midst of a world view that is entirely integrated. For an artist who has developed such a relationship, the resources for the painting come from a dialogue with ourselves, where the distilled and disparate elements of the world take on the form of the more authentic, and the man-made, the idealized and human wrought levels of intellectual life, come under suspicion as inauthentic.
Kaman sees the artist as having two main roles. Can you comment on the world around you? Or can you create an experience from scratch? She finds her direction easy to choose. In comparison to nature, the human scale is one of being helpless. Not personally finding anything authentic or redeeming in the political sphere, she cannot deny that work reflects the person. Finding something expected in the work reveals something unexpected in her own person, revealing that discovery even in the helplessness of our situation is possible. By working directly from her experiences, she has the commentary she is after, and finds something meaningful in her art.
Art is a spiritual and emotional process; to use the root of the word inspired, it is the breath or spirit of the artist, an inhaled processing and exhaled work resulting from what is seen. It’s both the direct observation, and the processing involved. Photography does a fine job representing reality directly without the process; Kaman does not see the point in representing within her paintings.
She does work with symbols, as their necessity arises in the work. During the 80’s she made a series of cross paintings, experimenting with the nature of the symbol, looking for the anthropomorphic element in the symbol. In a later series she explored enlarging small marks, focused on the act of communicating on a basic level, seeking the essential. Even as nature and the senses have central authority in the work, painting remains more or less involved in the intellect. The series exhibited at LA Artcore for August, 2011 was informed by recent experiences with home, family and loss. Some of the symbols appearing in her work include houses, daffodil leaves, the lotus, greenhouse, and ladder.
When asked how she chooses the symbols, Kaman explained working closely with improvisation in her painting as well as her piano, having also written songs. Music is like painting, and a part of her painting. They are also alike one another, the results of processing life and delivering something related to experience, drawn from universal elements, but entirely different and personal each time. Early on she had to make a choice between being an artist or musician, which was easy, preferring to let the work speak for itself rather than be involved in performance.
Painting takes on a life of its own, it steps away from the creator and becomes its own thing. Letting go is helpful, critical to her work. She explains, “Just relax and do what you do. Don’t force it. When it’s from the heart, it’s not forced. Conceptual art on the other hand is more clever, less personal.” She follows up with the consideration that there’s no right way collectively, there’s room for it all where art’s concerned.
When asked why it’s good to be an artist, she replied that it never ends, she’s doing something she will never need to retire from. It began with a comfort level - her mother was an artist, she recalls working with watercolors at 8. It uses every part of her - letting it out, it’s conducive in all the arts. Art students should develop their technical skills first, and afterwards go on and allow “it” to come through. Build the skills, then get out of the way of yourself. The manifestations at that point of development become so different, that difference becomes its own level of beauty. And the magic, how was it achieved, becomes a new subject that was never available before the artist reached that point. She find great enjoyment in the company of other artists, being able to discuss this. All to say, just process is not enough, it also requires a kind of release, which leads to a unique form of knowledge.
Kaman considers art to be the best of human kind. For her it’s an excavation of the self… digging, looking for what is hidden, what treasure is left behind from her experiences. When we dig, the most interesting discoveries are the things that were made… walls and tools are cool but the creative things are where it’s at. It’s the art, the things that were made, that tell us about past people, that help us connect to them.
Art is the best of us, and should be put first in society, not last. It gives people a healthy form of awareness, a way out of the tedious cyclical cycles, the pedantics of life. It is a language made of different perspectives, one that is independent and an alternative to the language of competition, money and gain.
Competition is about measurement, but with art measurement becomes incidental. The only limit that truly exists in art is the one between the artist and the people who see the work, a certain point where the artist lets the work take on a life of its own. One can only put their work on show, the rest it is up to the viewer. That’s the limit of art. The language of art is opposite the language of gain because an artist’s ownership will always reach this limit. There will always be a relationship between artist and art, art and viewer, that will occur on some other different level.
Ultimately, besides all this, art can take any form, unique and ubiquitous like a particle in nature. As inspiration and final word, nature is supreme in this artist’s paintings.