by Elaine Frenett
Traveling Conversations Art Show and Workshop, a tale of 3 friendships
They were close friends, had been for years. The precious, close relationship between Jean Warren (http://www.jeanwarren.com/), Floy Zittin (http://www.floyzittin.com/) and Elaine Frenett (http://www.elainefrenett.com/), all professional artists, grew from meeting in mutual art connections. First, they were in several art clubs together, then took trips together and took on related painting projects together. That trust, admiration and intimate sharing that grows over a period of years and shared experiences couldn’t be broken. This was particularly evident when five years ago, they were separated by family moves.
What might have severed their connections has only strengthened, deepened their rapport. The threesome took communication beyond words – to visual expression only. Yes, on a whim, Floy suggested they start mailing each other small 5 x 7 inch watercolor paintings, just to carry on a conversation without text. With each mailing the artists would ship off up to twelve of the individual 5 x 7s, and the artist who received the packet would respond to the previous images or just create a response from where they were at that particular time in their life. And that’s how the current five year saga (and still going) began. Over that period of time the methods of “visual conversations” took on additional formats. The adventurous trio took on large watercolor sheets (22 x 30 inches) where each of them would paint a comparable area, integrating what each of them painted with what already existed. They tried not to paint over one another’s work but, sometimes, they just did. The resulting five big pieces are phenomenally different and exciting. But they didn’t stop there either. One of the artists, Elaine, has an interest in books as art and convinced Floy and Jean to even venture there. This new format exercised and stretched creativity just as all of these collaborative creations seemed to do.
Recently, the dynamic trio decided to share this unusual body of work with the world. The show, entitled “Traveling Conversations”, in it’s last week at Viewpoints Gallery (http://www.viewpointsgallery.com/) of Los Altos, California, displays the entire group of sixty-nine 5 x 7 individual pieces, the five larger collaborative pieces and the altered book too. In addition to the original works, the artists designed and published a small paperback book, chronicling the sixty-nine smaller works accompanied with newly added text about their responses (http://www.lulu.com/product/paperback/traveling-conversations/11398164). One woman, who was seen reading the book, even had tears in her eyes.
The day after the well attended reception, the threesome offered the “Traveling Conversations” Workshop at McClellan Ranch in the Cupertino foothills. The participants were pushed right into the method/system of collaboration that Jean, Floy and Elaine had developed. First exercise, they sent around 5 x 7 inch responses to an initial artists visual statement. After two passes, the group began to get the “feel” of where this could take them creatively. On to the second half of the workshop, every individual painted “something” in one quarter of a 15 x 11 inch watercolor sheet. There ensued three more passes of that quarter watercolor sheet to two other artists for their painted addition, and then, back to the initial artist who’d started the painting. Their assignment was to work on uniting the piece into a “successful painting”. Need we say there was a lot of stress, imagination and growth among the workshop participants?
Actually, there seemed to be a lot of growth between the original “Traveling Conversations” threesome too. Each of them commented on how sometimes they were perplexed with what to respond, or that immediately they got a “flash” of what they were to add, or how they had to “let go” of the results, just go with the flow of the group and push themselves to paint in a new and foreign way. All these perceptions strengthen and broaden an artists’ well, from which to draw in the future. But also, don’t these things echo life experiences? Don’t these exact comments come into play with all relationships? and then, the really deep, prolonged relationships that work past/through the challenges and grow stronger? One thing evident and extracted from comments by the audience viewing this show was, how much people valued these artists’ friendship. After all, what is more important in life . . . and haven’t these three friends shown a beautiful way to express it in all it’s facets?