Annual meeting "Saiets" highlights
Overview of the 2015 American Artists’ Retreat/Annual conference held September 25-27 (Sarma Muiznieks Liepins, ALMA secretary)
The theme of the 2015 conference was “Kalējs kala debesīs” - The Blacksmith Forges in the Sky - a theme that accentuated the craftsmanship and skill that when established allows artists to shower themselves and others in both real and virtual sparks.
Special events this year included a metal welding workshop led by Boston sculptor Gints Grinbergs and a mono-print workshop led by Maine artist and educator Kika Nigals.
Our guest speakers Saturday and Sunday included two masters of their craft: jewelers Māris Auniņš (www.marisaunins.com) from Latvia and Elizabete Ludvika (www.ludviks.com) from Canada. Both jewelers shared images of their works and their very individualized techniques. Auniņš was in the USA in association with his work highlighted at LOOT: MAD About Jewelry at the NY Museum of ART and Design. Inese Baranovska from the Museum of Decorative Arts in Rīga spoke about the current art scene in Latvia, including restoration of the original museum building and progress on the construction of a new wing of the National Museum of Art of Latvia. “Balticsmith” Andris Rūtiņš updated us about the brutal pillaging of archeological sites in Latvia and the rampant sale of the rare artifacts on Ebay. A Friday evening program “spark” was the debut of “Flown” by the young Latvian film director Mark Blumberg from Austin, TX; a complex and visually captivating short film about, among other themes, the eternal questions astronauts face.
The Annual meeting led by ALMA president Linda Treija on Saturday morning was a model of efficiency leaving more time to delve into the popular hands-on workshops, and enjoy the varied lectures and the company of colleagues and their families.
Annual meeting "Saiets" highlights
Overview of the 2014 American Latvian Artists’ Retreat/Annual Conference held September 26-28 (Sarma Muiznieks Liepins, ALMA secretary)
The overlying theme of the 2014 conference was “Artist and Ego”, a chance to delve inward to see what role our Egos (and/or Alter-egos) play in our motivations as artists and in what we consciously or subconsciously choose to share through our art.
Friday evening events included a presentation about the ALMAKSLA art show at the FBLB exhibit space in Philadelphia (Oct. 2013), the recent 2nd Conference on Latvian Diaspora Archives, Libraries and Material culture in Washington DC and the 2014 retrospective show of the work of E. Dajevskis in Liepāja, Latvia. Highlighted artists in the regular “New work/portfolio” series were sculptor Gints Grinbergs and painter/printmaker Kika Nigals.
Agenda covered at the annual meeting: the ALMA budget; membership; social media presence; ALMA archive preservation and digitalization; exhibit opportunities at the 2015 Latvian Song Festival in San Jose and other topics of interest to ALMA members.
Saturday afternoon began with speaker Vilis Inde, owner of the “Claesson Koivisto Rune” designed Inde/Jacobs art gallery in Marfa, Texas. Marfa is a mecca of minimalist art and Inde introduced us to not only the philosophy of minimalism in art and its key international players, but also to the role these concepts have played in the design and construction of the new gallery. Global Center for Latvian Art board members Guna Mundheim and Juris Ubāns showed both photos and a short film from the 2014 summer grand opening of the new Center in Cēsis, Latvia. Exciting news since many ALMA members have donated pieces to the center’s permanent collection. Textile artist Inga Godejord gave a comprehensive talk on “Current and Ancient Silk Painting and Wax Batik Techniques” followed by a wonderful workshop in painting on silk. Artists tend to truly enjoy trying new techniques and this was no exception. Many worked on their pieces right up to suppertime.
The annual ALMA art show was hung on Friday; on Saturday each artist was encouraged to describe to the group the medium, and any special technique and/or artistic motivation for their piece/pieces. It was a chance for everyone to ask questions or just enjoy the diversity of the display. Saturday night : the time to learn about new publications by ALMA members, hear contemporary Latvian poetry, bid in the annual ALMA benefit auction, eat, drink and be merry in the company of friends old and new.
Annual meeting "Saiets" highlights
Reflection on the 2013 American Latvian Artists' Retreat/Annual Conference held September 27-29, 2013 (Sarma Muiznieks Liepins, ALMA secretary)
Reflection, according to the American Heritage Dictionary, is the thought or opinion that results from "mental concentration; careful consideration." It is also: "something such as light, radiant heat, sound, or an image, that is reflected." Being artists, we are all pretty good (or think that we are pretty good!) at merging real and mental images, incorporating verbal and auditory stimuli, adding some light, heat and individuality and coming up with either new artwork that "reflects" on an event, or just projecting our genuine evaluation of an event to others.
Thus, most often, my favorite part of the Annual ALMA retreat is the sincere cheeriness of the retreat participants around noon on Sunday, at lunch, in the corridors of "Atputa nams" and in the parking lot where cars are fanned out in a friendly semi-circle; their trunks and doors open, yet their occupants are still lingering to talk, to smile, to hug. A positive reflection on yet another enriching ALMA week-end.
We come year after year to actually spend several days with a diverse group of individuals who see and interpret the world differently from us. That is what we want. We look at our own work day in and day out. We struggle with it. Sometimes it satisfies us. Sometimes it torments us. What we come to the Catskills for in the fall is to experience the daily toils and torments of others! As we walk briefly in their paths, we see alternative ways of solving problems, alternative ways of artistically coping with very serious questions. We look at their "blueprints" and add "prints" of our own to take back to our studios.
This year, the two main speakers at the retreat brought "serious food for serious reflection". Peteris Dajevskis, son of scenography legend Evalds Dajevskis, shared with us his thought process as he worked tirelessly for many years with how to best present to spectators of various ages and backgrounds hundreds of pieces of his late father's work and the history of the last century contained within. Dajevskis, himself a professional in the museum industry, brought to the table concepts like "Universal Connection" (how you want diverse visitors to an exhibit to feel that in some way "your history is our history") and Yi-Fu Tuan's influential thoughts on Cultural Geography. Brooklyn, NY based veteran filmmaker Signe Baumane graciously allowed our group to be among the first to view excerpts from her nearly complete new animation film "Rocks in my Pockets. A Funny Film about Depression". Baumane's honest approach to her family history with depression in a lively animation peppered with bits on Latvia's tumultuous history and infused in Baumane's signature quirky, very original scenes left a deep impression on the viewers. It also opened up a very personal discussion on mental illness in Latvian society, as well as in individuals and their families. Baumane also commented on the pluses and minuses of launching a "crowd sourcing" Kickstarter campaign; a funding vehicle used by many successful artists.
The main points presented by Linda Treija, ALMA president, and discussed by ALMA members and guests at the Saturday morning meeting included modifications to the Board of Directors and other positions in the upcoming elections for 2014-2016 in order to better address the needs of the organization, the upcoming ALMAKSLA group show in Philadelphia and continuing ALMA archive organization and digitalization. Last year's meeting minutes were approved and ALMA financial statements were deemed to be in order. Treija noted the passing away of three ALMA members: Aija Kusins Augis, Janis Annus (2013) and Marks (Maigonis) Barens (2012). Eleonora Sturma spoke about the contributions to Latvian culture by the late Dagmara Vallena. ALMA welcomed several new members: Andris Rutins, Inga Strause-Godejord, Rudite Godfrey-Mazure, Antra Vavere, Gunta Eglite and Ausma Briedis, a docent at the Montclair, NJ Art Museum. The group voted to create a new Public Relations/External affairs committee (Rutins, Neimanis, Mangulis) that will focus on outreach in media previously underutilized by ALMA. An updated logo design was discussed.
Friday evening and Sunday morning presentations included: a look at the "Latvian Art in Exile" 2013 show and related conference and events at the Latvian Museum of Art (various locations in Riga); the new Mark Rothko Museum in Daugavpils; updates on LaPa (Latvians Abroad Museum) collection development, "Antiques Roadshow" tour, and upcoming 2014 exhibitions; the Global Society for Latvian Art and its ongoing project to establish a Center for Latvian Diaspora Art in Cesis. Liga Ejups, the new Director of Cultural Affairs at the American Latvian Association, suggested ways that Latvian American artists can not only show their work to a larger audience, but also creative ways to engage with the Latvian school population in the USA, especially in regards to visual projects involving the new National Library of Latvia that will be opening to the public in 2014. Saturday evening was infused with poetry (Avens, Meirane, Muizniece Liepina) and highlighted three new books : Ilmars Rumpeters (drawings), Gerda Roze (memoir) and a new publication about the Latvian painter Janis Annus. The rich "Latviesu maksla trimda/ Latvian Art in Exile" catalog compiled by our last year's speaker Dr. art. Dace Lamberga was also showcased for those members who were not able to attend the exhibit in Latvia. The traditional auction was especially lively this year due to the persuasive skills of auctioneer Kika Nigals and her nimble assistant Gints Grinbergs.
Many thanks to Janina Brigis and her delightful crew for their hospitality, for feeding us, for housing us and for providing mild, SUNNY weather this year!
Please plan on attending the ALMA retreat in 2014 from September 26th – 28th.
Reflections on the 2012 American Latvian Artists’Retreat/Annual
September 28 - 30, 2012
Friday. It is early fall in the Catskill Mountains. Powerful rain, heavy fog coincide with the trek of hardy Latvian artists eager to meet up with colleagues and friends at the annual ALMA conference in Elka Park, NY.
Landscape artist Aivars Zandbergs greets early arrivals with a tool box, the smell of fresh paint and gusto! He has already spent a day repairing and adjusting the picture hanging “apparatus” and is now ready to help hang the usual unpredictable variety of various media works for the annual ALMA conference art show.
Dace Marga, ALMAs treasurer, rolls in from Pennsylvania with the master list of expected attendees. Linda Treija, ALMAs president from Texas, soon arrives together with Sarma Muiznieks Liepins, from Boston and Dr. Dace Lamberga, curator at the National Museum of Art in Latvia and one of the primary lecturers at this year’s conference. Helpful hands hang festive, decorative lights, roll out industrial extension cords, set up tables and audiovisual equipment. Exhibition tables load up with art books, periodicals, member recent exhibition catalogs and advertisements for upcoming shows; an impressive temporary Latvian art library. The downstairs refrigerator magically fills with appetizers, artisan cheeses, fresh berries and of course, a great selection of beer and wine. Cheery voices greet each new arrival. Two huge pots of fresh, tasty chili appear on the stove from Janina's kitchen.
The Friday night presentations kick off with Dr. Dace Lamberga's first formal talk of the week-end. A variety of current topics from the art world in Latvia are covered: the reconstruction and plans for a dynamic underground addition designed by young Lithuanian architects for the National Museum of Art, the prestigious V. Purvitis’ awards, the inner workings of the Latvian government funded Culture Capital Fund, with a focus on the fine arts section.
Maira Reinberga from Attleboro, MA shares her recent work and explains the complex techniques that she uses. We get an inside view of Gerda Roze’s latest solo show, Zane Treimanis’ latest solo show (with an original Treimanis’ Haiku interpretation by Eleonora Sturma!) and Linda Treija’s last fall’s solo show in Latvia. New ALMA member graphic designer Austris Mangulis is called into action to masterfully adjust nuances in the color hues projecting on the screen. The volume in the cozy fire-placed room rises from the many simultaneous conversations as the evening progresses late into the mist filled night.
Saturday morning starts with the annual ALMA business meeting. Discussion points of special interest to ALMA members include Lamberga’s presentation about plans for the May-July 2013 Latvian Diaspora Artists’ Show at the National Museum of Latvia affiliate Museum “Arsenals” in Riga. It is the beginning of a lively art history lesson as she shows photographs of and comments on work already owned by the Museum that will be the backbone of the exhibition as well as describes potential new gifts and acquisitions. Art history takes a turn toward contemporary art as Treija shows pictures from the July 2012 Art Show at the XIII Latvian Song Festival in Milwaukee. (Treija served as one of the curators of this show along with Liga Ejupe, Director of the Klinklava Latvian Art Gallery in Michigan.) A jury of ALMA members (I. Avens, M. Meirane-Slesers, S. Muiznieks-Liepins and U. Nigals) evaluated the works on-site in Milwaukee and presented four ALMA sponsored awards at the art show opening reception.
Although the theme of this year's ALMA conference "Modernism" is one of Lamberga's academic specialties, her afternoon lecture on art book publishing in Latvia, the publishing house Neputns, artists V. Tone, J. Kazaks and many others from the 1920's and 1930’s in the context of European Art of that era evolves to encompass much more of the 20th century. After Lamberga’s lecture, NYC art critic Eleonora Sturma seamlessly takes over the reins and guides us through the work and lives of the master painters of the Latvian diaspora in NYC and the East Coast in the 1950's and 1960's to glimpses of the museum quality work of current Latvian painters throughout the USA and Canada, some comfortably seated in the room tonight.
Comments. Questions. Lively exchanges. The after dinner group "tour" of the ALMA show with “artists statements” by each exhibiting artist is again a highlight of the week-end. The "modernism" themed Saturday evening continues to include a short poetry reading by V. Avens and SML reading a poem by modernist Latvian poet Juris Kronbergs from his collection "Wolf One-Eye", and an auction to benefit future ALMA projects.
Sunday morning discussions feature an update from PLMS (the Global Society for Latvian Art, www.latvianart.org) board members Guna Mundheim and Juris Ubans. The Society has reached an agreement for a long term lease of a suitable building in a very desirable location in the historic city of Cesis, Latvia. Now the organization is embarking on an ambitious fund-raising effort for the renovation of art exhibition space for the ever-growing PLMS high-quality collection of Latvian diaspora art and for the eventual development of an adjoining research center and Latvian art library in Cesis.
U. Nigals presents an update on how the Philadelphia Society of Free Letts has managed to celebrate its 120 anniversary year with 120 (!) Cultural events, including many art shows. 2013 will feature a show of E. Dajevskis work (currently on view at the Embassy of Latvia in Washington, DC), and a premier show of R. Kaneps' paintings before they are sent to Latvia).
Another delicious meal prepared by Janina Brigis, well-wishes, parting hugs and singing. Yes - singing!
Please "save the date" to join us next year at the annual ALMA conference on September 27-29, 2013. All Latvian artists and art enthusiasts are welcome!
"Reflections" submitted by Sarma Muiznieks Liepins - ALMA secretary
Reflections on the 2011 American Latvian Artists' Retreat/Annual Conference held September 30 - October 2, 2011 in Elka Park, New York
A massive organic TAIL swept from the pond greeting early Friday arrivals at the annual conference of Latvian Artists in the Catskill Mountains. The tail, constructed of locally foraged natural materials, evolved during the day Friday - a mutual installation by Maruta Auģis, Rita Grenze, Linda Treija and Sarma Muižnieks Liepiņš. During the week-end the partially submerged pond TAIL continued to grow as other artists added their personal touches, compositional elements, even color.
Although TAILS was the 2011 concrete visual theme, the underlying themes of all the ALMA annual conferences continue to be genuine curiosity about recent works by our colleagues, discussions about recent shows, techniques, art reviews, curating decisions, film, literature, multi-media, inspiration, motivation and craft. Even the mandated business meetings of ALMA members on Saturday and Sunday mornings required frequent patient but firm steering back to the core agenda by the newly elected ALMA president Linda Treija. She managed this challenging task of focusing the energy of so many creative minds in one room with sensitivity and flair.
Random creative impulses were also quenched at a centrally located work-space outfitted with colorful abandon by Anna Annus Hagen. Plenty a quirky tail was "Made in the USA" - on site. And plenty an interesting tail was seen in the artworks at the annual show of ALMA member work premiered on Saturday afternoon.
The 2011 special lecturers were architect, photographer, blogger Anita Līce-Ribaka from Massachusetts, intriguing installation artist and sculptor Rita Grenze from Illinois and Janis Oga, book publisher and Director of the Latvian Literary Center from Rīga, Latvia. With classic Northern European reserved but candid humor Oga described the current book publishing industry in Latvia and curious regional laws encountered by Latvian book sellers at International Book fairs. (For example, strict fire codes in Sweden required the Latvian Book stand constructed entirely of specialty cardboard to resemble the new National Library of Latvia to be guarded around the clock by a crew of Swedish firefighters!)
Saturday evening was a literary treat, a true Book Fair, as Oga honored the ALMA authors of recently published books: E. Šturma (art criticism), V. Avens (poetry), N. Bulmanis (art criticism), L.Kaugars/L.Treija/U.Nīgals (Latvian folk costumes), I. Rumpeters (drawings).
The literary evening was enhanced by Laila Saliņš' musical performance of mystical ballads, many adapted from the poetry of her late father G. Saliņš. Add to the mix the celebration of the 50th wedding anniversary of two of ALMAs founders I. and V. Avens (with a congratulatory note from President and Mrs. Obama read by Avens’ granddaughter), the annual fundraising auction and a midnight visit in the rain by some of the conference attendees to the nearby grave of poet L. Tauns to celebrate the publishing of his collected works and it was almost dawn before all was quiet.
Sunday morning discussions were dominated by future projects including the upcoming art exhibition at the XIII Latvian Song Festival in Milwaukee in 2012 and other exhibition opportunities. Treija and conference attendees introduced ideas on how to engage more of ALMAs members in the Midwest, Southwest and West Coast.
The hospitality of our host J. Briģis and her crew, as well as A. Berķis and D. Marga from ALMA and many volunteers kept others from having to fret about rooms, meals, technical equipment and clean-up. Thank you to all for a well organized, inspiring week-end!___________________
Please make plans to join us in Elka Park, NY next fall for our next ALMA conference. The dates are: September 28th - 30th, 2012. Latvian artists, their friends and family are all welcome. Although most of the lectures and the annual meeting is conducted in Latvian, visual materials have no language barriers and everyone is accommodating of our members and guests who may feel more comfortable asking questions or adding comments in English.
"Reflections" submitted by Sarma Muiznieks Liepins - ALMA 2011-2012 board member
Late summer warmth greeted the ALMA members as they gathered in the Catskills for the annual meeting. Members and guests came from Latvia, Texas, California, Chicago as well as the East coast cities of Boston, New York, and Philadelphia. It was an overflow crowd of participants.
The Friday night presentations featured Lelde Kalmite, who showed her masterful, intricate drawings discussing their relationship to her paintings. Peter Schnore followed with a reflection of the nature of beauty as an element in art and a discussion of Vija Celmins exhibition in New York. A series of short films by Laila Pakalnina led viewers into the night. Saturday morning's lively business meeting was followed by the cultural program in the afternoon, featuring the distinguished art critic from Latvia, Maris Brancis, who gave an overview of current art exhibitions in Latvia and particularly the work of the faculty at the Latvian Academy of Fine Arts. The art historian and educator, Liga Ejupe, followed with a dynamic presentation of the "Beglu Izstade" ( Exhibition of refugee art between 1945-1950), organized by PLMS and the Klinklava Art Gallery. She also gave an overview of the extensive collection of Latvian art at the Klinklava Gallery, which she directs.
After a short break, the participants gathered for a gallery walk and dialog at the "Saiets" exhibition, featuring work of the attending artists. After dinner, a magic hour of poetry reading by Voldemars Avens and Sarma Muizniece-Liepins, was followed by by the traditional "Hat Party" featuring head gear with minimal and maximal food concepts from fruit to sausages and beyond. On Sunday, the business meeting continued which also included updates by Maija Hinkle on LaPa and Lelde Kalmite on PLMS. Bright sunshine and fall foliage escorted this year's energized participants home.