The salon – The Art Junket

mbfitzmahan.  The first Art Junket Salon.  2015

The Salon

After 2 years of sharing my photos on social media and exhibiting my art, the best thing I do for my art is to work in a salon experience.

A salon is a gathering in the home of an inspiring host,  to show and discuss art. The salon is an  ‘incubator’ for new ideas.  It is where rising artists can gather and draw inspiration.

The salon of the 21st century is a continuation of the spirit of the cafes in Paris where great artists and writers met in the 1920s and 30s.  Over cups of cafe noisette Hemingway sat in Le Select writing, smoking, and meeting with other writers and artists.  Hemingway escaped the claustrophobic confines of his small apartment and daily took up residence in Parisian cafes where he wrote The Sun Also Rises.  My favorite Hemingway book is his autobiographical account of his early years in Paris, A Moveable Feast.

It was in the cafés and salons of Paris that artists broke away from the stultifying and male dominated art world in Europe.

At the weekly Paris salons of Gertrude Stein, artists came to meet Henri Matisse, Pablo Picasso, Ernest Hemingway, or F. Scott Fitzgerald.  It was an honor to be invited to the Stein’s in the 20s.  Dressed in dark corduroy and seated in her overstuffed chair, Stein deigned to look at the paintings of Henri Cartier-Bresson.  She turned to the eager young artist and heartlessly advised him to give up painting. “Go back and work for your industrialist father.”  Three years later, Cartier-Bresson,  stopped painting and took up photography. “I suddenly understood that a photograph could fix eternity in an instant.” (Henri Cartier-Bresson)

Pablo Picasso. Gertrude Stein. 1905-06.

In the 1930s the f/64 group of photographers met in a friend’s old barn in Oakland, California.  The Oakland Bridge wasn’t built until 1933, so Ansel Adams coming from San Francisco had to span the long distance to Oakland via a ferry boat.  The photographers showed up with their photos to show.  All hoped that their photos would be seen in the art world as art pieces.  They wanted to break with the popular pictorialism style of photography, and instead use their cameras to make photos that celebrated texture and light.

Edward Weston said,  “The camera should be used for a recording of life, for rendering the very substance and quintessence of the thing itself, whether it be polished steel or palpitating flesh.” The f/64 photographers felt the camera was a unique tool to create art because the lens could capture the world more clearly than the human eye or the oil painter because the camera did not project personal prejudices onto the subject.

The f/64 nomenclature referred to the narrow aperture of a large format view camera which renders the greatest depth of field, allowing for the largest percentage of the picture to be in sharp focus.  They chose glossy white paper.  The clearer, more refined the image, the better.

The f/64 photographers, especially the men, were a hard drinking, hard womanizing bunch.  They met, they philosophized, they partied.  Ansel Adams arranged to have their work exhibited in San Francisco.  On November 15, 1932, the de Young Museum held an exhibit of the newly formed Group f/64.  (Group f/64)

The Art Junket

Over an espresso and a piece of hot apple pie, Erin and I met in a cafe on Solano in North Berkeley.  We discussed the idea of reviving the salon concept for artists.  A salon for artists who are beset with 21st century demands, yet need to make art.  Supported by my second daughter, Katie, the three of us recruited a few friends to come to our first salon in March 2015.

mbfitzmahan.  Berkeley, CA. 2017.

We are a group of artists who make a living wage in other professions, but we hunger to express ourselves through art.

The first salon was held on a hillside looking over the San Francisco Bay.  The artists are also teachers, a mother of twins, a vintner, a city planner, a retired lawyer, and a retired university professor.  We named our salon, the Art Junket.

mbfitzmahan. Dreams. 2017

The goal is to gather every couple of months to show each other our new art.  To be a community of artists.

the gathering

Kaitlin Strange. Eve. (Genesis)  Watercolor. 16 in x 20 in. 2017.

The artists come to meet old and new friends.  Swap stories.  Drink wine and eat fine food.  To dedicate time to art.

the art exhibit

Each Art Junket salon is an art exhibit.

Two months before the meeting, we ask the artists to create a new piece of art.  We assign a theme for the artists to cogitate, intended to lead to a creative outpouring and a new piece of art.  Some of the themes used in the last years have included illumination, rhythm, taboo, self-portrait, enigma, bed, Zen, angles, and genesis.

Tony Jones. “Blackstar” (Bed) 2016. Acrylic 36 in. X 36 in.

The artists are held to high standards and are encouraged to bring their work framed and labeled.  “Bring your work ready to show at the San Francisco MOMA.”  We push each other to take risks and identify the next steps to improve our work.  “What do you think of making your next piece bigger?  I visited MOMA last week, and Richard Diebenkorn’s canvases are huge!  I think your acrylics would lend themselves to a bigger canvas. ” “Have you thought of trying to combine mediums, e.g. water colors and pen?” “Here, I found this book on Klimt in my bookshelf.  You can keep it.  His art reminds me of some of what you are trying to do.  Maybe you can find some ideas.”

The Art Junket salons are held partly to show art, partly to learn how artists produce art, partly to get advice, and in large part to receive inspiration.

Ana Perches. Popol Vuh Revisited.  (Genesis) Acrylic. 48 in. x 32 in. April 2017.

The Art Junket, based on the early salon concepts of female conversation, encourages compassionate communication to ameliorate the feelings of vulnerability suffered by rising artists.  We encourage participants to

  1. seek and offer support,
  2. seek comfort and sympathy for problems,
  3. use conversation to build relationships.
glass and shadow w blue.jpg
mbfitzmahan. Illumination. 2015.

the participants 

In Paris during the Enlightenment in the 1700s, women had an important role in salons. The women were intelligent, self-educated women who adopted the values of the Enlightenment.  In the 20th century, the Cone sisters of Baltimore, and Gertrude Stein in 1930s Paris were conducted by and supported by women.  The f/64 Group in the 1930s, though led by a chauvinistic group of creative men, was surprisingly very supportive of women photographers.

Mary Louise Harrington. Fall. (Dissonance) Watercolors
5.5 in x 5.5 in.  2017.

Today, The Art Junket, founded by women in Berkeley, is facilitated by women and works to invite a diverse group of women and men, Latinos, Asians, Europeans, African-Americans, Dine and other Native peoples, and people of different gender preferences, and people of differing philosophical and religious beliefs.  We ask that all are respectful, no joyful, to celebrate our diversity.  We believe that the more diverse our group, the more fertile are the ideas available to all artists.

Erin Mahollitz, watercolor, ink, washi .5 ft x 6 ft

the Exhibition

mbfitzmahan. The Art Junket Salon. 2017

Once a year, the Art Junket participants sow all their artwork produced in the last 12 months. They show their work to the broader public at a large Gallery show.

To learn more about The Art Junket, go to my Blog on The Art Junket.


2 thoughts on “The salon – The Art Junket

  1. This post was a huge undertaking. Wow! What an exhaustive review of a multitude of topics and sources. This is a terrific resource for your artist readers who seek ideas to take their work to the next level.

    1. Thank you, Don. I am so happy you enjoyed this post. Yes, a lot of research went into this post. I hope others get a chance to see it.

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