Jazz is a musical style first seen at the beginning of the 20th century. Born from a mix of European and African music it is a restless mix of improvisation, syncopation and blue notes. It is spontaneous and mirrors the vitality of the performer who never plays the same composition twice.
A visual artist never develops a subject twice the same way for similar reasons. A lovely landscape or still-life can be painted hundreds of times and be different each time. Even a portrait will never be the same again. Certainly the light will never be quite the same, but the intensity or desire of the artist will not be the same either.
The most satisfying works in music or art need the concentration and love of the artist.
“Jazz Nights” Oil painting by kayti sweetland rasmussen
The inspiration for any form of art frequently comes unbidden, and results in something entirely different from the original thought. The painting above came about from remembering the little “band” my grandsons and I formed after I taught them to play guitar. Strangely enough, there isn’t a guitar in the painting! It’s original title was “Bammie and the Boys” which was a little “too cutesey” for comfort!
“A Tip of the Hat” watercolor painting by kayti sweetland rasmussen
This painting popped onto paper after a Christmas shopping trip to Harrod’s in London, where I bought a derby for Dr. Advice. It looked very nice on Julianne!
While attending a conference in New Mexico some years ago, my friend Georgia Abeita and I were pleased to be invited to a celebration where numerous young dancers performed in the costume of their various tribes.
There was lots of green chile stew and fry bread, and great platters of melon of all sorts. There were dozens of displays of artwork for sale, including great pottery, basketry and blankets. Far too much to take in in an afternoon although we gave it a good shot, and ended up happily leaving a little money by the end of the day.
But the excitement of the day for me came with the colorful dancers, with their feathers, beadwork and deerskin boots all moving in unison to the insistent beat of the drummers who sat alongside the circle of dancers. Lots of tribal elders had their usual suspicious frowns, watching to make sure no one was photographing, which is always a bit nerve-racking, as you need to keep your cameras out of sight until the dance is over.
There were young men and women from all over the Southwest mingling and laughing together as young kids do until the serious business of dance began. Then they arranged themselves naturally into the circle dance and gracefully flowed into the age-old steps with lovely looks of concentration on their beautiful faces. The various tribes and villages were recognizable not only by their dress, but sometimes by their distinctive features. Pueblo, Kiowa, Plains Indians of many tribes were represented, and the color was amazing as they passed by.
At the end of the dance, when talking to some of the dancers, I was given permission to photograph, and came away with these two young people which I painted when I returned to my studio.
The sweetness of the girl contrasted greatly with the wonderfully arrogant expression of the boy, who had not not yet become confident in his young manhood.
O’Odham Tash watercolor painting by Kayti Sweetland Rasmussen Black Eagle, Kiowa watercolor by KSR